Savinja valley experience
Savinja valley is truly a kingdom of nature where you can find picturesque landscape parks worth visiting. Traveling to Savinja valley, only an hour drive from Ljubljana, you will not only be overwhelmed by its lush landscape but also by charming local people. And of course, yummy local cuisine.
We were visiting Savinja valley during the weekend when it was raining a lot. But the rain didn’t stop us from exploring the natural beauties and cultural heritage of Savinja valley. Our base was Tourist farm Visočnik.
What to do in Savinja valley (even if it rains)?
Visit a timber rafting exhibition (Flosrski muzej) and the collection of Palm Sunday bunches in Ljubno
A charming town of Ljubno is a cradle of 500-years old heritage on timber rafting. Transporting timber from the forests to the valley on „riže“ sawing wood on sawmills, making timber rafts and traveling down Savinja, Sava and Danube river all the way to the Black sea. This was a hard life of rafts men. After WW2 the wood was transported on roads and by trains so consequently timber rafting tradition died. The exhibition (prior appointment at the Tourist Information Center is needed!) is interactive and you can experience timber raft driving simulator as well.
The collection of Palm Sunday bunches/Ljubno’s Potice figural unique handcraft products are part of Slovenian heritage and worth visiting as well.
Herbal experience in Gornji Grad
Two lovely and passionate ladies, Maja and Amanda, opened their herbal paradise to us. In the very heart of Gornji Grad, which is famous for the largest baroque cathedral in Slovenia, you find a charming Zeliščarna tea house decorated with local materials. It is unique tea house where you fill like at home. See, smell, hear, touch and taste herbs.
Under Babave (which literally means Woman knows!) they are offering unique herbal hands-on activities (they received Slovenia Unique Experience label while following sustainable principles!) and different natural products (soaps, creams, incenses, teas, clay products, etc.).
After learning how to prepare herbal tea properly, we were guided around herbal garden (even though it was pouring rain!). There are more than 160 different types of medicinal plants growing there. What an aromatic herbal experience!
Stroll around Vrbovec castle and its museums in Nazarje
Savinja valley has rich green forests and a rich tradition of wood management. In more than 750 year-old Vrbovec castle a Museum of forestry and woodworking is presenting life and work of former foresters and woodworkers.
Visiting volcano Smrekovec
Smrekovec, 1577 meters high extinct volcano which was active 23 million years ago, is part of Natura 2000 due to its extremely rich flora. Despite the rain we decided to drive to Smrekovec. Moreover, the fog was so thick we could barely see the signposts for Smrekovec. The higher we drove through the spruce forest, the denser the fog was. It was mystical as if time had stopped.
Walk around Mozirski Gaj Flower park in Mozirje
Once a garbage dump but today a flower garden and a popular tourist spot in Savinja valley. Mozirski Gaj is a paradise for your eyes and soul.
Endless very-well-kept flower beds (we visited Mozirski Gaj during the exhibition of the tulips beginning of May), neat herbal, rock and Japanese garden, traditional buildings from Savinja valley and other ethnographic objects (world famous Slovenian cyclist Tadej Pogačar was shooting a commercial add in front of colorful beerhouse) do not leave you indifferent.
From the look-out tower there is a nice view over the park and its surroundings. Mozirski Gaj Flower park is opened from April until first weekend in October from 9am to 7pm.
Tantalize your taste buds with local cuisine
Savinja valley offers many local dishes you should taste in local inns, tourist farms or restaurants. While discovering Savinja valley, we stopped by in family-run riverside campsite Camping Menina. According to many satisfied guests who are returning to this spot every year, it is probably the best campsite in the world. We were greeted by Katja, the owner and restaurant manager. We were here for local specialties. We craved for savinjski želodec (stuffed pig’s stomack) which has protected geographical indication of Savinja valley, žlinkrofi (boiled dumplings filled with dry minced cooked meat), Savinja trout and a drink called tolkec (locally produced cider). Beef and vegetable soup were yummy as well. Dober tek in na zdravje!
Stay at the tourist farm
Savinja valley offers many great farmstay options. It was late in the afternoon when we arrived at Visočnik farmstay. In the embrance of the nature, away from the noise and the crowds (the nearest town is a 20 minutes drive away on a zig-zag road and the nearest neighbor lives 2 kilometers away) in the pristine countryside at the altitude of 1121 meters you can find brightly coloured Tourist farm Visočnik.
We were greeted by Barbara who offered us a welcome drink (yummy homemade elderberry juice). I need to admit that it took me sometime to start understand her strong dialect. While tasting local specialty savinski želodec with a cottage cheese, Barbara proudly emphasized that the tourists are coming to their farmstay because of the fresh air, finger-licking home-cooked food and breathtaking vistas of the Kamnik-Savinja Alps, Raduha and Smrekovec range. And she was right. The time just stops here. It was still raining but in the distance we could hear cuckoo bird.
Visočnik farmstay offers 3 nicely decorated rooms, 1 apartment and 3 glamping huts (on the edge of the farm with the view on the colorful meadows and magnificent Kamnik-Savinja Alps).
We stayed in a family room with a bunk bed because Lucija loves sleeping on ‘the second floor’. The family room with a bunk bed is suitable for a 4-member family with small children. Just perfect for us. The aroma of wood (all the solid wood furniture was made of the wood from their forest) intertwined with the birds’ sound. Nicely decorated and super clean (our little son Filip was crawling under the beds as well) family room has a perfect rural charm. The added value of the room were herbal tea bags so we could enjoy a cup of tea while listening to the rain drops.
The dinner (best cooking team of Viktorija and Urška is preparing mouthwatering meals using local ingredients and following the traditions) is usually served between 6pm and 7pm. And keep in mind that the portions are big. The first night we treated our taste buds with wild garlic and nettle soup (Lucija spotted daisies and primulas as well… and ate it) with bread cracklings, cottage cheese štruklji dumplings, slowly roast beef meat in an onion sauce with cranberry jam, backed potatoes as a side dish and green salad. We ended our dinner with panna cotta covered with homemade blueberries. Well, Filip who ate salt free vegetable soup (thank you Barbara to prepare meals only for him) found a sheep skin rug and played with it before going to bed.
The second night the culinary adventure began with a beef soup with homemade noodles and continued with beetroot and dandelion salad, pork roast, žlinkrofi dumplings, nettle gnocchi, roasted potatoes and rolls stuffed with asparagus and cheese. Innovative pocket-shaped apple strudel was just the right size to end our dinner. I need to admit that we have visited already more than 20 farmstays around Slovenia and we can say that Tourist farm Visočnik is a truly hidden culinary gem. Their homemade meals (from the first to the last bite you can feel how much passion is put into the food preparation and food introduction) exceeded our expectations. Punce, kapo dol!
With two kiddos you go to bed early and you wake up early. So we were more than happy to be served nutritionful breakfast buffet at 7am. We were spoiling our taste buds with locally produced cured meat products, dairy products (cottage cheese, young cheese, yogurt, sour milk, butter), homemade pates, honey, yummy jams (strawberry, blueberry, pear, plum), pickles, freshly baked bread and pastries, herbal tea, cereals, scrumbled eggs (with pork cracklings of course), dry and fresh fruits. Delicious breakfast provides a great start for a day.
In addition, we had a chance to taste masovnek (sour cream mixed with flour and eggs) and ajdovi žganci (buckwheat porridge with pork cracklings).
After the breakfast Martin took me and Lucija to the granary/kašča constructed in 1880 where we admired tools used by Visočnik ancestors. Wow, so many well preserved tools and each of them have its own story. The upper part of the granary serves as a place for drying cured meats.
In the evening Lucija took an advantage to see how Martin is feeding the cows, goats, chicken, quails and clean their place. What is more, she also milked the goat and collected quail eggs.
Last but not least, Visočnik farmstay is a welcoming retreat for anyone who search peace, for nature lovers and local cuisine aficionados. It is a perfect base for exploring Savinja valley, Golte Landscape park, Logar valley with Robanov kot and Matkov kot and Solčava panoramic road. We highly recommend visiting hospitable Visočnik family. You really feel you are part of their family while staying at their farmstay.
Savinja valley is all-year-round destination and a fairytale paradise which attracts adventure seekers, hikers, cyclists and culinary travelers. Welcome to experience Savinja valley!
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