Meet Meghan and Maggie: they are Embassy employees and our hosts for the duration of our trip. Meghan is the Deputy Public Affairs Officer, and Maggie a co-ordinator for the Embassy’s Community Liasion Office. You will be hearing a lot about them. Curiously enough, Meghan is a native of Ohio (so is Natalie), and Maggie grew up in Sarasota, Florida (right across the river from Cassie’s hometown). They both went to college in North Carolina. We didn’t know any of this about them until we got here. Such a small world!
You will likely hear lots about dumplings during the rest of our stay.
We are doing our utmost to enjoy every moment while we are here, which is not at all hard to do. Since we start the “work” portion (filming for the TV show) of our visit on Wednesday, we piled in the car with Meghan and Maggie and headed northwest to the town of Bled. Bled is famous for being a destination for tourists everywhere who are drawn by its natural beauty. There is a Grad (a castle) on top of a cliff which overlooks a pristine lake. The Julian Alps are in the background. It is a simply breathtaking place (figuratively, because it is so beautiful, and literally, because the walk to the castle is a pretty steep one). We rewarded ourselves with a sladoled upon finishing the hike.
A short drive further on up the windy roads and we got to Lake Bohinj. By our estimation, it is even more beautiful (and less crowded) than Bled. There is a church that overlooks the lake (Church of St. John the Baptist) that dates back to the 1300′s. Slovenes are obviously proud of their heritage and the natural beauty of their country. They go to great lengths to protect and restore historical sights. Our hotel is one such example, it was built over 400 years ago.
After our trip to the magnificent mountains, we got back to LJ and stretched our legs for a bit walking along the riverside. Here, the cafes were just getting into full swing as the sun was setting. Our sladoled having worn off, we stopped in to Gujzina, a lovely and simple gostilna (restaurant) advertising “traditional Slovene dishes” on the sidewalk signboard. Being Sunday night, it wasn’t busy (typical of restaurants in the US also), and we had the tiny dining room to ourselves for awhile. We ordered “meat on a desk” (really, the menu said that exactly), the dodoli trio, and a couple of small salads.
Meat on a desk is what we call a charcuterie plate, but served on a wooden cutting board. It featured cured and smoked ham, pork pate`, salami with pumpkin seeds, and lard with cracklins (for spreading on bread). The pate` was light, velvety, and rather than leading with the flavor of liver, finished with a hint of it. The dodoli trio was a plate of dumplings fixed two ways: pan seared or bathed in sour cream and onions. Between them was a fluffy pile of perfectly cooked buckwheat. You will likely hear lots about dumplings during the rest of our stay. They come in many varieties and any way you try them, you will fall in love.
These we had at Gujzina are an Eastern Slovene tradition, fluffy and about the size of a flattened golf ball. They were simply made of mashed potato and a bit of flour to bind them. The pan seared version was fried lightly in butter. The sour cream version was poached and then dressed just before serving. The salads were a mix of seasonal greens and tomato tossed in pumpkin seed oil and topped with a handful of kidney beans. We enjoyed every bite and are really looking forward to trying more Eastern Slovene specialties over the course of the next two weeks.