See what it’s like to experience the luxury of freedom by glamping Slovenia style at Big Berry.
Let’s face it – we’re not typical adventure travelers. Anybody who knows us knows that we’re not into camping. Instead of spending time pitching tents, we’d rather be doing, well, anything else. But glamping is an altogether different thing.
After our glamping safari experience in South Africa, we were hooked on camping’s luxurious alter ego. So, after two months in a comfortable Zagreb apartment, we headed to Big Berry for a long weekend of glamping in Slovenia.
Big Berry was our first but not last stop in Slovenia, the Balkan country that stole our hearts in just a few weeks. If Slovenia isn’t in your travel plans yet – it should be.
From tiny yet urbane Ljubljana to mystical Lake Bled, Slovenia is a country with something for every type of traveler including adventurers who flock to Slovenia’s best hikes in the Slovenian Alps. For us as food travelers, the best part about Slovenia is its fantastic food culture, something that we first experienced at Big Berry on the verdant banks of the Kolpa River.
An exciting new concept, Big Berry takes luxury camping to new levels by combining lifestyle camp activities at the Primostek site with visits to local restaurants, artisans and food producers throughout the Bela Krajina region. This unique approach to glamping allows visitors to connect with both nature and the community.
By providing travelers with the “luxury of freedom”, visitors can do as much or as little as they want during a visit at Big Berry. During our visit, we ate a variety of local Slovenian food and also interacted directly with many of the people who produced the food.
Glamping Slovenia Style at Big Berry
The Big Berry luxury landscape resort experience is far from typical camping with its seven decked out mobile homes and other amenities. If not for the planned offsite activities, we could have happily spent our time lounging by the river and soaking in the jacuzzi.
Sure we could have done activities like swimming in the river, playing beach volleyball, doing yoga and grilling meat – but that would have taken way too much effort during our brief visit. That being said, we found time for massages because… massages rock.
The Big Berry houses don’t look like any mobile homes we’ve seen before, which is a compliment to Big Berry. Though some of the houses can accommodate groups of six, our cozy house was perfect for two people. To us, the key features were the comfortable bed and private jacuzzi.
We also liked our house’s big TV, full kitchen and air conditioning – features we often seek out when we travel. The one negative was that the internet didn’t work in the house; however, that’s could be a benefit for travelers looking to disconnect from the daily stresses of life.
Our introduction to Slovenian food started minutes after our arrival when we dug into our welcome basket loaded with local Bela Krajina food and drink products including golden ghee, chocolate, craft beer and liqueur. As part of their hospitality, the team at Big Berry provides a welcome basket to all guests.
Our education continued throughout the weekend during our breakfasts at Big Berry, restaurant meals and farm visits. As we quickly learned, Slovenia is an incredible food belt where artisans create products using both centuries-old traditions and modern-day techniques. With influences from nearby Austria, Croatia and Italy, Slovenian food may be one of the most the most underrated cuisines in the world.
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day at Big Berry – or at least it’s the most fun meal since guests customize their morning meal with a range of organic foods like eggs, cheese, yogurt, fruit and honey. Locally baked pogača bread is also included.
The staff delivered breakfast directly to our mobile home porch before we woke up each morning. Digging into the crate filled with local, artisan food was a treat. Eating it was even better. Daryl’s favorite was the eggs which he whipped into an omelet whereas Mindi preferred the fresh cottage cheese that she ate straight out of the container.
Though Big Berry feels secluded from civilization, the glamping resort is actually close to several local restaurants including three where we dined during our stay. Dining at these restaurants gave us the chance to try different foods and interact with locals.
Bucolic Gostilna Müller was memorable for its big bowls of soup and generous portions of schnitzel and fried squid. At Gostišče Veselič, the ornate pogača that accompanied the filling Slovenian food was the star of the meal. We enjoyed lunch at both of these restaurants and were happy to order directly from the menus.
Our dinner at Homestead Farm Zupančič was a fun change of pace since the restaurant served our food family style with big plates heaping with grilled trout, lamb, potatoes polenta and salad. Famed for its proximity to the elusive black cave salamander that lives only in this part of the world, the restaurant is a solid choice for hearty food.
We learned the most about Slovenian food during the various farm visits at several of Big Berry’s partner farms. These visits gave us an opportunity to learn about food production breaking bread, or should we say pogača, and drinking spirits with locals.
Farm visits are just some of the excursions available to guests who stay at Big Berry. During our three day visit, we participated in ten excursions. It’s no wonder that we were tired when we arrived in Ljubljana!
Wine Tasting at Vinogradništvo Malnarič
Samuel Malnarič provided our initial introduction to Slovenian wine as he walked us through his family’s winery. Sharing stories about his great-grandfather while he guided us through the winery’s cellar, Malnarič welcomed us with a tasting of three wines.
We started with Malnarič’s everyday ‘home’ wine made with Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Reisling grapes before we tasted a balanced Chardonnay and smoky Blue Pinot.
Egg Painting and Schnapps at Domača Orbt Cvitkovič
Before introducing us to her family’s 4th generation linen production and teaching us how to paint Easter eggs known as pisanice, Kristina Cvitkovič plied us with shots of homemade schnapps made from cherries and apple juice.
Perhaps the sweet alcohol helped Daryl operate a 100+ year-old loom. Cvitkovič agreed that he was a natural, perhaps this was due to his years of piano playing. Or perhaps flax runs through his blood.
We both had a lot of fun painting colorful Easter eggs though we won’t be quitting our day jobs any time soon. Though we enjoyed the experience, our eggs turned out more shabby than chic.
Basket Weaving and Homemade Strudel with Ivan and Ida Veselič
Just like painting eggs, basket weaving is hard work as we learned from Ivan Vaselič. Kind by nature, Vaselič patiently demonstrated the weaving process to us. Again, Daryl excelled in the task, quickly weaving baskets like a Slovenian local. In fact, Vaselič wanted to hire him when he was through.
As for Mindi, she was a rockstar at eating wife Ida’s homemade strudel. As this was the last excursion of the day, we lingered over the tasty strudel and drank a bit of wine with our gracious hosts.
Pogaca Baking Class and Lunch at Bakery Šrajf
A passionate baker, Sonja Šrajf taught us the art of baking pogača. We watched in awe as Šrajf flattened the bread and brushed egg on top for color. Our stomachs were rumbling by the time she sprinkled on cumin seeds and salt crystals.
Beyond her official certification to bake pogača, Šragf is a fine cook. We know this because she served us a ‘light’ lunch of turkey noodle soup, potato cabbage salad, tomato salad, pork, strukli and plum strudel in addition to freshly baked pogacča. Did we mention that we gained a few pounds each at Big Berry?
Farm Visit and Rakija Tasting at Domačija Kuzma
Touring a 17th-century in the pouring rain would not typically be at the top of our list of things to do in Slovenia; however, Urška Kuzma made the experience fun as she walked us through the riverside mill owned by her family since 1909. Sure, we enjoyed learning about the history of flour production and the challenges of limestone…
But the real fun started when Kuzma poured generous portions of two types of rakija – one distilled with seven herbs and the other infused with chili and rosemary. Since Kuzma advised that the 53% alcohol liqueur is healthy, we were more than happy to assist her in eating homemade pogača while we drank our rakija. It was the least that we could do.
Oil Tasting at Oljarna Pečarič
Taking our knowledge of oil to new levels, Martin Pečarič welcomed us to his farm and proceeded to educate us on the benefits of different types of pressed oil. Though walnut oil was the first type that he produced, he now produces many more including that 15 (!) award-winning oils that we tasted during our visit.
As we tasted each, Pečarič shared its medicinal value. In case you’re wondering, we tasted the following oils – almond, apricot, linen, hemp, sesame, poppy, nettles peanut, sunflower, macadamia, pumpkin, mustard seed, rose hips, primrose and black cumin. As for the best, we can’t pick a favorite. You’ll have to go yourself to do that.
Gothic Churches at Tri Fare Pilgrimage Center
In case you’re worried about all of the Big Berry excursions involving food, there are excursions involving adventure and culture. We explored local history by visiting three churches at one site along with a walled cemetery. Styles range from gothic to baroque, but the true gem is the 265-year old pipe organ, the oldest in the region.
Not to be confused with the Kolpa River, the nearby Krupa river is notable for its vivid turquoise color and massive rock wall. The head of the river is particularly picturesque.
You wonder why the river is blue? Well, sources say it’s due to improper handling of PCBs. Let’s put it this way, it’s beautiful but we wouldn’t swim there.
Shopping and Prosta Povitica at Medenik Butik Bibi
Bernarda Kump did her best to tempt us to shop when we visited her charming boutique filled with local handicrafts like sheep’s wool, wood cutting boards, clay figurines, linen products and painted eggs. Instead, we ate her prosta povitiča, similar to strukli but cooked in the oven. To counteract the calories from the pork fat enhanced pastry, we ate fruits from her garden including pears, figs, apples and wine grapes.
Chocolate and Liqueurs at Berryshka
Our last but not least excursion was at Berryshka. Originally a producer of essential oils, Berryshka now also produces top quality chocolate and liqueurs.
Samo Kenda showed us around the factory whose main product is juniper berries, an important component in gin, sausage and cosmetics. We saw the extraction stills as well as the fermenting room where the magic happens.
After the tour, we settled down in Berryshka’s tasting room to try a selection of handmade chocolates including milk chocolate, dark chocolate, white chocolate and praline chocolate. We also tasted liqueur in little chocolate cups. With a motto of In Good Spirits We Trust, Berrysyshka delivered the goods.
Big Berry is 99 kilometers from Ljubljana and 80 kilometers from Zagreb. The Big Berry team can help arrange your transport from either city. You won’t need a car once you arrive at the glamping resort.
About the Authors
Daryl & Mindi Hirsch
Saveur Magazine’s BEST TRAVEL BLOG award winners Daryl and Mindi Hirsch share their culinary travel experiences and recipes on the 2foodtrippers website and YouTube. The married Food and Travel content creators live in Lisbon, Portugal.
Original Publication Date: May 9, 2018