22 July 2011

Back on the (Tourist) Farm

We’ve been here before. To Slovenia. It was three years ago, on a whim, after Merlin read something about it in a magazine. It was the first you're-going-where?-country for both of us and we returned home wondering why the heck more people don't go to Slovenia. You’ll have to forgive us if we wind up beginning or ending too many statements with “when we were here in 2008,” but it may happen often. Because as soon as we were about to embark on the country again, we were struck with the desire to recreate our original trip – or at least revisit the places we remembered best, like Tourist Farm Abram.
Agritourism is a big thing in Slovenia with over 300 properties registered as official tourist farms and rated with the apple system. Tourist Farm Abram has three apples (out of four) and is certified “eko” (European for ‘organic’). It has its own solar and wind powered generator. All of these things initially attracted us to Abram, but this time around we really only cared that it was a quirky place that we’d once spent two sort of strange nights, high up (920 meters above sea level) on the Nanos plateau, an extension of the Dinaric Alps. When Luke and Sarah decided to join us for our first couple of days in Slovenia, between a stay in Croatia and a return to Italy, we asked them what they were looking for. “I don’t know, to get somewhere away,” Luke replied. Well, don’t we know just the place!
Now, we couldn’t remember the farm’s name. So, we googled “tourist farm Slovenia bear” (this didn’t work – a map search on the Farm Tourism Association’s website did). You see, they have a bear. Her name is Mitka and she is a personality/gimmick/captive famous throughout Nanos. A café waitress in nearby Vipava exclaimed, “You’ve met our teddy bear!” The woman at the info center/vinoteka two doors down said she was mad at the Abrams about it and wanted to start a collection to free Mitka. She also told us that the family has trouble with Italian tourists who feed the bear on Sundays– and we went home to find a sign on the cage, written only in Italian, expressly stating not to feed the bear.
One thing is for sure, children love/love to stare at Mitka. Two families staying at the farm (this time around– in October 2008, we were alone) had five kids aged 5 – 12 between them. They only took their eyes off of Mitka to take their turn at the slide, conveniently set up near the cage, along with a swingset and seesaw. Tourist Farm Abram is definitely working a kid-friendly angle. Kids, large and small. Luke took his own turn on the slide, opting to go down face first on his stomach. Slowly. It was a trick even Mitka stopped his stir-crazy pacing to watch.
Other farm pets include chickens and goats, with varying degrees of productivity. They are little petting goats and one very funny billy. Last time we were here, there was a pig in a barn, of which we took a very blurry picture. (Oh, the days before blog-ready photos). The goat and the four neon orange lawn chairs were the only additions to the property we could spot. Otherwise, Tourist Farm Abram has remained unchanged. We recognized the older of two brothers who worked there and were on the constant lookout for a teenage girl who resembled the 12 year old who had excitedly shown us her dog and sliding skills.
It’s a twenty minute, steep drive up to the farm, which felt a lot better in our Subaru than it had in our Renault rental. Wending your way up the road, following signs that read "Abram," you are given breathtaking views of the Julian Alps, the forested humps below and its valley carpet. The Dolomites and both the Slovene and Italian coastlines are visible too, if only there were a safe spot to pull to the side of the road and look. Clusters of roofs, each punctuated by a steeple, spot the green landscape here and there. Toward the end of the drive, the trees on both sides of the road arch toward each other overhead, a breathtaking foliage tunnel in Autumn, when we first passed through.

Back then, Momma Abram was sick, so the kitchen was closed and we picnicked in our room. We bought our very first European condiment tube (mayonnaise at a store in Vipava), set it out on our windowsill to refrigerate overnight and found it fallen onto the family's balcony the next morning. We really hoped they didn't remember us as The Mayo Tubers. (I don't like being called a potato, ha!) This time, we got some Slovene home-cooking. The first night it was this platter of fried cheese and chicken cutlets along with mashed potatoes, creamed spinach, salad, vegetable soup and strudel. The second, it was beef brisket on gnocchi (some set aside with mushrooms, for me), salad, lentil soup and custard pie. In the country, indeed.

2 comments:

  1. For the bear I can help clear that one up.
    In Slovenia we have a ton of bears. So many in fact that they must be regulary regulated by our national hunters. But sometimes it happens that the bear they followed hid her cub too well and no one noticed she had one. Or which is more often the bear must be shot for crossing into a city. The cubs we try to bring back into the wild but not all can be wildered out if there is no bear to help them learn bear-y things or if they are too young. Then a fmaily with a farm or enough space just takes him in.

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