Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Loving cosy, warm and tender places

Cats love warm and tender places. A heap of freshly cut sheep wool is definitely one such place. This photo was taken during Legenda fest - an annual ethnohistorical event in Vrsno, Slovenia.



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Monday, 28 October 2013

Things to Do in Paris with Your Family

Paris is well known as a city of romance, where many couples choose to visit for long walks along the Seine, candlelit meals and musing the wonders of the many works of art in the numerous galleries. But did you know that there are also a lot of things to do in Paris even when you have children in tow?


As a capital city it is only to be expected that Paris will be busy and bustling, filled with people and interlaced with traffic. You will therefore need to keep a tight hold of your children’s hands if they are small - don’t try that if you have teenagers, they won’t like it. But thankfully there are many open spaces in the city if you know where to look and a few decent attractions that are specifically aimed at children of all ages. So find some suitable accommodation (the further away from the centre, the cheaper the hotels, and the Metro system will get you to where you need to be quickly enough) and book some coach tickets to head off to Paris for a family holiday!


Why coach tickets, you ask? Well because it is probably the cheapest way of travelling from London to Paris; there are rest stops and if you travel with iDBUS, you will have lots of leg room and elbow room, free on board Wi-Fi and plug sockets (don’t forget your plug adaptor!) – making the journey comfortable and even fun.



So, here are a few ideas of things to do in Paris that are suitable for the whole family:

  1. The Batobus: this is a waterbus that runs along the Seine all the way along the city, allowing you to hop on and off at the various attractions or just to sit and take in the view. It is a great way to get from A to B in a way that does not involve busy roads or maps and most children are happy to be on board.
  2. Jardins: there are several major ‘jardins’ in Paris. Jardin de Tuileries is very close to the Louvre; the Jardin de Luxembourg is in central Paris, Saint-Germain-des-Prés and the Latin Quarter and is a great place to run around and sail toy boats.
  3. Disneyland Paris: a bus or train ride away from Charles de Gaulle airport (to which your iDBUS could take you) this is the ultimate in children’s entertainment. Staying in a themed Disney hotel is fun but expensive, so to save on cost stay on the northern outskirts of Paris and take the train or bus to the park.
  4. The Musée Rodin includes a large outdoor area displaying some of the most famous sculptures created by the eponymous artist, enabling you to combine fresh air and culture with a bit of space for a quick game of tig.
  5. The catacombs beneath Paris are spooky, eerie and full of skulls: if that sounds like something your child would love then make sure you don’t miss this offbeat attraction. You should keep in mind that this attraction might not be suitable for everyone.


Always plan ahead for dry weather and wet weather alike and always have a few different options up your sleeve for in case there are long queues or unexpected problems. I am sure you will have a much more relaxed trip in the end, if you plan ahead. Well worth it, if you ask me!

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Friday, 25 October 2013

Ironing the Old Fashioned Way

One of many things presented within Legenda Fest in Vrsno, Slovenia (check out our last post for more information) was also a presentation of ironing. Ironing the good old fashioned way.



That is the way our great-grandparents did it. The presentation was set up in a style of a workshop. Visitors could try out their ironing skills with the old equipment. There were various models on display and ready for use.


Heavy irons were filled with ember in order to get properly hot. Those holes on the sides are there to ensure ventilation when swinging an iron through the air. This brings the heat a notch up when it is needed.



Since opportunities for trying out things like these are pretty rare nowadays, visitors seemed excited to try them out.


Even children had no problems fitting in the workshop. On the contrary - it seemed like they were having a great time.



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Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Legenda fest - an Ethnohistorical event in Vrsno

At the end of August we took part in an annual event in the village of Vrsno pri Kobaridu, Slovenia. Legenda fest took place only for the second time in a row, but with the enthusiasm the whole little village put into the event, there was much to admire.



As it is obvious from the post's title the festival focuses on ethnology and history of the region. Since the local area is still pretty much rural, most of the old crafts and traditions are still alive in one form or another. To make sure those are not forgotten and to revive a few others, the local tourist association has set up this great event.


As a birthplace of a famous Slovenian poet Simon Gregorčič, Vrsno has always been a place of culture. Locals have always had a special affection for patriotic, cultural, poetic and similar ideas.



This was also reflected through their devotion to this event and their focus on well-being of every visitor. We really felt welcome.



It seemed like everyone of the 125 villagers (source: SI-STAT) living there today participated in the event. There was a different workshop set up on every corner. Some focused on traditional local cuisine, others on old local crafts and there were even a few workshops suitable for children.



For a visitor coming from an urban area this was a great opportunity to get a taste of a countryside vibe of the times long gone. Everyone participating in the event was dressed up in typical authentic costumes and used authentic, mostly home made tools from the past.



A visitor could witness how cheese and other local dishes were prepared in the time before electricity was introduced to the area. There was an opportunity to taste most of those things on the spot. On the above photo is an example of such a simple dish - roasted potatoes with cottage cheese.
Everything could be washed down with a generous sample of local schnapps at a small improvised distillery set up near the central village square.



One particular yard in front of a random house was almost impossible to pass without making at least a short stop. Smell of freshly roasted coffee was inviting visitors to take a closer look. You guessed it - it was a demonstration of coffee preparation - the good old-fashioned way. Roasting, grinding and cooking were all done using actual equipment used in the time of our great-grandparents. It tasted at least as good as it smelled.



A special kind of an attraction was a demonstration of hay delivery to the village with the use of a steel cable. Since a large proportion of hay is dried higher on the mountain slopes, this was an ingenious idea for transporting large quantities of it directly to the village where it was stored and fed to cattle during long white winters.



There were also other interesting things on display - like for instance sheep shearing. Also the complete process of wool production was demonstrated.



The afternoon was over all too fast. The event was still in full swing when we unfortunately had to hit the road. Hopefully we shall return on another occasion and sample some more of the genuine local hospitality.


If you find yourself in the Posočje area at the end of August I can easily recommend a visit of this event. A genuine experience is guaranteed!


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Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Kozjak waterfall

Kozjak waterfall is just one of Slovenia's many waterfalls. It is located in the western part of the country, near the town of Kobarid.



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Friday, 11 October 2013

A taste of Tolminc cheese

During our last visit to river Soča valley in Slovenia we also climbed to the top of mount Krn (you can read more about that in our previous post). We started our hike at Planina Kuhinja near villages Krn and Vrsno pri Kobaridu, where we had a chance to taste some of their excellent milk products (Tolminc cheese, fresh cottage cheese and whey).



Everything we tasted was delicious but Tolminc cheese was the definite winner in my opinion. This top quality cheese is made from raw cow’s milk according to local traditional methods. It is also registered as Protected Designation of Origin. It tastes sweet and spicy.


Production procedure of this cheese is strictly regulated and should result in a final product with a specific set of characteristics.



To be sold under the name of Tolminc cheese (Sir Tolminc ZOP), cheese wheels have to weigh between 3.5 and 5 kilos, have a diameter between 23 and 27 centimetres and should be 8 to 9 centimetres high. Inside should be lentil or pea size eyes - that is what those holes are called. Cheese has to be produced out of fresh milk, that was milked from a local breed of brown coloured cows. Cows need to be fed grass and hay from the local area. During production milk also has to be heated to exact temperatures.



Cheese made at Planina Kuhinja has been awarded various prizes for excellency for many years in a row. With such reputation and relatively small production, they do not have any problems selling everything they produce. In fact, their cheese is so popular, they are barely able to age it beyond the 2 months.



Since I had a chance to try their cheese of different ages I have to say I liked the 6 months old the best. It does tend to get spicier and harder with every month it ages, but that is just what I like.



It is worth noting that when grazing season is over, cheese supply also runs out pretty quickly. Every year they drive down cattle from mountain pastures in autumn when temperatures drop and those shepherd's huts stay deserted through winter months.



So if you are thinking about stopping by and have a taste of their products, you should do it during summer or autumn months.



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Monday, 7 October 2013

Ascent of mount Krn

Since I have been posting quite a bit about my climbing adventures lately, I decided to also post a few nice photos from our ascent of mount Krn in Slovenia (2244 metres). The ascent this time included quite a steep hike up the mountain side, but there was no actual climbing involved.



We started our day quite early at Planina Kuhinja, where morning cow milking was already in full swing. This is the place where the best of local Tolminc cheese is made. I will post more about that in one of the following posts.


The climb takes around 3 hours and during that time one has to overcome roughly 1250 metres of elevation in order to get to the top.
We left our car with the first morning light. As the sun rose over the top of surrounding mountains, weather looked quite promising. I succeeded in snapping a few nice photos in the morning light.



At first we followed a narrow road that took us through pastures with grazing cattle. Soon enough we switched to a path and almost at the same time the mountain side became a bit steeper. Terrain obviously got too steep for cows since they were replaced by sheep.



There were countless mountain flowers blooming by the path. Some of them would definitely fit perfectly into a herbal infusion mix.



As we were nearing the top of Krn, clouds started gathering and the view from the top was almost non existent. When we stopped for a refreshment at the mountain hut just below the top it got even worse. Considering the weather, we did not linger around for too long and started to descend back towards our starting point.



Half way down the weather cleared again and we could admire a group of parachute gliders enjoying in obviously good wind conditions. They were gaining altitude with ease.



Despite the not so perfect weather at the top, we were all glad we did the climb. When we got to the bottom again, we made a (not so short) stop at the cheese-makers for a taste of their cheese products and a shot of home-made schnapps. They were also happy to give us a tour of the place and an extensive explanation of the cheese-making procedures. More about that in our next post...


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Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Slovenian bees at work


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