Sunday, September 21, 2008

Thasos – the greenest island of Aegean Sea

According to mythology, the first person to inhabit the island was Thasos, a young man, who happened upon the island during his quest to find Europe, the daughter of Aginoros. Zeus was so deeply in love with her that he kidnapped her to enjoy her company for ever. Thasos, according to Herodotus, was unable to find her, but was seduced by the beauty of the island, settled there together with his company, and thus the island was ever since named after him.
Recent excavations, tools and fragments of ceramic, prove that Thasos was originally inhabited in the first instance, during the Paleolithic period, 2 to 3 million years ago. Later, it was the Phoenicians that settled on the island in 15th century BC. They were traders. They were attracted by rich gold mines, which many people have searched for since, but also by the abundant lumber, which still exists today, and enables the local boat builders to continue their trade.
Nowadays, Thasos is a unique tourist resort, with modern hotels, numerous private rooms, studios, apartments and private villas to let, camping sites beautifully located within pine trees with their own private access to the sea shore, a complete and well maintained road network and regular access to the mainland, just across the strait, both via a regular and all year round Ferry boat and Flying Dolphin service.
The friendly and hospitable people of Thasos have many ancient Greek traditions and deep religious beliefs and they preserve the folkways and mores and traditional forms of culture through their respect and love of arts and music. Not least amongst the traditions that they have preserved is that of the love of foreigners and strangers. Their hospitality will both amaze and overwhelm all visitors.
The annual summer festival, one of the most highly regarded festivals in Greece, presents high quality performances all around the island. Amongst the main attractions are the plays – by both ancient and modern writers – that are held in the Ancient Theatre. This, due to its location, high up of the town, has an unparalleled view over the beautiful harbor, the blue sea and the surrounding town, and the foothills of the mountains. In addition, there are also gigs and concerts by well known Greek or foreign artist in breathtaking locations such as the archaeological sites of the ancient Agora and the sanctuary of Dioskouri in Limenas, the site Metallia in Limenaria and many, many others – all equally beautiful and equally renowned – all around the island.
There are also, regular, art, photographic and other cultural exhibitions held in Kalogeriko (the beautiful and traditionally renovated cultural centre of Limenas, located by the ancient harbor). Tarsanas (in Potamia), Palataki (in Limenaria) and ancient sites and buildings also host their own festivals and festivities.
Throughout the year many traditional, cultural and folklore events, such as the Thasian Wedding in August, events with the unique reenactment of Dionysian customs, which are held in many of the villages around the island during the Greek Carnival in February, and which are still such an integral part of the ordinary lives of Thasian people, are organized by the folklore unions on the island which are so successful in preserving traditions that otherwise might be lost.
The island offers every type of beach that one could wish for shallow waters with sandy beaches abutted by pine trees, not easily accessible by road, tiny gulfs and rocky promontories, spotlessly clean pebble beaches, wide expanses of sand and well maintained public beaches, with numerous beds and umbrellas to satisfy every need. The choice is there for peaceful family vacations, exciting water sports, beach games or just simply relaxing in the peace and quiet of the beautiful surroundings.
The hills and mountains and the network of the hiking trails, within pine forests, offer the perfect opportunity for hiking and climbing amongst some of the most beautiful and most natural scenery in northern Greece. There is the possibility to undertake mountain bike riding, cycling along the coast road, motto cross or quad bike driving, while the sea is always close for swimming, sailing, diving, cruises, or fishing in traditional fishing boats. There are a total of 11 harbors and fishing shelters around the island. This combined with the countless beautiful gulfs and emerald waters (the twin natural harbors in Aliki, the deep sandy bays of Golden Beach, and Tripiti and the bay of Kefalas) are ideal destinations for those who wished to visit this island by boat.
Another unexpected attraction of the island is the large number of old churches and monasteries that are always of interest for those who want to research the past and the present of religion. The monastery of Archangels, located on the south-east of the island, built precariously on the steep rocky side of the mountain, gives a feeling that it is hanging right into the sea, the Church of the Virgin Mary in the mountain village of Panagia, the monastery of St Panteleimon close to the beautiful village of Kazaviti, Panagouda, close to the village of the same name, Maries, Agios Athanasius in Kastro built back in medieval times and Agios Dimitrios in Theologos are just few of the examples of the religious monuments on Thasos that are bound to inspire awe and humility in many visitors.
In short, an island of superb natural beauty, friendly and hospitable people with their lives very firmly based in the traditions of Greek village life, modern facilities, plentiful accommodation to suit every pocket and every need, sophisticated shops, bars and restaurants, easy and frequent access and all this relatively unknown to mass tourism.
Thasos is known to those who have already discovered its beauty, as the jewel of the Aegean, the emerald island. It is the most northerly island in the Aegean Sea, located just 12 nautical miles from the ports of Kavalla and Nea Peramos and 6 nautical miles from Keramoti and the Nestos River delta.
It is mountainous and densely wooded. The lower slopes of the mountain, covered by pine forests and olive groves seem to tumble into the sea, around the perimeter of the 100 km of the beautiful coastline of the island, with its numerous beaches, inlets and estuaries. It has wide sweeping big sandy expanses of beach, smaller sandy bays, tiny coves with rocks and pebbles, beaches which just constitute the fine white powdery marble sand which is like talcum powder, and even rocky outcrops, were one can be as secluded or with friends as one wishes. The climate is a mild Mediterranean climate, with cool summers and shorter mild winters.
In the administrative and commercial capital, both known as Thasos and Limenas, which is located in the most northerly point of the island, as well as in Limenaria, the second town of this island, located in the south, tourist and locals can find all the public services and facilities that they might require, (health centers, police and coast guard stations, post office and telecommunications, petrol stations, tourist information offices …). In fact, everything that you might not immediately think of but which are essential to ensure that the infrastructure is in place, to enable you to have an enjoyable and stress free visit.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Lewis & Clark

Meriwether Lewis, William Clark, and their Corps of Discovery entered what is now Washington State on October 10, 1805, following a grueling trek over the Bitterroot Mountains. Battling cold, hunger and fatigue, the expedition made the arduous crossing, coming into the state on the Snake River at what is now Clarkston. From there they moved quickly down the Snake, into the Columbia, near the city of Pasco, making as much as 4o miles a day. Swift waters and enthusiasm carried them a gracious welcome: On October 14th, Clark successfully hunted some ducks and recorded that for the first time in three weeks he had enjoyed a good dinner.
The party passed numerous Indian villages – often on trails the natives had used as trade routes for 9.000 years – and found the inhabitants to be hospitable, in large part because of the presence and interpretive skills of Sacagawea. Her enormous contribution to the expedition has not been exaggerated.
As the Corps of Discovery’s boats moved down the Columbia, Indians traded with the party, hired on to help with portages, and provided food. The vastness of the Columbia and the fact that it teemed with a rather complex tapestry of human life amazed the explorers. Approached by the first of the coastal Indians in a flotilla of four different sizes canoes. Clark was so impressed with one of the boats that he made a sketch of it. On the bow was the image of a bear. The stern bore the likeness of a man. All this did little to compensate for what the group considered disagreeable weather. The chilly, relentlessly wet winter of the Pacific Northwest had set in, exaggerated by the stiff winds of the Columbia Gorge, and the explorers were ill equipped, physically and mentally, to deal with it.
November 7, 1805 started off with a heavy fog, which lifted slowly. The party set off and by afternoon the sky was clear. It was an auspicious day. The party sited the Pacific and a great cheer rose up. William Clark penned the famous line in his field notes, “Ocean (sic) in view. O! The joy.” And it was here, around the mount of the Columbia River that the Corps of Discovery spent the winter of 1805 – 1806.
Washington state is sprinkled with sites where any imaginative traveler can reach back and touch these events of nearly two centuries past. The Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center in Fort Canby State Park near Ilwaco, walks the visitor through the journey from St Louis to the Pacific. The gift shop brims with interesting books about the expedition. And up in the center you’ll get an excellent view of the entire mouth of the Columbia. It was up river a bit, near Chinook, where an astounding moment in American history took place. Trying to decide where the expedition should search for a suitable site to camp, Lewis and Clark held a vote. All members of the party voted, including York, a black slave, and Sacagawea, a woman and an Indian. It was a first on three counts. The city of Vancouver offers an opportunity to actually stroll through one of the earliest ramifications of the Lewis and Clark legacy. Fort Vancouver National Historic Site became the Hudson’s Bay Company’s outpost in 1825. By 1849, the fort was a United States Army Post. Some of the stately buildings on the grounds date back to the mid 19th century. Walk along Officer’s Row for a glimpse of how quickly and elegantly America settled into its newly acquired territory.
Heading on east, the Columbia Gorge Interpretive Center at Stevenson presents an overview of the geology and natural history that created the Columbia Gorge, allowing the Corps of Discovery to make its swift passage to the Pacific once they entered Washington.
In the Tri-Cities, the 22 mile Sacagawea Trail loops around the Columbia River, touching all three towns – Richland, Pasco and Kennewick. And from here it’s a short trip to Sacagawea State Park and its Interpretive Center.
By late April 1806, the expedition was well on its way back east and was traveling overland near what is now Walla Walla. They were met by Yellept, often referred to as a chief, but actually a headman of the Walla Walla Band, relatives of the Nez Perce. The party stayed with these friendly and generous Indians for three days. A life-size diorama at the Fort Walla Walla Museum depicts this event and early in June, each year, Lewis and Clark Days celebrate these times and events with a festival that includes costumed re-enactment.
In all, the pieces of the Lewis and Clark Expedition add up to a treasure trove of experiences in the state of Washington. Ours is a nation that grew quickly and exuberantly. We embraced and assimilated a mix of cultures in a way that no other collection of people ever has. And we are an enormous country, stretching across a continent, from sea to shining sea. It is rare to find a place where we can actually follow in the wake of history or walk in its footsteps. But in Washington, the ripples are still in the water and the impressions in the earth.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Gyula spa

My friends have been trying to persuade me for many years to spend my holidays in Gyula. I have already visited many parts of the world, I have seen wonderful lands and architectural monuments, I have come to know several peoples and their customs, and I have tasted in turn the dishes and beverages of as many nations. And yet I have always been amazed to hear the enthusiasm and devotion of my acquaintances returning from Gyula when speaking about this town, and to see how refreshed and invigorated they are to start once again concentrating upon their work and everyday tasks. In our conversations they kept coming back over and over again to recalling the days spent in Gyula. I must admit that I had doubts… they spoke about a friendly and sunny small town full of flowers, where parks and groves line up one next to the other, the houses, streets and squares are embellished with flowers, where hospitable and kind people live. They mentioned plenty of scenic spots, museums, exhibitions, a medieval castle, the sights of the past and present.
They praised and acknowledged the miraculous effect of the thermal water rushing up here, the beauty and singularity of the Castle Baths. They kept referring to this medicinal water as to something with a magical power, which promises recreation and reinvigoration for the tired, and convalescence and recovery for the sick.
Naturally, food and drink, too, came up as a subject. The goulash, referred to as a national dish, the stew, and of course also a series of various dishes – a part of which is already prepared by returning guests even at home following recipes obtained in Gyula – were all mentioned and talked over. And I started gathering information…
I was surprised to learn how numerous and diverse the offered accommodation possibilities are. In addition to accommodation in campsites, private homes, students’ hostels or in motels, seven hotels are available, satisfying the demand of guests with higher or with more modest requirements alike. Restaurants, confectioneries ad catering units, one alongside the other, await guests, and everybody can be sure to find pleasure here: those preferring dietary or heavy food, those fond of sweets, just like the supporters of cold beer or fiery wines; and as many visitors tell me, also the flavors of international cuisine are present. Anyone can choose dishes accustomed to at home, but menus are enriched for example by Indonesian, Greek or Chinese courses as well.
I had doubts when I heard the accounts of those returning home about the medicinal water of Gyula, and about its curative effect. Being a thorough-going, prudent person, I was first interested in the composition of the water and its components. Here is the result of the laboratory investigations: it is a scientifically supported fact – a which is proved by life and reality in the shape of people leaving the baths recovered, without their pains, and patients on the way to recovery thanks to the treatments – that the thermal water rushing up here shortens the rehabilitation period after accidents, makes it easier for patients to endure it, enhances the efficiency of complementary treatments, and thereby speeds up and makes smoother the return to the life before the trauma.
The same water brings about stoppage of the status deterioration, as well as recovery, for patients with locomotors disorders. The effect is further enhanced by the curative treatments of the Castle Baths, the specialist’s consultations available in the hospitals operating in the town, as well as by the wonderful environment of the Baths itself.
The blessed effect of the thermal well alleviates the problems of patients suffering from stomach complaints of nervous or acidic origin, and also assists those struggling with gynecological problems of inflammatory origin. It is very important that in addition to healing the body, the atmosphere, sights and programs of the town provide recreation for the soul and the nervous system; too, thereby further increasing the effectiveness of the treatment.
The Baths, of course, offer much more than that: covered pool operating both in the summer and in the winter, sauna, pools for children, swimming pool with smoothed water surface, suitable for hosting competitions, beach football ground, simple and winding water-chute to the delight of the young, up-to-date sparkling bath, established recently, and to finish this incomplete enumeration, the unique park. Yes, a wonderful dream world where grassy areas, groves, woods, as well as modern and ancient buildings constitute an organic unit, which enchants both the little ones and the grown-ups, the young and older generations, and where services and facilities are available even for a whole day’s leisure program. Besides that, the town offers plenty of further sights – as I have been told for years. Museums and exhibitions help visitors getting familiar with the Hungarian history, the past and the present, the life, customs, art and culture of this nation. In addition to the composer Ferenc Erkel, the painter Gyorgy Kohan, and the works of art of contemporary artists, visitors may also gain insight into the peasant way of life of bygone days and the everyday life of simple country people centuries ago. There are guests who come to this town for the peace and quiet, and there are tourists who come for the lively programs – my acquaintances told me, and knowing my doubts, also added – yes, indeed, this is a place where both groups can find what they have come for. Calm and charming streets, radiating a somewhat Mediterranean atmosphere in the summer, which in venues not disturbing those wishing to have a rest are regularly filled with pleasure-seekers, since Gyula is also the town of festivals. Each year folk art and folk dance programs, fire brigade band and majorette festivals are held, just like the Border Castle Evenings and different balls. The Castle Theatre of Gyula is a refreshing dash of color of the cultural scene, inviting spectators every summer since 1964 with splendid dramas, tragedies, comedies, farces, operas and operettas. From the “lighter” genres we have to mention musicals, rock operas, jazz and Dixieland festivals, musical plays, as well as folk music and folk dance performances. Nature-lovers can also find the moments’ tiny wonders: roe-deer taking care of fawns, still life of undisturbed forest clearings adorned with birds, gamboling leverets, herd of deer headed by a stately fallow buck: all this is existing reality here. Silky greensward ornamented with tiny colorful flowers, flitting brilliant butterflies, and almost untouched forests expect those who are ready to take some efforts and make a tour of the environs of the town and the neighboring countryside, on foot or on bicycle – I can already recite almost by heart what I have so often heard said. It is said that there are people who are fond of not only admiring the wildlife, but who also carry in themselves the ancient passion, the desire to take prey. Such visitors will not be left without experiences either, since this fertile area of the Great Plain keeps in store delights for them, too. Fallow deer, roe-deer, wild boars and foxes represent bigger game, but also the hare or pheasant hunts can be a lifetime experience. There are numerous opportunities to catch fish here – my angler friends have been boasting for years showing me their photos: huge catfishes of a weight that may come close to a quintal, sly old carps, fiery grass carps, silver carps of 40-50 kg, wild and merciless old pikes, breams and many other species of fish live in the depths of the waters here. I think that exploring the mysterious secrets of wild waters, stalking fish in the White Koros or the Black Koros rivers, and probing into the depths of the water of mining ponds may give the same thrill as our ancestors could experience thousands of years ago. Even those who do not go and search for fish but rather prefer luring them to where they are, can choose from many ponds where fish have been introduced in great quantity. I have seen amazing photos about the Hungarian pasta, about beautiful steeds of galloping studs, flocks of sheep, about the mirage…
You can see and become acquainted with all this; what is more, you can make a tour of the pasta on horseback or on a horse-carriage. Experienced instructors show the masterstrokes for beginners and for those just getting familiar with horseback riding, while children can take a liking to this sport by trotting on ponies. Pleasure driving on horse-carriages, highwaymen and equestrian shows, wine-tasting and sampling ancient Hungarian dishes all guarantee excellent entertainment. Those who would like to get acquainted with a somewhat broader region of Hungary could not find a better starting base for “stalking” several towns. Szeged with its Open-air Theatre, Opusztaszer with the Feszty cyclorama, Veszto-Magor with its Historic Memorial Place, Bekescsaba with its Sausage Festival, Szabadkigyos with the Wenckheim Castle offer sights that are worth visiting starting from the accommodation in Gyula. All this is very nice and attractive, I said to those trying to persuade me, but this Gyula is very far away. Everything is relative, they replied, starting from most European countries it is nearer than Greece, and yet how many visitors go there as well. What is more, it can be reached in many ways: by car, train, bus, or up to Budapest with the flights of various airlines, then from there by rented car or bus; or even the airport, situated at a distance of 6-7 km from the boundary of the town, receives air-planes after previous arrangement. Medicinal water, baths, accommodation possibilities satisfying any demand, restaurants, places of amusement, festivals, programs, theatre performances, the magic of nature, fish and game, museums, sights, in short: everything. Everything that is needed for relaxation. This is what Gyula offers. Surely the question arises in everyone whether my friends succeeded in persuading me, whether they managed to convince me to travel to Gyula. Well, here comes the point. I am writing these lines here in Gyula, and I can say in good faith that everything is just as it was described to me. The town enchants me; I have a great time here. I can recommend it with all my heart to everybody. Next year you, too, must come here and see for yourself that this is the reality, that this wonder does exist.

Monday, September 8, 2008


From wherever you arrive, Slovenia is only an arm’s length away. It is only 230 kilometers to the Slovene border from Vienna, 240 kilometers from Budapest, and 460 kilometers from Milan. Even from Prague, you can reach Slovenia by car in eight hours. One of the youngest European countries, it is well linked to the world by road, by rail, by air and by sea.
Where is it? Slovenia lies between mountainous Austria and Italy, the plains of Hungary, and the warm Adriatic Sea. Its diverse landscape always astonished first-time visitors. Waiting for you are the snow-covered mountains of the Alps and Triglav National Park with countless glacial valleys, gorges, waterfalls and crystal clear waters. Waiting for you is the Mediterranean coast, the unspoiled karsts world with plateaus, fields, valleys, and disappearing lakes and rivers. There are more than one hundred subterranean caves, ranging from the world-renowned Postojna and Skocjan caves with their picturesque stalactites, stalagmites, and translucent curtains to less accessible caves you can explore in the company of experienced local guides. Waiting for you are renowned health resorts and health spas developed around numerous thermal and mineral springs, ancient villages and medieval towns, castles of the past and modern casinos.
Less than a two-hour drive separates visitors from adoring rugged mountain peaks to enjoying the sunny Adriatic. From Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia, you can be in the heart of Slovene Alps in one hour, and to reach the lovely Pannonia plain takes no more than a three hour drive. The primeval forests in the south are only an hour away. In few other countries will you find such diverse landscapes and natural habitats with numerous and indigenous animal and plant species.
In Slovenia you can ski in the morning and sunbathe on the coast in the afternoon. You can have breakfast with the shepherds in the Alpine meadow and after dinner visit a wine cellar at the edge of the Pannonia plain. You can travel through time in museums, castles, churches, and galleries all day and amuse yourself at one of Europe’s best casinos in the evening. Today you can be impressed by the attractions of a farm holiday and tomorrow you can enjoy top cultural events.
Families, businessmen and those who enjoy active holidays will have plenty of things to do in Slovenia. Walkers can enjoy the silence of the mountains, sports climbers, skiers, bikers, canoeists, boatmen, fishermen, hunters, golfers, horseback riders and other can enjoy their favorite sports in variety of landscapes.
Many Slovene dishes spring from the three great cultures – the Pannonia, Alpine, and Mediterranean. The oldest Slovene foods are dishes made from flour and grouts. The best known are the breads made for holiday occasions which today appear in the form of braided loaves or wreathes, the struklji which Slovenes prepare in 70 different ways stuffed with sweet filings, meat, or vegetables, and zganjci. A real Slovene specialty is potica, a dessert for holiday occasions also prepared with the widest variety of filings. A major event in the countryside is the slaughtering of a pig from which many various products are made: grouts and white klobasa, blood sausage, roasts, stuffed tripe, smoked sausage, salami, ham, bacon, and, of course, the highest quality and most prize karsts prsut. Recipes for the preparation of poultry, especially goose, duck, and capon, have been preserved for many centuries. And it is obvious than in a country beside the sea there is a large choice of the fish and seafood, which we find most often on Primorska menus. In every good restaurant you will find some of these dishes on the menu.
This country is a true winegrowing country. Winegrowing was established in that part of the world by the Celts, winegrowing flourished under the Romans, monastery cellar men were responsible for the spread of winegrowing in the Middle Ages and the 19th century winegrowers studied their work. Today there are three wine regions in Slovenia: the Primorska, Posavje and Podravje Regions, and there are 14 districts with recognizable characteristics.
The history and identity of the Slovene people is closely linked to the Slovene language spoken by only two million people, and to the lively cultural life. Slovenes still regard genuine personal contact as a high value. Their hospitality and this immensely rich corner of the world, they will share with visitors. The soul of Slovenia is its people are reflected in the architecture of its cities, towns, and villages and in the many cultural events that always enchant first-time visitors and returning ones.

The sunny Alps

The mighty but easily accessible Julian Alps, the tourist area in this attractive geographical area are linked by the offer of four developed tourist towns: Bled, Kranjska Gora, Bohinj and Bovec with the Soca Valley. Most of the area is within the Triglav National Park which measure 85 hectares and is one of the largest natural parks in Europe. The park lies in the vicinity of high stony mountains including Mount Triglav, the highest mountain in Slovenia – and deep river gorges, highland karst potholes and friendly highlands. It protects many endemic animal and plant species (living in the park, among unique plant species there are chamois, mountain sheep, wild roosters, grouse, eagles and marmots) and the tradition of the hard life of alpine dairymen and mountaineers. The renowned Bled with its lake and the island with a church from the 17th century (and the bell of wishes) is situated at the edge of the park, and above it stands a medieval castle. Bled is considered a real tourist paradise with its thermal springs and other natural attractions, numerous recreational possibilities, its conference hall, casino and golf course. The best rowers of the world measure their strength in competition at Bled.
Bohinj is the starting point for numerous mountain hikes, Lake Bohinj and Bohinjska Bistrica are a paradise for lovers of water sports (kayaking, canoeing, rafting, hydro speeding, swimming) and fishermen. In its surroundings thee are ski slopes and trails for cross-country skiers and also facilities for mountain biking, paragliding, sport climbers, horseback riders, and tennis and mini golf players. Bohinj (and its surrounding areas) inspire visitors with a rich ethnologic heritage with many cultural and sacral attractions as well. In Bohinjska Bistrica a new water park is being built.
A famous tourist destination Kranjska Gora attracts visitors with outdoor sports (hiking, mountaineering, cycling, horsemanship, paragliding, and fishing) in the summer, and in winter with excellent slopes for winter sports and other joys of the winter such as the dog sled, night sledging from Vrsic, roaming across the landscape by snowmobile. In Kranjska Gora there are the World Cup competitions in Alpine skiing. Visitors can enjoy its casino and wellness programs, and younger visitors can enjoy the original land of the Slovene hero Kekec. In the nearby Planica, in the shelter of two thousand meter high mountains, the best ski jumpers in the world compete every year. In the Soca Valley, the valley of the emerald river, attract those who search peace as well as lovers of adrenaline. Here there are opportunities for numerous water sports from kayaking to canoeing and rafting. You can also go paragliding, hang-gliding or cycling and experience the valley which is also loved by fishermen. The largest number of accommodation and guest-houses can be found in Bovec, Kobarid, and Tolmin. From the valley you can reach the highest Slovene ski centre Kanin which is only an hour’s drive from the coast, and where it is possible to ski until summer. Along the Idrijca River you can come to Cerkno and Idrija. This is the home of famous lace-making tradition, Idrija’s mercury mine and the Gewerkenegg Castle. That area also has reminders of many terrible battles of the First World War. They are presented in the award winning Kobarid museum. In the upper part of the valley is picturesque Trenta with the information office of the Triglav National Park, a museum and the famous alpine botanical garden Julijana.

The green Mediterranean

The Slovene coast which measures 46.6 kilometers is covered with abundant vegetation. Here is a natural reserve with a rich supply of marl and sandstone and the unique Strunjan cliff which ascends 80 meters above the sea and is the highest flinch wall on the Adriatic coast. Here are the Secovlje salt works, first mentioned in 13th century. Due to their extremely abundant natural and historical heritage they were named a regional park and are a rich sanctuary of plant and animal worlds. They play a very important role in the world of ornithology, because they offer ideal conditions for birds due to the warm climate and abundance of food in the salt works and they provide a natural habitat for about 80 bird species which nest there.
Here the town of Piran, Izola and Koper attract visitors with their medieval image. Koper with its historical core represents one of the most picturesque parts of the northern part of the Istrian Peninsula. Water sports are very important; there are many regattas in the Bay of Koper and the town has built a small marina. It also organizes the Summer Festival of Primorska. The town’s surroundings and the countryside are exceptionally attractive: the steep rock walls by Crni Kal and Osp provide an ideal place for lovers of free climbing and the countryside “boasts” specific culinary and wine offers.
Izola is a coastal town with a rich fishing tradition. Most of the tourism is concentrated on the eastern side, at the bay Simonov, where there is a seaside resort with swimming facilities, hotels and restaurants. On the western edge of the town is the marina of Izola.
The old seaport of Piran lies at the end of the Piran peninsula; it was surrounded by walls in the Middle Ages (200 meters of the city walls are still preserved). The whole town is protected as a cultural and historical monument and it has preserved its medieval layout with narrow streets and compact houses, which rise in steps from coastal lowland into the hills and give the whole area a typical Mediterranean look. Today it is an administrative and supply center and also an important coastal tourist resort with hotels, restaurants and holiday houses, the Maritime Museum and an aquarium, cultural institutions and events.
Portoroz, a tourist town which boasts the longest tourist tradition in Slovenia and offers comfortable hotels and modern swimming pools, restaurants and events. It is popular conference center – various conference and meeting facilities can accommodate up to 1500 visitors. Portoroz has a casino, a sport airport and marina. It is a town visited by tourist from all over Europe and other countries as well. It is an internationally known holiday center and climatic health seaside resort.
In the Savrinska Hills in the hinterland of Portoroz lies a number of old Istria settlements and not far from the coast there is the picturesque village Hrastovlje with its Church of the Holy Trinity which is adorned by late gothic narrative frescoes. Due to these Hrastovlje is considered as a real treasure of medieval frescoes arts in Slovenia.