Maple Hill forest hike
We have done a couple of walks now in a very secret forest somewhere in the south east of Slovenia between Nova Mesto and Kostanjevice (Chestnut Village) up a hill called Javorovica, which we will call Maple Hill.
This particular day trip adventure involves 2 castles, a river, a massive forest, a secret Partisan's forest hideout, some Monks, a vineyard and some excellent local food.. so pretty much a normal day out in Green Slovenia!!
So this was the Plan.. Drive to a little village near Javorovica hill to dump car 1, then go in car 2 around the other side of the hill to park up and start the hike.. Walk for about 4 hours up the hill and into a forest with massive trees to the secret hut, then go steeply down the through the forest, joining a stream that becomes a beautiful river and finally flows through the same village where we left car 1.. Drive back to car 2, then head out to the Novo Mesto vineyard hills and try some wine and local food with splendid views!
And that is exactly what we did.. Number of other people met during 4 hours in the forest = 0.. Wow what a day out in Green Paradise!
So now you are invited to pack your water bottle and put on your hiking boots to join us on that day as we tell the full story of our very special Adventure on Maple Forest Hill..
Firstly, there is an obvious flaw in the plan if for some strange reason you don't have 2 cars! You will then need to choose to either park in the village OR on the hill and the hike changes from a circle to a "there and back to car 1", but it will still be an epic adventure!
This is one of those day trips where the Lodge's excellent locaion and the super efficient Slovenian motorways make it all possible. It only takes an earlier breakfast and 1 hour 15 mins from the Lodge to almost reach the end of the country and zip past Novo Mesto to the island castle of Otocec and by then the back of this journey has been well and truly broken!
It is impossible not to stop off and take a photo at the island castle Otocec, which is now a posh hotel. It is just so beautiful here with the fully restored castle perched on an island in the bottle green river Krka and the day trip takes you across the rickety wooden bridge too, before heading out into the countryside after that.
If you have time the castle is also a great spot to have a coffee and cake.. don't be shy they are very friendly!
It doesn't take long before a few small pretty villages have been cleared and you could make another short stop at Gracar Castle.. The ramshackle, haunting ruins of this castle are still standing and it is just another one of Green Slovenia's amazing stock of castles needing some attention, but with so much potential, it is almost ridiculous!
We just couldn't drive past here without doing a bit of an explore and dreaming about how life was here when the castle was in it's pomp. There is a wine garden in the front with a kind of drawbridge into the main castle and the ruins of a large chapel on the side of the castle too.
We then headed to the picture perfect village under Javorovica to park car 1 and drive off in car 2 up to the mountain.
It would be possible to hike the FULL CIRCLE, but it would take you all day for sure and the driving bit between the 2 cars is mainly roads, very pretty, not busy, but roads none the less, so not so fab for hiking.
The curvy road up Javorovica is very steep indeed with sensational views down to the green farmland below. You also get an amazing vista far below over a huge monastery, bigger than a castle and still lived in, surrounded by high walls..
Javorovica is a magical colossus of a hill covered in lush forest bordering on the edge of Croatia. It is listed at 550m, but it feels way higher than that as you drive up the tarmac road and finally reach some parking next to the start of a track signposted just in Slovene, that leads off and up into the forest.
Slovenian forests are often ancient, supersized and stocked with all sorts of different trees and other plant species. There are a lot of trees here.. too many to handle, so trees have often gotten to grow and grow and this is one forest where you can really admire the thickness, size and wiggly shapes trees can make if left to grow as they are supposed to in nature.
You need to know which path to follow to get back to the village.. there are clear red circles with yellow dots in the middle painted on trees and rocks.
We doubt google maps will help much here.. we popped out at the top of the hill on a small clearing next to the track and ALL we could see in every direction was masses of equally thick forested hills everywhere we looked.. it was amazing and we got a bit of deja vue for our time in the Equadorian rainforest..
We saw huge beech trees and of course maples and even went through an eerie section of forest that felt a bit like being inside a catherdral, (this the best way to describe it). It was just so quiet and a little sppoky and we were so happy to be here in nature and completely alone!
We soon spotted the roof of a forest hut at the end of our track, which had several other paths leading to it and was used by the Partisans as a base during WW2.. This place would have been so difficult to find and had several routes leading to it, so easy to escape if attacked.
Slovenia has an almost unique and amazing WW2 history of secret hospitals, printing presses and bases hidden in the middle of these vast forests by the brave Partisans, which are perfect to mount a guerilla war as there are just so many forests here.
Having lived here in Green Slovenia long enough now and stumbled upon several Partisan bases in the middle of forests or half way up mountains on our adventures, we have been intrigued by this to write a whole section of this website on this unique Slovenian strory in WW2 Secret Partisan Forest Hospitals if you are interested to know more and even find them too!
We have noticed that these Partisan hideaways are often close to a river or waterfall, maybe for cover of noise, but certainly for a drinking supply and it is possible to take another track deeper up into the forest from here to reach the crystal clear stream that flows down the hill.
For us the Javorovnica Partisan base was a great central spot for our own water and nut break and we took another track that headed steeply down, still following a forest path that soon joined and criss crossed the stream that started further up and behind the Partisan's base.
We now followed the stream's journey down. We had not expected water feature when we first hiked this route, but there are so many walks in Green Slovenia where you can spend time hikning next to running fresh water that we shouldnt have been surprised!
The walk became mesmeric, what with the sound of running water and the green of the forest and trying to follow the path that went along the river.
We found a deserted mill next to the river, overgrown like a Cambodian treasure, this was used by those local Monks who still live down the road.
The stream was widening out into a river now and we found the most fantastic wooden bridges to cross the water frequently, so this was becoming a most unexpected adventure!
We came to a place thick with huge floppy leaves that looked like giant rhubarb and were perfect for making a jungle hat. The other thing that totally blew us away by the river was the huge number of butterflies floating around.. everywhere and every size and colour.
You do need to hug the river to get home.. There is a wider path that you MUST NOT continue on when you see a littler track heading back to the river through the tall grass or you will miss probably the most fantastic spot on the entre river where you have to cross another precarious bridge and shin down over some big slippery rocks next to a mini waterfall to progress.
With legs getting a bit tired we rejoined the main path and popped out through some massive rocks next to the track that made it all look like the entrance to a mini gorge.. We reached the village and bingo, we were back at car 1.
Wow what a walk, between 3-4 hours of total isolation in a Green paradise.
We drove back to get the car 2, resting our limbs, but enjoying the views from the hill top to the monastery once again!
We then headed back towards one of Slovenia's oldest towns that is strangley called "New Town" or Novo Mesto! We skirted around the edge of town and went up into the hills above to discover another local tradition perculiar to Novo Mesto.
High up here on another steep hill, the local people have built little weekend houses on the slopes.
The bit we didnt mention yet about these sun drenched green slopes are that they are covered in vines, so every weekend house is like a personal mini vineyard.. absolutely amazing and such a sight to see!
Another special and unique thing here is the actual wine produced.. This mini Slovenian wine region is the only place in the world where you can get Cvicek, a rosy, fruity mix of several grapes that is made new here every year, so completely different every new season!
It has a fresh fruity feel to it and we got to try some on this trip when we were lucky enough to visiti a local lady who rents her Weekend house out to guests, but will also cook local specialities for you.. Something we call "Slovenian Tapas",
Forget michelin star restaurants.. this is the equivalent of hitting the culinary jackpot for a visitor to Slovenia!
The little house was perched on the side of the hill, surrounded by it's own vines stuffed with grapes and had been in the family for a few generatons now. The cellar was cramped, small and totally unique and we got to sit out on a terrace with a view down over the valley!
Even though we said "tapas", there is no light meal in Slovenia.. so be prepared! We were stuffed full of home baked breads, patas, sausages, hams, freshly boiled eggs from the farm, lentil creations and special slovenian puddings, all washed down with Cvicek produced from the vines infront of our very own eyes.
The owner's son came to say hi and explained that Cvicek is made every year through a complex process of mixing several local wines, some from 400 year old vines and some from Blue Frankinja and finally a committee test and test to agree the best particular mix of grapes for the Cvicek for that year.
Cvicek is NOT the same quality as many of Slovenia's other unique wines produced in completely different regions, but it is very good company for the local food and you need to understand the special relationship between the local people here dotted around the Krka river and their unique wine.
We recommend you try it when you are here, cos it is the only place in the world where you can!
And even if you never find this vineyard covered hill or the Javorovica Maple hill nearby, we hope these photos have encouraged you to dedicate at least one of your very precious holiday days to take a risk, go out and explore the places that sometimes, even the locals don't know!