Chocolate making monks at Brestanica castle
Anywhere on your holiday route that has a chocolate shop is well worth a visit and check this out.. Brestanica castle, otherwise known as Rahjenburg castle, which sits imperiously above the river Sava was once owned by a monk order that made and shipped chocolate all over Europe!
It's actually only a 90 min drive direct from the Lodge, but we recently visited on the way back from a trip to one of Slovenia's most beautiful wine regions in Jerusalem. You can make a spectacular day out by zig zagging down through the Eastern vineyards, places lie Podcetrtek and Podsreda.. (aka Thursday and Wednesday villages), to get to Brestanica, which is in the south east of Slovenia, but still quite central.
We are making it our mission to explore and find the really secret places to visit in Green Slovenia and with around 500 castles here in different states of repair, we always try to pop in to see one or two whenever we go secret place hunting.. usually we are very surprised at what we find, maybe a story or a view or a feature that we weren't expecting, but at Brestanica.. you get them all!
It sits majestically on top of a hill above Slovenia's longest river, the Sava and as you approach and look up at its powerful position and mighty walls you can easily imagine parts of its history housing knights and barons and later becoming a nazi prison, but the bit in the middle of this historical sandwich is a period when a bunch of Trappist monks came from France, bought the place and started making yummy chocolate! They had a secret recipe and were very successful indeed.. and you can see how they did that here!
There is a special choccy shop outside the castle and you can also get chocolate in the castle shop and this is where we were lucky enough to arrive at a time where the friendly young guide in the ticket office offered to show us around! Perhaps the really biggest secret in Slovenia is what great hosts and good company the local people are, so the best tip we can give you is that if you are ever offered to accompany a local or invited to do or eat something with them, then just do it.. you will learn so much about this fascinating country that you certainly wont get from a book or find by yourselves and you will also very probably have a good amount of fun in the process!
So we got taken to all the secret corners of this huge castle. We learnt about it's medieval times, saw a fab 500 year old fresco that covers the walls of a room and was only recently discovered in the 1980's and saw the smaller details of how this castle was recently magnificently restored.
You absolutely have to get up to the tower roof and see inside how a maze or mish mash of huge ancient timber masts hold up this roof. We were up top in a thunder storm, so it was exta special! If you have ever seen any scaffolding in places like Vietnam or Cambodia, then those seem uncomplicated compared to this at Rahjenburg! It's absolutely amazing and we have never seen anything like it!
There are plenty of exhibits and explanations to help you experience how it must have been for a monk to live here in a peaceful existence making chocolate for the masses. There was also a very dark period of history here during and after WW2 as the castle was used by the Nazis to process over 40,000 "undesirable" people out of Yugoslavia and there are photos and documents to help you imagine this terrible time. After the war the castle was used as a womens prison and it easy to imagine how the dark corridors and stone rooms became chambers of misery for the inhabitants.
There are no end of options you can combine with a visit to this castle, please just plan your logistics well to make sure you get enough time here to see everything on show, we would say 90 mins min.
The views down to the river and across to the town are stunning and the masive restored stone walls outside the castle with the huge entrance door are very impressive indeed.
Actually, it was standing outside up here that we got a really great idea for an amazing secret day out! Far down below, the Sava river has a wide path following it, just perfect for hiking or biking.. Not so far along (about 15km) is the next amazing castle at Sevnica.. So why not get a bike and cycle between the 2 castles, visiting both castles at each end for a really amazing day out..
Well you could just walk round lake Bled for the day or sip a cappucino at Ljubljana castle and do some shopping.. both amazing days, but if you want to discover the real secrets of Green Slovenia and just didnt know where they were, then now at least you have yet another option here at Brestanica castle and wow, how about mixing the two castles with a hike or a bike for the whole day.. now that's a Slovenian adventure!