San Fransisco based freelance photographer Robin Jolin has expertly documented a number of Blue Danube Wine Co events. Usually asking for payment in wine, we have watched her interest grow beyond the glass. Robin and her husband Jarred made their first trip to Middle Europe this past April. They spent two weeks wandering between the Slovenian/Italian border and the Island of Krk visiting wine producers and absorbing the hospitality, culture, olive oil, truffles, and most of all wine. The photographs are Robin’s, the words are Jarred’s. Read and view with caution, or risk an impulse purchase of a plane ticket to Ljubljana.
Stetson: Beforehand what were your expectations of this trip?Jerred: We expected to experience a beautiful foreign land with the freedom a rented, compact automobile offers, all the while remaining well-fed on delicious, local fare and wine varietals, and to meet a small cross section of those responsible for creating these delectable treats. One aspect of traveling through this part of the world that we didn’t expect was the hospitality offered us by the winemakers we visited. Although strangers they treated us like important guests, providing us with anything necessary to keep us satiated. Another aspect we didn’t expect was the price differential between the cost of beer and the cost of wine at cafes and restaurants. In both Slovenia and Croatia, the cost of a beer was generally 2 to 2.5 times that of a quality glass of wine which is opposite of the way things work here in the U.S. of A.
Stetson: What was the most difficult part?
Jerred: The most difficult part of the trip for us was navigating without a GPS unit. While we did have a road map, accessed google maps at times, and managed to reach all of our destinations without getting seriously lost, it wasn’t always the case that directions were easy to follow. Getting into the cities and villages was simple enough but it became more challenging when looking for specific places based on building number/street name combos, especially when the latter weren’t clearly marked. Another difficulty was when my navigator began dozing on the job.
Stetson: Was it a challenge not speaking the language?
Jerred: For the most part somebody was around that could speak a little english so it wasn’t as challenging as we’d expected. The language is difficult with respect to pronunciation which resulted in us mispronuncing things quite regularly. One humurous recurrence was when Robin thanked people in Slovenian. The word for it is ‘Hvala,’ however Robin consistently pronounced it ‘Valhalla’ which is a hall in Norse mythology in which heroes killed in battle were believed to feast with Odin for eternity. So, we’d be at a restaurant or something and the server would say something like:
“Here is some complimentary mistletoe grappa.”
And Robin would respond:
“The hall in Norse mythology in which heroes killed in battle were believed to feast with Odin for eternity.”
Stetson: What is the first wine that comes to mind from the trip?
Stetson: The first meal?
Jarred: A plate of lardo in Portoroz, Slovenia. Chewing this stuff wasn’t even necessary; one could just mush it around with their tongue and it would dissolve into a buttery goodness that coated the throat all the way down to the stomach. It was a huge portion and we didn’t want to look silly like we didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into so we forced it down until the possibility of intestinal discomfiture became very real.
Stetson: Where did you not stay long enough?
Jerred: Ljubljana, Slovenia. This capital city was charming, reasonbly priced, historical, and full of culture. At the top of the hill was the Grad Ljubljana while below graffiti of all forms and types adorned both modern and old buildings. History of human settlement in this area dates back roughly 10000 years and the oldest known wooden wheel and axle (dating back some 5100 years) were exhumed from the Ljubljana marshes. Also, Jason of Argonauts reknown was believed to have slain a dragon here, the likeness of the latter being displayed throughout the city. Far too much to see and comprehend in the short amount of time we had here.
Stetson: What cultural difference did you most enjoy?
Jarred: That a plate of prosciutto and salami was the cornerstone of a typical breakfast meal.
Stetson: Are there any customs you encountered that you would like to incorporate into your lives?
Jarred: Using olive oil as a spice vs. using it only for cooking. At numerous restaurants, dishes would be drizzled with delicious olive oil that greatly accentuated the flavors contained in them. I’m sure this also had to do with the exceptional quality of their oils, too.
Stetson: What type of person would you recommend travel to Slovenia and Croatia?
Jarred: Somebody who is interested in the confluence of cultures and how, with time, these come together to form something new.