You know how you can feel burned out after many stressful months at work while juggling family and social commitments?! It’s like it never ends. And you find yourself dreaming of a week or even just a long weekend when you can simply unplug, relax and recharge?
Yet no matter how much you search and how many holiday brochures you leaf through, the options never quite appeal as you are either faced with a hectic city break or a long-haul flight which will leave you even more drained.
Instead, you end up thinking, wouldn’t it be great to find that one perfect holiday of fun and relaxation? Close to nature and yet a totally luxurious experience. Where you can immerse yourself in local culture or simply spend the day submerged in your own private jacuzzi. And, if you fancy it, where you can go for an early morning swim in one of Europe’s cleanest rivers and then tuck into a hearty breakfast of locally sourced organic ingredients which has been hand-delivered in a wicker basket to your veranda. All this just a short flight or driving time away from wherever you are in Europe.
It sounds quite ideal, isn’t it?
Now, the best bit is that such a place actually exists. You will find the BIG BERRY Glampsite in green and unspoiled Slovenia – the country which remains Europe’s best kept secret. The seven mobile homes of the glampsite follow the curve of the fresh, clean and swimmable river Kolpa which serves as a border between Slovenia and Croatia.
Each mobile home is equipped with everything and anything a family, a group of friends or a couple would need in order to spend a week, a long weekend or, really, as much time as they have in the heart of nature and in total, yet discreet luxury. The nearby village of Primostek provides a picturesque backdrop and the surrounding region of Bela Krajina (also known as White Carniola in English) has a rustic and genuine feel to it with its lovely villages, unique traditions and vast fields with wheat and sweetcorn.
Ljubljana – the Slovenian capital – is only an hour and a quarter away. The same is valid for Zagreb – the capital of Croatia. The stunning Postojna Caves can be reached in just over an hour and a half and the driving distance from Vicenza, where we currently live, is a very manageable four hours.
In the first week of summer my husband and I together with our little daughter had the opportunity to spend a long weekend at the BIG BERRY Glampsite. It was perfect! I emerged refreshed, brimming with ideas and full of energy. It was the best start of summer and one of the best holidays we have had together as a family.
We spent the days in peace and quiet, just letting go of all the stress that we had accumulated over the past few months. Our private jacuzzi on the wide veranda became my favourite spot and I could only be prized out of it to go explore the surrounding region.
We took slow walks through pretty little villages where houses were adorned with colourful blooms. We admired views of sweeping green valleys covered with a thick tapestry of wild flowers. We drove to the nearby towns to learn more about their history and my husband even canoed down the river Kolpa while our little daughter and I paddled in its fresh waters watching little fishes dart back and forth and large blue dragonflies fly past us.
It was idyllic!
Through it all, nothing was too much trouble for the multinational team working at the BIG BERRY Glampsite. Its members came from Russia, Spain, Germany, Vietnam and Croatia, to mention just a few of their countries. Daily events were set up and excursions were organised at the drop of a hat.
Ana Iskra – the glampsite’s marketing coordinator – would come to see us in the morning with a big wicker basket loaded with fresh local produce for our breakfast and then, in the afternoon, would take us to visit local farms and artisans introducing us to the rich traditions of Bela Krajina.
Driving up and down narrow roads surrounded by stunning vistas, Ana would tell me stories about Bela Krajina and its people. I loved listening to her telling me how she goes to the local bakery and the local dairy farm every morning to pick up fresh bread, milk and yogurt for the BIG BERRY Glampsite’s guests.
With her infectious enthusiasm she was always full of ideas as to what we could see and visit nearby; her surname ‘Iskra’ (meaning ‘spark’ in her native Croatian) perfectly corresponding to her sparkling personality.
So, when I was gathering together all my thoughts, impressions and memories of our long weekend at the BIG BERRY Glampsite in order to tell you more about it, I realised that the best person to actually introduce you to its special atmosphere is Ana herself. She kindly spent some time answering my questions.
Hi, Ana. Thank you so much for taking the time to give me this interview. It was great meeting you during our stay at the BIG BERRY Glampsite in Slovenia. You were a great guide and source of ideas making our stay there so much more colourful and exciting. So, I hope you can share with the readers of my blog many of the tips you gave us for a relaxing and yet eventful stay at the glampsite. First things first though, so, please, could you introduce yourself?
Hello! My name is Ana Iskra and I have been employed by BIG BERRY since the beginning of 2016. I am from Croatia and I found out about this amazing project over the Internet. Hosekra – the company which builds the BIG BERRY’s mobile homes – had made a call for job applications worldwide. In fact this is the idea of the glampsite – go global. When I saw the advertisement for the job position I was a bit skeptic because it all sounded perfect and so positive, but it did not quite correspond to my field of study. Anyhow, I applied and it was the best decision that I have ever made, as I found out that the position that I have now, is the type of job that I want to hold for the rest of my life. I love managing events, organizing activities, managing work schedules, taking care of guests, meeting new people. The job just got under my skin. Originally, I was employed by BIG BERRY as a coordinator of the international marketing interns’ group but my job actually entails many more responsibilities, such as organizing events inside and outside of the glampsite, guiding tours both in Bela Krajina – the region where the glampsite is located – and all over Slovenia, managing the glampsite on a day-to-day basis, welcoming guests, doing PR. I can’t complain. I love how different each day is.
Could you tell us a bit about Bela Krajina – the region where the BIG BERRY Glampsite is located – and what this part of Slovenia stands out with?
The BIG BERRY Glampsite is located on the banks of the river Kolpa and it overlooks Croatia. In fact, Kolpa serves as the border between these two countries. The glampsite is right next door to a small village called Primostek, which is known locally to have one of the most beautiful beaches in the region. The surrounding area is stunning. It is important to point out that when the glampsite was set up here the riverbank, the trees, in general its natural environment was left untouched. When I started work here what amazed me the most, apart from the incredibly beautiful nature, were the people and their hobbies. It seems to me that there is no person in the region of Bela Krajina who watches TV. All the local people have regular 8 to 4 jobs,but afterwards they find the time to take care of their huge gardens, to carve sculptures out of wood, to make jams, liquors, their own wine. It really is amazing how many different talents they have and how many things are actually happening around us. For example, every year in May the local town of Metlika hosts the biggest wine festival in Slovenia and then in June the town of Črnomelj plays host to the oldest folklore festival in the country. Called Jurjevanje, this year marked its 53rd edition attracting more than 1200 performers from all over the world.
Yes, we were very lucky to be able to see some of the performances during Jurjevanje at the end of June. It was great and I spoke to members of several of the dance groups representing Bela Krajina at the festival. I loved seeing their costumes. It was really a great experience sitting in the warm summer evening on one of the long benches that had been set up at the town square. We were surrounded by local people and watching the traditional dances of countries from all over the world, such as Colombia. It is one of my most favourite memories from our time in Slovenia. So, tell me, what experience as a whole can the guests of the BIG BERRY Glampsite look forward to?
BIG BERRY aims to provide a fully customized and personalized visit. We always try to meet our guests’ needs and we are happy to accommodate any requests. For example, we can organise regional and Slovenia-wide trips, tastings of local food and drinks, sightseeing excursions to name but a few. What every person who has stayed with us is usually most impressed with though is the glampsite and what it has to offer. Upon arrival guests are greeted by the multinational BIG BERRY team and then they are accommodated in high quality mobile homes which are like comfortable little houses. In each house you will find everything you need to feel at home straight away and then some – from a fully equipped kitchen to a jacuzzi on your private veranda. The design of the interior is Italian. It is very stylish. The mobile homes have one or two bedrooms (accommodating from two to up to six people), bathroom, kitchen-cum-lounge, veranda with a big table and chairs for outdoor dining and the jacuzzi. Every mobile home faces the river. There is a bit of space between the different mobile homes to ensure maximum privacy to our guests. In any case, the BIG BERRY Glampsite on the river Kolpa has only seven mobile homes. In future when more franchise glampsites will be opened, the idea is to preserve this intimacy, peace and freedom. After all our motto is ‘Luxury of freedom’.
I agree. We loved how peaceful our stay at the glampsite was. It was like we were in our own little bubble just recharging our batteries. Everything that we could possibly need had been thought of and provided, so we could cook if we so wished or just call a meal in and relax. At the same time, there were so many events taking place on a daily basis, sometimes we simply couldn’t attend them all. Could you describe some of the day-to-day activities that a BIG BERRY guest can expect to try at the glampsite?
We are here to make guests feel special and to present to them ideas where to go and what to visit according to their interests. We like to give suggestions to people as to what is worth seeing, so that they don’t have to stress about organising day trips. We have established a great network with many local partners who make so many beautiful and tasty things which can be found only in the region of Bela Krajina. If anyone prefers to explore by themselves, this is also fine. We offer the use of a company car so that people could actually have the freedom to do it. Our connection with the local producers doesn’t stop just with us taking our guests to visit them so that they can see how honey is made or sample over forty different cold-pressed seed and kernel oils. Every morning we pick fresh local produce such as milk, yogurt, eggs, bread and fruit from local bakeries and farms and then take a wicker basket full with delicious and varied breakfast items to each mobile home. This way you can start the day with a healthy locally sourced breakfast on the sunny veranda overlooking the misty river Kolpa. Everything is part of the luxury experience and the freedom to savour it.
Oh, yes. The breakfast wicker basket! It was definitely one of the highlights of our stay at the glampsite. I think my favourite thing was the yogurt from the local dairy farm. The one flavoured with roasted apples was delicious. So, what makes the BIG BERRY glampsite one of a kind?
In my opinion the glampsite is quite unique. It has such a positive vibe to it. Even if I leave my personal attachment to it aside and speak strictly objectively, in general I can say that the mobile homes are something completely new on the market. They are made to fit so well with the surrounding area. This was the main goal during their development. Also during the preparatory stage of the glampsite special care was taken to preserve the trees and the soil. The BIG BERRY concept is to be fully connected with nature and also to make our guests feel like they have their own home in the heart of untouched pristine nature sight. With regards to the approach to our guests, we have put the focus on making people feel good, so we do our best to accommodate everybody’s needs. We are here to communicate with guests, to ask them about their interests, to find out how to make their stay as comfortable as possible. One of the main things for us is to be thoughtful and to pay attention even to the smallest things. Just to use the breakfast basket as an example again. If our guests tell us that they need more or less of a specific item, we make sure that the breakfast selection corresponds to exactly what they want. Another example would be the customised toiletries our guests find upon arrival in the bathrooms of the mobile homes. The berry-based and the green-based shampoo and body cream were made especially for BIG BERRY by the Slovenian natural cosmetics company AlpStories. Also, there are bathrobes, slippers, bags and aprons waiting for every guest (adults and children) which they can take home.
I think the best thing about our stay at the BIG BERRY glampsite was that we had you there to give us suggestions, explain where to go and what to see. Your energy and enthusiasm were truly infectious! No request was too big or too small. What do you love most about your job?
I was introduced to this project and the Hosekra company at the start of 2016, and, I must say that after I talked with Iztok, the project manager, and Boštjan, the owner, I immediately felt this good vibe. I am a person that mostly goes by how I feel when it comes to making decisions. I believe that if you follow how you feel inside, this is what your body and soul are attracted to, so it cannot be wrong. Then in March I visited the glampsite for the first time. At that time there were only two partially installed mobile homes. I had a good feeling and could see how it would all look when it is complete. Now, working here I feel amazing every day and I am happy that I trusted my gut feeling. I enjoy the work I do and I know that I am doing good things for the company and our guests. My most favourite moment of the day is when I wake up early in the morning, I look at the mist over the river Kolpa, I stretch on the beautiful veranda and then I head to our local partners to bring milk, yogurt, bread and fruit for breakfast. It fills up my batteries. I really feel that I contribute to the project as a whole which, when I stop and think, is a big deal as this is just the pilot year of the BIG BERRY camps. I am sort of overwhelmed when I think that this project will be known worldwide in a couple of years, and I am positive that it will be.
If you could give just one tip to the BIG BERRY guests, what would this be?
I have a lot of tips. They are called BIPS by the members of the multinational BIG BERRY team. For example, what to see in Bela Krajina, where to have a great meal or how not to flip over your canoe. The most important bip I could give to people though is: Stop to look at the beauty in the world and smile. And there is plenty of beauty in Slovenia to never take the smile off your face.
Thank you so much, Ana, for your time and for your lovely words. I loved experiencing BIG BERRY and Bela Krajina with your valuable help.
You can find more information about the BIG BERRY at the river Kolpa Glampsite in Slovenia at bigberry.eu or on social media:
- BIG BERRY @ Facebook
- BIG BERRY @ Twitter
- BIG BERRY @ Instagram
- BIG BERRY @ Pinterest
- BIG BERRY @ YouTube
N.B.: We were hosted by the brand new Big Berry Glampsite on the river Kolpa in Slovenia which is about four hours drive time away from Vicenza and offers seven mobile homes for the glamps at heart. As usual, all opinions are entirely my own.
Have you been to Slovenia before? Have you tried your hand at glamping? Let me know!