13 – 14 July: Travelling the backroads of Slovenia

Author: Mrs A

Location: Kostanjevica na Krki and Dolenjske Toplice, Slovenia

Saturday: After nearly four weeks travelling around Croatia we crossed the border into Slovenia this morning. A quick showing of passports and we were into new territory, and back in the European Union. Having lived in Australia for so many years crossing borders still feels bizarre to us – the concept that you can drive a few metres and there is a whole new culture and language. Thankfully our basic Croatian language learning of ‘thank you’ and ‘good day’ are exactly the same in Slovenia, so if nothing else we can be slightly polite, if largely ignorant!

Waiting our turn for passport checks…

Once over the border we continued on to the little settlement of Kostanjevica na Krki. Mark was earning his brownie points having found an old monastery which had been completely renovated and turned into a sculpture park and art gallery – an absolute culture hit, really not his style, but totally mine! Thank you Mr A, brownie points stored.

The centre of the settlement of Kostanjevica na Krki sits on an island in the middle of the Krka River.

Mirror perfection on the Krka River
Beautiful displays of flowers throughout Kostanjevica na Krki
Clearly a lot of pride in how their town looks – perfectly painted homes and not a single scrap of rubbish or leaf litter anywhere

You would be forgiven for thinking the Krka river becomes Krka falls in Croatia, the beautiful national park we visited a few days ago, but no, this river flows entirely within Slovenia, and is in fact the second longest in the country.

We continued to the Kostanjevica na Krki monastery.

The monastery and sculpture garden. All sculptures here are made from oak, and with recognition they slowly degrade in the elements, three are replaced every three years
One of many sculptures in the grounds

The Cistercian monastery was built in 1234 and was lived in by practicing monks until the abolition of monasteries in Slovenia in 1786. In the early 1800s all the furnishings were sold off, and the complex slowly fell into ruin.

A grand entrance to the monastery

Throughout the 1900s it has gradually been restored and renovated, the bulk of the work conducted post WWII, and today it is in perfect condition. Today there is nothing religious about the buildings, even the chapel, with all rooms given over to hosting the Božidar Jakac Art Museum and the Forma Viva Open Air Wood Sculpture Collection. The complex has been declared a cultural monument of state importance.

The chapel – today used for weddings and art exhibitions
It really is a lovely space, fresh and modern while embracing the history
Flowers adorn every archway on each of the three floors

I explored the complex with an exhibition showcasing medieval fragments from the old building and telling the story (in Slovenian and English) of the renovation and the work involved. From there, I enjoyed artworks from several important Slovenian artists and some temporary exhibitions. It is an incredible space for showcasing art, and all the more powerful for being just me there most of the time. Time just flew.

Incredible sculptures which physically moved you
Artwork picturing somewhat sinister stories
Beautiful immaculate exhibition spaces
Sculptures you wanted to quiz the artist about, like this dancer and bull
Modern bronzes in a historical space
A temporary exhibition inspired by bark beetles
And yes, even a cat!

Invigorated, I went back to meet Mark, who was relaxed, reading in the picturesque car park and we headed off for our next destination. As we drove, the sunny sky disappeared and the clouds began to darken.

Dramatic weather ahead…an ominous view through our windscreen…

We diverted off the main road to see a castle (now expensive hotel) on another island in the Krka River.

Otočec Castle – dating to 1252

There was just enough time for a quick photo of the beautiful building reflecting in the river before the first crack of lightning and boom of thunder split the silence and we retreated to find our camp, a further 20km away near the settlement of Dolenjske Toplice.

The storm raged for about an hour, with incredibly heavy rain, almost deafening on Truffy’s roof. Early evening it abated, and we emerged to go for a walk to see where we were staying.

We followed a woodland pathway into the small town. It’s famous for its hot springs and attracts a number of German tourists it seems. We had a little look around before returning to camp as the sun set.

The Krka River near to where we are camped
Apples dripping in rain along the roadside
Dolenjske Toplice
Sunset on our forest walk back
And the sun goes down on our first night in Slovenia

Sunday: Blue skies greeted us as we awoke so we decided a bike ride would be on the cards. A little research online revealed a mostly off-road and on quiet lanes ride along the river to the settlement of Novo Mesto. We decided to investigate.

Beautiful lanes along flower laden meadows

We found the pathway and followed it along the river – beautiful little agricultural villages, fields of corn, wheat, strawberries, pumpkins, tomatoes….mostly small scale, local workers.

The RIver Krka our constant companion
Beautiful barns, the detail in the woodwork is gorgeous
Mr A heads off towards the next village
Still some puddles from yesterday’s downpour
The river is full of fish
We find a riverside restaurant full of cyclists upon reaching Novo Mestro
Mr A samples chicken breast with a dumpling stuffed with cottage cheese
Ribs for Mrs A
And a glass of Slovenian red house wine – surprisingly drinkable
Yup, that river again!
Storm clouds are rolling in again over Novo Mestro

We had a fabulous ride, around 35km (22 miles) all up, and felt we got a real taste for Slovenian life in this part of the country. Despite being only about 60km from the Croatian border, Slovenia feels quite different.

2 Replies to “13 – 14 July: Travelling the backroads of Slovenia”

  1. Enjoy Slovenia. Glenn and I loved it. I hope your going to lake Bled , I would love to see your photos of it, an absolutely beautiful place.

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