Friday, July 8, 2011

Ongoing Slovenia

Day 2 of the Slovenian experience began with a little work on the farm. I rode on the back of the tractor Andrej was driving to their other plot of land where we were going to cut and pick up grass for the cows. During the summer they are cutting and picking up grass nonstop all over their farm to store for the cows to eat during the winter. Cutting grass had never been such a time consuming and complex thing to me until now.

Plowing a plot of grass:

First, use the cutting tractor to cut it down. Then, drive the next tractor, which helps to place all the chopped grass in nice rows. Then, drive the third tractor, which is pulling a big carriage, to pick up all the cut grass which is now in rows. Since the field are so big, this takes time. And since we had some additional people on hand, aside from taking some trys at the tractor, Mark Brecht and I were able to also rake some stray grass into the lines which helps to do a much more thorough job. Being allergic to grass, my eyes were itching like a mosquito bite on your butt. And a nice itchy throat. I had to rinse my face thoroughly after this session. Guess I wasn’t cut out to be a grass cutting farmer!

Andrej taking charge on grass management:

Andrej & his dad most likely chatting about grass and tractors:
Andrej supervises Mark on the tractor, Brecht is a great raker in the distance:

After packing our bags into the car we headed out on our seemingly weeklong Slovenian road with Andrej in the cockpit. Andrej seemed to know his country like the back of his hand, amazing since it is filled with small and windy roads just about everywhere (one main highway goes N-S and E-W, that's about it). The first stop was Andrej’s families church, sitting atop a mountain like a Walt Disney movie, with goats walking around and ridiculous views.

Then the Belgian, Brecht, naturally made the executive call that he wanted to visit a Slovenian brewery. So it was decided. Slovenia only has 2 big beers basically, but they have a very small handful of microbrews which are not so widely available. We arrived before lunch, had a pint, and the bartender personally phone the brew master up for a personal tour. The brew master was really friendly. He understood English but only spoke a little. He showed and explained us his processes, and it was decent, light beer. It was interesting to hear about why there are so few Slovenian microbreweries, because with the waterfall of taxes from different places, in the end, he basically can barely break even. He said he will probably have to close his brewery soon because of it. Of course he was extra hospitable and gave us large samples of every beer as we chatted about the brewing process and even Slovenia and the US (his sons play American football!)

The fermenters:

We spent the rest of that day and night in the capital, Ljubljana. It is a nice city, but I believe the real beauty of Slovenia is all outside Ljubljana. However we visited their castle on the top of a hill, bought some hand-made vanilla bath soap (I’ll be smelling fresh and feeling wide awake for a month now!), browsed the fruit market, and ran into about 5 or 6 of Andrej’s friends here and there. Andrej seemed to know someone everywhere he went since he worked 11 or 12 jobs in different parts of the country before the program.

View from the castle:

A main square;

Watching the sunset from a surrounding hill:

We spent the night having a few beers outside in a plaza of the bohemian area of Ljubljana. Just lots of people hanging out and relaxing. While we were about to drive home, we ran into four or five more of Andrej’s friends. Since everyone was just having a grand old time, we didn’t head back until 5am, after stopping in and having another Serbian delight called Burek, the name of which escapes me know. Basically fried pastry dough filled with meat or cheese. So anyways, the 6am ending to the first day was just the beginning of the Slovenian marathon-week.

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