(All photos © Sean D Sorrentino, 2012)

Friday, June 8, 2012

An unexpected wine tour

We had expected that today would be a drive down to Nova Gorica, that being the closest major town to the airport for our flight home tomorrow. Zep, my paraglider pilot, gave us a better idea. He sent us to friends of his in an area a bit north east of Nova Gorica, a place next to Brda called Medana. This is one of the major wine areas in Slovenia. The GPS routed us through Italy for about 45 minutes of our hour drive. It’s strange how changing countries made me nervous about the drive. I’ve been in Slovenia almost the entire time, and I’ve gotten used to the place. While they both seem to conform to Euro standard road signs, it seemed different somehow. Happily, the Carabinieri that rolled up on us with the lights running just wanted to pass us. He had more important things to worry about than American tourists.

We rolled through basically every vineyard in this part of the world and suddenly our destination appeared. To say that this place is small is an understatement of epic proportions. Apparently the rule here was that towns can only be as big as the hill they are located upon. If you build on the next hill you have to start a new town. I’m not entirely sure why they need to have a different name and town government for a place that houses 50 people and is in easy walking distance of the next town of 50 people, but that’s the way they roll.

At first we really liked the place. We were getting a nice room with a decent bathroom for 70 Euros a night. It is almost exactly 30 minutes from here to the airport, which is nice when you need to be there at 9am. The Wife will confirm to you that I am a worry wart when it comes to air travel. Early is good, ridiculously early is better. I have missed a flight before (slept through the boarding call after basic training) and I’ve had a plane leave without me (going through Canadian and US customs sequentially takes a lot of time). All kinds of stupid things can happen when you are under a time crunch. No one ever gets into a car accident or gets pulled over or gets lost when he has 2 hours to waste. It’s always when you are running late that bad things happen.

We went off to the next town over (Brda, 1.4 Km by road) to see the castle. They also had the Tourist Information Center there.

The castle was built in about 1600. I guess that by then they were less concerned with attacking armies and more with looking spiffy, so this castle doesn’t look much like a mighty fortress. It looks like the sort of castle of childhood dreams. It’s square, with a tower at each corner, and big indefensible windows where children can look out upon “their” lands. I’ll bet that over the life of the castle many child knights rode out on horseback to defend the realm, if only in their fantasies.

In addition to the restaurant on the first floor, there is a historic collection of items from the castle owners on the second floor and a gallery of art on the third. The less said about the “art” the better. It was awful. Surviving an concentration camp is great, but it apparently does not make you a great artist. The historic collection, however, was fascinating. I hadn’t even made it to the second floor when I ran straight into this, painted on the wall.

The gentleman who was running the place was at great pains to tell me that it was “Heraldic” and it was a lion. The fact that it was heraldry was what got me to stop in the first place. I think I’ve pointed out that heraldry is a hobby of mine. I had never seen a lion drawn this way before. It was rather skinny, and the claws on it made it look like it was one of those weird heraldic monsters where they combine different animals. It really looked like eagle claws to me. But no, it was just a very skinny lion.

This was across from the lion. This is instantly recognizable to every herald as an eagle. I thought it was a very fine example of what a heraldic eagle should look like. Comparing the two pictures you can see why I thought that the claws looked very similar.

I don’t know how well this photo will display, but check out this drawing on the wall of a fortified town, cannons from every turret and window, fighting a fleet of ships. I haven’t the slightest idea what town it is supposed to be, or if it was even supposed to be a real town and a real event. It seemed to me that it was a young teenager’s drawing, not something that someone had professionally commissioned. My comment to The Wife was that if I had drawn that on the wall my father would have exploded. Of course, I would not have drawn it quite so well, so that might have something to do with it.

There was a lot of heraldic stuff in this castle, but sadly it was mostly behind glass. Most of my photos are out of focus because of that. Not that I think many of you are all that interested in heraldry anyway. I mostly took the photos for reference later. Even blurry they will work for that.

After the castle tour we went to the castle wine cellars. It being a wine making area, they have decided to band together and turn the whole area into a great big agritourism center. There are apparently many wine cellars to explore, but we decided just to hit the one below the castle. The very nice lady there spent about an hour and a half letting us taste different white wines to see if The Wife and I could agree on one of them. We did, eventually, but realistically I should just avoid wine altogether. Most of it tastes like crap to me, and it doesn’t take a whole lot of alcohol in order to get me drunk. I am a lightweight from a long line of lightweights, so I come by it honestly. We bought a few bottles of one that we both liked, but I fully expect that the baggage handlers will smash the bottles in our luggage on the flight home. I would like to take the time to tell you how I feel about stupid carry on restrictions preventing me from hand carrying wine in my carryon luggage, but I haven’t made this blog age restricted, so I shouldn’t use that sort of language here.

Well the day was going along just fine until the point that we left the castle, wine in hand. That’s when it all started to go wrong. You’d thing that with a view like this, my lunch would have been fantastic, right?

Nope. I think we fell into a black hole and emerged in the “slow food” universe. Let’s be honest, no matter what you are doing lunch should not take two hours for two people. I get that the point is to slow down and enjoy good food, good drinks, and good conversation, but this is ridiculous. The Wife has been trapped in a car or a hotel room with me for two weeks. She has nothing left to say to me. We’re tapped out in the conversation department. She’s been everywhere I’ve been, and we’ve already talked about it, so we were reduced to staring at each other for 2 hours, occasionally interrupted by food. Plus it was cold in the shade. We took to getting up and walking over to the sunny spot to warm up. We got in at 3pm and we left at 5pm. It cost us 60 Euros. It was beautiful, the food was nice, and if anyone tries to take me back I will stab them with a fork.

We survived. We also got an inside view of how Europeans view geography. Remember that tree on a pole thing I talked about back during the drive down the Sava River? There was one in Medana as well. We asked our waitress what it was, since we still had not found out. She looked at this great big pole with a very obvious tree on top, wreaths underneath, and flying a big damn Slovenian flag and professed herself surprised that it was there. She hadn’t ever seen it before. Now I have no idea how you drive anywhere near such a thing and not ask yourself “Hey, what’s with the tree on top of a wooden flagpole?” But apparently this girl had never bothered to pick her eyes that far off the ground. Now bear in mind, Nova Gorica is about 15 kilometers away by road. That’s less than 10 miles. Her excuse for not having any idea what this thing signified was “I’m not from around here, I’m from Nova Gorica.”

We went back to our room. We marveled that someone had confirmed the stereotype of Europeans as people who think that 100 miles is a long way (and we are people who think that 100 years is a long time). There was no WiFi connection at the room, so we decided to pack the computers with us to dinner. The place we stayed has rooms in a different “town” than the restaurant. That means we made the long drive of about half a kilometer back to their restaurant, which was across the street from the slow food lunch disaster. The internet connection sucked there too. We should have gone to Nova Gorica. Sure, they apparently breed oblivious women that take all day to serve a lunch, but maybe they would have both an internet connection and a restaurant that didn’t punch every single “this is pretentious horseshit” button I have. I would honestly have settled for a Big Mac at that point. It finally occurred to us to go inside to escape the screaming children in the courtyard playing some European version of Calvinball. Then our hosts made sure to do the two person version of the foodie Chinese Water Torture. As far as I can tell, the only difference between the lunch and the dinner was that the lunch place had a bigger staff with which to ignore us. They charged us 65 Euros.

Bottom line. Go to Brda. See the castle and taste some wine. The go somewhere else to sleep and eat. There is no good reason to go to Medana. Not unless you have a backside made of cast iron, the patience of a saint, and are some sort of rich, pretentious fool.

Federal Trade Commission Disclaimer:

These blog entries reflect my personal opinions about the locations The Wife and I visited during our travels. I have not received money, freebies, or any other inducements to provide positive coverage of anyone, anywhere, or anything. In fact, no one on this trip knew or had any reason to know that I am a blogger. I do not work for the Tourist Boards of any country, nor am I employed in the travel industry in any way.

1 comment:

  1. Language, Dear!

    I started bracing for things to be bad when we were shown to our room and there was a huge plaque on the side of the building proclaiming their pride at being the host for the Polish Art council. And there was LOTS of bad artwork all over the building, incuding in our room. It was a pity, really, that we couldn't have enjoyed the lovely villa and it's stunnng views over a pizza box.

    -The Wife