Black & White Metlika..
Look in the far south eastern corner of the map and you will see where Metlika is, but actually go there and this is yet another secret little place, surrounded by vineyards and white birch trees, where you will need to pinch yourself hard to remind yourself you are lucky enough to be in Slovenia!
It's not that tricky to get here from the Lodge as part of a longer day trip. Directly, it's 1 hour 40 mins, so you would do the bulk of the journey here straight after breakfast by motorway, explore this enchanting mini region and still have time to take one of several country routes back to the Lodge, depending what you want to see or do on the way back.. but it usually involves a nice local meal somewhere along the way!
So Metlika will have that familiar medieval European feel, but once you have travelled over the steep hill that separates this mini region from the rest of the country, you might get another sense of being cut off on an island, surrounded by rolling hills and isolated from the rest of Green Slovenia.. It's very special and we can try to describe, but you have to come here and feel it for yourself.
It goes without saying for lovely Slovenia that this is yet another pretty, ancient, sleepy town with a beautiful river and a castle! Our main reason to first come here was, of course, to explore, but also to try to find a new wine partner in Metlika as this is yet another of Slovenia's mini wine regions where you can get a unique wine, Black Metlika.
We won't even attempt to write the Slovenian spelling of Black Metlika, but we will explain that in the old days of Yugoslavia, they officially had just 2 sorts of wine.. White and Black.. Black is actually red wine as red wine can often look more black than red! Generally speaking, it was only when socialism failed that wine producers here felt liberated and motivated to reintroduce unique ancient grapes and re establish some of the fantastic local wines that most people outside Slovenia have never heard about, but guess what.. when you get to taste these amazing wines, you will be asking, "why can't I get this at home!"
Anyway, it is our quest to bring all of Slovenia's unique wines to the Lodge's wine list, as we fully appreciate that our guests cannot visit all Slovenia's seven unique wine regions on one trip, but would very much like to taste some! That was why we were exploring in Metlika!
You will need to plan your time here as there is a lot to do.. Metlika was at the front line for medieval Turkish raids and the town was burnt down 17 times, but every time they rebuilt it. So you will not be surprised to know that Metlika got the first volunteer Fire Service in Slovenia and is home to a Fire Brigade museum, full of old fire engines, metal helmets and lots of stuff about the fire service.
You can find this museum in a modern building next to the castle up in the old town and most of the engines are displayed in a fab glass building on the other side of the castle. You should definitely check the opening times if you come here specifically for the museum as it is separate to the castle.. we phoned the TIC, (Tourist Info Centre) at the castle to get the museums opening times and they mistakenly gave us duff info, so we almost missed out on seeing the museum!
The other slightly annoying thing is there is very little English narrative in the museum, but you can work a lot out for yourself. Otherwise we enjoyed our short visit here and we also recommend having a look around the castle if you have time.. there is a wonderful wine bar there serving local wines and the castle has been well restored into what you would imagine a medieval castle would look like, with arches, stone steps and passages everywhere to explore!
We were lucky to make contact with a wonderful local vineyard, Pecaric, located just outside the town and we spent an hour in a fab cellar, wine tasting and chatting about local wine with the lovely Polona. It turns out that Black Metlika is a mix of several different grapes, which makes it completely unique to Metlika. It also has a lower alcohol level so is very drinkable as a local house wine.
If you are confused that a Black Metlika is a red wine, well they also make a very good Blue Frankinja in this region, which is, of course, a red wine! We were also treated to a taste of the fantastic bubbly they make here, they have to call it sparkling wine, but for us it tasted every bit as good as champagne.. so much so, we now stock it in the Lodge cellar!
So now you know about black Metlika and this corner mini region of Slovenia is bordered with Croatia along the warm Kolpa river and is known as "White Carniola" due to the vast white birch forests. You will see when you arrive at the Lodge that we love Silver Birch trees, so we were delighted when Polona described a little walk direct from her vineyard into the white forest. It was again a moment to pinch oneself, surrounded by these beautiful trees and wonder where exactly we were in the world!
We have made several different trips to Metlika and one time we did a drive around the local vine country.. we really recommend you do this too. Initially, we were looking for an Orange wine producer, whom we found, but just driving there was a magical experience. It is so beautiful here, with curvy, wiggly roads, churches on top of curvy, wiggly hills of all shapes & sizes and all this nature glued together by long strings of vines, as far as the eye can see. Bring your camera.
Other stuff to do here & on the way..
We are not sure if this is unique, but we certainly have never seen 3 churches in one plot anywhere else in the Europe and this is what you find close to Metlika.. the Three Churches! There is not really an explanation as to why there are 3 churches right next to each other, it's a bit of a mystery, but as we said before.. bring your camera!
There are also some very nice places to chill by the local Obrh river that flows through the top of Metlika and a little further away at the Kolpa river.. look just over to the opposite bank of this warm river and you can see Croatia! The river is beloved by Slovenians for swimming as it is warm in the summer, so why not stop somewhere alongside for a dip!
And also just outside the town is the site of a hidden second world war airfield where the Allies rescued injured soldiers. There is a real RAF plane left there as a memorial and a really great walkaround with notice boards telling you all about the brave people who operated the airfield. What a great day out!