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THE SOFT HEART OF THE STONY KARST pršut Eden Among the typical little stone houses of the Karst (Kras in Slovenian), over millennia a veritable drama has played out above and below the surface. The wind, water and earth here have shaped the most magnificent basement part of Europe, as the local Karst people describe their subterranean world. Slovenia has more than 11,000 karstic caves, which surprise people with their extraordinary shapes and their veritable realms of dripstones. The hardy Karst inhabitants put in a lot of effort using stone and walls to tame the landscape, which has been shaped by the fierce Bora wind. In winter they can always take refuge in the warmth from the wind, for the constant temperature of the tourist caves is between 8 and 10 degrees. Vilenica Cave, the oldest Slovenian tourist cave, has attracted visitors since the 17th century. Nature has also granted this landscape special qualities that are reflected in the cuisine and wine. Karst meadows are full of herbs and plants that enhance the local cuisine. Karst honey, which is especially rich in minerals owing to the microclimate, is even a protected brand. The locals love to get together over a glass of teran wine and hand-sliced kraški pršut ham, which are a well established culinary match with protection of geographical origin. Welcome to the stony Karst, which has a soft heart within!

The Slovenian karst region is one of the most unique landscapes, and the Karst people are hospitable who like to regale you with their stories amidst romantic villages such as Štanjel, Volčji Grad and Tomaj. People in these parts have always been adept at working stone, and even today they remain fine stonemasons. For this reason they say that the Karst stone is enlivening, for it is an inseparable part of the identity, not just in construction. On farm holdings, stone has always played an important part in food production – they used it to grind barley and spices, to weigh down turnip and cabbage during pickling or a leg of cured ham during pressing. Find out about the Karst heritage by visiting the farmers and crafts people! In this south-western part of Slovenia, many locations offer expansive views all the way to the Adriatic Sea.

The subterranean world of the Karst is shrouded in mystery shaped by water and rock in the form of karstic caves, passages and entire underground halls. Škocjan Caves have been on the Unesco World Heritage Sites since 1986, and draw people to the amazing underground canyon of the River Reka. Close by is the famous Lipica Stud Farm, where the noble Lipicanci (Lipizzaner) horses have been bred for more than 400 years, making it the oldest stud farm in Europe. You will only have the energy for all these experiences if you take the time to stop in at typical Karst inns with their internal courtyards and wells. You should also visit Pepa’s Karst Garden, which is a fine example of nature-friendly living in harmony with typical Karst common land, or a herb farmhouse, where you might even be served a herb beer.

                                                                                                     

KARST CUISINE

A special feature of the Karst is its flavours and local cuisine. The Bora wind dries the cured pršut ham, and the air is also an important element for maturing the refosco grape variety, from which teran wine is produced. Pršut and teran are both protected with a European designation of origin, and together they create a perfect culinary harmony. Not everyone can hand-slice kraški pršut, and special skills are required. On winter days another great combination is kraška panceta bacon and brinjevec, a spirit made of Brkini plums.

 

TYPICAL KARST DISH

 Kraški pršut ham matures for more than 12 months. Up until the moment when you carve off a ruby-red slice, a great deal of clean air, salt, Bora wind and experience of the Karst people are required. You can satisfy your sweet tooth with some excellent Karst honey.

 

TOP CULINARY EXPERIENCE

Come check out the osmice, the wine shops where back in the times of the Hapsburg Empire farmers could sell their surplus of wine for eight days without taxation. They are still true to the tradition today. Pay them a visit and share a toast with unbottled house wine of designated geographical origin. They will gladly supplement this with some meat cuts or typical stew such as kraška jota. And don’t miss the excellent home-made pasta with pršut ham or other toppings at authentic Karst inns.

 

POPULAR EVENTS IN KARST

* The Month of Asparagus takes place in the Karst from April to May. At that time, the unspoilt nature draws people to gather asparagus and to go for walks. The area around Brestovica is regarded as one of the best growing areas for asparagus in the Karst. During April and May the local people hold the Br’stovska špargljada asparagus event, where skilled asparagus harvesters compete to see who will garner the biggest armful.

* At the end of June Ivanji Grad hosts the Lavender Festival, which offers walks through flowering lavender fields, a market of treats and workshops for lavender products.

* The Festival of Teran and Pršut in August in Dutovlje is the most important event in the Karst, and has been held for more than 45 years. It presents the perfect culinary harmony of kraški pršut and teran wine, both of which have the protection of designated geographical origin in Slovenia and in the European Union.

http://www.slovenia.info/si/Newsletter/The-soft-heart-of-the-stony-Karst.htm?news_items=6193&lng=1

 

 

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