Koper is a port city in Slovenia, on the country's Adriatic coastline. Its medieval old town centers around Titov Trg, a square with Venetian-influenced landmarks such as the Praetorian Palace and a Gothic-style loggia, while nearby Da Ponte Fountain is a replica of Venice's famed Rialto Bridge.

The Sweet Istra Festival (Sladka istra) takes place in Koper every September, and for lovers of all things sweet!

On nicely decorated stands at various locations around the town, buckling under the weight of delicious sweets, visitors can taste numerous desserts made according to recipes of Istrian housewives, or opt for modern masterpieces created by top pastry chefs from Slovenia and abroad.

Visitors can exchange tasting coupons for sweet desserts and also purchase large quantities to take home with them.

Of the gladdest moments in human life, methinks, is the departure upon a distant journey into unknown lands. Shaking off with one mighty effort the fetters of Habit, the leaden weight of Routine, the cloak of many Cares and the slavery of Civilization, man feels once more happy.

Richard Francis Burton

Truffle Hunting

Slovenia and Croatia share the idyllic peninsula known since Roman times as Istria. However, residents were not familiar with the fungus growing beneath the forest until the period between the two World Wars, when Italian engineers noticed the terrain was very similar to the truffle-producing parts of Italy. During their time in Slovenia, they discovered that truffles were indeed present.

Istria produces both black and white truffles, depending on the time of year. The white truffles found in the winter are one of the world’s most expensive foods, fetching up to 2500 euros per kilogram according to RTV Slovenia. The more common and less expensive black truffles are found in the summer.

Truffles are a fungus that grows underground in symbiosis with tree roots, but the process is random. Not every tree is truffle-friendly. Farmers around the world have experimented with planting trees likely to generate truffles and the results have been mixed. 

Truffle Hunting, Slovenia

As a little girl, she followed her dad and his dogs into the forest. Any police they encountered on their truffle hunts didn’t mind looking the other way. (Environmental restrictions officially banned commercial truffle hunting in Slovenia until 2012). A bigger concern was the wild pigs who would find and eat the truffles before the dogs could sniff them out.

We met our guide in Nova vas nad Dragonjo and were soon joined by our truffle hunter Sara and her dog Lisa. Together we will set out into the hidden corners of the woods, where with a bit of luck amongst the tree roots we will find our fragrant tubers. Actually, the hunt was more of a demo as the truffles had been “planted” previously. This was done as a practical matter because you can go a h=whole day and not find any truffles and also to protect Sara’s secret locations. This in no way took anything away from the enjoyment we had learning about this subject.

Now pursuing a master’s degree, Sara would lead the way with her Labrador. Truffle hunting dogs are trained while they are still puppies to associate the scent of truffles with feeding time and treats. All of the truffle dogs on her family farm are females, mostly Labrador Retrievers and one Border Collie mix.

After the hunt, we spoil ourselves with typical Istrian cold meats, cheese, and pasta fuži with truffles accompanied by a glass of wine from the local winemaker.

Truffles have a dark, smoky taste that is unique. It is very easy to become addicted to the taste and to spread truffle shavings or oil on all matters of food,