|OFF the BEATEN TRACK|
Rogaska Slatina is Slovenia's oldest and largest spa town. It's a veritable cure factory, with therapies ranging from spruce-needle baths to painful-sounding lymph drainage. It's set among scattered forests in the foothills of the Macelj range. The area's two highest peaks, Boc and Donacka Gora, are visible from the centre.Legend says that the magnesium-rich Slatina spring was discovered by the winged horse Pegasus when Apollo advised him to eschew the 'make believe and glitter' of the magic Hippocrene fountain and drink here instead. While it's true that the spring was known in Roman times, Rogaska Slatina didn't make it onto the map until 1574 when then-governor of Styria, Wolf Ungnad, took the waters on the advice of his physician. A century later a publication examined the curative powers of the Slatina springs and claimed they helped the ailing viceroy of Croatia. News spread to Vienna, visitors started arriving in droves, and relaxing inns opened their doors to cash in.Rogaska Slatina is 125km (77.5mi) northeast of Ljubljana. Buses and trains link the town to the capital via Celje. The border crossing into Croatia at Rogatec is 7km (4mi) to the southeast.
The Soca Valley, defined by the aquamarine Soca River, stretches from Triglav National Park to the Italian border town of Nova Gorica and is one of the most beautiful and peaceful spots in Slovenia. It wasn't always. During much of WWI, this was the site of the infamous Soca Front, which claimed the lives of an estimated 1 million people and was immortalised by Ernest Hemingway in his novel A Farewell to Arms.In 1917, combined Austrian, German, Hungarian and Slovenian forces met in Kobarid, on the front, and defeated the Italian army. It was the greatest breakthrough of WWI. Visitors flock to Mediterranean-style Kobarid (known as Caporetto to Hemingway) to relive these events at the award-winning, anti-war Kobarid Museum.Half a dozen buses travel between Kobarid and Ljubljana daily. Kobarid is about 150km (93mi) northwest of the capital. Due north 21km (13mi) is Bovec, an adventure sports centre full of hiking, kayaking, mountain biking and skiing opportunities.
The Wine Regions
Slovenia has been making wine since the time of the Romans, and it now produces many high quality varieties. The country has 14 distinct wine-growing areas, but two of the most important for white wine are just outside the town of Ptuj: the Haloze Hills and the Jeruzalem-Ljutomer districts. From Ptuj, the vineyards are accessible on foot, by car or by bicycle.The Haloze Hills extend south of Ptuj to the border of Croatia. The Haloze Trail (Haloska Pot) takes in this land of gentle hills, vines, corn and sunflowers; it's easy to pick up the path near Borl Castle, 11km (7mi) southeast of Ptuj.The Jeruzalem-Ljutomer vinska cesta (wine road) begins at Ormoz and continues for 18km (11mi) north to Ljutomer via the hilltop village of Jeruzalem. There are bundles of cellars and restaurants along the way where the region's local whites can be sampled.
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