Sevnica Spoils Us – Thumbs Up For Slovenia
The date is Monday the 9th of September and Yggdrasil, the Hymer motorhome, is spending his second night at the free Aire in Sevnica, Slovenia. It is eighteen days, and six countries since we began this Autumn Tour. I know this for a fact, as I just checked out my calendar so I could write that info here.
At the beginning of this tour the time seemed to be, uncharacteristically, flying past. But the last few days have seen a change, and we are slipping back into the timelessness of life on the road. This is one of my most favourite things about the travelling life. Days, hours – they lose all meaning away from the forced rigidity of “normal” life. For there is nothing normal about it.
Outside the man made rules of time, our lives are busy as we travel. Fitting the basic needs of our day into the number of hours we can stay awake can be surprisingly difficult. But unlike in the world of Monday to Friday, 9-5 living, the passage of time seems slower, when it’s every single breath is no longer being counted.
When two weeks come and go, and time to turn back is not yet on the horizon, something magical happens. Invisble walls thin and dissolve. Unknown blinkers come away from our eyes. Everything becomes possible. And the world becomes a bigger place. Fear turns to exhiliration. “I can’t” becomes “Why not?” And why not becomes a rainy morning on a toll road out of Austria in September. Heading South.
The rain had become an everyday part of our journey by now. It woke us through the nights and in the mornings. Trip-trap-trip-trapping on the roof. Most days it cleared to drizzle by lunchtime for a couple of hours. Late afternoon the individual little raindrops would start to bunch together for moral support, before leaping in a great deluge from the clouds to the waiting earth below.
This great gift of water would continue unabated until around maybe eight or nine in the evening. A couple of hours break for both the rain, and the grateful recipients of it’s bounty, and then the nightly pitter patter would resume once more.
This morning was no exception to the rule. The enthusiastic morning rain merrily accompanied us as we left the Inn and got underway for Slovenia. As we drove we kept an eye out for the Asifnag Toll company buildings. We knew it wasn’t far to the border and we spotted them just before the entrance to the Karawanks Tunnel. We had already bought our ticket for the tunnel online, but the Slovenian motorway vignette can’t be purchased online unfortunately.
We almost missed the turning to stop at the toll building. The exit’s are badly marked, and the building itself looks vaguely derelict, and more like offices than a place to buy something. Luckily we’d researched it in advance and were looking out for it. Plus the traffic was light and we weren’t forced past the turning when we did a last second swerve into a parking lane near the nondescript looking building
The Asfinag employee who reluctantly sold us the vignette sticker was as friendly and available as the building he worked in. Nevertheless he gave us our sticker promptly – presumably to be rid of us as fast as possible. And popping it on Iggy’s windscreen we drove on into the five mile long border tunnel.
There didn’t seem to be as many fans as usual in this tunnel, and the heat increased surprisingly rapidly as we travelled beneath the great teeth of rock above our tiny heads. Having traffic coming towards us increased the adrenaline levels a little, but all the drivers were well behaved. No speeding or over taking in our communal narrow tube of concrete. And before too long we emerged into a wet and drizzly Slovenia.
When a place is truly beautiful, no amount of rain or cloud seems able to disguise it. And this was the impression Slovenia gave us within minutes of being in this rolling land of green hills and tiny picturesque villages.
Every valley and turn held these small clusters of houses. Gathered round a central church. More often than not with a second tiny version of iyself a few metres away. A chapel for a saint. A tomb for an important person. We weren’t sure, but they were everywhere whatever their purpose.
Even from the toll road motorways Slovenia was a beautiful country. But it became even more so when we turned on to the national roads to our destination. A small town called Sevnica, near a national park, and according to park4night, boasting a free motorhome stopover by a castle. The information said full services were provided, and we expected to have to pay for water, but that was fine. It would probably be just a euro or two we thought.
The road up to the castle was steep and winding, and I felt the familiar little knot in my stomach as we waitied to see if Iggy could manage the hill okay. But it was no problem at all, and in no time we found ourselves pulling into the castle’s lower parking lot.
Sevnica, it turned out, was one of those places that make motorhoming such an absolute delight. The ones that make us want to give ourselves little nips. Just to make sure we’re really awake. Because, really, just look! What a beautiful surrounding! And we’re invited by the town to stay here for free. Not just to stay, but the water is free too. And just in case that was not enough there is free Electrical Hook Up for four vans too!
And then of course, there was the castle itself. Grad Sevnica is no huge fortress, like the grand hilltop castles of Spain. But a Baronesque type, square structure, with rounded, red roofed, towers on each corner. Surrounded by lovely gardens, and breathtaking views across the town, river and surrounding countryside.
When we arrive it’s really busy, with cars offloading smiling, laughing Slovenians, who hurry up the path to the castle. Some stop to stroke Marley, and ask if they can take photos with her. We can never fathom why so many people want photos with her. But we are always happy to oblige.
Marley steadfastly shows more interest in licking faces and trying to chew hats then smiling at cameras. But mostly people cope quite well with the sheer size and power of her up close and personal. The smiling folk of Sevnica chuckle fondly, as though she were a helpless baby in a cradle and not 40kg of strange mountain dog, and then continue into the castle’s waiting entrance.
We follow them to the door, and ask the young women inside if there is an event on. It turns out they are students and speak excellent English. There is indeed an event on – a charity fashion show to raise money for a safe house for the area. Dogs couldn’t go in the rooms they said. But we were welcome to bring Marley into the courtyard and watch from the doorway.
Thanking them we trotted our friendly furball over the nice red carpet, and peeked inside to where a woman with a beautiful voice was singing what sounded like a folk song. We were a bit wary of hanging around though in case Marley decided to join in with a bark or two. So we gave €5 for the raffle, and retreated back to the terrace with a couple of coffees. The sign at the Aire had asked that we please spend some money in the town in return for the free place. And we had every intention of repaying their kindness as well as we could.
We were so taken with the town folk and the castle that we decided then and there to stay two nights. It would be nice to kick back and relax somewhere quiet and green. And Jay was looking forward to the treat of unlimited electricity to play Skyrim.
So thinking we set off down the castle pathway into town. The drizzle was holding off right now and we were getting hungry. It was time to pay our dues to the town by finding somewhere for dinner. And, so Jay informed me, it was now long since past beer o’clock.
Luckily for him we found a cafe/bar almost immediately we reached the street. The beer menu was pretty impressive, and the prices were even better, at just £2.90 for Jay’s large dark beer and a glass of red wine for me. Unfortunately they didn’t do any kind of food, and we moved on down the street to a likely looking place called Plus. The menu looked good and the kiwi vine covered outside eating area had us totally sold.
The beer list wasn’t as good as the other place, but Jay struggled on manly with €2 Krusovice, and the food was really tasty. We had a big Slovenian sausage pizza to share. Mexican potatoes, and a traditional Slovenian bean and bacon dish that was so filling we could only eat half our pizza.
All this, drinks, coffees and a local blueberry liquer, for only €20, and it was a happy threesome who decided to think an uphill, pitch black, goat track to nowhere, was our path home.
By the time we realised our error, slipped and slid our way back to the correct turning, and started up the real path, low rumbles of thunder were growling out of the darkness around us.
A sudden slash of lightning illuminated the darkness. The rumbling came louder, closer. The next splash of lightning was brighter, bigger.
Halfway up a totally exposed hilltop in a growing thunderstorm did not seem like a particularly good spot to be in. Though I coudln’t help but be thrilled and delighted with the adventure of it all as we hurried upwards, racing the storm back to Iggy. The first marble sized missiles of rain splatting from the blackness, just as we reached the safety of our cosy, Hymer haven.
It was the perfect end to yet another perfect day as we watched the lightning blast open the darkness from our hillside doorway. And we fell asleep to the sound of thunder rumbling, well into the night. Waking happy into the first morning of sunshine we had seen for a good few days now.
We had a nice lazy morning, walking Marley round and about the castle, and chatting with a young German couple who turned up in their van. Eventually the growing heat, and bored Marley pup, was enough to push even lazy Jay into action, and we headed out for another explore.
Sevnica is a small town, and not a place that is full of sights. Or even charm outside of the tiny old village. The newer, more industrial town is more functional than pretty. But even here the open train tracks and riverside park add something special and interesting to the otherwise unappealing buildings.
Throughout it all though there are flowers, quirky old Slovenian houses and barns, and big smiling, welcoming faces. Especially it would seem to anyone with a large Greek mountain dog on hand. They just loved Marley!
Back at the castle, after lunch at Plus, we cleaned Iggy, watched Avengers Endgame (Brilliant!), edited photos, had showers, and generally just had a day off from “doing”.
The grounds around the castle were a joy to walk in, with grasshoppers and tiny, brilliant blue, butterflies leaping out from beneath our feet with every step.
But the complete icing on the cake arrived towards evening, as the German couple called out to tell us we had a little visitor to the path beside the Stellplatz. A solitary, fearless roe deer, come for his evening nibble.
It was going to be hard to leave this place in the morning…