Maribor is the second largest Slovenian city. It has a population of about 100,000 so is still a small city. It has an interesting old town and a great surrounding region to explore. We spent 3 nights here, which meant that we had two full days to explore. You could definitely do it in less, depending on what you are interested in but you could also spend more time here. So what did we do…
The old town is good for a look around. Be aware it is almost empty during the day. It is busiest early in the morning and the bars and cafes come alive at night. A little tourist train leaves from the tourist centre and drives around the main sites if you can’t be bothered walking. It is about 3 Euros. Unfotunately there is no commentary so you are guessing a bit at what you are seeing.
You can drive to Pohorje, where you can go up on the cable car to the top, hike around a bit and have lunch at the hotel and come down the cable car again. You could hike down… it was a heat wave – we didn’t! There is also a thermal swimming pool at the top which would be great in the winter. It is 10 Euro’s entry. At the bottom of the cable car there is another hotel which has a day pass for swimming. It is 18 Euros for the day (no half day passes). As it is outdoors it is probably a better option for the summer.
Maribor and the surrounding areas are wine country. You can visit the oldest vine in the world (450 years old) and there is an interesting museum located at the site.
We had planned to do a winery tour. If this is something that is of interest to you, you really do need a car and some guidance from the Wine Museum who will help you plot out the visit. They helped us choose 4 wineries to visit and called ahead to make appointments for us. In New Zealand this would be something that is likely to be hosted by an employee and you would taste a set flight, it would be all over in half an hour and you would move on to the next winery. Not so in Slovenia! We only got to two of the four wineries as a wine tasting in Slovenia is a very personal experience. We visited Kuster and Doppler and this took us all day!
First up, we went to Doppler which is a very contemporary winery. We met the winemaker and she was fantastic at explaining the 10 ( yes 10!!!) wines she wanted us to try. The servings are huge and there wasn’t anywhere to spit or tip so it all had to be enjoyed! She also showed us around the processing area and explained how her wine was made. She is a third generation winemaker and the land and vines were set up by her grandfather. Physically, this is a particularly interesting winery because it is very contemporary in design. This is evidenced by everything from the marketing to the buildings. I found the marketing and artistic aspects very clever and inspired.
After Doppler, we drove down the road to Kuster. This winemaker is a 5th generation winemaker. As soon as we arrived, he invited us into his car and drove us around his “farm” showing us the different grapes and vines. He drove us through to Austria (his winery is close to the border) to the “heart of winemaking” which is a heart shaped road and a very beautiful area. We enjoyed a glass of wine at the top of this ridge and then he took us back to his house for tastings and a beautiful meat and cheese platter. The whole experience took about 5 hours! The family was very keen to share their wines with us and despite feeling like we were holding them up for the day they weren’t keen for us to leave until we had tried all the wines ( we suggested 5, he had 8 or 10 on his list). Apparently they had taken the day off to host us! The wines were lovely and it was a truly memorable experience. If you are a wine buff, I highly recommend this experience but take a sober driver; there are lots of wines and the servings are huge!