After just shy of a week exploring Venice followed by Rovinj (Croatia), husband and I set about the last leg of our 2014 summer holiday adventure. And this leg was spectacular.
A bit of background if I may. At the beginning of the year I wrote a life list; a list of experiences to achieve in my lifetime. Whether it be down to the law of attraction playing its role rather expertly, the list is steadily gaining ticks at a pleasing rate. I’ve seen Prince live, started giving blood and have been presented with the opportunity to visit Australia this November which will see me getting to spend some time with some treasured family members.
So, on said list, but separately was: Go on a yoga retreat and Visit Slovenia.
Google seemingly enjoyed these two search terms, paired the two together and voila! A five night stay at bed and breakfast farmhouse Klavze 28 to take part in a yoga retreat with a yoga instructor called Laurent was found.
Why Slovenia? Simple. About a year ago, one of the travel accounts I follow on Instagram shared a photo of the Soca Valley and then of Lake Bled. The rest is history. Do holiday destinations truly realise the power of this as a means to attract visitors? I often ponder.
The retreat at Klavze28 currently takes place twice a year, July and August. Husband and I opted for the August dates and via some helpful emails with Laurent and owner Ben ‘do you have a hairdryer?’ we secured our place. From that point on, I was regularly searching Instagram for recent pics, was Google Imaging ‘Slovenia’ and ‘Soca Valley’ until my heart was content and repeatedly visited the Klavze 28 website to show friends and colleagues how wonderful it looked.
One thing that I immediately cottoned on to was the décor in the site photos. It all looked splendidly pre-loved, vintage, unique and utterly me.
TRAVEL AND FIRST IMPRESSIONS
In hindsight, now knowing how laid back and accommodating owner Ben is, husband and I probably would’ve sounded him out about our travel arrangements. There were 3 other pairs attending this retreat, two of which were arriving on the same plane as Laurent himself and another who had made their way separately having previously traveled around Croatia who Ben welcomed to arrive a day early to ease their travels.
Being profoundly English, we opted to get a two coach trip from Croatia to meet our fellow yogi pals at Trieste airport to then pick up the same transfer minibus as them.
The transfer from Trieste to Klavze 28 (included in the retreat price) takes about an hour and fifteen. And the scenery will astound you. Deep valleys cupping the most aqua of rivers. Misty clouds hugging the landscape. The twists and turns of the mountainside roads where one second you will be under a blanket of cloud and the next thrust into bright shards of sunlight.
Upon arrival, Ben and his partner Steffan greet us with the warmest and most relaxed of welcomes.
Ben takes my suitcase and we’re shown to our room, the ‘green’ room. We have an old high school locker as a wardrobe, wooden crates as bedside tables, little vases full of tiny wild flowers on the windowsills, a wood burner fire, an old toilet cistern and a rolltop bath. It’s all precisely mismatched. It’s just perfect.
Peering from one of our bedroom windows, we’re facing a lush green valley.
Klavze 28 is sat on 10 hectares of land owned by Ben and Steffan. Over recent years, the couple have lovingly restored the main house of around 150 years old, into a 4 bedroom guesthouse featuring a lounge and lower level kitchen/dining area and an outdoor deck overlooking the grounds. An inspiring tale, Ben used to work in the City of London and has completely spun his life around to co-run Klavze 28, mastering one of his roles as cook extraordinaire. Ben’s ability in the kitchen is unreal, serving up delicious breakfasts and dinners throughout our stay, accommodating different diets and needs without fluster. And Steffan, well he is the genius conjurer of all things pretty. He has and continues to ‘juj’ Klavze 28 up to the nth degree, sourcing unique bits and bobs to dot around and imagining new ways to make use of different objects and artefacts all the while juggling a career as an actor/producer.
Once we’re all settled in our rooms, its time to get to know who we were set to live with over the next 5 nights.
“ANYONE FOR PROSECCO?”
Gathered around the outdoor table on the deck we now have time to settle in as Team Klavze 28. Joining Laurent on his yoga retreat we have Jess, Clare, Steven, KJ, Hannah and Mary. And what a lovely bunch! A scale of ages, a range of careers and all ready to immerse into a relaxed week of experiences together. Ben, the expert host offers us prosecco. And we’re off! Let the bonding begin.
Ben and Steffan work the group well. Telling tales of the bear that has been recently sighted nearby, pointing out deer in their fields, introducing us to cats Harvey and Sylvester and the two friendly toads who come out at dinner time, plus their chickens and ducks. They explain that they get fireflies in June and can quite often see the Milky Way.
Dinner is a truffle pasta for first course, locally sourced trout and salad, followed by a plum crumble. Divine. Over our stay, Ben treats us to an imaginative cuisine; cauliflower steaks, stuffed peppers with black quinoa, celery and orange salad, fig dessert, locally made ‘orange’ wine, egg breakfasts with porcini mushrooms, shashukka (an egg based bake) and more… We are often full, but never bloated. The sign of great ingredients.
TRULY MINDFUL YOGA
The retreat included 2 yoga classes per day. One pre-brunch around 9.30-11am and the other from around 6.30-8pm, pre-dinner.
Laurent is the most benevolent of instructors. He doesn’t want you to force any postures, he focuses on how your body feels rather than what it could achieve if brashly pushed. He has a unique alternative approach to most poses, from cat to tree and he repeats that he doesn’t want you to feel aggravated by not being able to go as far as you think you should. That is not what his yoga is about. If you are relaxed and calm and using your breathing techniques, it will come. Our first class we are on the decking area facing Laurent, his backdrop being the misty valley. It takes a moment for me to gather just how exquisite this setting truly is.
Importantly, Laurent puts you at ease in every class. Often peppered with laughter, each class will see Laurent completely understanding your level, limitations and potential. Even though experience differed from person to person, all 8 of us managed to achieve the headstand on day 3 with his gentle encouragement and clear instruction.
Slovenia is home to a somewhat changeable climate. If a bit chilly, yoga will take place in the barn although I am grateful that on one morning we remained on the outside deck doing our practice to the soundtrack of the belting rain. Laurent remained quiet during the relaxation period of that class, opting to allow us to listen and lose ourselves in the rainfall.
During a stay at Klavze 28, there are many options for daytime activities. From paragliding to white water rafting, Ben will explore and accommodate most desires with the help of his local network and a guy called Marion who is happy to run transfers.
Due to weather limitations, our group opted mostly for local hikes to waterfalls, a trip to Lake Bled plus one trip to go white water rafting on the Soca River.
At just €35 each, the rafting was great. Changing roadside into our wetsuits, life jackets and helmets, we got a clear safety briefing before carrying our boat down a steep bank to the turquoise waters. Our instructor, Andre giving a final friendly smirk to our little group before we set off, him at the back of the boat to launch paddling instructions at us throughout our hour long adventure.
Passing a 100m high waterfall, kayakers and sublime terrain throughout, towards the end of our rafting experience, (30m from shore) Andre asks ‘who’s going to swim the rest?’ It turned out to be a rhetorical question as the boys jump in first, with Andre providing nudges to the backs of the girls to get us in the water. COLD but exhilarating.
The day we opted for Lake Bled was just perfect. A sunshiny day, we caught the midday train at the bottom of the track from Klavze 28 that took an hour to reach Bled. Now this place is magic. Fans of Lord of the Rings could easily expect a creature from Middle Earth to take flight over the mountains and swoop across the lake. A recommendation for future visitors of the Lake would be to allow enough time, perhaps over a full day or two, to have the full Bled experience.
Ben and Steffan wish Klavze 28 to remain a bit of a secret, tucked away in the Slovenian hills but the future potential is huge. Plans are already fully underway to restore Klavze 27 into Ben and Steffan’s house, complete with a restaurant for them to welcome dinner guests, separate to those who stay at Klavze 28.
The plot would be ripe as a wedding venue, perhaps a site for a local festival of food and music too. Whatever is ahead, Ben and Steffan will complete their mission with class and distinction, with loyal cats Harvey and Sylvester in tow.
After our wonderful 5 night stay we are thankful for our experience, departing Klavze 28 in the drizzly Slovenian rain, leaving Ben picking wild flowers for his new arrivals.
Wonder what he’s got cooking on the stove tonight.
For some gorgeous photos of Klavze 28 from our stay, head here to fellow guest Jessica’s photography blog.