Zivjo! Welcome to Slovenia. Known as ‘Europe in Miniature’, tiny Slovenia has a huge heart and a wealth of diversity. The soaring Julian Alps capture a touch of Switzerland, the radiating coastline oozes Mediterranean charm, and Bled’s island church appears to have come straight out of a fairytale. This small country is home to a surprisingly complex cuisine, divided into more than 20 culinary regions, according to local ethnologists. Best known for hearty, alpine stews, goulash and sauerkraut, Slovenia also boasts wonderful cakes and strudels, not to mention the culinary treasures found in the coastal Karst region, including teran (wine), prsut (air-dried ham) and sensational olive oils. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting tonight at 6pm. Please ask reception to confirm the time and place of your meeting. Have your insurance details and next of kin information on hand for verification by your leader. If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. Picturesque Ljubljana is perfect for starting a food odyssey, with a surprisingly diverse food scene that belies its size – great local eateries, progressive modern restaurants, street food, cafes and cake shops. Toast to your trip with a glass of Slovenia's national drink: schapps (snopec in Slovene). This fruit-based liqueur comes in a variety of flavour incarnations, although the local favourite is viljamoka, flavoured with Williams pear. Your leader will then suggest a great place in the heart of the city to sample some delicious traditional dishes.
This morning, take a public bus to Bled (approximately 1 hour). Situated on stunning Lake Bled at the edge of the Julian Alps, this is a postcard location par excellence. You will have approximately 5 hours in Bled, but we’ve come for one reason – a delicious cream cake called kremna rezina (kremsnita to the locals). It’s thought to have been invented in the kitchens of Hotel Park in 1953 by Ištvan Lukačevič, chef of the hotel's confectionery store. Since its invention, more than 10 million kremsnita have been baked at the hotel's patisserie. Tuck in to your own slice to find out what all the fuss is about. Afterwards, perhaps hike up to Bled Castle or visit the 17th century baroque Church of the Assumption, or simply take a stroll and enjoy some people watching. Return to Ljubljana in the early afternoon. Head over to a Slovenian culinary workshop in the evening to pick up some tips for creating some traditional Slovenian fare at home, followed by a hearty meal. Your hosts will provide a tasting of typical Slovenian cold starters so you won't get hungry as you cook!
Travel by public bus to Piran this morning (approximately 2 hours). Piran is a coastal town, located near the border of Italy and Croatia. The region is renowned for its production of fantastic quality olive oils, wine (especially the distinctive teran and refošk), as well as a cured ham called prsut. This is air-dried in the cold, dry wind known as the bura, which sweeps down to the coast from inland. Take a tasting tour of the township, then venture into a family-owned konoba (restaurant) for lunch and a wine tasting. Everything you eat is grown and prepared on the property. Next, head to the nearby salt pans of Piran where salt is still manually harvested with traditional tools according to a seven centuries' old process. Cross the border into Croatia. Croatia has long piqued the interest of curious travellers searching for sunshine, sand and scenery, with charming cobblestone towns and World Heritage sites. Recently it has gained recognition as an exciting food and wine destination, with the region of Istria leading the charge as the culinary capital of the country. Arrive at your final destination, the Istrian town of Motovun, by early evening.The evening is free for your own food adventures.
Drive to the romantic Croatian town of Rovinj, one of the best-kept towns on the Adriatic Coast (approximately 1 hour). Among Rovinj's qualities is the beautiful, architecturally intact old town centre, with a relaxed Mediterranean feel. Through the centuries, Rovinj’s character has enchanted many an artist or writer, including Jules Verne. Take an orientation walk through the old town. For fans of oysters, a cruise on Lim Bay is highly recommended. Stop into an oyster farm and taste freshly shucked bivalves straight from the ocean. You may also choose to enjoy an optional lunch in a celebrated local restaurant that specialises in Mediterranean flavours, using ingredients sourced from the surrounding countryside. Return to Motovun in the afternoon. Motovun is one of the best preserved medieval Istrian towns in Croatia, with houses scattered all over the hill and a spectacular view of Mirna River Valley. Motovun Forest is the best place for hunting the famous Istrian truffle, and the nearby village of Livade is considered the truffle capital of Istria. Take a walk through the nearby woods with an experienced truffle hunter, and learn about this intriguing vocation. Perhaps sniff out a truffle of your own! Then enjoy a tasting of regional specialties including truffles (of course), olives and honey. Spend the evening at your leisure. The medieval charm of the town is still found in its well-preserved architecture, so explore Motovun's winding cobbled lanes, or enjoy a glass of wine at Josef Ressel Square.
Take a private transfer to the stunning World Heritage-listed Plitvice Lakes National Park (approximately 4 hours). It’s the largest national park in Croatia and known to be one of the oldest in South-East Europe – a misty Eden of endless waterfalls and spectral blue lakes. The waters tumble from a high, tree-lined ridge down through the valley before skirting dense forests of beech, spruce and pine. The Upper Lakes are in the dolomite cliffs, where rushing water weaves in and out of the karst before dropping dramatically down to the forest, grottoes and steep cliffs of the Lower Lakes. This interplay of water, rock, and plant-life creates a wondrous, dynamic landscape, changing the water colour from azure to bright green, deep blue to grey. After taking in this one-of-a-kind landscape, head onwards to Rakovica village where you’ll stay the night. Dinner includes a delicious home cooked meal provided by your hosts – a hearty serving of traditional Croatian kotlovina. This mixed meat dish consists mainly of pork schnitzels and sausages, traditionally made in a cauldron (which translates to kotlovina) for large groups of people, feasts, holiday celebrations or just parties. The hosts will let you witness first hand how the meal is prepared before you tuck in, enjoying the robust flavours and hints of spice before turning in for the night.
Farewell your hosts and then travel by bus to nearby Pag Island (approximately 2 hours). The karst island of Pag is home to sheep and a determined group of islanders who wring themselves a living from the barren, rocky landscape. Settled in pre-Roman times, the island has been at the mercy of the shifting fortunes of various Dalmatian rulers, and today reminders of its prosperous salt-mining past lie in the main town. Meet a producer of the island's renowned cheese ‘paski sir’. This artisan sheep's milk cheese has long been a valued commodity of the island. Discover more about the production process and enjoy a tasting. There will also be an option to enjoy a specialty dish of the region - lamb cooked peka-style - beneath a metal bell. This succulent dish is not to be missed, as Dalmatian lamb is highly prized. Continue on to the walled city of Zadar (approximately 1.5 hours). For centuries Zadar was the capital city of Dalmatia, and the city's rich heritage is visible at every step. It’s also celebrated for many culinary treasures, including fresh seafood, the sheep and goats that are reared for their meat and milk in the mountains to the north, and the wonderful fresh produce that is grown in a broad belt of land surrounding Zadar. Don't forget to try the famous liqueur, Maraskino, made from locally-grown maraschino cherries according to a centuries' old secret recipe. This unique drink was a favourite at European imperial and royal courts and has been produced in Zadar since 1821.
Rise early for a stroll through Zadar's vibrant fish markets. The fish market is built into the city ramparts at the spot where the fishing trawlers land with their catch. This will also give you an opportunity to ogle some of the produce grown in the area. Depending on the season, you may find citrus fruits and kiwis from the islands, fresh and dried figs and home-made olive oil. The city is also home to a vibrant café culture. To refresh, stop into one of our favourite cafes and enjoy a spot of people watching. Travel by public bus southeast to Split (approximately 3-4 hrs), arriving in the late afternoon. Take in vistas over vineyards, olive groves, bays, beaches, steep cliffs and islands along the way. The evening is free for your own food adventures, although your leader will have plenty of suggestions to tickle your tastebuds.
A vibrant mixture of golden history and present-day delights, the city of Split grew out from the remains of Diocletian's Palace - some of the most impressive ruins on the Mediterranean. On arrival to Split, you’ll get the chance to learn more about the sights and flavours of the city as you embark on a walking tour of the city with a local foodie. Take Diocletian's Palace and wander the district's winding streets, before heading into the green market to learn about Croatian agriculture. Taste some artisanal olive oil, pick some mouthwatering local sweets (orancini and lemoncini) before finally paying a visit to the finest chocolatier in town. Finish with a lunch of beer and burek. The rest of the day is free for you to explore. Perhaps take in the fantastically preserved basements under the city, along with the Cathedral in Docletian’s Peristyle and Jupiter’s Temple. As the evening rolls in, you may choose to take another cooking class or put your feet up and relax over a hearty Croatian meal.
Catch a morning ferry to Korcula (approximately 3.5 hours). Upon arrival, embark on an orientation walk to get a feel for this historic fortified island town, including the Cathedral of St Mark, the 15th-century Franciscan monastery and the massive fortifications surrounding the city. A free afternoon gives the opportunity to take in the serenity of the local forest’s tranquil inlets and character-filled vineyards, located on an island where natives believe Marco Polo was born. Whether or not this can be proved (the Venetians have a similar claim), Korcula is steeped in a long history that’s resulted in Greek, Slav and Roman settlers – resulting in a romantic and evocative cultural old town. What's more, there are plenty of warm beaches to relax on if that's more your speed. You might like to take a swim, walk around the bays and villages near Korcula town, pay a visit to the Marco Polo Tower, go shopping, or just soak up the ambience. Later in the evening, you will have the option to make the short journey by local bus (approximately 30 minutes) to the tiny village of Pupnat (population: 300) in the interior of the island. Consider dinner in the village, enjoying a meal made entirely from local produce. Perhaps you can drink your wine like the locals do: mixed with a bit of water. The traditional Dalmatian meat loaf, or pasticada, and fresh grilled vegetables with olive oil constitute a typical dish, all served with fresh goat and sheep cheeses and maybe some smoked ham to tie it all together. Don't forget to have a bit of travarica (a grappa-like drink made with the verbane herb) and some Korcula cakes for dessert before heading back to Korcula town.
Jump on a bike and ride east towards Lumbarda beach. The landscape of the island is dotted with vineyards, olive groves and lush forests – take the ride casually and absorb some of the beautiful landscapes surrounding the area as you pedal on by. Once arriving at Lumbarda village, explore two local wineries for a tasting. The village is revered for two white varietals, Grk and Posip, which have been produced here for centuries. Grk is a curious drop. The wine can’t replicate itself as it only has female parts and needs to be planted with another male grape variety in order to pollinate. It seems like a lot of work to make a wine, but the end result is a glass of acidic white, featuring a robust aroma and hints of pine that has been loved around the country for ages. Posip has also traditionally remained native to the region and despite small amounts of the grape being grown in other parts of the country, this light bodied white wine has a flavour that remains distinctive to the grapes grown in Korcula. It’s a great addition for pairing with fish or the light bodied cheeses of Croatia.
Travel to Dubrovnik by public bus and ferry (approximately 4 hours). Dubrovnik is a beautiful white stone town surrounded entirely by fortifications – some might recognise it from Game of Thrones as the filming location for Kings Landing. Although it experienced devastation during the war in the early 1990s, the restored old town remains as charming as ever. With the sparkling water of the Adriatic in the background, Dubrovnik is picturesque, full of character and can easily be covered on foot. Take an excursion across the city walls, admiring the breadth of the ocean and the rustic township below. These impressive fortifications stretch 2 kilometres (1.2 miles) and make for an easy walk. The sights of the crowded walkway of Stradun, the Bell Tower, the Bokar, Lovrijenac and St John’s Fortresses, along with excellent views of the bustling harbour make for an unforgettable journey over the top of this rustic, medieval town. Tonight marks the last night of your Slovenia & Croatia food adventure – you may want to consider sharing a farewell dinner and a glass of rakjia with new friends.
Enjoy a free day today in picturesque Dubrovnik. Perhaps head out to one of the Elafiti Islands. There's Lopud, a quiet island with lovely hikes, clean beaches and a ruined castle. Kolocep is a sleepy enclave that boasts walks for every fitness level, and Sipan is the most populated of the isles and reputedly has the most hospitable inhabitants. Afterwards head out with the group for an optional dinner in the old city. Croatian cuisine varies from region to region, but a countrywide favourite that continues on the back of tradition is the charcuterie. Traditionally created with pork, charcuterie involves using a lot of specially prepared meats to create pates, rillettes, sausages, cured meats and more – all of which showcase flavours specific to their preservation process. If the option’s there, definitely give it a try.
This morning’s breakfast plans are yours for the choosing – a good idea would be to bask in Croatia’s fantastic café culture. Perhaps hunt down some delicious marenda to start your day off with a delicious platter of quality cured meat and mouth-watering pag cheese, a local favourite that’s created with aromatic sheep’s milk. Afterwards, depart from Dubrovnik to the Peljesac peninsula, taking a few stops along the way. Take some time to explore Ston, witnessing the longest stretching city walls in the region before watching the production of sea salt at the local salt panels, then continue on the panoramic drive along the bay. Spend some time passing the local vineyards before reaching the small village of Putnikovic. Enjoy a visit to a local farm to learn more about regional production and harvesting techniques before eating lunch at the local konoba (Croatian tavern). The word konoba has shifted in meaning over the years, but typically when you see the sign outside of a building, you’ll know that it typically means the establishment is a costal restaurant offering regional dishes with fine wines and brandies. Today’s meal at the konoba includes several traditional home cooked dishes and drinks along with fruit liqueurs, olive oil and local wine. A main course of veal or lamb meat under the bell, garnished with potatoes, local bread and salads is your first dinner option; the second being the freshly grilled ‘catch of the day’ with olive oil and garlic for that authentic Croatian seafood flavour. Transfer to Kotor in the late afternoon hours, where the group stays for the night.
After breakfast, visit the town of Njegusi on the outskirts of Kotor – known around the country for its famous smoke dried hams and cheeses. Stop into a smokehouse, where the owners take you on a tour and explain their artisanal production process which dates back for centuries. Enjoy tastings of their famous Njegui smoked hams, cheeses and grape brandy in the smokehouse restaurant before returning to Kotor with a nicely filled belly. Continue on a short trip to an olive farm in the village of Tici, located in the Lustica bay area on the outskirts of Kotor. Discover traditional and contemporary techniques of producing this staple Mediterranean ingredient as the friendly hosts share their second-generation organic olive oil production techniques with the group. Wander through the beautiful olive groves before arriving at a well-preserved and ancient stone olive mill, where the olives were once milled by hand. A guided tasting allows an insight into what makes for good olive oil as you figure out various qualities using your tastebuds. With free time later in the day, consider getting lost in the town’s crooked walkways, checking out the boutiques and cafes, or perhaps climb the hills behind the city to experience Kotor’s ruined fortification walls. A one-and-a-half hour hike up the stone steps, past churches, gates, and bastions to the Fortress of Sveti Ivan at the top rewards you with magnificent views across both the town and the brooding Bay of Kotor. Tomorrow begins your journey into Kosovo – consider savouring a last chance to taste Montenegro's flavours with an optional dinner of Montenegrin wine and traditional dishes at one of Kotor's fantastic wine bars.
Say goodbye to Kotor in the morning as you depart for Kosovo. The first stop on the journey takes you to Rozafa Fortress, Albania – one of the last legendary strongholds of the allied Christian forces (Albanians, Montenegrins and Venetians) against the invading Ottomans in the 15th-century. By the time the early afternoon rolls in, you’ll arrive in Prizren, the second largest city in Kosovo. This picturesque location remains as the most culturally and ethnically diverse in all of Kosovo, playing home to Bosniaks, Serbians, the Gorani, Turks, Romani and Kosovo Albanians. The abundance of orange rooftops makes for a striking décor, as do the impressive mosques and churches in the city. Begin with an optional lunch at the old bazaar, offering your first chance to enjoy the Kosovan cuisine. Bread, dairy (mainly yoghurt and white cheeses), meat and vegetables are all important staples of the average Kosovan diet, including pies or ‘trejte’, tave prizreni (the native Prizren casserole) and salads made with cucumber, dairy and garlic or onion. Stuffed peppers are also a big hit – keep an eye out for this tongue-tempting favourite. There’s plenty on offer at the bazaar as it teems with life, smells and sounds, yet the Kosovan gastronomic challenge lies in a strange delicacy – deep fried lamb brains. If in season, try it if you dare. After visiting the bazaar, you are free to explore Prizren at your own pace. A guided sightseeing tour is on the cards, or you can choose to wander through the streets on your own as the evening closes in, enjoying the young and sociable nightlife.
Depart from Prizren on to Pristina, Kosovo’s capital and largest city. Take some time to explore the history nearby settlement of Gracanica settlement, which serves as the home of one of the few dominantly Serbian populations in Kosovo. A special experience awaits here with a delicious Kosovo-Serb barbecue, prepared by the local hosts who serve sausages and other pork delicacies from their personal smokehouse. Afterwards, round out a big meal by taking a short trip to the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Gracanica Monastery – built upon the ruins of a 6th-century Christian basilica by Serbian king Stefan Milutin in 1321. Return for Prizren for another evening, where a free evening of exploration awaits.
Today marks your last day in Kosovo – enjoy breakfast before checking out of the hotel and departing towards Macedonia. Pass through the Brezovica National Park, taking in the steep cliffs and rugged mountain scenery as you pass by en route to Skopje. Travel through Tetovo to the nearby village of Varvara, enjoying a delicious Macedonian lunch of beans and pork dishes for which the area is famous for. Then loop back to witness the beautiful Painted Mosque of Tetovo. This mosque is famous for its intricately decorated facade and internal painted decorations, of which more than 30,000 eggs were used to prepare the glaze and paints that now adorn the interior walls. Arrive in Leunovo in the early evening to meet the host family, who will share their home and stories of their life over a traditional home-cooked dinner. Considered to be a division of Balkan cuisine, Macedonian dishes reflect influences taken from both Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cultures. The relatively warm climate in the country allows for excellent growing conditions for juicy vegetables and fruits, along with fragrant herbs which are often added to dishes. Macedonian dairy products, wines and local alcoholic beverages, such as rakija, have gained considerable respect for the variety and quality of flavours they offer. However if there’s two things you should keep an eye out for in Macedonia, it’s tavce gravce, a traditional dish prepared with fresh beans, pepper and onion, along with mastika, a liqueur seasoned with resin gathered from the mastic tree which is served best with a tarator salad.
Wake up in the morning to the smell of a home-made breakfast wafting in from the kitchen. A delicious meal of fresh, hot mekici (Macedonian doughnuts) and pancakes are served up for breakfast, traditionally coupled with some delicious local jam or cheese. Afterwards, say farewell to your host family and set off to explore the southern part of the Mavrovo National Park. This region serves as the home to an indigenous community of Macedonian Muslims – as a result, the area is culturally and ethnically different from the rest of the country. Take a stop at the nearby St. Jovan Bigorski Monastery (St. John the Baptist), which is widely renowned as the most spiritual monastery in Macedonia. This 19th-century structure, erected upon both the ruins of an 11th-century church and the slopes of Mt. Bistra, plays home to a small silver coffin allegedly containing the remains of St. John himself. Continue on to the village of Janche, sitting in the winding canyon that guides the Radika River. The village is known as one of the oldest in the region – its quaint houses line the hillside in harmony with the natural surrounds. After a quick walk around this unique village, a hands on cooking class with the local women will teach the skills required to make local pastries, considered to be a specialty of this region. After lunch, drive onward to Ohrid where you will arrive in the evening. Driving time today is approximately 4 hours.
Ohrid is Europe’s oldest lake and as one of the oldest human settlements in the world, it’s got a wealth of historic sites and religious monuments to discover. The town is eternal, set around a magical hill whose primordial pulsation links ancient and modern times forever. The town is said to have once been home to 365 churches, one for each day of the year, earning it the nickname “the Macedonian Jerusalem”. Despite being a World Heritage site for over 30 years, the town remains under the radar of visitors. Today is free to explore the town’s streets and churches, maybe picking up a bargain or two in the vibrant Old Bazaar. You might want to ask your leader for good local restaurants in the area as you make breakfast and lunch ideas. A highly recommended favourite is fish stew, a traditional dish that often comes served in a light, lemony broth. Alternatively, consider joining your leader for an optional day trip to the southern point of Ohrid Lake and the mystical Sveti Naum Monastery, one of the most important places of pilgrimage in Macedonia. Take in the ancient Tast Samoil’s Fortress, which stands on the top of Ohrid Hill and looks across the town, along with a 2000-year-old Roman theatre that was uncovered near its upper gate. The Sveti Jovana Kaneo church, which picturesquely sits on a town-top rocky outcrop overlooking the lake, is one of the most popular in Macedonia and definitely worth the visit. This evening, head to Kuratica, a village on the outskirts of Ohrid. Here you’ll experience true local hospitality and enjoy a home-cooked meal of regional delicacies. Your host also brews his own rakija, infused with herbs only found in this region, which you’ll be lucky enough to taste. Notes: If it has rained on the day you visit, or the day before, you may go foraging for edible snails in Kuratica and use the collection for dinner.
After leaving your accommodation in Ohrid, head down to the Green Market for a traditional breakfast of “gjomleze” pie, served with a selection of delicious local cheeses and homemade sour milk or yoghurt. The pie is a fairly plain dish, typically made with flour, water, salt and oil – it’s the added condiments that truly define the dish, much in the same way that they do with bread. Drive onward to Dihovo, another little village sitting quietly in the foothills of Mt Pelister. A local beekeeper will teach you about the fascinating world of the honeybee as they share with you their secrets – you’ll get a hands on approach to beekeeping and honey as you don on protective gear for an optional open beehive demonstration. Afterwards, enjoy a tasting of honey extracted straight from the comb before tucking into a home-cooked meal in a stone and wood villa built in traditional Macedonian style. All of the ingredients are organic and come from the family’s own private gardens. Arrive in Bitola by mid afternoon. Relax in one of the city’s many cafes, explore the stalls of the Old Bazaar or choose to take a guided tour of the ancient town and archaeological site of Heraclea Lyncestis, located on the outskirts of Bitola. Heraclea was founded by Philip II of Macedonia in the fourth century BC after he had conquered the surrounding region of Lyncestis and incorporated it into his kingdom of Macedon. The city was named in honour of the mythological hero Heracles, whom Philip considered his ancestor. With its strategic location, it became a prosperous city. Each object, each stone, each pedestal is shrouded in mystery.
Start the day with a Turkish coffee at the Old Bazaar and learn about the importance of coffee culture in Bitola. For the more adventurous, perhaps try a bowl of the local specialty Ckembe Corba (tripe soup). It is claimed that the soup was once part of an initiation rite for boys, but today it’s commonly enjoyed as an early morning breakfast dish. Later in the morning, head out to the Stobi archaeological site for a short sightseeing walk. Stobi, once known as Paeonia, was conquered by the ancient kingdom of Macedon and turned into the capital of the Roman province of Macedonia Salutaris. It is considered by many to be the most famous archaeological site in Macedonia – the intricately carved basilica, well preserved stone columns and structures along with the ancient theatre area are all spectacular memoirs of a time of antiquity. Continue on to the wine region of Tikves, where you’ll meet an international wine writer, critic and author responsible for writing the very first guide to Macedonian wine. The production of wine and wine grapes has traditionally been fairly prominent in Macedonia, thanks to an abundance of sunshine and rich, rocky soil. This has been the case since Roman times, where wine production was typically conducted in monasteries. Tikves continues to play an important role in the country’s wine production since the 4th century BC and is home to many of the country’s finest wineries – today’s adventures offer a taste of local varieties at two of these acclaimed wine estates. Enjoy a pairing of delicious local cheeses next to these wines in an afternoon of laughter and indulgence. After immersing yourself in the full flavours of Macedonia’s wine culture, arrive in Skopje in the late afternoon. Tonight is free to explore Macedonia’s capital at your own pace – perhaps consider asking your leader for restaurant suggestions.
Wake early and enjoy 'breakfast on the move' through the streets of Skopje. Pay a visit to the green market to learn more about the ingredients that make up Macedonian cuisine before picking up some items for a picnic lunch. Travel to Matka Canyon, a fascinating gorge containing a rich complex of medieval buildings, churches, monasteries and the remnants of a fortress. After a short walk to the Monastery of St Andrew, a boat will collect you for a relaxing sail through Matka Canyon and down the Treska River with a picnic lunch stop along the way. Once lunch is finished, return by boat and depart in the van to Skopje. This evening, the group leader will offer suggestions for a final group dinner – the perfect way for say farewell to Macedonia.
Your Real Food Adventure concludes this morning. If you are spending more time in Skopje we can help you to book additional nights accommodation just contact your sales agent.