Hello Kras – welcome to one of our favourite corners of Slovenia!
The collection of the Karst Plateau wine-rich villages out west, close to the Italian border, is a wonderful place to spend a few days when in Slovenia …
Visited by Let’s Go Slovenia in August 2021
Featured head photo: Ferrari Garden, Štanjel
Sežana – a great base
Sežana is located on the Karst Plateau, 17 km from Trieste, Italy, and 80 km from Ljubljana, the capital city of Slovenia.
Until the mid-19th century, it was just a minor place. But after the Austrian Southern Railway (1856), connecting Vienna to Trieste was built, Sežana emerged as the most important centre on the Karst Plateau.
Today, travelers usually stop here for lunch or coffee on their way to the nearby Lipica Stud Farm or when heading to the spectacular Škocjan Caves. As home to several casinos, the town is also popular with the predominately Italian, but also local gambling enthusiasts.
To more culturally inspired individuals Sežana is best known as birth place of Slovene poetic icon Srečko Kosovel (1904-1926), now considered one of central Europe’s major modernist poets.
The Karst region, with its ascetic yet fascinating scenery, is one of the main motifs in Kosovel’s poetry.
In our case, Sežana was a perfect base for exploring the nearby villages, home to ruby-rose red Slovenian Teran wine and the typical stone karst architecture.
Prior to booking our stay at the Hotel Grahor just outside the town, our travel interest also included a visit to Vina Kras Sežana wine cellar in the centre of town, which we kindly recommend as a ‘warm up’.
Get to know some of the best local wine producers at Vina Kras wine cellar and wine bar in Sežana.
The villages of Dutovlje and Tomaj
Charming Dutovlje (elevation: 313.2 m) along the Sežana–Nova Gorica road was first mentioned in 1284. The village life is concentrated around the St. George Church (Cerkev Sv. Jurija), where the Knights Templar once had their fort.
In 1906, the first train passed through Dutovlje and it’s still running today (it will take you cc 2 hours to get here from Ljubljana, with changing trains in Sežana). We chose to get here with a bus from Sežana and to hike backwards towards Tomaj.
The Karst (Kras) region is also called the land of Teran wine.
As we walked towards Tomaj, the clouds were gathering and the young green grapes danced in the summer wind.
Still, we took time to observe the flat world around the village covered by terra rossa, on which the Refošk vine grows in the vineyards, producing the famous Refošk and Teran wine. In addition to red wines, they also produce Malvasia here.
The characteristic terra rossa or jerina red soil, rich in minerals and iron, has a significant effect on the growth of vines, as reflected in Karst wines.
In Tomaj we passed a house where Srečko Kosovel lived with his family in his later years. He is also buried in Tomaj, dying at the age of 22. Young poet caught a severe cold after spending a whole night at the train station (he missed his train to Ljubljana), developing a bad flue and later dying of meningitis.
Kosovel’s House (Kosovelova domačija) – a visit has to be pre-arranged by calling 031 602 433 or visiting TIC Sežana’s tourist office in Sežana.
We made it to Štanjel in the evening, which made the moment of entering the ancient fortified village even more spectacular. The three-coloured cat sitting on the town walls was a perfect addition to the scenery.
We found our bed in the house of Marija and Jožef Švegelj who are running a lovely pension here.
Štanjel town walls that surround most of the village were built in the 15th century to protect the settlement from the Ottoman raids.
The village was heavily damaged during the Allied bombing at the end of the WWII (it served as a smaller German units base), but was gradually renovated. After the war, one of notable residents was also the Slovenian graphic artist Lojze Spacal.
The Ferrari Garden (Ferrarijev vrt) is a major landmark in the settlement and one of the most visited ones. It was designed by architect and between 1935-1945 also Štanjel’s mayor Max Fabiani at the request of a Trieste doctor Enrico Ferrari in the 1920s. The park has been declared a natural park and the national monument by the Government of Slovenia.
Karst kindness and hospitality
For the end of this blog post, we want to tell you about Marija, who together with her husband Jožef runs Rooms & Apartments in Štanjel where we stayed. She used to be an English teacher at the local school, now she’s mostly busy hosting tourists and travelers from around the world.
On the warm summer evenings Marija makes lavender bunches in front of her house. The pleasant scents of the purple queen plant are so calming that they make you want to sit with her for the rest of the day.
When we were leaving early in the morning (before 7am) there was coffee and bread with honey & butter waiting for us in the kitchen, though we had no breakfast pre-booked …
An Autumn Landscape
The sun is autumn calm
as though in mourning;
behind the slender cypress trees
behind the white wall of the graveyard. –
The grass all red in the sun. –
Do you wear the clogs of dogma?
A bicycle abandoned on an autumn road.
You ride through a dying landscape.
A staid man walks the field,
he is as cold as autumn,
he is as sad as autumn.
Faith in humanity.
To me it is a sacred thought.
A speechless silence is like sorrow.
I am no longer sad
for I do not think of myself.
By Marijana Podhraski, Let’s go Slovenia
On Twitter: @mari_podhraski