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Meal of peace at the front

 

What do cheese and WWI have in common?

Looking at the peaceful meadows of the Soča Valley, it is hard to imagine the bloody battles that were fought here just a century ago. During WWI, these pastures, now full of calmly grazing cows - they say each one has a name - echoed with gunshots. Listen to the story of a soldier, discover the delicious Alpine cheese tradition, and enjoy a breathtaking view of the emerald Soča river, surrounded by green nature, as part of this adventure crowned with the Slovenia Unique Experience label.

the museum
Photo: The Kobarid Museum archive

From Kobarid ...

Kobarid is a town in the Western part of Slovenia, the Soča Valley. The town is very proud of the two Michelin stars awarded in 2020 to Hiša Franko, a restaurant in a nearby village called Selo led by top chef Ana Roš. Kobarid is also justifiably proud of its museum, the most visited museum in Slovenia, according to official records, which received the 1993 Council of Europe Museum Prize soon after it opened its doors.

The Kobarid Museum
Photo: The Kobarid Museum archive

The Kobarid Museum is also where this adventure begins. Your guide will meet you at its entrance and lead you through the collection of original artifacts in this museum dedicated to protection, storage, and exhibition of materials related to the Soča Front (also known as the Isonzo Front) that raged here during WWI. During that time, the steep slopes of the Soča Valley witnessed one of the biggest mountain battles in all the history of mankind. In 888 days, as many as 300,000 soldiers of four different religions and more than fifteen different nationalities, lost their lives on this 93 kilometres long battlefront.

The front ended with the so-called Miracle of Kobarid, the 12th battle and the last offensive of the Soča Front. In contrast to the previous 11 offensives, this one was started by the Austro-Hungarian forces. The Italian army was forced to retreat to the Piave river, and suffered a great defeat which forced Italy to temporarily withdraw from the war. The museum is known for its heartfelt presentation of this area, the events, and the people in that difficult time, which are shown through personal recollections of the Soča Front protagonists, and especially the protagonists of the famous 12th battle.

a tour of the Soča Front
Photo: The Kobarid Museum archive

... to Kolovrat.

The road from the valley to the top of the Kolovrat ridge, the border between the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Italy before WWI, is steep, even in a car. But the breathtaking views from the top are well worth it. On a clear day, you can see the Julian Alps, the nearby hills, and the emerald Soča in one direction, as well as the Friuli Venezia Giulia lowlands and the Adriatic Sea in the other direction.

At the Soča Front defence line, which has been transformed into one of the most beautiful cross-border open-air museums, an actor in a soldier uniform is waiting for you. He will take you into a labyrinth of caverns, underground shelters carved into the rocky terrain, and through a network of trenches built by the Italian army as a defence system against artillery and air bombing. You will also walk down the famous spiral stone stairwell into a cavern.

a view of the Soča Front
Photo: The Kobarid Museum archive

Tolminc, the mountain king

Don’t worry, you won’t be hungry in the mountains – a Tolminc cheese sandwich will be packed to make sure of that. Tolminc cheese is “the king of the mountains” and has a protected designation of origin. Its long history and traditional methods, as well as the climate and other natural phenomena in this area, contribute to its uniqueness.

We could say that cheese-making evolved naturally in these parts, as it used to be the only way to preserve milk up in the mountains. The cheese rounds have to mature for at least 2 months on wooden shelves, and the shepherds used to turn them around every day. The same method is still used today. Tolminc is a hard full-fat cheese with a natural crust, made from cow’s milk, as the pastures in this part of the Soča Valley lend themselves perfectly to cattle breeding. Young Tolminc has a sweet and milky flavour that becomes more and more intense and rich as it matures, resulting in an aromatic and sweetly spiced cheese.

Tolminc cheese
Photo: Tomo Jeseničnik

The first written records of Tolminc are from the 13th century, when it was mentioned as a means of paying duties to the landed gentry. The name itself, “Fromaggio di Tolmino – Tolmin cheese”, was first recorded in 1756 on a cheese price list from the nearby town of Videm (called Udine in Italian), which lies across the border, in Italy.

The widespread alpine dairies in the Upper Soča Valley are a unique feature of these parts that cannot be found anywhere else in Slovenia. The dairies in these hills process 90% of all the milk that is produced and processed in the Slovenian alpine meadows.

tourists in the Soča valley
Photo: The Kobarid Museum archive

A wooden cow and a warm shepherd's lunch

From the mountain tops, the guide will take you back down into the valley. The last stop on your adventure is the Cheese Museum at the Planika Dairy. Here you will discover the heritage of the mountain pastures and cow-grazing through ethnological exhibits, a documentary, and a reconstructed mountain lodge with all the necessary milk processing equipment. Including the milking equipment. To see how difficult it is to milk cows, you will be able to try it first-hand. But don’t worry, the cow is made of wood and will endure your efforts patiently.

The shepherd's lunch

Photo: The Kobarid Museum archive

By the fireplace, a necessary feature of every mountain lodge, the shepherds slowly warmed up the milk to make it into cheese. And by the fireplace, you will be served a shepherd’s lunch: frika, cheese soup, and Kobarid rolled dumplings. Frika is an egg-based dish similar to an omelette, and the cheese soup is, of course, made with cheese. To prepare the Tolminc cheese soup, pieces of cheese are added to salted boiling water. Eggs are hard-boiled separately and mashed with a fork in the soup bowl. The soup is then poured over the eggs and served with bread cubes. The meal ends with the Kobarid rolled dumplings, a filling dessert filled with walnuts and topped with butter and breadcrumbs.

The tale of a Soča Front soldier, a boutique 5-star experience, starts with the story of WWI, takes you to the green mountain pastures, and ends on a sweet note with the traditional Kobarid dumplings.

Taste more.

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

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