One of the best things about travelling off season is that everywhere feels like ‘off the beaten track’ at the moment. The cooler weather is driving most tourists away, and we have been encountering only the intrepid continental visitors who are pretty much keen to go anywhere in any weather.
In Bled, there were a couple bus loads of tourists that pretty much stuck to the main streets and lake fronts. In Soca Valley we didn’t see any tourists for the whole day. When we got to Maribor, Slovenia’s second largest city, we had expected at least to have a bit more tourists hanging about and the place to be at least busy….
Nope, that didn’t happen either. Maribor seems to be a bit of an off the beaten track city for English speaking visitors to Slovenia.
I say English speaking, because most other Europeans: the Germans, the Italians, the Austrians, the Czechs and Croatians and the French, all come here for their R&R and are frequently heard on the streets, but English? None. At least, not when we were in town.
Besides the groups of Erasmus students being taken around town on their orientation, we probably encountered only groups of Austrian visitors and maybe one or two other English speaking visitors. During our first day in the city, the place felt empty and we almost had the entire city to ourselves!
The Maribor old town, as expected in any European old town, is wonderful. The old Maribor Castle is now a great museum. The entry fee is only a couple of Euros and we found the exhibitions just so fascinating. You learn about the history of the region first, from the Ice Age through the stone/iron ages to the Romans and now, before being led up and down the stairs into art galleries, exhibition of local lifestyle, through the wars and of course, of Maribor today.
The cobbled streets of Maribor are largely empty, except on market days when local farmers come with their crateful of produce to see to the public, and food vendors taking this opportunity to set up shop, selling breads, kebabs and coffee. With such a small population (around 95,000) this city can feel somewhat eerie to those from the busier parts of the world.
However, on our third day in the city, things quickly picked up as we were visiting during one of the most exciting times for Maribor: the post harvest wine season, where they celebrate wine and local produce.
Maribor turned out to be an exciting wine destination! The wine making heritage dates back to years and years, and they boast of having the world’s oldest grape vine – still bearing fruit and harvested yearly – the Old Vine, which supposedly entered the Guinness Book of Records (unfortunately I can’t find the exact entry to share).
Walking through the city park in the north of the city and up the surrounding hills, we past vineyards busy with workers hand harvesting the grapes. This backbreaking work result in some of the great wines sold in stores and we cheerfully greeted each harvester with enthusiasm, a way to show our appreciation. From the top of the hill, we were rewarded with a sweeping view of Maribor and the mountain ranges beyond. The air was crisp, and the hills coloured with earthy autumn shades, the day wouldn’t have been better.
But it did get better, we got to taste the wines that this region is so famous for.
Being Australians we don’t know much about all the wines of the world. At the most we are able to buy Chilean and French wines from commercial brands from our bottlers but Slovenian wine? Since our move to Europe, we’ve experienced wines from different regions and places that you wouldn’t consider as wine countries: so I was glad to find out that for Europeans, especially those who live across the border in Italy and Austria, Slovenien wine has somewhat a high status.
So following the wine trail back down to town, we headed to the Old Vine House – where the old vine still thrives despite being 400 years old. We were treated to a 8 wine tasting feast (although only paid for a tasting of 3 wines) and within the course of the 30 mins, we both fell in love with the white wine varieties of the regions surrounding Maribor.
That much wine in such a short time! I promise you, it was all in the name of research (so I can tell you all about it in this post) and, they were very small glasses of each, considering that we only paid for 3 standard glasses!
With the sweetness of the local Rizling and Traminers in our veins, we happily enjoyed another wonderful glass of Ranina at the Water Tower, a little wine cafe by the river to watch the sunset.
The lure of wine is strong, you would too if you were here!
Life is good in Maribor.