Bela Krajina Experience
Bela Krajina, which got its name after birch trees and flax fiber, is the land between the Gorjanci mountain range and the river Kolpa on the southeastern side of Slovenia offering unspoiled nature. 46 % of Bela krajina is included in Natura 2000. Over the history it was a melting pot of different nations and cultures. It is a hidden Slovenian gem and a perfect destination for everyone looking for relaxation, scenic hikes, tradition, nature and good food. Bela krajina is a region where green and white color dominates the landscape. Enjoy the area of eagle fern, locally known as “steljniki”, birches, limestone, white traditional dresses made of flax and Kolpa river.
My top things to do while exploring Bela krajina
Visit Lahinja regional park and Nerajski Lugi
Lahinja regional park is a must stop (especially if you have kids!) while exploring Bela krajina. Stop at the tourist information center set in 250-year-old house in the village of Veliki Nerajec where you get all the information and maps you need. Forests, marshes and wetland pastures offer many surprises and Lahinja regional park is a real botanical treasure. We decided to visit natural reserve Nerajski Lugi by walk and completed our experience by rowing a canoe on Lahinja river. I felt like being in the jungle. The owners of the canoes are offering guided tour where you can visit still operating Klepčev mill, a sawmill, a typical church and a traditional farmhouse.
Stroll around Metlika, Črnomelj and Semič towns
Metlika, Črnomelj and Semič are lovely little towns. In Metlika, a birth place of Slovene firefighting, grab a chance to enter Hiša dobrot. Bela krajina House of local delights is located on the main square close to the church. There are more than 73 local providers. Ghee, honey, jams, salami, herbal ice-tea, craft beers, local wines, etc. can be a perfect gift to bring back home. At the house of local delights they are organizing hands-on activities where you can learn how to make pogača. What is more, you can choose among 5 tasting packages.
Črnomelj which literally means »mills black« lies at the crossroads of important traveling lines to Novo mesto, Rijeka, Ljubljana and Zagreb. Walking around this little pearl is a pleasant and relaxing stop.
You will get amazed by numerous vineyard cottages amidst the vineyards and the flatland. Yes, you arrived to Semič. After a short walk around nicely renovated downtown, we were very hungry. We stopped by hotel Smuk which is based close to the church. The lovely music was playing at the back, the kids were admiring the lights while me and Robi were into tasting Smuk’s house delights. We started with cold cuts (deer and wild bear salami, cheese) and pogaca bread, accompanied with homemade lemonade with raspberries and red wine Modra Frankinja (Blue Frankincense). Lucija is a true fan of salami so she almost ate all of it by herself (of course without the bread!).
Then we continued with homemade struklji with basil dip. Filip with his omnomnom enjoyed the soft taste of cheese struklji a lot. A mushroom soup (with real big mushrooms!) was a perfect overture to the herb crusted lamb with rosemary fries. We were licking our fingers and craved for more. But we needed to save the place for a sweet dessert as well. Yummy kremsnita cake was just a perfect ending of our culinary adventure at hotel Smuk.
Take a photo at the Krupa river spring
Krupa river spring with its amazing 30-meter-high cliff and a heart shape photo point is one of the most visited Instagram places in Bela krajina. Admire vivid blue-green water of Krupa River that springs underneath the white rock wall and enjoy the pace of the place. Continue towards the viewpoint and cross the river on the suspension bridge and you will be awarded by a nice view.
Search the black olm/proteus/human fish
The karst area around Črnomelj is home to the black olm. It is so specific specie that you cannot find anywhere else in the whole world. At the foot of Jelševnica spring there is developing center taking care of the black olm and providing information about the area and black olm. In comparison with the white olm (you can admire it in famous Postojna cave), black olm has permanently pigmented skin, robust and shorter head and fully developed eyes. At the time of visiting the center, we didn’t have luck to spot a black olm on the TV screen. As Richard from the Zupančič tourist farm said: “You should come at 7pm when it is eating time and you will definitely see it. Welcome again.”
Relax at the Kolpa River
Kolpa River, which won European destination of Excellence in 2010, is surrounded by Kolpa landscape park. Kolpa river is the warmest river in Slovenia (as the water temperature rises even up to 30°C!) and a perfect place for swimming (we enjoyed at Krasinec, Podzemelj, Stari pod Adlešiči, Pobrežje, Damelj), stand up paddling, rafting and canoeing. It is also considered the longest Slovenian “coastline”. The embankments of the Kolpa River where you can find many camping sites are lush green and offering home to many birds and other animals. The Kolpa river is divided by more than 50 dams made of stones and are remainders of mills, sawmills, and blacksmith’s, which no longer exist. However, some dams still serve their purpose.
Soseska zidanica community wine bank
A community wine cellar (Soseska zidanica) dating back in 17th century connects villagers of Drašiči in a special village community. Community wine cellar Drašiči, the one-of-a-kind wine bank, is registered as intangible cultural heritage of Slovenia. The wine is collected from 65 winegrowers. Each of them can borrow wine from the common barrel. Members of a community wine cellar need to pay a membership fee in the amount of 15 litres of wine every year. Most of the wine was consumed during mowing, harvesting, threshing and on Sunday afternoons. The controller or “šekutor”/”cekmešter” checks the so-called „rovaš“ wooden sticks, with engraved house numbers and a figure which is showing how many litres of wine a member drank during the year. Each house has its own stick and these wooden sticks are made of hazel, chestnut or oak wood. We can say that community wine cellar is like a wine bank. The community wine was sometimes also sold to non-members, wine merchants and innkeepers.
Enjoy in traditional food and wine
Do not leave Bela krajina without tasting belokranjska pogača, a welcoming leavened flatbread sprinkled with caraway and coarse salt, belokranjska povitica (rolled filo pastry with curd cheese and clotted cream filling), belokranjsko cvrtje (mince and bread patties), belokranjski nadev (bread, eggs, and ham stuffing in a casing) with horseradish, buckwheat potica with raisins, belokranjska šara (a vegetable and bacon stew), cereal sausage(made with millet groats and pork), mutton and cabbage stew, belokranjski žlinkrofi (pasta dough dumplings filled with bread and beef lung filling). What is more, autochthonous sorts of wine Metliška črnina and Belokranjec wines which are classified as PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) should be tasted as well.
Already hungry? Gostisce Pezdirc in Semic is a perfect food stop where you can taste Bela krajina delicacies. Andrej offered us cold cut plate with homemade bread, ham, goat cheese with pepper and chillis. Robi tasted Belokranjec white wine while I was more than happy to drink ice herbal tea made with mint, yarrow and eldberry flowers.
Then we continued with homemade žlinkrofi topped with pumpkin foam and baked bacon – Filip’s and Lucija’s dish of the day. All tables were booked and you could tell why. People were more than satisfied with the food they offered. For the main dish we ordered crusted lamb with mashed potatoes, beef and deer fillet with porcini mushrooms, homemade cottage cheese struklji and roasted vegetables. We enjoyed every bite of it. Mouthwatering kraljica sladica which consisted of 4 sweets (baklava with pistachio and vanilla ice-cream, blueberry struklji with vanilla cream and cinnamon, chocolate cake with pear sorbet, fried ice-cream with fruits and cream) definitely satisfied our stomach to the fullest. “Amamamam” (which means ‘yummy yummy’ in toddler language) was the only word Filip could make while tasting Bela krajina dishes.
Visit Šokčev dvor
Šokčev dvor in Žuniči is a typical Bela krajina farm house of the near Kolpa region. It is one of protected cultural monuments of the Kolpa Regional Park. The farm can be spotted off the Vinica – Adlešiči road when entering the village. This is a farm house with an enclosed courtyard, consisting of a house, a shed, and a barn, all connected by a wall with an entrance door.
Airplane DC-3 at Otok
The airplane is located along the road Črnomelj – Metlika, in the direction of the village Otok, 5km from Metlika. The plane is dedicated to all Slovenian and Bela krajina airports operating during the time of the National Liberation Front.
A visit to Bela krajina is a true experience as this forgotten area is full of amazing views, friendly people, secret corners, wilderness nature and delicious food. Most people plan two days for the area, but as soon as you will lay your foot there, you will know that Bela krajina deserves much more of your time.
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