We submitted a request for a four day weekend to go somewhere before the school year and craziness started up again. Where? We weren’t sure. So just for fun I began to put in cheap places to fly to from Naples. Trieste, Italy kept popping up and that’s when I discovered Slovenia. I began planning a vacation there- it’s close, has a lot to offer, and is not one of the run of the mill places that tourists typically go, so why not?? After digging a little deeper, I found that we could fly into Trieste and then cross the border into Slovenia for cheaper than flying straight into Slovenia’s capitol. Done. I arranged everything except the flights while we waited for our vacation to be approved. It wasn’t approved until TWO DAYS before we were supposed to leave… so the “cheap” vacation idea went out the window as flights had skyrocketed; but, we already had everything ready so off we went!
Our flight reached Trieste at 7:50am giving us plenty of time to take our pre-booked taxi ride across the border to Koper, Slovenia where we picked up our rental car and begin our road trip! First on the agenda was exploring Piran and the coastline. By noon, storms had begun to roll in. Good thing, because I had booked a short tour of a winery located in the village of Sared, halfway between Koper and Piran. It was the perfect place to take shelter. Our one hour tour quickly turned into 2.5 hours as we tried about 12 local wines, chatting away with the owner as the storm rolled through. They were actually just beginning their harvest (two weeks earlier than normal this year). Afterwards, we continued to Piran and explored the city for the evening. The rain let up just as we were walking around! It came back during the night but thankfully left again in the morning, enabling us to catch some more beautiful seaside photos and sea creatures before we left. Because of the storms, we had to double back at the end of our trip to see the salt pans, but it was so worth it!!
STERAS WINERY: Steras in Slovenian language means, “from terraces,” because most of its vineyards lay on hills positioned at suited locations specifically studied for every variety of wine. The winery has constantly been rebuilding vineyards and undergoing renewal projects to grow multiple varieties, as well as planting old and forgotten Istrian grape varieties.
PIRAN: a vibrant southwestern town on the coast of the Adriatic Sea. It has a beautiful & colorful piazza, a bustling pier, Venetian-style bell tower, and fun medieval architecture.
SALT PANS: The Sečovlje Salina Nature Park is located along the border with Croatia. The northern part of the park, where traditional salt production is still practiced, is called Lera. The area of Lera is separated into a crystallization zone and seawater condensation zone. Salt is still produced in accordance with the medieval tradition and is harvested from June to the end of September. The production was only slightly modernized by the Austrians in 1904. From 14th century crystallization basins, the petola is cultivated (a few mm thick layer of algae, gypsum, and minerals), which prevents the mud mixing with salt. This place was an incredibly unique thing to see!
A deeper look into salt-pans:
What are salt pans? Marine salt-pans are areas where man transformed the natural coastal wetlands by building embankments, channels and shallow basins, in which he then condensed, with the aid of the sun, wind, and tides, & pumps the captured sea water till becoming saturated with salt. Marine salt-pans can be most often found along the outfalls of the rivers, which through the millennium long depositing of alluvia created floodplains suitable for their construction. On the other hand, salt-pans in the interior lie, as a rule, in the immediate vicinity of underground stocks of brine or salt. Salt-pans or salinas are: salt mines and salt-pans in the interior, salt lakes and depressions, original, primitive salt-pans, trade pans, as well as non-functional and abandoned salt-pans.
In the second half of March, when conditions are right for lush growth of the algal carpet, salt workers begin to carry out their pre-seasonal duties. Coating of crystallization beds with sea mud, called fertilization, is an important chore in the preparation of salt fields for the coming season. At this time, water is being led to the crystallization basins to enable the petola to develop in them.
At the Sečovlje and Strunjan salt pans, the so-called petola has been cultivated in crystallization basins since the 14th century. This is an artificially made crust composed of cyanobacteria, gypsum, carbonate minerals and, to a lesser extent, clay. The role of petola is two fold: in the first place it prevents salts mixing with sea mud and silt at the bottom of the crystallization bed, but it also functions as a biological filter, for it prevents separate ions, such as iron and manganese ions, building up in salt. A few weeks after the substratum of crystallization bed has been prepared, the mud surface is inhabited by algae and cyanobacteria.
After a successful growth of the petola, there follows a preparation of salt fields for the season that last till the beginning of or mid-June, depending on the existing climate conditions. Salt workers wash the crystallization basins, clean the discharge channels and niches in the corners of the basins, and take care of the embankments. Through gradual condensation of the water and discharge of minerals, the petola becomes suitably rough and compact. In between, the salt workers prepare access routes and embankments by taking mud from the channels. The embankments prepared in this manner are then resistant to mouldering. As the mould does not enter the basins, the salt remains pure. The season of salt gathering lasts from June to mid-September. A salt-worker gathers salt with the so-called gavero and makes smaller heaps. When water drains from it, he loads it with a spade in a carriage and then unloads it at a place where it is left to dry. His workday is concluded with formation of salt heap.
At the end of the salt season, post-seasonal works including the arrangement of water regimes through regulation of wooden sluice gates and utilization of water discharge with natural drop or pumping of the water are carried out. Ground maintenance works, which are carried in salt fields, are closely associated with the chores of post-seasonal maintenance of water regime and must be in concordance with the biological needs of the petola. When the ground works are completed, the appliances’ wooden parts are replaced or repaired. On larger and easily accessible embankments, mechanical ground works are implemented, while on smaller embarkments, inaccessible for heavy machinery, the works are carried out manually.
Did You Know??
- 45-47 liters of seawater are needed for the production of 1 kg of salt!
- During ideal weather conditions, water travels no less than three weeks from the sea to the crystallization basin.
- The quantity of oxygen produced by petola corresponds, in the same surface area, to the quantity of oxygen produced by 30-40 meters high tropical forest.
- During hot summer months water can heat up to 60 degrees celsius and more in crystallization basins under the flower of salt.
- 22-24 kg of kitchen salt is made from 1 cubic meter of seawater through evaporation, while 13-15 kg of other salts remain dissolved in mother water.
- Europe boasts more than 40 museums and information centers where contents associated with salt are presented.
Our roots will forever be from here, America, born and raised. Yet, life requires us to move more frequently than we care to count. Whether living stateside or abroad, you can always find us traveling somewhere. We scout out places that you only think you can dream of one day seeing and we seek out those that aren’t found in guidebooks. We then bring them to life here in our travel memos, so hopefully, one day you too can visit them or at least be able to live vicariously through us. This blog isn’t just about crossing off places from a bucket list. It’s about absorbing and learning how other cultures grow and fit into the same world that we do. Life is short and the world is big. Enjoy and get out there!