Wednesday, August 1, 2012

always share your strudel!

last summer while on a train from austria to slovenia we made a new friend, an american who, with his wife, bought some land and an old farmhouse in the rolling hills of northern slovenia just across the austrian border. well, we had some strudel and some other viennese foodstuffs in our bag so we passed them around and got to talking. although we were headed to slovenia, our compartment-mates convinced us that we must see graz, austria along the way. so we grabbed our bags, hastily exchanged contact information and jumped off the train for a night in the lovely little city of graz. a couple of days later, while we were staying on pahorje mountain overlooking maribor, we received an invitation from mike (guy from train) and paula (wife of guy from train) to spend some time out at their farm.

catholicism: prettying up the the countryside for hundreds of years.
muta, slovenia, founded in the 14th century.
it's embarrassing to admit now that our first thought was, "what if they're ax murderers with a lot of time on their hands at their very remote farm?" it's true, we did. we were new to our travels and this was our first encounter with the incredible, spontaneous generosity of total strangers that we would often experience on this trip. but our second thought was, "why would we embark on travel if not to meet new people?" regardless of whether they're ax murderers or not. no offense to ax murderers.

long story short, we spent a day and a night out on the farm hiking, talking, eating and enjoying mike and paula's company immensely. we also fell in love with the countryside, and i mean fell hard. it's stunning. the drava river valley, west of maribor, is one of the most beautifully serene stretches of landscape we have ever seen. when we left, we jokingly said, "if you ever need someone to farm-sit, let us know." maybe not so jokingly, as we really meant it, but we never thought it would actually happen. i mean, we were on our way around the world in the opposite direction. 

well, as it happens so many times in one's life, we were sitting in phnom penh, cambodia many months later when they popped up and asked "hey, would you guys like to farm-sit?" wait, what? we talked more and realized that our (barely) planned itinerary would have us on the east coast later that year and in perfect position for a return to europe. one thing led to another and... well... here we are, back in slovenia.

this goat produced some of the best sour cream we've ever tried. 
it's hard to get our heads around how much we've moved recently. a little more than three weeks ago we were sitting in cuenca, ecuador (hi holly! hi doyle and ramona!), wrapping up three months in south america. between ecuador and slovenia we visited family in georgia and new york/new jersey, our first time back to the united states in nearly a year. that alone is a head spinner. there is nothing more gratifying than seeing family after long periods of time away and, wow, coming home during an election build-up was intense. it really brought home, no pun intended, how blissfully divorced we've been from the craziness of american media and politics.

minutes out our door, a hike through some of the most beautiful countryside we've ever seen. i swear, a hobbit's going to jump out and hand me a beer and that would literally be the only way this could get any better. 
we are now surrounded by green. green everywhere, punctuated by blue sky and sunlight on 30 acres of land straddling a mountain ridge that overlooks a 900 year old town, complete with a white church prettying up the place. it's a postcard.

where's slovenia, you ask? well, you're not alone. we hardly knew where it was last year when we first visited. we look around here and think, "it's stunning how few people make it to this part of europe." yep, it was part of yugoslavia for fifty years and, yep, it's squeezed between some powerhouse tourist countries like italy, austria and croatia, but wow are people missing out.

now that we're settled for a while we'll explore what life is like in the countryside of this beautiful place. we've so far been busy getting to know this old house (keystone above the front door says 1875) and the area, doing some hiking, tending the bountiful vegetable garden that paula kindly left behind for us, learning what to do with ALL OF THESE BEANS (sorry to shout), mowing the biggest lawn we've ever had to face and, of course, learning some slovene.

we'll report back . . .

mike showing me the finer points of a fifty year old austrian tractor. later, he let me drive it! 

first harvest. wax and purple beans. these are the bush beans but there are eight huge pole bean plants about to come in and it really seems quite intimidating. 

the other day, we came down off of our slovenian mountain to buy some bread and we ended up in austria. one foot in slovenia, one foot in austria. 

view from the train coming in to slovenia. this is when we thought, "oh yeah, we made the right decision." it's good to be back.

and then there's this...
spotted in the church of, wait for it... "saint duh." not even kidding.


  1. Nice to see fellow travelers enjoying their time in Slovenia. If you like Drava river valley so much make sure you also visit Soča river valley in the western part of the country.

    It is a small country so you should be able to squeeze a trip or two around it despite your heavy work at the farm. ;)

  2. thanks marko! we'll get the map out right now and hit the road. this weekend, it's ptuj.

    russ (and michelle)

  3. Wow, I can't get over how beautiful it is there. I'm so glad you decided to go back there and it's great to hear that you're enjoying it so much. Doyle and Ramona say hello to you too. Oh and so does Brian!

  4. Ptuj is also a nice town and it is near-by your place. I guess it's the oldest in Slovenia.
    How did you like it there?

  5. Marko,

    Thanks for coming back around. Ptuj was pretty cool. Charmin, walkable old town area and we got to eat cevapcici again. always a bonus. Where are you based? We're outside Maribor about 20K.