When Al and I left Ljubljana Sunday afternoon, I was so distracted by the beautiful landscapes flying by my car window, that I forgot where we were going. Once I remembered we were headed an hour and a half east to the town of Maribor, I realized that I couldn’t think of anything I knew about the town, or why we chose to book three nights here. Then, I realized, Maribor had a lot of wineries.
Oh, right. We came for the wine.
I was able to conjure up vague memories of talking to Al on Gchat from my office desk in Chicago almost a year ago, as he told me that he thought we should go to Maribor because ‘it looks like a really cool place. Also, they have a ton of wineries,’ I was sold after I heard wineries. So we booked the Airbnb and I moved on from Maribor, focusing my efforts on all the other things we planned to do.
That is why, when we drove up to Maribor Sunday evening after an eventful yet weird drive (more on that later) I found myself looking around feeling a bit overwhelmed with how little I had prepared myself for Maribor. I can say that my expectations for this town were low, bordering non-existent, and I am now leaving Maribor completely in love with it. Although I wasn’t walking around the city with dragon shaped stars in my eyes like in Ljubljana, I would absolutely recommend a stop here to anyone considering a visit to Slovenia. Huge bonus, it’s only 25 minutes from Austria and 2 hours from Budapest, but that doesn’t really matter when there is so much to see in Maribor itself.
Al and I came here for the wine, but once we got here, we were so distracted by all of the other things the city had to offer, that we didn’t end up making Maribor the wine-infused stop that we had originally planned it to be.
Here is a general idea of what we did during our time in Maribor, and why I loved it so much.
Exploring River Drava
Life in Maribor seems to revolve around the river Drava, or at least it felt that way to me. Apparently, the river bank along the Drava is the oldest and most historic part of town (which luckily is right where our Airbnb was). Apparently this river holds a ton of pride for the city, but also served as a line of protection during times of war. I loved walking among the history every day as we went to and from the city, but mostly, it is just a really beautiful place to walk, run, bike, or simply sit and enjoy. It felt great to wake up every morning and go for a run around the river, and just be surrounded by so much beauty. I almost fell flat on my face more than once, trying to run and take in the views at the same time.
Climbing Piramida Hill
When we drove into the city, the first thing I noticed is that it was all built in front of a church on top of a hill that was wrapped in vines. I didn’t know what it was, but I knew I wanted to climb the hill. After we looked into it a little more, we learned that the hill was actually called Piradmida winery, and was regarded as a really important symbol to Maribor. It serves as a representation of the bond between the city itself, the wine regions, and wine industry that have been a tradition of Maribor for centuries. It is basically a winery (just the vines though) jutting out of a city, and once we climbed it, we were blown away by how beautiful the views of the city were, and how enjoyable the hike was. It was a definite highlight of our stay in the city.
They also have found castle ruins on top of the hill, which means that at some point, the ‘church’ was actually a castle that sat atop a winery, atop a city. How cool is that?
Taking a Drive to Pohorje
Our second day in Maribor, we decided we wanted to explore the surrounding areas and wine regions. This day turned out to be one of the most beautiful, magical drives we could’ve ever imagined. The best part is that we somehow managed to accidentally drive on Pohorje, which is Slovenia’s largest and most famous ski resort, but in the summer time, is basically a mountain with spectacular views.
Enjoying and Exploring the City
The city of Maribor itself is absolutely stunning. There is a castle in the middle of the town square (which I have to say, didn’t exactly look like a castle to me). You can spend the day exploring the historic buildings, eat delicious food, and drink cheap fresh wine. There is so much to see here, and it never got boring. We even had a chance to eat dinner outside with a bunch of locals while watching their club football team play Ljubljana on a huge screen outside.
And yes, the wine
I’ll be honest here, we had a few misses when it came to the wine in Maribor. For example, we really really wanted to go to Europe’s largest underground wine cellar, Vinag, which just happened to be closed while we were there, but we didn’t leave disappointed. We got to visit the oldest vine in the world (according to the Guniness book of world records) climb up an actual vineyard, and most importantly, drink delicious wine no matter where we went.
After we left Ljubljana, I was slightly worried that we had started off our trip with the bar set too high. Al and I agreed that we were glad that we left Ljubljana when we did, because we didn’t want to get too comfortable with it, only to be let down moving forward. It was like I wanted to keep the experience exactly as it was; exactly as it had been so far.
My unnecessary fears were put to rest almost instantly upon arriving to Maribor. A memorable moment for me was when we were climbing the hill, we came across a huge open field that had not only stunning panoramic views of the surrounding area, but was also marked with huge oak trees, and native butterflies that would appear and randomly make their way across the path. I happened to notice a small sign jutting out in a random spot in the field, and it read:
Panta Rei– Everything Flows, Everything is Changing: If we would stop mowing the meadow, it would turn into shrubbery and eventually a full-grown forest. Nature is constantly changing. Even these marlstone slopes are slowly moving and changing.
I took a picture of the sign, and told Al that I really loved the message. It’s so simple; life is always changing, things are always moving, even when we aren’t paying attention to it, and especially when we resist it. I can’t control every step of this trip, or the experience of this journey, and I’m not going to try to. I have Maribor to thank for that.
Also, the wine. Thanks for the wine.