(INTERVIEW) Nataša Briški: Ambassador of the Kočevje Region
To most Slovenes Nataša Briški is still best know as a former TV sports journalist. Though it was her TV reporting from America during George Bush Jr. presidency (she also interviewed him) that made her an acclaimed domestic and international journalist name. Presently, Nataša is editor in-chief of the Meta’s List Institute (Slovene: Metina lista), a web platform she co-founded for ‘people with wide views and an active spirit’. Surely, even podcast newbies in the country have heard of the Meta’s Tea (Metin čaj) podcast, with Nataša as its co-host.
As for the travelling bit, she made headlines for being part of the Euro-Arabian North Pole 2018 Women Expedition representing Slovenia. But in our blog’s interview we wanted to focus on her role as the ambassador of the Kočevje Region a.k.a. Kočevsko, where she’s from.
Featured head photo: Jošt Gantar
Nataša, why put Kočevsko on a travel list? How would you introduce this part of Slovenia to someone who’s never heard of it?
I usually start by putting us on a world map first. I say that we are the southernmost part of Slovenia, a country that is now a member of the European Union, and used to be part of the country we called Yugoslavia.
Following up, I like to point out that this is a region where nature is by far the best preserved and unspoiled not only in Slovenia but Europe as well. Due to low temperatures during winter months Kočevje is considered a kind of Slovenian Siberia, I tell them, and also home to the mightiest wildlife that can be found in Europe, including brown bears, wolves and lynxes. Absolutely a five star experience, I believe, with abundance of outdoor activities offered in Kočevsko like hiking and biking and swimming and fishing …
Most people are also very interested to know more about at least three other things I mention, the story of a closed area in Kočevsko, headquarters of a secret police and army units, to which the public has not had access for many years, the tragic history of post-war massacres that took place in Kočevsko and the history of Gottscheers, the German settlers of the Kočevje region.
Kočevsko is where you can choose your shade of green paradise with the abundance of peace and quiet. It’s the landscape with the most naturally preserved regions in Slovenia where remains of virgin forests are hidden and a place where you can experience life in its primal form. The country will fill you with the energy of nature.
What is ‘Wild’ and what is ‘Nice’ from the ‘Kočevsko: Wild. But Nice‘ tourist promo-slogan?
The wild stands for many things that could be experienced in our neck of the woods. For one, there are remains of virgin forests hidden in the deepest corners of our region. The Krokar primeval forest, part of the prestigious UNESCO World natural heritage list, is one of the best-preserved virgin forests in Slovenia, Europe and the world in general. Primeval forest is considered to be an ecosystem that develops automatically for millennia, without human intervention and Krokar is a wonderful example of that, it doesn’t get any wilder or nicer.
In the heart of those ancient forests you can meet the most powerful animal of Kočevsko, brown bear. With some luck, wildlife can also be seen simply while walking through the forest. If you keep your eyes peeled and sharpen your senses, you could be surprised by a deer, roe deer, lynx, fox, wolf or wild boar.
The experience is so nice you keep coming back.
As a former sport’s journalist, to many here you’re still representing healthy and active life-style. What are your personal favourite Kočevsko outdoor experiences?
Hiking deep in the woods where you share chosen paths with numerous wildlife and you can feel it, that would probably be number one for me.
During winter months, with snow on the ground, the experience can be even better as you can easily spot many traces of wild animals.
Are you also a Kočevsko tour-guide and if yes what kind of tours are you leading?
I do have a certificate, but unfortunately not enough time at this moment of my life to do it regularly or on a daily basis.
Sometimes I take a bunch of my friends on a hiking tour, threat them with some locally produced food or beer or legendary pastries like Kočevska bombica. I do hope to have more time in the upcoming years because I really enjoy every moment spent in Kočevsko.
As Kočevsko born and raised, have you ever encountered a brown bear? If yes, what did you do?
Only once, to be honest, when a cub and mama bear crossed the road near Kočevska Reka. I was driving through and it happened real fast so I didn’t even have time to take my camera out and snap a shot or two.
On the other hand I was glad to be in a car when it happened since brown bears, a rather shy animals, can be quite dangerous if you encounter a family with curios “little-ones” roaming around.
Anything else you’d like to add about Kočevsko or your role as its ambassador?
Until recently, Kočevsko was a region that was deliberately ignored for many years and rather underdeveloped in terms of tourism and economy in general. So glad things are changing in a positive way. New local leadership on various levels is turning things for the better, as they understand the value of the region, actively look for opportunities and have ideas on how to develop the potential in a sustainable way.
And I would really like to thank you for the opportunity to talk about Kočevsko.
Interview by Mari Podhraski (@mari_podhraski) / Twitter