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Dinner at 160 metres below ground

 

Descend into the gastronomical adventure in the Velenje Coal Mine

In the underground world of miners, on one of the thickest coal layers in the world, award-winning Vila Herberstein chefs will welcome you with an exquisite gastronomical experience. How to get there? With the oldest elevator in Slovenia.

A unique 5 star experience in the dark tunnels

Velenje is a young town. It was founded and developed to mine coal, and coal mining still has a big influence on the development of the town and the region. As mining activities petered out, the underground world was opened to visitors, who can now see the original mining tunnels and experience the rides in the mine elevator and on the mine train.

Every descent into a mine begins with: “Good luck!” The descent into the Coal Mining Museum of Slovenia in Velenje in the oldest elevator in Slovenia is no exception to this rule. But before you go down, safety regulations have to be obeyed: protective helmet, a welcome drink, and a Jump Across the Skin. This first dish, a miners’ greetings from the kitchen, was named after the tradition for welcoming new miners into the fold.

the lift to the mine
Photo: Aljoša Videtič, Šalek Valley tourist board archive

At first, new miners had to jump over the mineshaft, but when shaft openings became too large, they were replaced by a calf skin the miners tied around their waist to cover their backsides. This piece of calf leather, with belts and ties, was used for sliding down the chutes, and as additional protection from humidity.

After the famous elevator ride takes you down into the mine, your guide will show you the most attractive sites of the underworld, and tell you all about mining. The Velenje coal mine has 55 kilometres of mine tunnels that are still active, and is one of the very few coal mining museums in this part of Europe. If all the lignite mined in the Velenje coal mine was put on wagons, there would be enough of them to circle the Earth twice.

velenje underground
Photo: Aljoša Videtič, Šalek Valley tourist board archive

Good luck with miners, bon appetit with chefs

The dining table is already set. Štajger’s lunch, a feast in the deepest dining room in Europe, is about to begin. “Who is Štajger?” you might ask. This is not the last name of a famous chef, or even a famous miner. Štajger is what the miners called the coal mine supervisor.

The culinary delights are carefully prepared in Vila Herberstein in Velenje. This top restaurant was one of just thirteen restaurants that helped prepare Goute de France, the largest French dinner in the world. In 2018, it became one of the TOP 10 restaurants in the region, and a member of the elite circle of the best restaurants in Slovenia, awarded Best regional restaurant 2018 by  The Slovenia Restaurant Awards.

Photo: Aljoša Videtič, Šalek Valley tourist board archive

This 4-course feast will bring you tradition and the miners’ quirks, wrapped in modern, top tier gastronomy, and spiced with a pinch of humour. The gastronomical delights start with the chef’s course, where fish are the main stars, and continue with the Wife’s Garden. This humorous name comes from the soup, which is filled with homegrown ingredients. It is served with roasted morel mushrooms that grow nearby, fava beans on butter, and fried calf sweetbread. The last one is a very rare and unknown culinary speciality.

fine dining in a Slovenian mine
Photo: Aljoša Videtič, Šalek Valley tourist board archive

The last two courses return us to the underworld, starting with a strong miners’ dish, roasted veal shank with side dishes. The dessert is more feminine and tastes of chocolate, mint, mandarins, and pears. These are served in a unique way under a unique name: I love you, Saint Barbara. Understandably, since Saint Barbara is the protector of miners.

Every course is accompanied by selected wines. Most of the wines come from the closest wine region, Podravje, with some Western Slovenian wines sprinkled in. A musical surprise makes the entire experience even more magical.

wine in a mine
Photo: Aljoša Videtič, Šalek Valley tourist board archive

A glass of sparkling wine to say goodbye

After the culinary delights, an exciting ride on the mine train takes the guests back to the mine elevator – the same way the miners returned to this spot – and the elevator lifts them back to the surface. The unique Velenje Underground experience ends in the same place where the miners finished their workday: in the “black” locker room, where they took off their coal-coated work clothes. But before saying goodbye, there is still time for a glass of premium sparkling wine and a secret souvenir.

Taste more.

Learn about the story od Slovenian gastronomy. Discover local culinary and wine specialties.

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