Remember when I mentioned that some people refer to Slovenia as Europe in miniature? That you can quickly go from the Alps to the Adriatic Coast? That’s the drive I did today. It felt like I entered an entirely different world.

I departed Trzin in the heart of Slovenia this morning and headed to the southwest corner of the country where it meets the sea. Before I got to the coast, I made a short detour to examine the fortified church in Hrastovlje.

This place was famous because in 1949, a worker repairing plaster on an interior wall inadvertently discovered murals from 1490 hidden underneath. Over a ten-year period, the plaster was removed and the murals carefully restored to once again see the light of day.

This was the “Dance of Death”, a medieval social message that no matter one’s station in life, from a peasant to a king, death treats everyone the same.

The church was surrounded by a thick stone wall built by the townspeople for protection from invasions. Somehow, the church survived all that conflict and so did the murals, created just before Columbus discovered the new world.

An older Slovenian woman gave thorough explanations of the murals on the walls and ceilings, pointing out different messages with a long, cane pole. After her presentation, I purchased one of her local wines. I’ll let you know how it was.

My next stop was the old Slovenian fishing town of Izola on the Istrian Peninsula. By this point, I was hungry for some seafood. Of course I consulted TripAdvisor to point me in the right direction.

The trusty app didn’t let me down. I found a small restaurant rated best in town for the money. I sat outside in the warm sun and enjoyed calamari drenched in lemon juice and oil (plus a few other refreshments).

After lunch, I drove further south, flashed my passport at the border and crossed back over into Croatia. My next destination was the coastal town of Vrsar.

This area was completely different from the Alpine experience I had in most of Slovenia. It felt much like Italy with its hilltop stone villages and warm, red-tiled coastal towns. The Greeks, Romans and Venetians took turns in ruling this area.

After hiking from the top of the church tower down to the edge of the blue-green Adriatic, I hopped back in the car and drove north along the coast to the town of Poreč. Its Euphrasian Basilica, a UNESCO World Heritage site, was an interesting example of Byzantine (eastern Roman Empire) architecture in the Mediterranean region.

I took my time going through each room of the Basilica and inspected the carvings and intricate mosaics. The earliest church on this site dated back to the second half of the 4th century.

I’m staying in the small Croatian town of Brtonigla. It will serve as a good base for day trips along the Adriatic coast and to explore the little hilltop villages dotting the interior of the Istrian Peninsula.

I walked around and took a few pics as the setting sun turned everything golden here seven hours ahead of everyone back in Oklahoma, USA.


Thanks for coming along on the trip. If you have questions or suggestions, tweet @JasonRMatheson. Missed an entry? Click here.

I prefer to travel slow. Enjoy history, design, architecture, sports digital. Auburn alum, Sooner born.