When telling friends of our proposed route and our plan to pop into Slovenia for dinner, some thought we were mad, those who knew us well, didn’t think twice! (Probably still thought it, just politely didn’t verbalise it)
Now she and her restaurant have won many awards, including Worlds Best Female Chef 2017. We were fortunate enough to hear Ana speak last year at the ‘Women in Gastronomy’ event in Bangkok (arranged by the same foodie friend), she came across even more passionate and caring than on Netflix. We got the chance to speak to her at a post event cocktail party where we discussed Slovenia (and ice hockey) and our hope, one day, to visit her restaurant. I’m sure she’s heard it a thousand times, how people would love to get to her restaurant... but we finally did!
Okay, only 5 more hours until our reservation, we drove along the valley taking in the gorgeous views and cute tiny towns as we passed through. Mid afternoon we realised we were right alongside the Italian border so at the next roundabout we took the third exit rather than the second and a minute later we were Italy - time for a coffee - as you do!
We tried to park, but many of the roads were blocked off. We eventually found a spot to park the van and walked back into the town area. It seemed they were setting up for some kind of festival. We sat and had a coffee - yes great coffee, worth the trip all the way to Italy. We took a walk around the town and stopped to talk to one of the vendors setting up. The lady spoke good English and explained to us it was a food festival starting tonight (Thursday) and going until midnight on Sunday. Okay, yes, of course we were going to come back this way!
On the road again we continued our pilgrimage to the restaurant. We came to a nice car park, overlooking a river only about 40 minutes from the restaurant and decided to stop and have a couple of hours rest before changing into our dining attire. (Not that special given it was made up of stuff from our back packs).
If anyone is planning a trip to Slovenia (and you should), you definitely need to make the effort and treat yourselves to dinner at Hisa Franko. They also have rooms were you can stay the night - worth the splurge! https://www.hisafranko.com/en/
The next morning we woke to a beautiful scene of green farmlands and rolling hills over which a light mist had settled. We went inside, had a coffee and said our goodbyes before making our way toward Ljubljana. The drive was truly spectacular. The scenery was breathtaking, large hills and valleys, winding rivers, fly fishermen and cute towns. We fell in love with Slovenia.
We arrived in Ljubljana mid morning, found a campsite about 20 minutes walk from the centre. It was basically a gravel parking area across the road from the restaurant who owned it. They charged 10 euros to stay or free if we had a meal at the restaurant. So we had lunch there then walked into town.
The next morning was AFL Grand Final day. Unfortunately for us, the game started at 6.30AM... needless to say, despite best intentions, we didn’t get to see much of the pre-game entertainment. We laid in bed watching the start of the game with a coffee, then at half time Pete made some pretty damn good breakfast burgers - of course we had to have some form of “footy food”. Just before three quarter time, our data ran out on the SIM card!! No Wifi in this camping spot either. Too basic for that! We made a quick dash outside to see what wifi we could get, we knew the restaurant over the road had free wifi but it was too early for them to be open. We found that, if we sat in a certain spot, we could get the City Free Wifi but only strong enough to use on the phone. So we sat on the sidewalk by the restaurant and watched the last quarter of the game on the phone. A memorable experience I suppose! In the end the Tigers flogged GWS so it wasn’t really a great game.
Time to head back to Italy for the food festival.
We crossed the border, with just a short interruption while the Italian border police checked out our papers. From our previous visit we knew it would be difficult to find a place to park, we eventually managed to find a car parking spot in a very large car park near the border crossing.
Every year for the past 16 years, the town of Gorizia in Italy has held the “Gusti Di Frontiera” food festival. For 4 nights and 3 days, from 10am to 3am, the majority of the streets of the old town are all shut down and divided into 20 distinct geographical villages. Over 400 stands representing 50 countries.
We walked to the start of the festival area. OMG it was massive. There were so many streets lined with food and drink stalls. Every turn brought another full street, everywhere as far as the eye could see lines of stalls and heaving with people, we had died and gone to foodie heaven!
Whilst walking around we found the tourist bureau and asked about a campsite, as we intended to come back to the festival in the evening and wanted somewhere close that we could walk home to. The staff were apologetic saying during the festival time it was almost impossible to get parking. The only place they knew of was a very large car park near the border. Score!! That was where we had parked the van. We could continue our food adventure.
We walked a bit more surveying the stalls thinking about what to have that night. We came across the Great Britain section and stopped at the Rugby tent to check whether they were telecasting the Australian game the next day. The couple who ran the stall were super friendly and spoke good English. They told us about a county touch Rugby event happening just down the street so we headed to the ground to watch before heading back to the van to rest recharge before tackling the festival in the evening.
By 11pm we were stuffed so decided to call it quits stopping for a night cap on the way out, there was a funky, jazz band playing then a DJ, so a couple of night caps later we were still there. A group of locals about our age, were partying at the end of our table, the girls were dancing on the street, the guys were standing around chatting. One of the guys bought a bottle of Dom Perignon and presented us with a glass - well who are we to be rude and not accept! I ended up joining the girls dancing on the street, whilst Pete chatted to the guys (one operated a hotel). Just after 1am we stumbled back to our van. Leaving the girls to dance the night (morning) away.
We woke to find our car park was still dotted with the cars of those who didn’t make the drive home. We planned to visit some sites, grab some lunch at the festival and head off. We walked into the festival area as the cleanup continued and the stalls were re-firing and the hunks of meat were already on the grills.
We sat down for a coffee, picked up a pastry at the “French” section of the festival then headed up the hill to visit the castle. During the festival the council had waived the entry fee for the tourist attractions. The castle is accessed by a steep walk up the hill. You are greeted by a wonderful view of the town and the hills across to Slovenia.
It was time to say goodbye to the festival... ok, one last bite.... a cannoli. We couldn’t leave Italy without trying one of these traditional deserts could we? It was so good, crispy, freshly filled with a vanilla custard cream and dusted with pistachios.
Schengen, days were ticking down, time to head back to Croatia.