We had a few free days last week for a short road trip getaway into the unknown or somewhere I´ve not been for a long time. In the end, we made our decision based on the weather prediction which was looking much more optimistic for the Eastern parts of Slovenia. So, we drove off from Ljubljana towards Trbovlje along the old road and took a turn to Podkum, continued through Sevnica, Brestanico, Sremič and Krško and finally reached the hilly Bizeljsko. I was one time here already and I have nice memories, so it was fun to re-visit the vineyards, castles and other interesting sights around here. More about these in this new blog post – if you are looking for lesser-known places in Slovenia as an international tourist, this is a great choice!
BIZELJSKO, which got its name after WISSEL FAMILY, is a part of KOZJANSKO PARK and at the same time a part of POSAVJE REGION (other municipalities which belong to Posavje are Brežice, Krško, Kostanjevica na Krki, Sevnica, Radeče in Bistrica ob Sotli). The easiest way to reach it if you are coming from central Slovenia is to take the highway towards Zagreb and take the Brežice exit – soon after you will find yourselves between green vineyards as Bizeljsko, together with Sremič, forms the so-called SREMIČ-BIZELJSKO WINE DISTRICT. These parts have always been an important crossing of different routes ever since the Roman times and the ARCHAEOLOGICAL SIGHT IN OREŠJE shows this area has been inhabited already in stone ages. There is just enough NATURAL AND CULTURAL SIGHTS to see and do for 1-2 days, but you can always stay longer of course.
VINEYARDS AND WINE CELLARS | Bizeljsko-Sremič wine district
As many others, we were also mostly inspired to visit these places because of the vineyards, wine, typical „repnice“ caves and wine cellars – so, basically we were here for the WINE and everything related to it which gives this area its significant signature. As for the wine – you must try the RUMENI PLAVEC which is an INDIGENOUS VARIETY and other white wines such as white Bizeljčan, Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Laški Rizling, Yellow Mscat. From the red ones there is the famous „modra frankinja“ (the Blue Franconian), red Bizeljčan and Blue Pinot. Besides, there are also tasty ice and sparkling wines as well.
Bizeljsko is also very known for its SPARKLING WINE, the most famouse house which produces them around here is ISTENIČ WINE CELLAR from Stara vas. From the main road oyu first see a larger more modern villa, VILA ISTENIČ where you can stay for the night if you wish, otherwise you can (with a reservation in advance) do a SPARKLING WINE DEGUSTATION and grab a bite to eat as well. They also offer space for special celebrations like birthdays or weddings.
VINEYARD COTTAGES | cottages for storing wine and other crops
VINEYARD COTTAGES & HOUSES were built with clay, wood, hay and sticks back in the days, but are usually built with stones nowadays. We can see many of them here, mainly because the vineyards are often quite spread out from the main house and often on various locations as well – these vineyard cottages are therefore used for storing the crops and other things needed in the vineyards, but some of them have been beautifully restored or better said converted into WEEKEND HOUSES where people can also spend a night or two.
Vineyard cottages are primarily there for STORING WINE CROPS and are therefore really functional and quite simple. Here and there you can of course see a more fancy one, with more details and decorations but the all seem to be crazy about one thing in specific . THE DOORS! We saw so many really nice WOODEN DOORS WITH SUN MOTIVE which are very traditional and are even called “sončna vrata” on Slovenian which means “sun door”.
THE SMALLEST VINEYARD COTTAGE | only around 4m² large cottage
Between many wooden or stone vineyard cottages built in Bizeljsko, there is also THE SMALLEST ON IN SLOVENIA – it is almost 200 years old, its size reaches only around 4m². This tiny house with simple wooden walls covered with hay as it was done in the old times is located right at the road in a small village called BOŠT.
“KLOPOTCI” | wooden devices with hammers for repelling birds
These interesting wooden constructions originate right in Bizeljsko area and are put up every August in order to scare away the birds and prevent them from eating the grapes in the vineyards. When the grape season is over and the grapes are picked, “klopotec” is de-montaged and stored until the next season – this is a true TRDEMARK OF THIS AREA and some wine makers are still putting them up today to keep the tradition alive.
“REPNICE” | underground caves for storing, wine maturation and degustation
Besides the traditional vineyard cottages, “klopotec” constructions and “majolika” wine jugs there is one major attraction related to wine in Bizeljsko. They are called “REPNICA” and are underground caves, dug in quartz sand grounds, which were used for storing turnip in the old days (in Slovenian language turnip is called “repa”, therefore the name). Today, nobody is storing turnip inside of these anymore, they are used as WINE CELLARS and for WINE DEGUSTATIONS. The conditions down there are perfect for this as the temperature stays the same (around 8C) and so does the air humidity. You simply have to visit one of these 200 something years old caves – we visited NAJGER REPNICA, but you can check out also: REPNICA BALON, REPNICA VINO GRABEN, REPNICA PRI KOVAČIČEVIH, REPNICA JELČIČ, REPNICA KELHER.
The INTERIOR of these caves is very interesting on its own and we can admire many different NATURAL PATTERNS AND ORNAMENTS on the ceiling and walls. VISITING A REPNICA usually includes WINE DEGUSTATION and a plate of LOCAL DELICACIES such as cold meats and cheese with bread.
“MAJOLIKA” EXHIBITION | over 1000 traditional wine jugs on display
For pouring wine a special TRADITIONAL CLAY WINE JAR is being used here and it is called “MAJOLIKA” or “MAJOLKA”. Years ago every village had its own potter who was making kitchen bowls, other cooking pots and of course these wine jugs as well. They were often very nicely decorated and had different signs or painings on them, so not only do they look nice, they also carry an IMPORTANT HISTORICAL VALUE. Today you can buy them as a souvenir or a gift for a special occasion. Otherwise they are still often used for pouring wine in the wine cellars & cottages and also at home of course.
THE LARGEST AND BEST COLLECTION OF MAJOLIKA in Slovenia is right here in Bizeljsko, at BABIČ FAMILY IN BUKOVJE. They also have a winery so you can combine your visit with a glass or two. Otherwise there are over 1000 MAJOLIKA on display from all over the world, the smallest one holds only a few centilitres and the largest one more litres.
BIZELJSKO HIKES AND LONGER WALKS | interesting routes for those who like to wander on foot
If you like to walk, you might be interested in LONGER HIKES AROUND THE AREA and there are plenty of such possibilities here as well. Here are a few marked paths you can take: “POT K REPNICAM“ – walking to “repnice” caves (starting point is in Stara vas, ending point in Brezovica – from here is great access to many “repnica” where you can taste local wine and check out these unique caves), „VIDOVA POT“ – Vid´s path (this is also the street name so you easily find it on the map. It starts between Brezovica in Pišeška road and leads up to St. Vid church. From here you can continue to Svete gore pilgrimage site), „POT OB SOTLI“ – path along Sotla river (along the state border with Croatia, the route goes like this: Stara vas – Gregovce – Nova vas – Bračna vas) and „GRAJSKA PEŠPOT“ – castle path (this one takes you from the centre of Bizeljsko town up to Bizeljsko castle).
NESTING PLACE OF BEE-EATER BIRDS | watching these colorful birds in Župnjeku
In the summer months (from May to August) you can visit this lovely NESTING PLACE which is located in QUARTZ SAND PIT IN ŽUPNJEK. To not disturb these colourful birds which fee on wild bees (therefore the name), there is an enclosed BIRD WATCHING STTAION – you might want to bring your binoculars. We have a couple of similar nesting places in Slovenia but this one is believed to have been the first one. As we were here in the middle of September we were unfortunately a bit too late, but now we at least have one more reason to return one day.
BIZELJSKO CASTLE | interesting medieval castle with a wine cellar
Mighty MEDIEVAL CASTLE with a beautiful arcade courtyard and 2 towers is located on a hill above BIZELJSKA VAS town. Throughout the history this castle has not only changed many owners (the most known fmailies living here were the Tattenbach and Windischgrätze) but has also undergone lots of architectural changes. There are great views from the vastle, you can see all the way to Sljeme mountain and Zagorje in Croatia.
Today the castle is inhabited by KLAKOČER FAMILY, but you can still come for a visit and they will gladly show you around. It might be a good idea to call first, we didn´t but were kind of lucky someone was there. We were the only guests and had an extremely amusing private tour around the castle´s chambers, including many stories and anecdotes, which was pretty awesome. Besides the already mentioned COURTYARD, we took a look at the impressive ST. HIERONIM´S CHAPEL from the 17th Century, CASTLE CHAMBERS with old tools and furniture, really nice STUCCO DECORATIONS on the walls and ceiling and of course, the tour ended in the CASTLE´S WINE CELLAR. Here, we got to taste a few different white wines, from dry to sweet and ended up buying a few bottles to take back home. Really recommend visiting this castle, it is somehow a very pristine and unique experience.
ONCE THE THICKEST OAK IN SLOVENIA | the trunk of the once mighty tree in Gregovce village
While researching what there is to see and do in this area I came across the information, there is a gigantic, almost 30m high and with around 7m trunk circumference the THICKEST OAK in Slovenia growing in a small village called Gregovce. Its canopy was supposed to be 50m wide and I´m sure it used to be a wonderful sight to look at but unfortunatelly all that is left today is a few metres of chopped up trunk and some branches. The poor oak was attacked by a special, protected type of beetle some years ago. Anyhow, the tree, or better said the tree trunk, is located at NUJEC WINE CELLAR – in case you need an excuse to go see the tree, they have great wines.
PIŠECE CASTLE | interesting renovated castle with a Roman tower
PIŠECE CASTLE, set in a beautiful location on the slopes of Orlice hill, above Pišece village in Brežice municipality has an interesting POLYGONAL FLOOR LAYOUT, due to many restorations and building extensions. You can´t miss the wonderful Roman tower, but there are also some baroque elements to be seen. The castle has been RECENTLY COMPLETELY RESTORED (inside and outside) but it unfortunately remains CLOSED FOR PUBLIC. So we could just take a walk around and admire it from the outside.
Still, it is worth coming up here, especially because of the very nicely arranged ENGLISH PARK surrounding the castle in which we can also see some giant SEQUOIAS and a few ponds. From You can either drive up with your car or take a longer walk from Pišece village below.
AROUND BIZELJSKO | what else is there to see on the way to Bizeljsko and near by
There is actually really a lot to see and do also round Bizeljsko or on the way to it. We´ve stopped at Sevnica castle, Rajhenburg castle in Brestanica, Sremič (where we had a very tasty 4 course menu lunch at Tri lučke restaurant), then there are also Krško and Brežice towns and after visiting Bizeljsko we continued on to Podsreda castle, Podčetrtek & Olimje, where we ate a rather average lunch at Jelenov Greben. On the way back to Ljubljana we stopped at Zasavje as well. Nice parts of Slovenia and everything is really close by so you don´t need to hurry but you still see a lot in a relatively short amount of time. We´ll be back one day!