We finished our first day of filming and traveling in Prekmurje with a dizzying drive through the countryside in search of our night’s lodging in Grad. This was a GPS-defying journey made even more challenging by darkness. After a few phone calls to our innkeepers, we found our way to Apple and Pear (Dzabuka & Gruzka) at almost 11pm. We were welcomed by the proprietors, Edita and Carlo. Our room was comfortable and immaculate and had a small terrace. I stepped out into the fresh air and despite the darkness knew I was in a beautiful place, looking forward to taking in the views from here at sunrise. We had a drink of apple juice (made from apples grown here, of course), which was slightly tart and very refreshing.
We slept hard and were not disappointed by the incredible scenery that revealed itself in daylight. All around us were steep hills covered with vineyards and orchards. Austria was off in the distance.
Breakfast was an extraordinary spread of homemade meats, breads, cheeses and pastry.
The kitchen featured a terrific wood-fired stove, which was under the spell of Vida, Edita’s mother. Vida cranked out that breakfast as effortlessly as breathing and was already working on a big pot of soup for dinner. Fortified by several espressos and the wonderful food, we headed off for our second day in the Prekmurje.
From our hilltop inn in Grad, we headed to Salovci to visit a “social-eco” farm called Korenika. About 50 people are employed by this self-sustaining enterprise, whose mission is to teach the skills of farming and cooking. Some of the participants have mental handicaps, others have other circumstances which make it hard for them to get jobs. Still others simply want to learn these important skills.
They have an herb-drying room, and a processing room where the farm’s bounty is transformed into jams, jellies, and canned goods.
The farm also has a few animals, which I (Natalie) immediately homed in on and started to dote upon. I miss my animals and felt grounded again by the presence of this handful of sheep and a cow. I sat on a slope outside the pen and lay in the grass, grateful for this.
While I was hanging out with the ruminants, Cassie got the grand tour of the farm.
She drove one of their tractors, learned how to weave a willow fence, and how to cook dodoli, a traditional dumpling dish.
We gathered herbs and eggs and headed off to our next stop.
After about 30 minutes on the road, our caravan came to a halt in Otovci. More incredbile scenery here close to the Slovenian border, where we could see into Hungary on our right, and Austria on our left. Cassie and I have our ancestral roots in these countries, and were deeply moved our proximity to family origins.
We piled out of our cars and onto the veranda of a “Kmetji Grah” where we were greeted by Danielle. For 10 years she and her husband have been here, cultivating the land and offering hospitality. They make sausages, wine and grow grapes, vegetables, buckwheat and millet. Their specialty is kisla repa, fermented turnip. Danielle talked us through the process she uses, which is a family tradition. We had wine and snacks, both delicious. We added a bag of kisla repa to our haul of ingredients and headed back to Grad, where we will make dinner for the guests which we have met in our travels here in Prekmurje.
The setting for this dinner is Dzaboka & Gruska, the inn where we spent last night. Vida was still in the kitchen, her soup nearly done. She was so gracious to allow us to basically take over the place. Cassie got us started on the prep for the dinner and then went to get ready for the camera. Meghan and Vesna worked together with me and Vida to finish up.
The filming of the show was outside, right in front of the guest rooms. In the background was that pastoral view I described. The pictures, while amazing, still don’t do it justice. Cassie created a terrific dinner of pierogi done two ways: one stuffed with pork and kisla repa, one with potato. She did a pork butt on the grill, and great salad of herbs and dandelion greens.
The guests gathered around the table included the incredible people we met here in Prekmurkje. One guest brought her daughter, a terrific accordion player, who accompanied the group as they sang traditional folk songs after dinner. This capstone to the trip was so much fun and so delicious! It was evidence of the magic that happens when great ingredients and great company come together around the table.