Day 1: The views that take your breath away

Does wine warrant a 02:30 start? It does when you’re buying it for a subscription wine business. A drive from Nottingham to Luton, a long wait for a shuttle bus and a meander through duty free (assessing the wine situation), got us onto a plane that landed in Ljubljana 2 hours later. What a beautiful city it is too. Very quickly, you become to realise that Slovenia is a cross between Austrian and Italian, with a bit of Hungarian mixed in for good measure.

Walking through Ljubljana is great – a very bicycle-friendly city, with so much to see and do. Quaint little shops, a castle, churches and a local market make up that typical central-European modern city. I was then whisked to the top Ljubljana’s second tallest building for lunch. Homemade tomato soup, truffle pasta with beef and salad and a local cake. It would appear that €10 gets you a long way in Slovenia – especially with a view like that. After meeting Anja’s family for coffee, we borrowed her father’s car and hit the highway.

The roads are amazing, the views breath-taking. So much so that the Slovenian Highways Department often put signs up at the side of the road, prohibiting the use of cameras. They have clearly learnt from other people’s mistakes.I received a rather in depth history lesson during the drive, including where Italy ends and Slovenia starts, a passing of the largest stone arch in the world Solkan bridge and a general background into Slovenia’s chequered past.

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Only 25 years have passed since the fall of Yugoslavia, but the way that the country has sprung back is amazing.

A drive of about 2 hours landed us in Šmartno. We parked the car, and got out to the most amazing view.

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After standing and looking at this for a few minutes, Anja promptly told me that this is not where we need to be and pointed up towards a large wall on top of a hill. After climbing the hill (a quite welcome piece of exercise, post travelling) brought us through a little stone arch into a beautifully quaint citadel. Šmartno is only a small village. An earthquake in the 1960’s nearly destroyed the village and it has only been restored in the last 5 or so years. A short walk around the village (after dropping our bags) produced pictures of how it has looked at various points over the last 50 or so years. It’s a piece of living history. The inhabitants are friendly and the apartment restored with good taste. The beauty of being on top of a hill is of the views that surround you. Forests, vineyards, mountains and more little villages. Idyllic.

After killing a bit of time, we met with Sebastjan. He’s a winemaker here, producing Belica wines. After explaining to him the reason for our visit, he promptly started a wine tasting. I was completing all of my paperwork, as all wines are tested individually, as well as collecting all the technical data.

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Sebastjan is such a welcoming man, friendly, and passionate. He will talk forever about his wine and in fact, speaks very good English. This good news for us. We tasted 8 wines and had to stop.

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A combination of heat, wine and early starts meant that 8 wines caused some adverse effects to the head. He told us tomorrow that he will take us to the winery and start part 2 of the tasting. After dinner, a walk and we hit the sack. Well deserved, I’d say.

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Come back tomorrow and we’ll tell you how part 2 went, as well as our tasting with Ščurek.

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