Vinica On My Mind – visiting Bela Krajina’s gem by the Kolpa River
It’s early morning in room number 6 of our Črnomelj bed & breakfast, and I’m getting my travel bag ready for a day trip to Vinica. Refreshing in the Kolpa river is a plan for the upcoming hot late August day.
The road from Črnomelj
While walking to central Črnomelj from where we will be taking a shuttle to our destination (as per schedule on a leaflet picked at Črnomelj Tourist office), I’m still doubtful if it will really arrive. It just seems unreal to be transported to somewhere else from here, as there is almost no traffic nor people on the street.
But no street activity situation must be due to school summer holidays – the common sense part of my mind shuts the dubious one. And I would give a wealth for another cup of coffee.
A driver named Tatjana picks us up and we’re the only two passengers in her van. I’m thrilled when she replies she’s from Bela krajina, a local in fact!
As we’re leaving Črnomelj behind, and the yellow sun is rising across the fields, I’m fully awake now and already making Tatjana intrigued with my questions: how far is the river Kolpa from Vinica village, can we walk to the river bank, is the river warm or cold, are there snakes around …
She’s laughing and I’m starting to look really forward to a new day in front of us.
The Old Mill on the Kolpa River
After arriving to Vinica (cc 18 km from Črnomelj), Tatjana makes sure one more time that we head in the right direction – down to the old mill! – she keeps pointing with her hand from her coach.
Still, we end up in a corn field.
But we run into some locals (stealing corn), who end up leading us to the old mill. While walking together, a conversation evolves around the growing popularity of Bela krajina as a tourist destination among Slovenes, especially thanks to Kolpa river and many new, well equipped camps and glamping sites being built there.
Nowadays, Vinica is marked by an international border crossing with Croatia.
In vino – ‘vinica‘
Slovene linguist Maks Pleteršnik (1840 – 1923) wrote that the name of Vinica (place) can be derived directly from the name for the ‘wine cellar’. Some older interpretations are also associated with wine cultivation and wine production. But it’s a gin-tonic I am drinking once at the old mill’s bar terrace, right by the Kolpa river.
The cool air and the sounds of the nearby water mill smacking the water feel like a therapy for the mind and body.
We join the few bathers a bit later.
Vinica’s most famous resident was a poet
Most Slovenes know Vinica as a birth-place of one of nation’s greatest modernist poets Oton Župančič’s (1878 – 1949). His birth house is located in the centre of Vinica and has been renovated, as the original house burnt down in the great fire of 1888.
When Oton was 14, his family moved to Ljubljana (before they also lived in the nearby village of Dragatuš). Later he lived in Vienna and Paris, but it was in Slovenia’s capital where he spent most of his life.
Even so, his connection with Bela krajina – as seen by his young eyes and heart – was never broken.
Bela krajina motifs can be found in many of his poems and stories, especially in his early works for children.
And that’s how our first infatuation with Bela krajina begins.
Visited by Let’s go Slovenia in August 2020