A Hidden Land of Sun and Wine
With its fertile plains and sunny slopes, covered by vineyards, Prlekija hospitably smiles on visitors who find time to get off the beaten track from Slovenian must-sees, like the capital or Bled. It is for those who dare to explore the northeast of the country. The Prlekija is an undulating region that stretches from the Croatian to the Austrian border, separated by the river Mura from the eastern region of Prekmurje. This beautiful region is renowned for its tasty white wines, local traditions, cuisine and a distinctive dialect. The People: immensely fond of talking The first thing Slovenians from the western part think about when hearing the word Prlekija is the "funny accent" of the region's inhabitants, who call themselves Prleki. Slovenia is the richest country in the world for dialects - it has more than 40 of them - which make part of our cultural wealth, but also create divisions by providing for the regional consciousness - a sentiment Prleki certainly don't lack. According to Anton Trstenjak, the dialect in Prlekija is an exceptionally pure variety of Slovene language. Numerous German borrowings remain in it, but despite the fact Prlekija was positioned at the German boarder, people never Germanised, instead the region produced a considerable number of language activists and writers. Prleks are also known for their good sense of humour, volubility and incredible hospitality. Famous specialties and excellent wines The region is famous for its white wines, which can be tasted in numerous varieties - from sweet to dry. Vine reeds used to grow here even before the arrival of the Romans, who nevertheless improved the wine production, by introducing a new species, which did not hesitate to grow in the harsh Pannonia climate. Consequently, the hills of Prlekija are full of different wine routes and tourist farms. Other than the various wines, the region offers a typical cake called gibanica (moving cake). Gibanica is covered with cottage cheese and then baked. If you arrive early, you might taste it hot - an unforgettable experience. Prlekian traditional specialties consist of simple, available food that varies according to the season. A lot of dishes consist of buckwheat, traditionally grown in the region. Of course this is only one ingredient in different stews, combined with meat, vegetables, depending on the cook. Prlekija is also rich in other Slovenian specialties, such as the pastry potica, different sausages, sauerkraut and turnips. For me, the cuisine of Prlekija strongly reminds of the best food in the world - my grandmother's cheese struklji. Struklji are a specialty that also exists in numerous regional varieties, but the ones prepared in Prlekija are cottage cheese struklji boiled in a soup of sour cream. However, I strongly doubt one can find this in any restaurant. The event of the year All September, wind rattles echo through the vineyards of the hilly Slovenske Gorice, Ljutomersko-Ormoske Gorice and Haloze. They announce the upcoming harvest and control the starlings' appetite for grapes by scaring them away. But their meaning is also symbolic; they are supposed to protect the vineyards; many are erected on the day of the Ascension and keep on ringing for quite some time. In the beginning of October the harvest finally starts. This is an event for the whole family, accompanied by a feast; the amount of work prior depends on the number of reeds in the vineyard. Harvest work is still divided traditionally by age and gender. While the lady of the house attends to insuring that no one is hungry or thirsty, the man of the house usually engages in directing everyone around, so that the grapes are pressed into a sweet must. Someone is also always measuring if the amount of sugar in the must is high enough. Most of the guests pick grapes, while some garner chestnuts and mushrooms from a nearby forest. The harvest is not an easy task, as Gorice (this is the name for the slopes of the vineyard) are steep, therefore young men are appointed to carry the collected grapes in a large wooden basket (called puta). Hard job to do, but they are appropriately awarded by one glass of wine for each puta and compete among each other which one will carry more putas in one day. Of course, they usually end up quite drunk, but last season's barrels need to be emptied anyway. Then, Saint Martin will turn must into new wine and the circle will be completed. The best way to explore Prlekija Beyond a shadow of a doubt, go by bicycle. September and October are the best months, when trees change colours and the sound of the rattles guides your way to the vineyard. Autumn sun gently pats your face and you can really breathe in the fresh air of the forest and smell the grapes and chestnuts. Or you can take one of numerous wine tracks, stop to taste the newly made wine and other specialities. But do get lost sometimes - you might find isolated houses with unspoiled people, and while asking for directions, you might be invited for a glass of wine and a taste of regional hospitality. Activities Besides walking, cycling, riding, wine and food tasting, there are many interesting cultural monuments, from churches and chapels to historical towns such as Jeruzalem, Ljutomer, Ormoz and Ptuj with their festivals and occasional fairs. There are also water activities on the lakes and spas in Radenci and Ptuj.