We went to the heart of Slovenske Gorice, Slovenian hilly north-east region. The purpose of our trip was to visit herbalist Danica Kolarič and her beekeeper husband Jože Kolarič. On their property in Sveta Ana (St. Ana) Danica and Jože have created a true rural paradise, using a lot of imagination and an even greater deal of skills.
by Sonja Bezjak
Danica says that she has always been committed to nature and a healthy life style. When she was taking care for her sick mother, she was mostly tied to the home. But she took this as an advantage, and below the house she started to build herbal garden. Within a few years, the slope developed into a real herbal park, full of blooming and fragrant seedlings, which is simply necessary to stop, to caress and smell them.
Islets of flowering herbs were reaching for the sun and in each of them was a hidden substance for a better and more beautiful day. White tansy will help with headaches, thyme is good for the respiratory system, wormwood for stomach, ground ivy for spring soup, linum (also known as common flax or linseed) for good digestion, milk thistle helps liver problems, purple coneflower strengthens immune system, lady’s mantle is traditionally used as a woman’s healing herb…
Somewhere on the edge of the garden a birch tree was boasting.
A few years ago Danica joined the Association of Herbalists Maribor, where she also has her own mentor. For the processing and the usage of the herbs she is following the prescriptions of the vicar Simon Ašič (1906-1992), one of the most well-known Slovenian herbalists, who lived and worked in the abbey of Stična, the oldest spiritual and cultural centre in Slovenia.
While walking between her purple coneflowers, ambrosial lavender and glowing calendula Danica explains that her herbs are grown organically, as she does not use any chemicals. It might happen that the harvest is not so plentiful, but in any case it is healthy. All the harvesting and the drying of the herbs is done manually.
While rural places around this area are much more famous for their wine cellars and roads, Kolarič family transports us into a world of completely different stories. A few years ago, Danica’s husband Jože engaged in the design and construction of a very special “herbal temple”. ”The children were so enthusiastic about the little hobbit houses, and we came to the conclusion that we should do something like that ourselves’‘. The idea has evolved and grown from children’s initial enthusiasm for the magical land to creation of a real underground house.
Teahouse (Čajnica), as family Kolarič calls their earth house, is one big story in which they realized their dreams. In the middle of the hill, from where beautiful view of the surrounding hills is offered, like a mirage a cottage from a fairy tale occurs. Safely hidden in the hill and covered with a grass roof, it is showing off with a single visible wall and invites us to have a look inside.
It was built from the roofing of a 150 year old building, which was doomed to failure. Wood, which was giving shelter to previous generations, now gets even aesthetic function. With its power and beauty it is fulfilling the whole interior. Wooden beams, imposed one on another, are in the cold earth house the source of warmth. In the company of a stone fireplace and dried herbs the old wood tells the story of harmony between human and nature. In the arrangement of the interior Danica and Jože chose items from family heritage.
In order to have the cup of our visit full, Jože took us to his apiary. He has been linked with the bees his whole life, since almost all his male ancestors were beekeepers. A few years ago he committed to beekeeping entirely and he also took over the management of the Beekeepers Association in St. Ana.
In a very special hive we place ourselves in comfortable wicker armchairs as Jože starts to tell the story of apitherapy. We have to agree with him – there is truly nothing better than to sit the evening in a beehive on the edge of the forest and breathe the aroma of wax, propolis, honey…
Apitherapy, it is not just a balm for thesoul, it also has beneficial effect on the whole body.
In their herbal paradise at St. Anna, Jože and Danica Kolarič greet all those who are interested in a healthy lifestyle, as well as those who would just like to rest their eyes and relish the natural beauty and goodness.
Translated and edited by: Marijana Podhraski