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Boutique farm in the heart of the Pohorje slopes

 

As you drive up the hill facing the first slopes of Pohorje and see two neat houses with countless red pelargoniums decorating the wooden balcony railing, you will see Urška waiting for you.

The smile of the mistress of the eco tourist farm, Urška, is contagious. Especially as it is accompanied by a lively conversation about all kinds of things, which will quickly make you realise that you are in a heavenly part of Slovenia.

Urška sets aside her apron and says that she left her job nine years ago, returning to the farm with her husband and daughter. She adds that she would never again swap the countryside, the homemade, ecologically produced food and tranquillity of the village of Stranice near Zreče for life in the town.

Urška
Photo: Mitja Kobal, Karata Film

Breakfast for gourmets

At the entrance to the house, visitors are welcomed by a board where Urška writes a warm welcome in chalk for each individual guest. Next to it, there is a log table with a chipped ceramic mug full of colourful garden flowers on it and two sheepskin covered chairs next to it.

Mother Vilma, a nice lady with bushy dark hair and smiling eyes, also comes to greet you. You can immediately see where Urška gets her energy. “Would you like some breakfast? We have homemade raspberry jam and eggs so fresh they’re still warm.” At that moment, you know that you are in for a special experience.

family at the tourist farm
Photo: Mitja Kobal, Karata Film

As you sit on a soft sheepskin covered chair in front of the house with the sun warming your face, watching mother Vilma and Urška skilfully carrying plates and cups to the table, you wish that this breakfast would never end.

Homemade cottage cheese and yoghurt, butter and cheese, and meat products from their cellar, homemade zucchini pesto and raspberry and plum jam, yellow, red and purple tomatoes from Urška’s nursery across the street, bread, fried eggs and even a watermelon from their garden. There are lots of dishes, but you still manage to eat every last thing, everything produced by the hard-working hands of the Topolšek Planinšek family.

Family committed to sustainability

Mother Vilma and her husband Tone began writing the tourist farm’s story thirty years ago. They only had four rooms back then, which required a lot of work and plenty of willpower. Guests liked to come and return and are still returning today with their grown-up children and grandchildren.

In 2014, Vilma handed over the reins to Urška, who brings the modernity and freshness of new ideas as a representative of a younger generation. She continues the family story while maintaining and developing the farm with her husband Jernej, daughters Tinka and Lučka and her irreplaceable mother Vilma.

tourist farm
Photo: Mitja Kobal, Karata Film

The point of it all has always been the approach to nature. “We have learned to respect and love nature and we teach our guests to do the same. I nag them about the use of plastics and always look for new modern ways to introduce the sustainability principle and sustainable living in co-existence with nature,” says Urška decisively. That is why there are bottles in all rooms – to encourage guests to use the excellent tap water.

The Urška Tourist Farm was registered as ecological in 2009 and the Topolšek family has received numerous awards and certificates for their sustainable way of life. In 2011, the Urška Tourist Farm was the first in Slovenia to receive the Ecolabel, the first official sustainable certificate and the official label of the European Union for environmentally friendly tourist accommodations. It also has Green key and EU Organic certificates and is part of the Slovenia Green Accommodation project, which makes it one of the best practices in Slovenia and sets standards to others in this industry.

sustainable vegetable growing and winemaking
Photo: Mitja Kobal, Karata Film

However, Urška’s sustainability is not only related to food and its production. It can be felt at every step. Such as when you enter a room and smell the Pohorje wood, which Jernej artistically crafts into furniture. When you drink tea made from homegrown herbs served in a cup made by members of the Slovenske Konjice Occupational Activity Centre. Or when having dinner at the nearby Arbajter Tourist Farm. “Because sustainability is also your attitude to the surroundings and other local providers,” says Urška, who always buys tomato seedlings for her closest neighbours, Malčka and Lidija.

gojenje paradižnika
Photo: Mitja Kobal, Karata Film

Welcome to daily life at a tourist farm

Running a tourist farm is very challenging. So challenging that work must be meticulously distributed among family members – mother Vilma is the boss of the kitchen, Urška orders seedlings, prepares winter preserves and takes care of guests, while her husband Jernej produces meat products and wine, maintains fields and barns and makes wood products in his woodworking workshop: “If you can’t do a certain thing, it’s your duty to pass that task on to someone else. And this system works perfectly, as we do almost everything by ourselves. We only have help to do the green works, which include chores from the spring to the beginning of the harvest to improve the vineyard’s microclimate, prevent disease outbreaks and affect the quality of grapes, and cellaring.”

Urška and Vilma preparing food
Photo: Mitja Kobal, Karata Film

Jernej happily opens the door to his wine cellar. He inherited it from his father-in-law Tone, who used to be a wine knight. The cellar is pleasantly cool and lit by pottery lamps. He says that their vineyards are also organic. They strengthen vines with organic sprays as they begin to grow, giving it good conditions for further growth. “It’s like with people. The vines’ immune system also needs a boost.” The shelves contain a boutique offering of bottles of Blaufränkisch and several white wine varieties, from Italian Riesling and Rhein Riesling to Pinot Blanc, Sauvignon, Yellow Muscat and Traminec that Urška, who is also a sommelier, recommends with every dish from Vilma’s kitchen.

Photo: Mitja Kobal, Karata Film

The youngest family members, pupils Tinka and Lučka, also have an important role, helping with the animals and the entertainment of children who come for a break. Sometimes they organise a tea party on the grass, while at other times they made perfumes from homegrown herbs or organic play dough. And sometimes they just run around the meadows or play with domestic animals. They each have a special story. Piki Jakob, the dog, fetches apples instead of balls. The goat’s name is Lizika and she comes running up the hill from who knows where as soon as Urška calls her with a flock of sheep following her. Tone bought the pony two years ago because his grandson Žan wanted a pony: “Tone happened to see it in a barn on a farm. It was lonely and immediately grew on Tone,” reminisces Vilma.

Tinka and Lučka gathering eggs
Photo: Mitja Kobal, Karata Film

On dumplings, raspberries and mother Vilma’s cuisine

Mother Vilma is thinking about what to prepare for dinner. Urška sits down next to her, helping out with ideas: “What if you make dumplings with carrots and broccoli to go with them to make a nice contrast between orange and green?” After so many years of cooking experience, Vilma makes them almost effortlessly – with a perfect pattern and without eggs, making them suitable for vegans too. “I’ll also make a carrot soup, baked potato halves with bacon, pork tenderloin in a sauce and cucumber salad with herbs and flowers. And I’m baking a tarragon potica.”

As an expert for traditional recipes, she likes to enhance her dishes with a pinch of modernity and her own unique touch. She boosts them with wild plants and edible flowers from their garden. What else can you expect from someone who has been following the “from the garden to the table” concept for years. They produce almost 80 per cent of everything by themselves in their fields, in their vineyard and nurseries. They get the rest from their neighbours.

The culinary experience is perfect when Urška serves homemade raspberry ice cream with mint for dessert. All you have do is to indulge in the taste and enjoy the view of the green hills below the terrace.

mother Vilma's cooking
Photo: Mitja Kobal, Karata Film

Boutique experience at an eco tourist farm

The essence of the boutique character of the Urška Farm is not only in additional wellness services they provide, but also in the homely feeling complementing special experiences. The important principles in running their tourist farm are the promotion of destination and good relationships with neighbours: “If the locals are satisfied, guests feel better and choose to return.”

This is what they want – for guests to feel like part of their family. For this reason, they casually invite you to attend a workshop on how to make homemade strudel, you can even pick apples for it before getting started. Or Urška will ask you to feed the rabbits with the leftovers from the cabbage she used to make salad. Collecting hen’s eggs is the most popular chore among guests. The youngest guests in particular enjoy it. “Sometimes they stand in front of a hen, waiting to collect a warm egg the hen has just laid.”

Pogostitev zunaj na turistični kmeriji
Photo: Mitja Kobal, Karata Film

Before you go home, there is another ritual waiting for you. Urška takes you to the field and puts a small wooden crate into your hands. When you become startled, thinking you will have to pull weeds in the steep hill, she delights you with the fact that you can pick vegetables to take home with you. In the hall, you can look around for organic products sold under their own brand and choose from a wide range of jams, teas, juices, wines and felt slippers made by Urška’s mother-in-law. Created from the wool from Topolšek’s sheep, of course. In this way, you can relive the experiences you enjoyed at the Urška Tourist Farm in your own home.

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