Days have passed now since we have returned, but I am still thinking wistfully about Slovenia as a bit of a distractive anchor. I am still daydreaming about exploring mountains, and touching my toes in cool turquoise waters. If I concentrate really hard, I can put myself exactly back in this one spot where I was perched on a boulder (at the end of the hike in this next story). The sun hit my shoulders with a soft glow, and all I could hear was the strong echo of birds in the trees, a light breeze and just a gradual tilt of the water. About 30 seconds later, the moment would end, and I would probably find myself back in a meeting or at a doctor’s appointment, or zoned out somewhere at home, not knowing what to do with myself. The moments at home are the scariest, because I end up feeling helpless.
Ever since I started taking medications, I have had an incredible time trying to concentrate and focus. My ability to be ‘sharp’ and ‘quick-witted’ disappeared somewhere last year. I feel lucky if I can read a document or even a newspaper article, and be able to retain the details for an hour. I feel super lucky if I can even remember what I did yesterday. Obviously, I would never talk about my condition at work, but sometimes (sometimes a lot) I wish I could, and this was a stigma-free world. I wish this so when I do not process something like my normal self would have, or I let social anxieties win in conversations, people would not look at me like I am clueless (or this is just me interpreting everything negatively). I do not want being bi-polar (et al.) to define me or be an excuse for not ‘producing the right answer’, but I know my old self would be a lot more confident even if I had the ‘wrong answer’. My old self may have been able to bullshit as well as JH.
When I was young, I was the girl who won public speaking competitions in elementary school. I had the identic memory, and JH / I joked that if we ever did Amazing Race, I would do the final memory challenge and kill it. But these days, I am not so sure anymore. I hardly have any belief in my own capabilities. I feel like I have to work three times as hard just to be my regular self, and then work above that to actually shine (and not fail, or just not break down and spiral). I get really exhausted being myself these days. And so, being escapist just seems so easy, though I am very cognizant of the fact that it is a cop-out option for someone who is not 23 anymore, and has responsibilities – i.e. a job and a wildly supportive husband.
Social media does not help. I keep on seeing places I want to go to. I want so very badly to just leave here for a year(s), and just see the entire world, and along the way – volunteer – build houses, help out at an animal orphanage, teach an English class, work on something socially entrepreneurial. I want to explore the outside, but I also want to see places that are maybe a little bit (or a lot) scarier, and will open my eyes and make me grateful for everything that I should be grateful for here (because I have so much to be grateful for). I keep on slapping myself because I started on that path last year, and wussed out only to come back, and for the next year, continue to feel dead inside – literally and figuratively. But all along I have thought about it, and talked about it extensively with both my psychologist and psychiatrist. Every time I talk myself out of it, it is to be logical. I have a job, a husband, and responsibilities. I should have done this when I was in my twenties. Would running away slow down my depressive episodes? I don’t even know – and I tested that last year already. That’s a risk that would be too hard to take again so I have to somehow shut those thoughts away.
I changed medications again recently. I had been angrily vocal about how much I hate Seroquel because of its sedating effects, and looking and feeling ragged and hungover every morning of my life. The morning nausea was also difficult (how the hell am I going to get pregnant?). So, after a long back and forth with the psychiatrist who kept on saying no (and I think he changed his mind mostly because I aggressively pressed), I am now taking a different atypical antipsychotic – Abilify, along with my four other meds.
For most of this week, I have experienced hypomania. No, I am not going out and maxing out my credit cards or heading to the casino, but I have had serious spurts of energy and trouble sleeping. I have been craving talking to people, so I have been flighty and social at work, and being super chatty with strangers. I feel more confident in the words I say, and I feel aggressive and almost dominant in conversations. I cannot even remember the last time I have been like this. For years now, I have been the shy rabbit in groups, only inserting opinions when I only feel very comfortable. This week I have just been an uncontrollable un-filtered motor mouth.
I can also hardly stay still, and I am twitchy. I feel warm all the time, and my heart beat will not slow down. This could all be the Abilify (it probably is – and my psychologist noted I should go to the hospital if this becomes more excessive), but I am riding a high right now. The concentration and memory problems have disappeared a bit, and I have felt more productive and focussed than I have in a real (and sincere) long time. The frustrating part is that at the end of it all, I just cannot help but break down in tears. For the longest time, I have never felt so normal (even if it is excessive), but my psychologist has gently reminded me that a depressive episode could come next as I continue to cycle. I am still considered to not be stable.
I just don’t know what to look forward to anymore. I guess all I can do is live life as much as possible, and just let the emotions play themselves out, and cross my fingers that I do not spiral into suicidal thoughts again. I mean, what else can I do? Anyways…
In the interim, while I continue onwards with my f’d up head, here is the next part of the Slovenia story.
Črno Jezero Hike
We almost ended up sticking to the original itinerary this day, but once again because of timing and uncertainties, the schedule was shifted around. We originally wanted to drive from Radovljica to Lake Bohinj, and spend time at this small ‘sister’ lake of Bled. However, we ended up spending more time on the hike, and only stopped at the Lake briefly on the way to our next stop.
JH wanted to start the hike as early as possible in case something went wrong, so we drove approximately an hour from Radovljica to Slap Savica (Savica Waterfall – 4265 Bohinjsko Jezero, Ukanc) – the starting point of the hike – directly. There is a parking lot there, and you look for red signs with white font directing you to various sights – the waterfall, various trails, etc. I originally wanted to do the Dvojno Jezero (full Triglav Lakes Valley) hike. This would have taken us approximately 7 hours. We ended up doing the Crno Jezero hike (that ultimately leads to the above hike – the next set of lakes) only. It took us approximately 4 hours.
The path starts up the forest. You know you are going the right way if you see red and white bulls-eye markings on various rocks and trees. The terrain is a mix of fallen leaves, dry path (if it did not rain) and rocks. Eventually, at the end of this up-hill climb amidst the trees, there is a small resting point with rocks, and a bit of a view point. The hike then becomes quite difficult. It is completely uphill (for probably about two hours), with not much space to rest (as you are basically fighting for one small path with other hikers), as you traverse a narrow path along rock walls. This path is well exposed (i.e. if you slip, you are really close to falling off the cliff – suicide images were fairly prevalent, but that is besides the point). At times, it feels like you are literally rock climbing or hugging the wall. There are a number of areas where you have to use chains, ropes and footholds to get to the next set of up-hill paths. As you get higher and higher, I can imagine that a person with a fear of heights would experience vertigo.
JH and I did not expect the hike to be this intense. It is kind of always hard to tell by internet descriptions whether a route is actually difficult. It was not the hardest hike we had ever done (it is impossible to think that anything can beat the Stok Kangri 1 AM summit), but I would consider the difficulty level to be hard. We also had to take extra precautions to make sure my dad was okay on the trail. We were (are) so proud of him because he really pushed himself to his limits. My dad is quite athletic and healthy for his age, but he voiced afterwards that he had not done a hike like that ever before. As I mentioned, there was a lot of climbing, which my dad was not used to, but he pushed himself through it. At one point (we were 1000 of 1267 metres up), he said he knew his limits and could not continue. At that point, we neared a larger spot with a lot of rocks that was seemingly like a rest spot. My dad decided to stop for lunch and rest (and another story that is not appropriate to share here), while JH and I powered through the last 267 metres. The up-hill climb continued around the rock wall, until we saw a clearing into a forest. The path at the top is fairly straight forward, just a bit rocky still. You go downwards for a bit in the forest until you see a clearing that leads you to the lake.
The lake was just about the prettiest thing I had ever seen in my life. I wished very much that I could have somehow carried my dad to the top. JH and I did not stay for very long because we wanted to get back to my dad, but I appreciated and loved the few minutes I had at the top to take and breathe in the surroundings. It was so peaceful. All you could literally hear was the echo of birds in the trees and a soft wind. Even JH, who is noisy as heck, could not disturb this peace. The lake was a shimmering and crystal clear emerald green. We touched the water slightly, and it was cool. I could have stayed there forever. I also wished that I could have continued the hike onwards to see the other lakes. Maybe in another life.
We spoke to another hiker briefly, and it turned out that there was easier, but longer way down. We had no choice though but to back-track and go back down the rock wall to find my dad. Dad climbed down quicker than he did climbing up. We taught him a couple of ad-hoc moves (that hikers probably do not use), like sitting down to maneuver through larger downhill steps. Throughout the entire hike and by the time we reached the bottom, I felt so proud of him. I feel proud of him always, but watching him power through something like this was just awe-inspiring. My father is pretty amazing.
Notes to ourselves:
- Dad wore hiking boots, but JH and I were too lazy to pack them. Running shoes (on a dry day) would be fine for this hike; but if raining, or continuing onto the other lakes, I would probably recommend hiking boots. We saw people hiking in flip-flops. Unless you are a local and familiar with the climb (or crazy), I would probably not recommend that as an option with all the steep continuous up-hill.
- Our hiking poles would probably have helped as well for grip, and handling any vertigo.
At this point, we were already in the area, so we decided to visit Savica Waterfall (Slap Savica). Once again, you look for signs leading to the waterfall near the parking lot area. You pay an entrance fee to what appears to be also a souvenir shop. I do not remember how much the fee was, but it was a few Euros (and there was no discount for Seniors). To our disappointment, it was a 20-minute walk one-way up a set of stone stairs. Our thighs were burning at this point from all the up-hill. At one point, it felt like the path was taking you away from the waterfall because the rumbling of water became quiet for a bit. Eventually – 20 minutes later – you see a beautiful, vivid green waterfall. This was probably the biggest waterfall we saw, and it was fenced away from a distance (I think there was a path that we did not end up going to that leads you to closer to an area that is not fenced off. I only realized this afterwards). The vivid colours of the waterfall did allow me to take lots of beautiful pictures. Once again, like almost every attraction we visited, there were not too many tourists. Or, I had trouble distinguishing between locals and tourists. We ran most of the way back, and allowed our feet to finally rest in the car.
On the way back to Bled we stopped at Lake Bohinj for a few minutes. Dad was too tired and stayed in the car, so we only went briefly for a glimpse and a picture. When we had driven past the lake in the morning, there was this crystal clear reflection because of how the sun hit the water. That beautiful reflection was gone, and the lake did not look as beautiful anymore. Lake Bled is still definitely prettier than Lake Bohinj (I make that statement from ground-level elevation though; it might be prettier from a higher altitude viewpoint).
We drove approximately 40 minutes back to Bled and to our new hotel for the night – Garden Village.
This was a novelty booking for our trip. It was not cheap by any standards ($430 CAD a night), but I counterbalanced the average price of all the hotels we stayed at for the remainder of the trip (i.e. a majority of our other hotels were cheaply priced). So, why at all would I want to spend $400 a night on a hotel? Well, because we stayed in a treehouse. It was a two-level tree house, with a tree literally growing through it. This particular treehouse also had a remote-activated draw-bridge so you can restrict people from accessing the treehouse. It was pretty unique and novel. But, was it worth $430? Probably not, but you have to learn from these lessons and experiences to know that a really expensive treehouse is not worth it next time. You live, you learn.
The hotel itself was also a bit of a ‘resort’. It was located along a ravine. There were tent-camping options; glamping options – with hot tubs; and an abundance of produce gardens and fruit trees. It felt like a bit of a hippy utopia. Awkwardly enough, they put us in the ‘honeymoon’ treehouse. You would think that the honeymoon treehouse would be secluded and have the best views (never mind that they knew my dad was there). We were located however right by the busy restaurant / bar, and people were literally taking pictures in front of our treehouse. Thank goodness they have a ‘no noise’ rule at 11PM, otherwise we would have been awoken by the bar the entire night. If you wanted to take a picture of yourself on the balcony, it was not the greatest view either. We were also located by the pool, but it looked more like a murky pond. We never ended up swimming in it, though a bunch of children did.
I think though that once you get over the fact that it is treehouse experience, it is not entirely the most comfortable place to stay in. The treehouses are eco-sustainable, so there is no air-conditioning. The bathroom was pretty small. It was also much to climb continuously up and down the ladder with our luggage etc. We stayed upstairs, while my dad stayed downstairs. To note, the service in the hotel was quite good. We received a delicious rose water drink and devilled egg apps upon our welcome. The restaurant there is extremely adorable. They have little herb gardens in the middle of each table.
The breakfast (included in the price) the next day was also really good – with made-to-order crepes and eggs, and a variety of pastries, juices, smoothies, meats and cheeses. Final thing to note is that parking is available, but the spots fill up quickly because of (what I would assume) outside patrons to the restaurant. The hotel is located near the south-east part of the lake. That same evening, we visited the castle, so we ended up driving versus walking. I am not sure how great the location is from a walking standpoint.
Bled Castle was an 11 minute drive away. Signs need to be followed very carefully in conjunction with the GPS. The GPS directed us up a pedestrian-only path again, which I can only attribute to a mis-direction with up-hills and signals. Admission to the castle (9 EUR per person) and parking (3 EUR) is waived if you have a reservation with the restaurant. The person at the front gate confirms on his list if you have a reservation before you can pass by security.
The Bled Castle Restaurant also goes by Jezersek. I was forced to make a reservation for 5PM because they claimed they had a wedding at 7PM. We never saw any sign of that apparent ‘wedding’, so for a good period, we were the only people on the deck. The view from the restaurant and the top of the castle (especially on a sunny deck) is remarkable. As much as I loved the Ostrijca hike, this view was probably the best view we caught of Bled. The waters were shimmering baby blue and turquoise, and you could see mountains and hills far off into the distance. Because you were in a castle, you felt the chills of fairy-tales and princesses. For that night, I was probably Snow White.
Our server tried to convince us into a prix fixe, but we just wanted to order a la carte. The amuse bouche from the kitchen was a chicken pate, butter and bread. We ordered the following:
- Appetizers – Shrimp and pea soup, eggplant stuffed with cottage cheese and a meat board.
- Dad – Chicken breast with pureed parsnip and carrots, oyster mushrooms, broccoli and cauliflower. Dad said it was good.
- JH – Schnitzel with mashed potatoes. I tasted bites of this, and it was delicious.
- Me – “Istrian” pasta – the pasta was clearly not homemade. The sauce had a lot of truffle in it and was very heavy. I liked the egg yolk (which made it feel like a carbonara), but overall the dish was really salty. I also felt incredibly bloated afterwards.
On the patio, there is a walnut tree that attracts bees. I did not really notice the bees at first until the food came. Then we had 3 or 4 bees continually hovering over food. It was really annoying. To add to that, a number of tourists (Asian) walked onto the patio in front of our table to try and take pictures. We had to shoo them out along with the bees. By the end of the dinner I was pretty annoyed. It was not the best dinner experience despite the beautiful view.
The three of us enjoyed though exploring the castle afterwards. There was no guide or audiobook, so we walked through all of the sections we could access on our own. There is history about the medieval castle architecture, the people living in it, and the people from the area. I spoke with JH about this afterwards and the predominant themes we took away from what we read in most historical places we visited, was that there was a plague, earthquakes, uprisings, and a “Robin Hood” character. These themes resonated in most of the castles we visited.
Afterwards, we went a local pastry shop – Slascicarna Smon (on Grajska cesta). The shop is located inside a small plaza. You can turn left into a free parking lot immediately after you turn at the intersection. We drove a little bit too far (5 seconds away – to a more obvious parking lot) and had to pay about 0.70 EUR for parking. At this shop, we tried the local Bled pastry – cream cake or Kremna Rezina. It is essentially vanilla custard and sweetened whipped cream sandwiched in between razor thin layers of puff pastry sprinkled with confectioners’ sugar. The piece was massive, and since my dad only wanted an eighth of a teaspoonful, JH and I had to split the portion. I think we paid about 2-something EUR for the slice (at the touristy places like the castle, the slice was 4 EUR). We never ended up trying any dessert twice, but I did not particularly love the custard. The texture tasted too much like gelatin (which I can understand for the aesthetic), and it was not sweet enough for my tastes. I would probably recommend trying it elsewhere, or maybe – the best pastries are those just made at home by Slovenian grandmothers. I am not sure, since I did not end up loving any of the local desserts (except sweet struklji) we tried while in the country. Mind you, I did not try apple strudel.
The next day, we continued our road trip back into the Triglav national park area, passing through the beautiful ski town of Kranjska Gora (about 40 minutes from Bled). We did not end up stopping through the town, and continued straight onwards to this really beautiful lake viewpoint – Zelenci, located 6 minutes away. Parking is located just outside of the village of Podkoren on the roadside (4280 Podkoren – there are only 2 to 3 spots available). From the parking lot, it takes about 8 to 10 minutes to walk to the lake. Running shoes are just fine for this small walk. We were lucky enough to see this on a sunny day. The lake was once again the beautiful turquoise-blue, and from the distance, you could see what I believe is Mount Triglav (not confirmed). If we had more time, I would have just hung out there and enjoyed the peace and silence. There was also a view point tower which pretty much shared the same view.
We continued along a zig-zag path of switch backs to the Russian Chapel 15 minutes away. There is a parking lot located on the side of the road, and it is just a short walk to the chapel. The chapel was built by Russian prisoners of war during World War I, and serves as a war memorial. It is a popular monument to stop at during road-trips along Vrsic Pass / Trenta Valley (or hikes along the same route). We continued driving along Vrsic Pass. It was beautiful, but there were very few opportunities to stop for viewpoints. We finally reached one where there were a lot of sheep roaming around, and a good (not great) view of the mountains (and the altitude).
JH and I were supposed to go to Bovec in the afternoon for a hydrospeed tour with Sportmix (body-boarding along river rapids – best way to describe it is just to watch YouTube videos), but it ended up being cancelled due to low river water levels and the risk “of making our knees black and blue”. This eased some of my anxiety associated with the activity (watching videos freaked me out the evening before and months before when I booked), but also disappointed me a bit, because I always love high-adrenaline activities. High-adrenaline, I think, is the only way to live life really. Anyhow, I just wanted to mention the company because they were really easy to communicate with, and made every effort to let us know that the tour was not going to work out and why (and figure out an alternative like rafting or canyoning – none which we were really interested in because we had done them before).
Anyhow, we ended up driving directly to Kobarid, where we were going to end up for the evening. We stayed at Apartment Honey Bee. It felt less like a hotel, and more like an Air BnB (at $96 CAD per night). It was a really spacious studio with a kitchenette, huge bathroom, and balcony. There was a queen-sized bed and a sofa bed. There was also air-conditioning, somewhat functional Wi-Fi (we had to re-set the router in the pantry by the kitchen), a lot of closet space and a hair dryer. I did not read my confirmation e-mail all that carefully when picking up details for the itinerary, but you actually have to pick up your keys from another property a street away (Trg svobode 14). Along with the studio keys are a key for a parking spot which is found at the front of the building. The unit is a few staircase floors up (none of the places we stayed at had elevators).
We were all completely saturated, and knew a huge dinner was coming up, so we passed on lunch. Dad was really tired and wanted to take a nap (and do his own thing), so JH and I decided to explore the Soca area and visit Kozjak waterfall (Slap Kozjak). The walk to Kozjak waterfall is interestingly part of a larger, more intense walk of the country called the Walk of Peace. This walk is essentially a trail from the Alps to the Adriatic Sea with numerous war memorial sites along the way. During our (approximately 1 hour – I think) walk to the falls, we passed by a few battle fronts and a Napoleon bridge. I really liked this walk, and I think it would have been a much better walk for my dad than Črno Jezero. Of course, you never know these things 100 percent until you actually do them. I think my dad also appreciated the rest. He was quite well rested for the dinner at Hisa Franko.
Back to the walk, it was fairly straightforward; running shoes were fine. We (JH) are dreadfully cheap, and still have not bought shells, so we ended up bringing umbrellas because it was raining outside. We passed some camping grounds and what appeared to be a parking lot (so we could have driven up). Then we headed into a forest, which eventually lead to a rockier (but still straight forward) trail. Along the way, we saw beautiful views of the vibrantly turquoise Soca River from a crickety, but stable bridge. Closer to the falls, the path curved some rock walls. There is one section of the falls (I think they connect), where you can see the falls from the top. There is a little pool that looks like you can climb into for photos, but equally looks pretty dangerous.
JH and I both wished we had brought our bathing suits. The area was practically empty except for another couple, and this was completely the set of falls to go swimming in (some falls we visited did not have the water levels, and Savica was too big and fenced off). Because it was a rainy day, the view of the falls was not as pretty as what I have seen before (in pictures) during a blue-skied sunny day. Nonetheless, we took some pictures of JH venturing closer to the swimming hole. My left arm was cramping a bit from the lakes hike, so I opted out for safety, and took pictures of him from above on the platform. On the way back, we made our way downwards to the river and took some fun pictures of JH floating away. During this hike, I ended up getting a bite on my back (that went from red and itchy, to black, itchy and painful – pretty disgusting right?). After visiting a doctor back at home, it is still unclear to me what it is (infection or theorized-tick bite). Anyhow, I am taking antibiotics and it seems to be subsiding.
Later that evening, we went to the restaurant of the World’s 50 Best – 2017 Best Female Chef of the World – Ana Roš’ Hiša Franko. JH hated the subtitles, but I loved her episode of Chef’s Table, and it made me more curious for Slovenia and its beautiful landscapes. At that point, we had already booked the trip to Slovenia. Despite her popularity, it was not a monstrous feat to get a reservation (i.e. I did not have to stay up until 4 AM for months – though I do not know about now). We had to eat earlier (5:30PM), but it was a not ridiculous time for dinner. I tried to also get a reservation at the B&B (which houses the restaurant), but that was booked out months before. Given all the global hype, I am pretty sure that it will become harder to get a reservation at the restaurant.
The property is only a few minutes’ drive from the Kobarid centre. It is beautiful – overlooking mountains and the countryside. There is ample parking outside. While there is a big dining room inside, the restaurant operated in a tented glass-enclosed outside area (which I presume is for summer only). There were maybe about 10 or 11 tables, mostly tables of two or four with bigger tables at the back. Once you enter the pink house, you can see on the left – pictures of Ana at the awards, her actual award and acclamations. The guests were a mix of tourists and locals (from what I could tell). JH and I people watched a bit – there was the one Asian couple with the SLR (it made me miss my SLR), and a group at the back from Silicon Valley (JH listened to their conversations creepily). It was a bit hard to read the rest.
We were seated on the left side of the restaurant, which was great because the right side was completely enclosed with sun. The décor is simple – white linen cloths, a small pot of beautiful flowers, and a side table for wine and water. We were presented with two menus – one with six courses (for 85 EUR) and one with eight courses (for 95 EUR). The eight course menu included tripe and duck dishes. Given my excitement for the dinner, it was a no-brainer that we choose the eight-course menu even though I allowed dad and JH to “hmm and hah” for about 32 seconds about what to pick. JH hates tripe (given tripe is disgusting when prepared by Chinese restaurants), so he opted to ask whether the kitchen would provide an alternative. They gave him the option of a huge board of delicious aged cheeses. This worked out for us since JH ended up trying my tripe, and I ended up having some of his cheese.
The menu is presented below. Here were my thoughts:
- Apple peel fermented bread – To my understanding, Ana (like many chefs across the world) embraces the movement of not wasting any part of the products she uses. The bread though just tasted like good sour dough.
- There were a bunch of amuse bouches (compliments from the kitchen). The white asparagus with pink grapefruit was not actually served (which worked out since grapefruit clashes with pretty much all my meds). It was replaced by something in leaves (grape leaves perhaps) that tasted like peanut butter.
- At this point, JH told me to take better notes of what we were eating. We ate the cheese lollipop for sure (my dad loved how whimsical it was – darling), and to my knowledge, we ate the fried dandelion and parsnips.
- Sardine – This was so good. The sardine was delicate, and when you ate the cream with it, you could taste the contrasting notes of lemon and fennel. Sardine for me is usually flaky, but this tasted really soft. The texture was so interesting, like nothing I have ever tasted before.
- Cuttlefish – Slovenia seems to be a fan of sea asparagus. I need to find it at home. It has a really great texture. The cuttlefish was tender, and as we continued progressing into the courses, we could tell that the restaurant has super adept experience with seafood and how to treat the product. Our waiter noted that most of the fish is born and bred in their pond out back.
- Ravioli – This was JH’s favourite dish. The pasta was homemade, thinly rolled and perfectly al dente; and the filling was incredibly delicate. My problem with the dish was that the broth accompanying the pasta was pretty salty (a testament to prosciutto). The broth just needed something to cut it a little.
- Arctic Char – I still dream about this dish. It was my favourite of the night. The fish exuded an intense level of smokiness (which I have also never experienced), and with every bite I took I was more in love. It was also served on the prettiest mint green plate.
- Duck – I was a bit disappointed with this dish. It was a mix of greens (some bitter-tasting), and when I flipped my fork through the dish, I was expecting perhaps a really good duck breast. However, it was more of a tartare. It did not help that the menu did not describe the dish at all. The duck was paired with white chocolate and parsnip. This made sense to me since chocolate cuts gamey meats really well. But there was something about the dish that did not quite connect for me senses-and-taste wise.
- Tripe – This was a nice surprise. JH and I always anticipate that tripe will taste chewy and disgusting (re: our experiences with Chinese restaurants), so we steer clear of it back home. I knew that Hiša Franko was going to make it something else, so me and dad took a shot. It was really tender and not chewy at all. The addition of the duck jus and chanterelle made it taste rich and earthy. Dad thought the texture of the tripe was akin to jellyfish. I agreed slightly, except that I thought it was less slippery. At this moment in time, I cannot find something with comparable texture. It was just different, but in a positive way.
- Because of this dish, I am glad we went with the eight course option.
- As noted, JH got his cheese board.
- Rabbit – I anticipated chocolate (mole) with the Mexico City reference (I badly generalize like that). The sauce was like a mole, but it tasted more like a curry. I have psychological problems with rabbits because I love them so much as an animal or potential pet. But now that I think about it, I also love cows and pigs, etc. too. So, whenever it comes to anything psychological (like rabbit), I just suck it up and eat it without judging. The rabbit was really tender and not gamey at all. I think I had more problems with the curry sauce if anything. I think, with Mexico, I was hoping that there would be something with more heat. It was just not a Mexican flavor to me (but I am not a Mexican cuisine expert, so I might be wrong).
- We were given a couple of desserts – kiwi sorbet, curry chocolates and pralines, and some shortbread-like cookies. The actual plated dessert was a walnut cake with pears, honey ice cream and kefir. The kefir was extremely tart, and I wish it was not there on the plate. It did not make sense at all. All and all, the desserts were not the star of the show.
Service was great. I loved our waiter. He was jovial and patient with an ever-constant huge smile. The service overall seemed relaxed. Even though it was white linen cloth, the waiters seemed pretty chill, but attentive. There are a couple things I would point out experience-wise:
- They added bread to our bread basket the minute we took one piece. We had to tell them no at one point because we really wanted to stop eating / wasting bread.
- This is the douche in me, but they did not comb our table for crumbs until the dessert course. To benefit them however, I think for them to get to number one (and Michelin three stars if the system gets to Slovenia), they need to do the little things like comb the table after each course (or at least earlier in the meal).
- One of our favourite experiences back at home in Ontario was Eigensenn Farm. This restaurant and its property reminded us a little bit of that farm. We wished that (like with Eigensenn Farm) we could see more of the farm and the pond, and where everything is sourced. If you walk around the back, you just see the back of the house, and a little bit of a garden. There is not much to scope out, but I can understand privacy issues and us crazy Asian tourists.
After all my little criticisms above, it was still my favourite meal of the trip. Given the Osteria Francescana trip was last year, it is now my favourite meal of this year (so far). I think the star dishes of the night were anything revolving around the sea. This makes perfect sense since Slovenia’s bodies of water are just stunning. Their fish dishes were so good, and I also loved all the freshness of their produce (most of which I suspect they forage). I never asked if she was in the restaurant or not. Given she never came out for other tables (and I suspected the couple with the SLR must have asked), I assumed in my mind that she was travelling. After the dinner, we moseyed around the property for a little bit, taking pictures of the sunset. JH and my dad both enjoyed the meal. JH ‘happily’ noted that it not as expensive as other experiences we have travelled for. I gave him a frown – and then, it was the end of a perfect day / night. The journey continues of course, but that will be another story for another day.