Slovenia packs a lot into an area roughly the size of New Jersey – soaring limestone peaks, pristine alpine lakes, world-class fly fishing rivers, a charming capital city, rolling green hills, massive networks of caves and caverns, and even a sliver of Adriatic coastline dotted with lovely Venetian-style towns. (It cannot, admittedly, compete with New Jersey’s 112 Superfund toxic waste sites, but you can’t have everything.)
While many visitors head to the stunning lakes of Bled and Bohinj and the rugged summits of Triglav National Park, the area surrounding the village of Jezersko, just south of the Austrian border, offers some spectacular scenery and an excellent organic farm.
The tourist farm Makek, which opened its doors to guests in 1907, is set on the edge of high pastures 950 meters (3116 feet) above sea level, backed by the jagged Kamniške Alps. It’s a stunning location, but what make the farm remarkable are the hospitality of the Skuber family, who run the place, the marvelous organic food, and the loveliness of the house itself. Their guestbook from 1912 attests to the fact that a century ago the farm’s patrons adored the place.
Surrounded by orchards and vegetable plots, the farm produces most of its own food, and Irena Skuber puts all of that fresh produce to good use – every day we tried to guess what was for dinner based on the tantalizing smells emanating from the kitchen. As I wrote in a post about another organic farm in Slovenia, it’s wonderful to eat home-cooked meals whose ingredients have been sourced within view of the dining room windows.
We opted for half-board (breakfast and dinner included), and were glad we did. Breakfast consisted of fresh fruit, homemade breads, jams, and yoghurt, their own hams and salamis, cheese, cereals, and a different hot dish daily. Three-course dinners always started with soup – my personal favorite being a creamy Swiss chard – followed by a meaty main, salads, and outstanding desserts.
The farm’s playground is set amongst apple orchards, and offers incredible views of horses grazing against a backdrop of bare peaks. It has to be one of the most astounding settings for swings and slides on the planet.
There is excellent hiking right from the farm, and although we didn’t make it (the terrain looked a little challenging for toddlers) the path to Čedca waterfall (Slovenia’s highest until a 2008 landslide altered its configuration) begins at Makek. (There is excellent hiking all over Slovenia – over 63% of the country is covered by forests, the third-highest percentage in Europe behind Finland and Sweden.)
Lake Planšarsko is an easy walk from the farm. “Lake” may be something of a stretch for this little heart-shaped pond which, at its fullest, can’t be more than a meter or two deep. When we visited in the heat of August I was carting along swimsuits and fishing rods, both of which were comically superfluous as the lake had shrunk to a mud puddle scarcely larger than a quilt, with a few very nervous trout gasping for what oxygen they could find in the stifling water. Even so, photos reveal that the ‘lake,’ when actually containing ‘water,’ is lovely, and the lakeside restaurant Gostišče ob jezeru gets excellent reviews.
A great hike with kids starts at the lake, leads past the organic farm Ancel and its cow pastures, and loops up through the forest. It’s a fairly level route that won’t take you more than a couple of hours at strolling pace, and it leads to the mountain lodge Gorniški Center Davo Karničar, a sensational spot to stop for a picnic lunch. Grab a drink from a wooden trough overflowing with icy spring water, have a seat at a table, and marvel at the view.
The little village of Jezersko itself is worth wandering around, with tidy homes draped in flower boxes and often supplied with vegetable gardens and fruit trees. There’s also a small supermarket in town with everything you might need for picnic lunches, and a tourist information center with good hiking maps of the area.
Where to Stay:
The Jezersko website has accommodation listings, with everything from hotels to camping, including four tourist farms. The tourist farm Ancel is the only one beside the Makek that we looked at, and although it’s quite nice, it doesn’t seem to compare in terms of comfort and quality. The family rooms at Makek include a large living/dining room with a kitchenette and two twin beds, as well as a separate master bedroom – an ideal setup for a family of four.
Where to Eat:
Since we had breakfast and dinner at the farm, we generally had picnic lunches and ate out only once, at the Pension Valerija. We had rather limited expectations, but it turned out to be a pleasant surprise, with good food and very friendly service. Highly recommended.
By all means, put farms (and if they’re organic, all the better) on your radar when casting about for accommodation. They’re great for kids, generally offer far larger rooms than hotels, and often come with such amenities as pigs and chickens. And if you’re looking for a Slovenian holiday, look into the Jezersko region. There’s plenty to see and do, and you’ll avoid the crowds of other, more well-known, destinations.