A cool little trend that has been popping up in pretty much every facet of our lives is this concept of ‘local’. It has expanded far out of the grocery store aisles and has saturated itself in the travel realm more and more as the years go on.
Gone are the days of dreaming of an all inclusive vacation somewhere in Mexico or the Caribbean. Millennials and travelers, nowadays, are seeking out experiences, and local flavors, and interactions with people who live there instead of a boxed concept of a vacation.
Wouldn’t you rather come home from a trip with stories of meeting a 95 year old woman at a street stand and staring into her eyes that have lived such a different life than you, or playing soccer with kids in the middle of the street in Mexico City, or tasting a new food that you can’t even pronounce but that you immediately know will be the most delicious thing you’ve ever tasted for the rest of your life.
Vacations are overrated. Isn’t the point of traveling to experience cultures and foods and peoples of different races, religions, upbringings, cultures, and locations!?
Here, I’ve got a great example of some people doing this “local” thing exceptionally well.
I found a place nestled into a quiet little region of Slovenia, rarely visited by tourists, that has perfectly captured that local concept in a way that feels authentic and that we should all strive to add more of to our travels.
Big Berry is a lifestyle camp made of tiny boxes in the Bela Krajina region that borders Croatia.
Not only are the experiences centered around local vendors, restaurants, sights and scenes, but everything that can be sourced locally from the breakfast all the way to the personal jacuzzis on each porch are made locally.
Have I mentioned that I love sampling the local foods when traveling? Have you clearly understood that that is a major motivation for my traveling? Have you???
Well, not only do you go to locally run, delicious restaurants for lunch and dinner, you also get an adorable little basket of local goodies for breakfast delivered to your door each day. My basket consisted of freshly made oat milk, cheeses (including the most delicious hand made ricotta you’ve ever experienced!), fruit, local honey, smoothies and more. Other non-gluten free guests were greeted with fresh homemade Belokranjska Pogača, a type of focaccia style bread with cumin seeds sprinkled on top local to the region that definitely made me drool.
On the table when you enter the little crate-like accommodation, is an awesome booklet with information about all the local vendors and stories to really help you connect with your little pot of honey.
If you ever get a chance to visit this region, or Big Berry, insist on visiting the Gostišče Veselič restaurant. Pencil in some serious time here. Not because the food takes long, you’ll be well satisfied with breads and salad in seconds. But because the owner, Andrea, is one of the most charismatic, and memorable people I’ve ever met. I started to really look forward to our visits to her restaurant just to hear more of her stories.
She was passionate about her community, used to be a tour guide for the region, and now works on her town board to help bring Bela Krajina to the map! She has such a drive and an enthusiasm for life and best of all a really great sarcastic wit that will have you in stitches then crying for how beautiful her love of her home is within seconds!
The local vendors were the second shining jewel of the whole experience. I love walking into little shops or taking food tours to off the beaten eating spots when traveling, and Big Berry did a great job of setting this up, yet still making each experience authentic.
One day, we ventured out to a local honey producer to check out his hives. I have to admit, I didn’t expect this to be the most thrilling part of my week, but he wound up to be an awesome guy, with a cute little dog that followed us around. He actually shared with us some very unique, different ways he was structuring his hives or building new ones in tree stumps. As we were about to leave, he pulled out a heaping bottle of Medica, a liqueur made from honey, and then the stories really came out. English wasn’t always the primary language, but many laughs were had, and a little ‘buzz’ took us through the rest of the day.
We spent a few hours talking to one man who had started an incredibly unique business making alternative oils from seeds, nuts, berries and herbs. He looked like he belonged in a fighter plane from the first world war, and spoke little to no English but his stories definitely captured us and intrigued us with his mystery.
We spent a late afternoon with the region’s first craft brewery that began as a winery. The owner realized at some point that she really wanted to start producing beers for the region. Instead of going to the traditional lager route, she started producing IPAs and Belgian styles, and tastes and flavors that the people of the region had never encountered before. She had to work to get people to understand that they were actually really good, albeit much different than what they were used to from the corner store for $0.20.
She is still the largest reining producer of craft beer in Slovenia and takes pride in being able to produce beers for other breweries. She even had a gluten free in her wheelhouse!
In our spare time, we canoed down the river separating Slovenia and Croatia and went for lazy strolls through the dense forests. One particular evening, we were invited to take place in a grape harvest for the community vineyard!
We were the only English speakers and were greeted with handshakes and huge smiles around every vine. Coupled with some fresh new wine mixed with sparkling water, a Slovenian tradition, this day proved magical! Accordion players followed the flocks of people through the vineyards picking and sipping and snacking on the grapes as they went. As the sun set, we all made our way to the church at the top of the hill for a giant cookout, music and dancing that lasted far into the night!
No, I didn’t see the infamous Lake Bled or even took a stroll through the eclectic streets of Ljubljana during this trip. But I did make lasting memories and experiences that not many will or have, and my life has been impacted by these even in a small way.
I was invited as a guest of Big Berry in Slovenia. As always, all thoughts are my own.