Historic Venckov water mill and model farm, Dolenjske
Venckov Water Mill is beautifully situated in a tranquil and secluded river valley in south eastern Slovenia. The mill is over 200 years old and was renovated into a model farm in the late 1920s by a Slovene couple returning from work in the USA.
The water wheels for grinding flour and sawing timber were fully operational until the end of the second world war and the workings are gradually being restored. Some of the mill equipment can still be seen in the mill buildings. The mill sits as the heart of a model farm with a luxury piggery, smithy and traditional wooden cow barn around it.
The fully renovated, modern accommodation is on the first floor of the mill building, overlooking the millstream.
The valley is incredibly peaceful, and Venckov is the perfect antidote to busy city life. The air is clear, and the sound of the river tumbling through the mill race therapeutic and relaxing. It is the perfect place to chill out and recharge your batteries.
Whilst secluded the mill is not isolated – there is a small hamlet comprising two mills and two houses about 250 metres further along the valley, and a village nearby, where you can sample delicious home made products, including fresh cheese, the traditional Slovene cake (potica), red and white wine from vineyards situated high on the surrounding hills, and a particularly fine fruit spirit. Tastings can be arranged in a traditional Slovene wine cellar.
The region comprises heavily wooded rolling hills mixed with open fields and vineyards. Farms and villages are dotted around the countryside, and many of the hilltops are dominated by small white churches with bronze roofs . The country is fantastic for walking, with marked trails and paths leading to stunning view points at the top of hills. The forests are alive with wildlife including bears, wild boar and polecats. Deer are a common sight at the mill, as are fire salamanders, eagles, herons and shoals of brown trout.
Novo Mesto, the regional capital, is close by (7km). This is a pretty historic town built above a bend in the river Krka (which runs into the Danube) and has numerous cafes, restaurants, shops, supermarkts and a multiplex cinema. (The films are usually in English with Slovene subtitles.)
Trebnje is equally close and has supermarkets, pizzerias and restaurants selling local food.
Even closer - a couple of kilometres down the valley - is Mirna Pec with the local post office, supermarket and church and a good bar which serves simple but high quality food - especially a breakfast of ham and eggs. A farmers' market is held here the first Saturday each month, selling locally made bread, cheese, honey and jams.
There are plenty of other pretty local sights to explore such as Zuzemberk and Bogensperk castles; Pleterje and Sticna monasteries; Kostanjavica na Krki (a 'Slovene Venice' built in a bend in the river Krka); Sentrupert with a barn museum and lovely semicircular walk with panoramic views and, in winter, the ski slopes.
Ljubljana, the pretty capital of Slovenia, is about forty minutes away and Zagreb - over the border in Croatia - a little over an hour.
The area boasts three very high quality thermal spas - at Doljenske Toplice (20 minutes away by car), Smarjeske Toplice (30 minutes) and Catez (45 minutes). These all have stylish modern indoor and outdoor swimming pools and offer a wide range of massages, saunas and other treatments. The friendly staff speak English. The spa at Catez is particularly appealing to children with its 10 outdoor pools, water slides, toboggans, lazy river and wave pool.
Outdoor pursuits are very popular in Slovenia, and there are many opportunities for kayaking, white water rafting or more sedate river trips within a 30 minute drive of the mill, as well as indoor and outdoor tennis courts, horse riding, cycling and hot air ballooning. The majority of people offering these facilities speak English.
Slovenia is not a big country, and you can easily visit the picturesque lakeside town of Bled, the Alps and Triglav national park, the stunning medieval seaport of Piran on the Mediterranean coast or the beaches of northern Croatia in day trips.
Note: The mill has a number of outbuildings and space for playing ball games. Older children and many adults will have great fun playing in and around the river and outbuildings in fine weather.