This morning we canoed to Croatia. It’s not normally something we do before breakfast, but today it just felt right.
We tiptoed through the dewy grass, not wanting to disturb the slumbers of our fellow guests, and stealthily launched the boat into the blanket of mist that lay possessively over the river. Already the sun was beginning to break through the ethereal barrier, revealing a lone heron balancing patiently on the weir.
He clearly hadn’t had his breakfast either.
Aside from a couple of sleepy buzzards and some sprightly shoals of fish darting through the weed, we had the river to ourselves.
It was already warm and I was thankful that paddling the calm waters didn’t require much effort. We glided along as far as we could before a rumble from behind told me hubbie was ready for his breakfast too, and by unspoken agreement we reluctantly headed back to shore.
We loved our early morning paddle so much that we made a short film…
The Big Berry countryside retreat
We were staying for a few days at Big Berry, a countryside wellbeing retreat in Bela Krajina, Slovenia. Our riverside cabin stood just metres from the gently flowing River Kolpa, and the opposite bank was Croatia! Always keen to cross borders, we felt a little guilty at sneaking over by boat. Yet we reasoned that in a couple of years our British passports may no longer allow us free movement within the EU, so we were jolly well going to make the most of it whilst we could. Plus we’ve always wanted to visit Croatia, a land of emerald seas, ancient culture and some rather good wine! One day we’ll do it properly.
It was the stress and confusion of ‘Brexit’ back home that made us want to escape England for a while. Slovenia turned out to be the perfect choice. It’s a small country, only about the size of Wales, and delightfully rural. The Bela Krajina region in the east is virtually untouched by tourism, and is consequently one of those places where you really can get away from it all. Life at Big Berry felt a world away from the crumbling political climate we’d left behind. The only decisions we had to make here were what temperature to have our hot tub, and which honey to have on our bread.
It was a tough few days!
Big Berry is all about living in the outdoors without compromising on luxury. Here, guests are encouraged to adopt a healthy and fun approach to their days whilst enjoying the tranquil surroundings of the retreat.
Life at Big Berry
It did take us a couple of days to really ‘get’ the Big Berry concept. Whilst hubbie loved staying somewhere for more than a night or two (this rarely happens on our travels), for me it was quite a challenge. I’m normally the sort of person who structures her holiday days down to the last minute, to ensure I don’t miss anything. Yet life at Big Berry was much more laid back. However once I’d let go of my inner Duracell bunny I finally understood.
And I enjoyed it!
Our favourite time of day was definitely waking up to a basket of fresh produce waiting for us on our veranda, full of breakfast goodies from the local area. There were breads, pastries, several different varieties of yoghurt, fresh fruits, nuts, cookies, muesli and honey.
We always had enough left for supper too! Big Berry is the sort of place where you can chomp your way through breakfast in your pyjamas, and then go for a refreshing dip in the river, before heading off for a day of exploration.
The cabins were practical if not very sexy, and were the ideal base for living an outdoor lifestyle. The pièce de résistance had to be the large veranda with it’s huge table (for eating and blogging!) and a hot tub for two. Perfect with a glass of local wine!
Inside there’s a little kitchen area for culinary types, and a living area with sofas and a TV if you really can’t switch off for a few days.
There are a couple of bedrooms, one with bunks which would be great for kids. We found it a little odd that the double bed came with 2 single duvets, something we experienced everywhere on our trip to Slovenia. I don’t know if this is a Slovenian ‘thing’ or if we were just unlucky, but whilst hubbie was happy there would be no duvet pinching going on, I was less than amused.
What to do at Big Berry
We spent our days exploring the natural sights of Bela Krajina, as well as visiting local producers to discover where our sumptuous breakfasts came from and to learn more about the rural village culture. Of course there was lots of tasting involved so hubbie was happy! I’ll be writing about what there is to do in the area in a separate post so watch this space.
In the evenings we strolled through waving golden cornfields and looked back on Big Berry from afar.
We also stumbled on an aeroplane. A Douglas Dakota to be precise. Not usually what you expect to find nestled amongst the maize. It used to belong to the Yugoslav National Army and is now a memorial to the participation of the local airport during the Second World War. Bela Krajina was full of surprises, and all of them good!
For those with a little less energy, there are several comfy hidey holes scattered around the grounds at Big Berry. We loved lounging on the cushions in the pavilions that are dotted along the river bank, and swinging in the tree pods by the BBQ area. It never feels crowded at Big Berry, and you can be as involved in camp life or as anti-social as you like.
Big Berry is the perfect place to rejuvenate the body and the soul. Whilst I remain unconvinced about the first (thanks to all those delicious breakfasts), we certainly came away feeling more relaxed than we had in a long time.
- Hiring a car is the best way to travel around Slovenia. The roads are quiet and driving is easy, even on the motorways.
- It’s about 1.5 hours drive from Ljubljana to Big Berry which is located in Primostek near Metlika.
- The cabins do have the basics for self catering and the nearest supermarket is in Metlika (the Spar has a lovely deli).
- Don’t forget your bug spray, the little buggers do make an appearance at dusk!
- Leave your expectations at home and just go with the flow, it’s the best way to enjoy Big Berry.
- Ask Ana if you can try the apple juice, it’s seriously the best we’ve ever tasted!
- Big Berry is a great place for couples and families who want to experience the hidden secrets of the unspoiled Slovenian countryside.
Thanks to the lovely folks at Big Berry for hosting us during our stay, and for showing us the sights of Bela Krajina. As always, opinions are our own, and we only accept complimentary stays at places we’d have been happy to pay for ourselves.
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