Such is often the case when going hiking with a bigger group of like-minded hikers. I’ve said before that these people know how to have a good time and a wealth of experience in doing so. As an unwritten rule, a group hike should be organised so that it ends in a nice, cozy unwind at a local café, mountain hut or wine cellar. It is part of a long-time tradition, almost a social obligation. To simply return to the car, pack your bags and leave for home would be somehow rude to your fellow hikers. Surely you must be tired, in need of a refreshing rest – come, let’s have a drink or two. It’s hard to say no.
The story today takes us back to last October, when I went hiking with my local club, as I sometimes do. Great people all around, even though they’re usually quite older than me. It seems the younger generation aren’t as keen on organised group hiking as the older folks are. They don’t know what they’re missing is what I say. Anyway, our destination was a hill called Nanos, a windswept karstic range about halfway between our capital Ljubljana and the port city of Koper. It’s quite iconic for being a prominent feature along the coastal highway and it’s striking outline is well known throughout Slovenia. The top sits at 1240m above sea level and can be reached by just about anyone who’s reasonably fit – it’s not technically challenging and the routes are well marked and maintained. You can find more info about it on SloTrips.si, though the content is in Slovenian.
The morning was quite foggy and cold, so everybody was keen to get warmed up and climb higher, towards the warming rays of the sun. The terrain provided no real challenges, as the route planners apparently decided on taking the easier route towards the top. It was easy going, great for switching your mind off and just taking in the sights. The coastal hillside is quite barren, with low-lying bushes and grass – the winds can get quite high here in some parts of the year – over 150 kph is relatively common when the winter winds blow.
We made good time and swiftly reached the top which features a nice alpine hut, pictured above, and a large telecoms tower that’s used to send TV and radio signals far and wide. The tower also features a related exhibition where one can learn about the history of the telecommunications trade in Slovenia.We had a guide show us around, but I didn’t really pick up much. Too much tech talk and a room full of large 1960s cabinets filled with relays and switches that failed to tell much of a story. I guess my tech imagination wasn’t up to it.We left the exhibit behind and pressed on westward along the ridge. The sun was properly shining now, it turned out to be one of the last warm days of the year. Again nothing hard to deal with, pure joy and relaxation in a truly remarkable environment. Then someone ordered a stop, we put our backpacks down and out came bottles filled with all kinds of liquor – home distilled blueberries, a Johnnie Walker, even some rum. I’m not encouraging anyone to go hiking and get wasted doing it, in fact it’s highly irresponsible behaviour. But we all know where the boundaries lie, and taking a sip is more down to the occasion than anything else. You offer what you brought with you to everyone else and in turn you’re offered what everyone else has with them.
Break over, and we had only a short way left to the next lodge where lunch was planned. Looking back, this really wasn’t the day for extreme physical workouts. We’d been walking quite leisurely for maybe 3 hours all together, during which we’ve had a number of breaks and soon lunch was now upon us. The waiter was already waiting for us and prepared a common table on the grassy terrace outside the hut. The luncheon was simple, as they usually are up in the hills, but what joy! It really doesn’t get much better than great nature, great company and some warm sunshine to make your day.
Funny enough, that wasn’t it for the day either. It was back to the bus after lunch and back down to ground level where we had one final appointment, this time at a wine cellar called Vidus in the nearby village of Podnanos. Janko Trošt is the man of the house here and he runs a very neat operation, producing a range of local wines and offering them in a magnificent cellar that looks properly ancestral, but was in fact built in 2012. He also has a uniquely attractive personality that’s perfect for hosting wine presentations. Open and inviting, but also very professional – he takes his wines very personally and is able to put across the labour required in producing such wonderful wines as his.
If you happen to find yourself in the area give Vidus a visit, I’m sure you’ll find it worth your time. I’m sadly not too keen on wines, but sometimes the stories and characters of people behind them are equally as remarkable as their taste.
For us Vidus was the last step on our semi-culinary hike around the Nanos area. Should you get the chance to do a similar trip, don’t pass it by. You can easily combine half a day of hiking with some local culinary delights, be it at a simple hillside hut, a local wine producer or a recommended restaurant. Pick a nice, sunny day and some good company and I promise you won’t regret it.