Heatwave. Hungry. Thirsty. Tired. Truffles!

Author: Kali

[Not only is Kali growing up and starting to look like Mariza, she has now also started to write like Mariza!  – Jarik] 

After our reentrance to Croatian Istria, our aim was to find something (anything!) cold or wet to rid ourselves of the terrible heat. Hoping we would be able to swim, Mum led us to a nearby lake and a little village close to it. The car struggled up a narrow, dirt road to reach a tiny hilltop village.

The lake of false hope

We asked at a restaurant whether we could swim in the lake below. The answer was no, but the restaurant ended up being the tasting room of a world renowned truffle supplier. Dad, Mum & I were warmly welcomed and introduced to the wonderful world of truffles.

Truffles are difficult to find and very expensive as a result! They grow underground between the roots of trees such as hazel and oaks. Truffle hunters in Eastern Europe use pigs and dogs to sniff out truffles. To me they have an intense, musty and earthy flavour and smell. We tasted all sorts of oils, butters, spreads and dips all containing traces of the flavourful truffle. Even just a small bit of it is extremely strong.

I really liked the truffle and white chocolate spread. It was delicious and I could’ve finished the entire jar. Here I was, sitting in a free tasting room, critiquing an array of truffle products. ‘Hmm.. this is good! I’m going to taste it again… delicious! Oh! This is even better!’ And so it went on. Only later did I find out that you could pay up to $2000 for a kilogram of the musty fungus.

As we were leaving, the lady showed us a stunning view of a neighbouring walled hilltop village. She said it is called Motovun. It was where we would be staying for the next few days. All extremely excited, we headed off to discover this magical place.

On the bottom of the hill, all visitors must park their cars and walk the steep winding road to the village. However, because we had a special ticket from our hostess, we could drive up all the way to the centre of the ancient hill top town. I felt so important, driving past all the walking tourists that were perspiring their way up the hill. The smooth cobble stone streets are so narrow that two cars cannot pass each other. Our car struggled and slipped, but made it in the end. It was so worth it!!!

Zvjezdana, our hostess, warmly welcomed us to a clean and spacious apartment situated right in the centre of the tiny village. It was inside the ancient village walls and there were even two cold beers, and four cold chocolate milks set out for us! It had stunning views of neighbouring villages, vineyards and the largest truffle forest in the world, all spread out below. From being nearly dead from the heat, exhaustion, hunger and thirst, we all suddenly felt a tremendous spurt of energy. Ruzow, Eulain and I immediately ran back down to the bottom where the other cars were parked, to play soccer at the sports grounds. Every little village we’ve been to has at least had a little soccer field. (Esto was still out of action from the tummy bug.)

Mum and Dad sat on the balcony, soaking in the complete serenity of the surroundings. It was stunning! As the sun started its descent and the sky became a rich red-orange, us three soccer stars started huffing and puffing up the hill. The stone buildings gleamed as the sun struck their smooth surface and birds darted around the bright sky. I wish I could describe it better. Indescribable!

 We spent our days either exploring beloved Motovun or other nearby gems, such as Kalmanjak and Pula (the Istrain capital). I absolutely LOVE Istria! It is a magical and wondrous place.

When we had to leave Motovun, we greeted Zvjezdana with big hugs and kisses. Suddenly, she dashed into her apartment and came back with a foot long slab of chocolate for us. It was delicious (and quite a mess in the car as it was melting very quickly)! Thank you so much, Zvjezdana for having us stay in your picturesque Motovun! We will certainly be back!

Until next time,



Picturesque Piran

Author: Kali

While staying in the forgotten old village of Truske, we visited the historical centre of a costal town called Piran. It is located on a peninsula, jutting out sharply into the Adriatic. We had to park our car in a parking garage, about a kilometre from the city. Many towns and villages in this area have this same system, as the streets are too small and narrow for cars to enter- only bikes and scooters can get in and out.

Today was once again one of those days you wish you were backpacking Antartica instead of facing a heatwave in Istria. The sun, in the cloudless sky, blazed down on us as we walked to the city

gates. Esto, having had a terrible tummy bug for the last three days, refused to walk even a single step. With no other choice, mum hoisted him onto her back. Dad and I also took turns carrying him through the streets.

 We wandered through cobble stone streets with old pastel coloured buildings on each side. Without being too touristy, or overcrowded, Piran had a charm to it that I immediately loved! The little street side cafes and restaurants were filled with people. Each little street and alleyway lead to a small square, with yet another café or two. We lost our selves! We simply couldn’t take enough pictures, even though they could not capture the charm of the place!




Now, once again starving of hunger, dying of thirst and melting away in the scorching midday sun, we aimed for shade, cold beer, ice cream and the cool waters of the azure Adriatic! We flopped onto the couches at the cafe and Dad ordered two ice cold beers, three ice creams and a large jug of water. Esto, feverish, nauseous and totally out of it plonked down next to me. I wet his hair a bit and fanned him with a brochure on the table. (Isn’t that what big sisters are for? I recon I need a big sister!)

It was such a relief and so refreshing to dive into the glorious water. It was crystal clear and the rocky bottom was visible beneath.  I couldn’t get enough of it! Even the salt tasted delicious on my lips.

We spent hours moving between the ocean and having cold treats in the shade. In my heart I wished this time would never end.

 Until next time,





Author: Mariza

2 August 2017

Truške is our home village in Istria, Slovenia for the moment. Our hosts moved here twenty years ago when their eldest daughter was one. They were the first people to live here again after the village was abandoned many years ago. They bought an old stone house and cowshed and transformed it into a beautiful home and two apartments.


The wife is a civil engineer who drives to either Koper (a harbour city nearby) or Ljubljana (the capital an hour away) for work. The husband is a mountaineer who leads expeditions and works for the British military. The eldest daughter goes to university in Ljubljana and the sixteen year old au pairs in England for the summer holidays. For school and other activities they simply have to drive. Not even as far as we drive in big cities, but for Slovenians it is to the other side of the earth. Slovenia is a tiny country with a population of only two million people.

There have been big changes over the past few years in this country. Wars in which its people were greatly affected and then breaking away from Yugoslavian rule. People suddenly had a much harder existence and most really struggled to understand what was happening to them. Suddenly there were consequences to many things that didn’t matter before. No more same perks for everyone, no matter what you did or did not do. People’s lifelong hard work resulted in a pension on which they cannot survive.

We had insightful conversations with Denis, our hostess, about all of this. So refreshing to hear the perspective of an intelligent, thinking woman on matters that shaped and and are still greatly affecting a nation. Communism had a very different outworking in different places.


Truške now has a few families and a small school. And of course a church on a hill, just outside the village. No shops or restaurants.

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Villages in this part of the world are only a few kilometres apart. What a joy it is to go for morning runs, exploring several villages and rural roads in just one go. And to see the locals out and about tending their vegetable gardens or small  fields of corn or olive groves or little vineyards.


My absolute highlight was stumbling upon a completely deserted village with the remains of beautiful stone houses one morning. It is literally at the absolute end of the road / earth. There is nothing beyond the village except a river down in the valley. One little dirt road takes you in and to the end of the village. Tiny. And gorgeous. I imagine what it was like when people lived there. I wonder how it got to this. I feel sad and happy and in awe. I love places like this.

Despite a heatwave and a sick child, our time here has been really special. We will be sad to say goodbye, but I am confident that we will see these people again. The instant connection between us is something to treasure. Truške and surrounds – forever in our hearts.

– Mariza –




Most na Soči

Author: Kali

Yesterday we were intending to get to Stanjel, but our trusty navigator (Ruzow), this time, led us through windy mountain passes and little back roads. The journey took much longer than expected and by the time we got to a stunning blue lake with hamlets dotted all along the shore, we were all terribly motion sick and desperate to find a place to sleep.

Even though it is high tourist season in Slovenia, specifically Istria, we have not booked a single night’s accommodation. We just arrive in a place with our car and ask around for space for six for the night. If available, we stay the night. If not, we simply move on.

As we drove down to the lake, we saw a little stand inviting customers to a restaurant and apartments. It was right on the bank of the stunning blue-green lake! Mum went ahead to enquire from the lady at the restaurant if they had any space. (She was also the owner of the apartments.) By the time Eulain, Esto and I got to the apartment, Mum said excitedly: ‘We are staying here, in this stunning place, tonight! The lady was so friendly. Children, you choose your beds first, and your Dad and I will take what’s left.’

It was Esto and my turn to choose beds first. I am very proud of my little brother, and how he is growing up to be a lovely boy. As we inspected the beds, he said something I had heard several times from Dad before, but would never have expected to hear from his mouth.

Kali, let’s be mature.’  He said this very solemnly, his big, bright blue eyes looking into mine.

‘Yes! That is right, so what is your plan?’ I asked.

You know how it is our turn to choose our bed? Well I thought maybe we should be mature like Dad always says and choose the little bed so the others can have the big one.’ His eyes were blazing with excitement. Esto has always had a soft, loving heart, always willing to help and do things for others, but now I could really see this bright light shining through.

There was a tiny single bed and a double bed in the one room, and then a double sleeper couch in the tiny living room. We chose the tiny single bed, Ruzow and Eulain chose the double sleeper couch, and we left the double bed for Mum and Dad. I didn’t mind if I needed to squish in the tiniest single bed in the world. I am so proud of Esto. He is learning so much during this adventure and I get to share it with him. This is just one of those many special moments I will never forget.

We couldn’t wait to wash away the long, hot and uncomfortable journey by plunging into the cool lake water. We played for a little while, but nearly froze to death. Mum and Dad were sitting at the little restaurant, enjoying an ice cold beer, and drinking in the stunning surroundings.

Not long after our swim, we sat down to a lovely picnic dinner at a table next to the water. It was so pleasant to sit down and have a meal together in such an amazing place. A fitting end to an eventful day.

The next morning, very early, the others were running in the area around the lake. Unfortunately (or fortunately, as time alone has been rare during this trip) I didn’t go. I had badly hurt my toe and lifted the nail the day before on a bike. I stayed home, having a quieter start to the morning.

A little while later, I met the others swimming in the lake. Dad and Ruzow dragged two of the kayaks from our apartment into the water. We had loads of fun paddling, surrounded by the alps glowing in the beautiful morning sunshine.

The time came to leave the wonderful place we found and continue our journey towards Istria, Slovenia. I will treasure the golden hours we spent here forever.

Until next time,




Source of the Soča

Author: Ruzow

After our Soča River Trail hiking expedition, we drove the two kilometres to the bottom of the waterfall that leads to the source of the river. We started our ascent on the mountain next to the waterfall. Slowly but surely, we climbed up, clinging on the the thin metal cord for dear life, while carefully placing our feet forward on the edge of the cliff. A little while later, we reached the top.F5506AE7-A725-4916-928A-1FD632B99258 (2)

I climbed over the rocks to get to the ancient mountain spring. Then in front of me in a damp cave, I gazed into it and saw the most amazing water I have ever seen. The colour was so beautiful it took my breath away. Amazing!!! I was awestruck at the thought that these drops of water had been slowly creeping through the cracks in the mountains for hundreds of years! Then I knelt down beside one of the rocks and drank the purest water I have ever tasted, right from an alpine mountain spring!!!!! I had achieved something I have always dreamed of. Best of all, I didn’t have to pay a fortune for it, it was absolutely free!

– Ruzow –


A Rare Find

Author: Jarik

When you have travelled overland through 11 countries, passed through too many cities, towns, villages and hamlets to number and completed more than 1100km of hiking and running, you get to see a lot of places. Some spectacular, some pretty and some very ordinary. We jokingly started referring to the Patagonian landscapes and hikes as ice-cream and that we have started with dessert as the first course of our travels. That was until we came to Slovenia.

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Only a speck of a country, Slovenia’s natural scenery is truly spectacular. It is also rich in cultural heritage, spanning thousands of years. The Julian Alps with its deep valleys, white cliffs, towering peaks, deep green forests and rivers that seem too clear to be real have been an absolute highlight in our travels. Our hike down the Soča River Valley was nothing short of breathtaking.

We had to conquer a mountain pass with fifty switchbacks (they were numbered) to get to the upper reaches of the river where we started our hike. For 18km we followed the water as it formed rapids and slowed into pools, narrowed into magnificent gorges cutting through limestone and broadened into inviting oases where we braved the icy waters for a swim. We crossed it many times over rickety suspension bridges as the river hugged the mountainside and shaped the valley as it went. We also hiked up to its source –  gushing from a cave high up in the mountains. Add to this dramatic landscape summer foliage that colour every meadow bight green and red geraniums to adorn every window and balcony, and you can start to imagine the Slovenian Alps.

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It seems as if the country straddles two worlds. The first, a peaceful lifestyle centred within quaint little villages not more than 5km from each other, but each with its own character. A lifestyle where there is still enough time to keep your own vegetable garden and make your own wine. This is juxtaposed within a Slovenia, connected by large freeways, fantastic communication infrastructure and with access to the best of every modern convenience.

We were off to the Slovenian part of the Istrian peninsula next – but we all hoped that we would have the opportunity to spend more time in this amazing part of the world again. Slovenia should be on everyone’s “must do” list – it will definitely remain on ours.

– Jarik –


Waking Up In A Postcard

Author: Mariza
1 August 2017

Waking up to a view like this sets you up for an unforgettable day. A lake so green and beautiful, it takes your breath away. And in the background layer upon layer of Alpine mountains.

It took three cups of coffee to sufficiently motivate me into action. I could have spent the entire day simply sitting there, looking. Again a photograph cannot do it any justice.

Our early morning run was spectacular. All along the emerald river, right on the water’s edge. Fields and meadows and stone cottages along the way only add to the magic. One can run a thousand miles in places like this. Sooooooooooo beautiful!!

We ended our run with a refreshing swim. Some of us couldn’t even take the time to change and just dived in, clothes and all. I did take my shoes and socks off, though. We spent the next two hours in and out of that glorious river. On a stone wall we sat and had our birchers muesli. And a few cups of coffee. It is literally five steps from our front door. Oh the luxury!!

The owner grew up right there in that very house. Whoawhee!! They run the little restaurant and apartments only in summer. In winter they rest. And yes, they make enough money in summer to sustain them. I am green!! And there goes any possibility of ever acquiring it. Jarik and I have already transformed the place in our minds overnight. Oh well… They would be crazy to let it go, anyway.

We finally managed to tear ourselves away and off we went. Goodbye Julian Alps, hello Istria Hinterland! Green, windy roads brought us to a completely different landscape. Drier and hotter. Beautiful, but very different. Mountains are replaced by hills – many of them! – with vineyards everywhere. The little villages are tiny and only a few kilometres apart. Most villages are a mixture of old rock buildings, abandoned and dilapidated, and newer, more modern homes. Tuscan looking. Only very few of them have a shop or a school or a restaurant. I find it fascinating.


It took a long time to find accommodation, but in the end, at 7pm, we find the perfect place. Again. Our arrival is somewhat unexpected, so the owners ask us to give them an hour to prepare the place. We drive back to the lovely restaurant where earlier, after telling us all the accommodation in that village is full, a friendly man referred us to the village where we found our spot. He is happy to see us and find out we have a home for the night. We enjoy a delicious dinner (all except Esto, who has a tummy bug) and head back to our village.

No sooner do we get out of the car, or our host informs us that there is a musical performance in the village we just came from. A once off session with musicians who come from all over the world and then teach one another their traditional music. Their grand finale is a concert in the capital city the following night, where they perform all they’ve learnt. Well, we cannot possibly miss an opportunity like this! Sick child and a great desire to get to bed aside. So we bundle everyone back in the car and off we go.

The festivities take place outside, so we park the car nice and close to us and leave Esto on the backseat to sleep. The artists, as well as the audience consist of all sorts of weird and wonderful people. Very interesting indeed! The leader of the band / choir wears nothing but a t-shirt and tight black boxer shorts. Others are dressed up or over the top with everything from shiny shirts to breeches to puffy pants and waistcoats. But the music is impressive!! These artists know their stuff!! Violins, tubas, accordions, mouth organs, mandolins, basses, flutes, drums, guitars, trumpets, percussion instruments and voices. I can hardly believe what we are experiencing.

Meanwhile, back in the car, Esto is lights out. Only until we’re all squeezed back in there with him. With a violent roar he vomits all over Kali (who handles it extremely well and graciously) and the backseat. We end up creating a bigger spectacle than the musicians. My, oh my!

Finally back home, way after our bed time, the chaos continues for another hour or so. We finally flop into our beds, only to be woken up again. The vomiting has now turned into diarrhoea. I shall end here.

It has been a very long, beautiful, memory packed, surprise filled, crazy day. Our hearts are once more full to the brim. How incredibly blessed are we?!

– Mariza –


Our First Day in Slovenia

Author: Kali

Mum and Dad rented a Skoda, Fabia station wagon, making us thankfully less dependant on public transport in Slovenia. There are a lot of these cars in these areas. The Skoda is a comfortable five seater, with a nice big boot, however, it is still a tight squeeze for six. By this time through the journey, we are however, used to squeezing into impossibly small spaces. In South America all four of us, along with mum, were shoved into a back row of a taxi. This time, we nearly had a whole seat to ourselves!

We drove along small dirt roads in between villages, some long forgotten. From the second I set my eyes on Slovenia, I loved it! Every home and garden is a flower pot. Flowers colour absolutely everything, everywhere. No matter how big or small the house, you will always find a vegetable garden, squeezed into the yard. These are well kept with vegetables like tomatoes and beans. There are fruit trees everywhere. Plums, peaches and apples hang over every fence ready for passers by to pick and enjoy. This is amazing! You never see this in Australia. Here I am walking through the forest, picking wild berries for a snack. This is like in fairy tales.

We visited many small villages, each with it’s own unique and special character. I have noticed that people in Slovenia are not like people in Croatia and Montenegro. Even after they’ve seen you’re a tourist, they greet friendly with a smile: ‘Dober dan!’ It was lovely visiting the neighbourhoods and seeing how the people actually lived – and the sheer beauty of everything that surrounded us.

Lunch on the first day consisted of cold meats, cheeses and bread. The lunch itself wasn’t so special. It’s the setting that has found a place in my heart. We sat in the middle of a secluded, flowery meadow. The many wild flowers brought colour to the brilliant green of the grass. It is quite hard to describe in a way that you, as a reader, can really even try to imagine what it was like. It was amazing!

We were hoping to find somewhere to stay for a few nights near Bled and Lake Bled. We asked at a few villages nearby, but there was no accommodation available. After what seemed like years of asking and moving on, we came to a little village called Ribno. Neat gardens surrounded the beautiful homes, everything covered with a bouquet of coloured flowers. Everything seemed alive, happy and exciting. Somehow, I felt that we would be staying here.

We ended up getting a neat little apartment for a great price from a lovely lady, Nency. She was very kind and told us the only reason why we got the apartment (the rest of the town is full) is because they have only recently finished it and they haven’t advertised it online yet. I was so grateful for this. If it wasn’t available, we would’ve been accommodation scouting through the night. At least we had a car, so if worst comes to worst.

I feel so content as we are sitting outside enjoying the scenery, company and delicious salad. Our first day in Slovenia was no doubt the perfect way to start the next chapter of our adventure. My heart is overflowing with joy and excitement. I cannot wait to explore this amazing place further with my family. I know I will dream of these days once we get shoved back into fast paced reality. We must make the most of these priceless times! ❤️

Until next time,



Unbelievable Beauty

Author: Mariza

31 July 2017

Oh my!! Paradise here we are!!

We spent the past five days in Ribno, a little village just outside Bled (a bigger village on a stunning lake). We arrived by train from Serbia, picked up our rental car in Ljubljana, the Slovenian capital and started driving. We didn’t book anything, even though it is peak tourist season over here. That was a great decision. So far we have stumbled upon two out of this world awesome little dwellings.


Ribno is a very special place and we loved every moment there. We ran and hiked in the mountains and did stunning all day cycling and swam in the emerald rivers and lakes. We had picnics in meadows, on the banks of rivers and in deep dramatic gorges. We strolled through the narrow streets and fed fresh apples to one of the resident horses.

I honestly did not think places like this existed. I absolutely love it!!


After a lovely run and breakfast on the patio, we packed up our meagre belongings and hit the road. It took us several hours to drive around the one and only national park. A stunning drive, but not motion sickness friendly at all!! Up and down steep mountain passes and many switchbacks. Gloriously green and lush. Picture perfect little hamlets and villages along the way.

At exactly 4pm we drove over a bridge and there, right in front of us, was the most beautiful lake we’ve ever seen. Bright emerald water, like something out of a sci fi movie. Honestly unbelievable. All six of us knew instantly that this was home for the night. Only a few houses are scattered on our side of the lake. A little village on the far side. I started knocking on doors and before we knew it, we had a lovely little spot right on the lake.

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Most na Soci means bridge over the Soci (river). That and a handful of cottages is all there is to it. Quiet, peaceful and overwhelmingly beautiful. The kids immediately hopped into their swimmers and then the lake, while Jarik and I enjoyed ice cold beer at our hosts’ little restaurant on the edge of the lake.

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In the evening we had a picnic, while marvelling at the splendour around us. A refreshing swim provided the perfect ending to a day flooded with spectacular memories. Wow!!! My heart can hardly contain it. I am so very grateful.

– Mariza –

Cycling in Stunning Slovenia

Author: Mariza

28 July 2017

Today we cycled almost a hundred kilometres inside a storybook setting. Slovenia is the place where all those classic children stories took place. It is beyond beautiful!

We were on our bikes early this morning, all excited and full of energy. On our backs we carried our picnic lunch, water and a few snacks. Through valleys and over mountain passes. We cycled through the most gorgeous little villages, all consisting of alpine cottages with lush flowers hanging from every balcony, sitting in every windowsill and decorating every vegetable garden. My kind of place, for sure!!


I tried to take pictures, form my bike mostly, but it doesn’t do any justice to what we saw and experienced. It snows here in winter and skiing is the activity of choice then. But in summer, every meadow is filled with wild flowers. The entire place is green and lush. The mountains are spectacular in the background.


For lunch we simply drove our bikes into a meadow and sat down under a tree. The stuff fairy tales are made of. And we kept getting overwhelmed by the beauty around us. It is unreal.

We were really tired and rather sore when we finally arrived home at 6:20pm. We celebrated with delicious ice cream. Home made spaghetti bolognese was the perfect comfort food. We had the most spectacular day and our hearts are full to the brim.


– Mariza   –


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