I wasn't aware of the tourist potential my country has until I started travelling in my country. Crystal clear waters, roaring waterfalls, snow-capped mountains, quaint old towns, majestic castles, tasty local food, never-ending plains, terraced wineyards - everything what nature has created could be found in my country. And only within couple of hours' drive.
After being at home for several months, my adventrous spirit started to kick in. Something was missing. I needed to move, do something different, explore the world. This time I opted for Dolenjska - unexplored and hidden gem of Slovenia.
Dolenjska is our least visited and explored region. It lies in the southeastern part of Slovenia. In the North it is bordered by our capital and river Sava and in the South by Croatia and river Kolpa. Dolenjska is one of a few countries where brown bear could still be found and where Cviček - wine, protected with the mark of a recognized traditional denomination (PTP) comes from. Still, the region is not only hidden from the world, but also unknown for many of Slovene residents. Although the region is only a short distance away from Ljubljana - our most touristy and visited place. I never felt attracted to visit this part of Slovenia. In the back of my mind, I was connecting it with underdevelopment and backwardness. It certainly has to do something with the fact, I have never been there, as there are hundereds of pearls to be visited. I collected some of them below.
1. Mokrice Castle
Mokrice castle stands on slightly elevated ground on the hillsides of Gorjanci, close to the border with Croatia. Its name derives from the former swamp in its surroundings (mokrišče in Slovenian).
Today the castle houses four-star hotel resort Golf Hotel Mokrice.
2. Kostanjevica na Krki
Kostanjevica na Krki is one of the smallest and oldest town in Slovenia. The old city centre consists only of two roads, surrounded by river Krka. Excellent place to spend a few hours.
3. The Charterhouse of Pleterje
The Charterhouse of Pleterje is a catholic monastery in which monks follow Christ in an exclusively contemplative life. It is surrounded with 3 m high and 2800 m long town wall. The monastery is not opened to public, except for the gothic church, shrine and monastery shop, where visitors can purchase souvenirs. Next to the monastery there is a open-air museum - an old homestead which revives local architecture by displaying barns, pigsty, hayrack and wooden well. Visitors are able to taste local wine and buy souvenirs from Dolenjska region.
4. Otočec Castle
As the name implies, Castle Otočec is the only persevered castle on the island (otok in Slovenian language means island). In the past the nearby camp used to host the biggest rock festival in Dolenjska - Rock Otočec.
5. Novo Mesto
Novo mesto is the hub of Dolenjska region, embraced by the Krka River. The old city core of Novo mesto is impressive with its magnificent Main Square, with arcade hallways fronting the ground floors of old town houses and the dominant Town Hall. An echanting row of houses, perched on the riverbank represent the most picturesque part of the city core. And the best ice-cream is served in Gostišče Loka!
6. Natural Springs Klevevž
It took us some time to discover this remote place, but it was totally worth it. Klevevž are natural springs, located just a few minutes away from Castle Otočec (if you know the way). Luckily its remote location succeeded in hiding it from the masses.
7. Semič viewpoint
Do you know the saying that the best things in life come when you at least expect them? Well, that is definitely true. I only remember asking my GPS to bring us from Novo mesto to Semič in the shortest way possible and this is the place we ended up. Definitely worth driving through.
8. Source of river Krupa
When you travel, try to ask local people for advice as much as possible. They are the best source of information and real "tour guides". They will share with you things, you will never find in any travel book and always help you out. This is the place, a local confectioner recommended us to go. Definitely worth visiting.
9. Kočevje - land of bears
The town is located at the foot of the Kočevski rog - karst plateau on the Rinža River in the historic Dolenjska region. The Rinža River flows through the town. Lake Kočejve, a former open-pit coal mine, lies northeast of the town center.
10. Ribnica - cradle of woodenware
Ribnica has gained its recognition and importance by woodenware production. Craftsman from Ribnica have been making woodenware and pottey products since 15. century and nowadays they are reviving this tradition on every first Sunday in September on a Woodenware trade. In the town centre, there is partially preserved castle, turned into museum Ribnica.
If you have ever been to Thailand, you know how hard it must be to experience real Thailand, without tourist masses and touts. Everywhere you go, you are surrounded by tourists and nosy sellers, who want to sell you everything valuable.
As an avid traveller, I prefer to avoid tourist crowds and immerse myself in local culture. But in Thailand I was struggling a lot. Every place was flooded with tourists and lacked on local characteristcs. For it was like having a nightmare, until I reahed PHITSANULOK.
PHITSANULOK. A lot of visitors completely skip this small, but quaint town in central Thailand. The vistors, that do end up here, usually stay for a night, rushing to the next tourist destination the next day.
I first heard about Phitsanulok in a minivan, when two Spanish travellers were sharing their travel plans with me. I didn't know why, but my curiosity was piqued and I decided to pay this ancient town a visit!
Although it was shortly after 6 p.m. when I reached the station in Phitsanulok, it was already getting dark and I was happy there was no more travelling waiting for me on that day. Just as I was leaving the station, I noticed a huge marketplace with delicious street food stalls. I knew immediately that I will stay for more than one night in this place. The night market was opened every day from 5 p.m. until midnight., offering all kinds of delicious foods: noodles, vegetables, fruits, insects, fried snacks, skewers and desserts. In Phitsanulok I was able to find a small and cozy room, not far away from the train station. The owner of the hostel is Mark, whom I should be thankful for enhancing my experience in Phitsanulok. Mark showed me many "hidden gems" and explained a lot about Thai culture.