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SIOL.NET #1. When the Portuguese get immersed in the land of asparagus and Teran

posted Oct 14, 2019, 2:40 PM by Sardinha Media   [ updated Oct 14, 2019, 2:42 PM ]
We are very happy to share my own view about Slovenija and what makes me so deeply connected with this wonderful country. Have a look, share, let me know what you think. Soon there will be a new episode by the sea. Stay tuned :)


For the non slovene readers here is the (slightly different) english version:

Let me first introduce myself. I am Joao Costa, a Portuguese living in Slovenia for over 10 years. Besides my day job as a scientist and project manager, I am the editor of a bilingual Portuguese-Slovene magazine - named Sardinha, which explores the wonderful common points between the two cultures. This is the first of 4 chroniques about aspects of Slovenia caught by the foreign eye. It is well known that the outsider can grasp a different perspective that, at times, can bring something new. Today we drive south to Kras to find the gourmet Slovenia.

Less than an hour drive from Ljubljana is already enough to be so far from the urban center and to immerse ourselves in the warm landscapes of olive trees, stone made houses and wine routes. Passing Nanos in the direction south, the long sunny days are almost a given. It already feels great and we have just started our trip. No wonder everybody seems more relaxed and in sync with the wide spread afternoon skies ahead.

The slovenian region of Kras is a limestone plateau region known for its wind-dry prosciutto and its strong flavored teran wine. It extends from Vipava region, through Štanjel and all the way to Italy and it is often visited by the strong Bura winds that permit to dry the different sorts of sausages and ham that exist in the region. Portugal is also a country of wine and dry (actually, smoked) meat tradition, so I am at home here and for a long time I wanted to write about this common point to Sardinha and to further explore it myself in general. 

Soon after leaving the highway we are presented by the beautiful vineyards, Kras traditional houses, olive trees and white flowered cherry trees, a true hymn to the Spring that we were waiting for through the months. Our first destination is Komen where we will stay overnight. As a friend once told me, you have to wake up in a place to really experience it. And we choose wisely to book one of the many turistična kmetja in the area. The room is simple and very nicely decorated with an antique touch. The village of Komen is very peaceful and nobody seems to be in a hurry to get nowhere. We sit to have a coffee in one of the local cafes and we already feel at home. The local bakery has great baklava although that was not the reason of our trip. But it is hard to say no to a good baklava with coffee.

Embodied with the improvisation atmosphere we go for a walk in Štanjel, one of the glamourous villages in top of the hill nearby. On the way there I cannot stop thinking of the similarities with the landscape of Alentejo, south of Lisbon in Portugal, and in particular with the also glamorous village of Monsaraz where I made sure to took my wife the first time she visited Portugal. But the similarities are not just the villages in the top of the hills, the disperse wine roots and the ambience of olive threes. These similarities are also in the warm smiles of the locals with their skin briefly burned from the sun and their way of enjoying life.

There is no doubt why Štanjel is in all the tourist tracks, being embraced by culture of centuries since the settlements in the iron age and through the Romanesque period. The ancient architecture, the stone roads, those wooden doors with so many stories to tell. And when you find yourself in Štanjel, the well known Ferrari garden, designed by Maks Fabiani at the request of the physician Enrico Ferrari in the 1920s, is a place to spend some time. Don’t rush it, enjoy it. With that amazing view over the Vipava valley, it is very well taken care of and is a perfect place to spend some time with the kid, which was exactly what we did. It has indeed made his day.

With the sun going down we have a last glance to that sunset that makes us feel so close to summer, and we head back to our Špacapan hiša as dinner is served only until 8pm. And we cannot miss the encounter with the fine delicatess that Komen has to show. The starting point of this gastronomic experience starts with the choice of the house wine, the first tasting. With a glass of wine from the region each, Teran and Rebula, we are ready for the starters gently offered by the house. Goat cheese with red fruits jam accompanied by a bread-based cracker. My son decided to adopt the lady serving us (and taking care of the hotel) as his grandmother, and it’s through the eyes of the children then you can see the warmth of the people. The season is for šparglji and that was my choice, in the form of a tasty risotto and a piece of odojek (which is also very traditional in Portugal). It is interesting how they use small wild herbs and even eatable flowers to ornament their already beautiful dishes.This gastronomic experience doesn’t end before the breakfast, with a wide choice of homemade dry sausages and cheese, toasted bread and marmalades of different fruits served in different jars, all of it prepared for us before we arrive downstairs.

We are now ready for the šparglji hunt in Brestovica pri Komnu to which we came here for. When we are getting close to the meeting point we can already ear the golica music. The visitors come with their walking sticks and all around are excited faces, from young to old. It is indeed a nacional sport, and is said that the first šparglji of the year show up in this region due to the closeness to the Adriatic. We start the walk looking through the small bushes. Although it is not easy to find the desired seasonal vegetable, we can find many others in the wild such as drobnjak, peteršil and regrad. Yes, Slovenia is a hidden paradise for all this wild delicatessen. Later in the year we will find wild strawberries and other berries, mushrooms and even tartufi. Later, back to the village we find different local specialities made out of wild šparglji and often prosciutto -  palačinka, bread with šparglij, risoto, njoki, and even sweets. But the queen of the party is the frtalija that is usually served with a piece of bread and a glass of wine. A great award for the endeavour. The tables are long and promote the communion with people that you don't know, new friends and new stories. In the table in front of us an older guy shows his special knife to cut out the šparglij while proudly holding his bouquet. Later people will be dancing at the sound of traditional music until the sun goes down.    

On the way back to Ljubljana we pass by the village of Tomaj to visit the Starc wine seller. This place was set up in 1980, the year I was born, but the business started much earlier. The Teran here is fantastic and was advised from friends that know it from before. The Teran liker is also a must and reminds me a bit of the Porto wine bought to the farmers in the Douro region in Portugal, before being bottled by the big brands. The owner tells us some of the stories of his craft and proudly reveals the interest of his kids in the business that is passing from generation to generation. I couldn’t think of a better way to close this trip.  

Song for this trip: