News flash! I am not camping person. I love being outdoors, I love adventure activities, and I absolutely cannot stand being in a room without a window connecting me to the sun. However, if you throw me in a tent and tell me to shower in the river I may kill you in your sleep. So when the opportunity to “glamp” in at BigBerry I was ecstatic.
You mean to tell me I can be one with nature while still having access to a hot shower, comfy bed, AND WiFi? Sign me up! Springtime finally rolled around and The World Pursuit made our way back to Slovenia to spend time at BigBerry, a lifestyle camp whose slogan is “Luxury of Freedom.” Who doesn’t like the sound of that?
Glamping at BigBerry
So what is Glamping?
It’s the first 4 letters of “Glamorous,” and the last 4 letters of “Camping,” or “Glamorous Camping,” for all the blondes out there (I can say that because I am blonde). Glamping has taken the tourism industry by storm as a growing number of outdoor enthusiast want a little more comfort and luxury on their vacations. Glamping provides vacationers the chance to experience the great parts of camping (think hiking, solitude, and listening to the birds chirp) without all the hassles (think pitching a tent, bugs, collecting firewood, cooking over a fire, and squatting in the bushes to go number two).
The “BB” – or BigBerry
BigBerry is a brand new lifestyle camp situated on the Slovenian side of the Kolpa River in the Bela Krajina region. The Kolpa River has long been the border between Croatia and Slovenia in the southeastern region. The river is so short in width that you can wave hello to your Croatian neighbors from your home patio, or simply swim over saving on passport stamp space! The Kolpa River is clean and relatively unknown, making it the optimal spot for campers. In the summer, it offers great kayaking conditions, rowing for beginners, and is terrific for those who like to fish.
The camp is set up with seven prefab homes and a reception area. The camp has a volleyball court, a cool main patio for barbecues, and plan to have boats, hammocks, and bikes for when the sun really starts to shine. This is also 2016, meaning there is a strong WiFi signal in all the outdoors areas.
The “BB” Houses
The “Brown Berry” mobile homes are designed for a complete Slovenian glamping experience. Each house is contemporary, chic, and immaculately clean with a covered balcony attached. There are two, four, and six person houses; perfect for all kinds of getaways and vacations. Bathrooms, Bedrooms, and well-equipped kitchens make up the interior of the homes that are bigger than our former NYC apartment. On top of the essentials, the spaces are designed with optimal comfort in mind. Dimming blinds for the windows? Check. Waterfall showers? Check. LED TV’s, wardrobe lights, hidden drawers? Check. Check. Check. Seriously, this beats the hell out of our old overpriced apartment in the Bronx. Who wouldn’t want to wake up to the sounds of the river flowing and the birds chirping?
Falling in Love with the Bela Krajina Region
Positioned in the southeast of Slovenia, right on the Croatian border sits Bela Krajina. This lush region contains 27,000 inhabitants living peaceful and simple lives in the serene countryside. We were informed that this is one of the poorest regions of Slovenia, but you wouldn’t know it by visiting! This place is perfect for those looking to get away. Belo Krajina is made up of three main towns: Čenomelj, Metlika, and Semič. BigBerry is located in the tiny village of Primostek which is just outside Metlika, marketed as the sunny side of the Gorjanci mountain range!
The Bela Krajina region is very well known for their wine growing districts. Almost every house has their own wine producing capabilities, and any local we met always invited us in for a glass of wine or rakija (or both)! There are numerous wine festivals every year, the biggest being Vinska Vigred in late May. Vinska Vigred brings in more than 20,000 people each year, making it the largest wine festival in Slovenia. The region truly comes alive with this festival that showcases many award-winning wines.
Sadly, our dates didn’t quite line up for this festival. However, we were able to visit the local family winery of Malnarič. The Malnarič winery produces 70% white and 30% red wines. I’m personally a red wine drinker, but all are equally delicious.
Bela Krajina is known for it’s vast and varying landscape, making the entire region perfect for hikers and outdoor adventurers. So there is something for the non-drinkers, or people that don’t get hangovers (unlike me) to stay entertained. The terrain varies in difficulty, but all hikers will always be surrounded by the beautiful region.
Food for Living
We are total foodies. If we aren’t fed every three hours then it’s safe to say we are going to get a little “hangry.” So, it came to our delight to learn that BigBerry is actually named after the many berries it will grow and produce throughout the year. Our favorite part of waking up every morning was receiving a basket of local fruits, vegetables, spreads, and fresh milk on our patio. BigBerry promotes healthy and sustainable living through the food it serves. The camp works with local farmers to bring guests the freshest and healthiest products in the region.
We were able to meet with many local food experts in the region, and plan to detail our experiences with them soon! We had a great time exploring Kmetiha Strucelj, one of the largest dairy farms in Bela Krajina. I know that dairy consumption is a hot topic right now, so we were very happy in knowing these Slovenian cows live happy and long lives while grazing in open fields. I’m not a huge milk fan, but I have said before on a previous visit to Ljubljana that Slovenia has some of the best yogurts I’ve ever tasted. I literally screamed in excitement when I found one of my favorite types of yogurt in the Bela Krajina region!
We also put a few inches on our waistline just in time for summer by munching on all the bread in the region. Our favorite was Belokranjska Pogača, which we even got a chance to make ourselves. Belokranjska Pogača is the famous traditional bread in Bela Krajina. It is always prepared fresh with tender love and care and can be served in both winter and summer months. The preparation and handling of the bread take a particular skill that has been handed down in Bela Krajinan families for generations. We were able to take part and (attempt) to learn this skill while at Gostišče Veselič. The bread consists of flour, water, salt, yeast, cumin, egg, and sugar. From start to finish it takes a couple of hours to prepare and some much-needed patience. You can find the exact recipe here! Belokranjska Pogača is only offered by certified producers and is usually paired with a glass of wine or homemade brandy.
Despite the constant influx of fresh fruits, vegetables, and dairy one of our favorite meals was fresh grilled trout in Jelševnik. Cameron and I are pretty die hard seafood fans so it takes a lot to impress us. We weren’t expecting much from the Slovenian trout, but were delighted when our host, Richard, served up just caught trout, polenta, and roasted potatoes from his families local stream.
Having Fun Around the Slovenia
Getting drunk with the locals
The region of Bela Krajina may be relatively small, but they do have a brewery! In the United States, craft breweries are a huge market that have totally changed the beer industry. However, there is little to no breweries like this in Slovenia. The nation is just starting to introduce themselves to the concept of local and craft breweries. The husband and wife team behind Vizir Pivovarna, make quality beers without preservatives and artificial additives. They have an extensive range of different styles of beers and are constantly adding to their collection. We were able to do a full beer tasting, and ended up talking (and drinking) the night away. If you’re in the region then Vizir Pivovarna also delivers.
One of the most popular souvenirs in Slovenia comes from Bela Krajina. The pisanica, a distinctively red and black colored egg is an object that can be found during the Easter holiday. There are few villages in the region that continue the tradition to color these eggs with precise skill. Fortunately, we were able to visit Nada, a local woman at Domača obrt Cvitkovič, that specializes in making the pisanica. Her eggs looked so beautiful we decided to try to make some ourselves! The trick in making the designs on these eggs is patience and very steady hands.
To make these eggs you must first draw on them with hot beeswax before dipping them in dyed red water. After the egg is dry you then repeat the designing process before dipping the same egg into black dyed water. After a day, the wax will peel off and a beautiful egg is ready for display.
Partaking in Tradition
We got to know the cheerful staff behind BigBerry pretty well, so on a quiet sunny Sunday afternoon, we went with them to Srednji Radenci. It was the day of the 21st annual international walk along the southernmost Slovenian footpath! As foreigners, this really meant nothing to us, but we loved being able to hike through the beautiful region and feel at complete peace with nature. Most of the group ended up walking barefoot for almost 10 km for a natural foot massage. At the end of the path we were met with a giant Slovenian party, involving music, bean stew, and of course – wine.
Our luxury/nature time has now come to an end. As we continue to explore Croatia and the rest of the Balkans, we still think back on our time relaxing along the Kolpa river. It was our first taste of glamping, and it certainly won’t be our last.