Cramp Gorge in the Gorica wine hills
Rumours had it, the BBC bought an entire deserted village, tucked away in the far corner of the stunning Gorica Hills Brda mini region of Slovenia for a brand new reality programme!
We found this amazing little western corner of Green Slovenia many years ago! It was a mystery trip we made, armed with just a photo of a very pretty looking gorge, with an impossible to say name.
One sunny day we set off and discovered a whole mini region inside a mini region to explore here, with this secret little gorge, the Gorica hills and the lower Soca valley as the highlights of your day out!
We already knew a little about how beautiful one of Slovenia's 7 wine regions was as we have a wine partner here in the Brda Gorica hills, producing the golden coloured unique Rebula wine, exclusive to this region!
The main local town is called Nova Goricia, or "New" Goricia.. as the beautiful old town of "Gorica" was nicked by the Italians after WW2 and so Yugoslavia had to build a whole "new" Gorica.
Well, to explain further.. the Goriska Brda wine region as it is known is made up of vineyard and cherry stuffed hills (hills are "Brda" in Slovenian, so Goriska Brda is "Gorica hills") above Nova Gorica and Gorica, (new and old), but mainly high up on the Slovenian side.
Where the Devil hid his Gold.. Cramp Gorge:
Legend has it, the bad guy downstairs built a natural stone bridge here to get at his gold, hidden at the bottom of the crystal clear basin.
Unfortunately the local mayor's son jumped off the bridge, got cramp and drowned.. since then this hidden gem has been called "Cramp Gorge". We found it.. eventually.. hidden at pretty much the end of the road.
The best way to add this tricky to find treasure box to your portfolio of Slovenia is to do a round trip form the Lodge via Nova Gorica and then do a loop either anti clockwise, first driving up the Soca river in the lower Soca valley, stopping for coffee at the stunning village of Kanal, then crossing the river bridge at Parje to get to over to the gorge.. then completing this loop back to Nova Gorica throughthe beautiful wine and cherry groves of Dobrovo, Smartno and the other stunning little villages with castles and cafes along the way.
Or, you could also do the trip exactly the other way around, still starting at Nova Goricia, but driving first towards Dobrovo and ending your Brda adventure over the river at Kanal.
The gorge is very difficult to find, so treat it as a challenge AND a great way to get to drive and explore this mini region. Like many places hidden away in Green Slovenia, once you actually try to find them, you will be confronted with more roads that you had imagined on the map and far fewer signs! But getting lost and frustrated in a green paradise is not so much of a hardship, just give yourselves plenty of time.. a commodity many visitors to Slovenia have totally under estimated!
A map will get you reasonably close to the gorge, then drive around and you will find a tiny little car park with bench and an info sign. This is a great place for a pick nick after you have gone through the trees to xplore the gorge. This is one of the smallest gorges in Slovenia, but it is a truly magical place and certainly a great place to hide your gold! But be careful with your footing and with kids, it's not a place you want to fall into.
There are numerous paths, little roads & cul de sacs all over the place and apparently the Alpe Adria route goes across here as well.. we saw a few of the signs criss crossing the roads, but most people will be happy with a little exploratory hike around here, maybe venturing down a few leafy lanes. Just remember your way back!
The list of places to stop off at in this mini region is, as usual for Green Slovenia, endless, depending on what you like to see and do, but think wine tasting, hiking in completely deserted countryside, castles, cute little hilltop villages and cherries.. lots of them!
There are vineyards EVERYWHERE here and the first Brda cherries are highly cherished as the first and finest crop to appear each year in Slovenia. They also have cherry festivals here, but you have to be around in May..
There are lots of pretty villages dotted along the quiet, beautiful roads of the Gorica hills, including Dobrovo with cute little castle & donkey riding and Smartno, (St Martin), a recently restored hilltop village with photos positioned all around to show you what each building was like before the renovation.
These villages are unbelievably beautiful and we urge you to seek them out and explore a bit. There is also a little restaurant in Smartno with stunning views across the Italian foothills and look for sleepy cafes dotted around in the many other villages.
Close to the gorge itself up some steep little lanes are 3 deserted villages, literally at the end of the road! You cant quite believe these villages in such a lovely location could be abandoned, especially when you see the fruit trees and vineyards everywhere along the road. This is also another lovely quiet place to bring or hire a bike or to go walking.
There are lovely spots to stop and gaze across to the abandoned villages and you won't believe that anyone could leave these pretty hilltop hamlets for the grass and tree jungle to just grow over and not even keep the houses as at least as holiday or weekend homes.