“I’m mowing around the wild flowers so they can continue to seed and grow,” Bojan Roš, co-owner and co-creator of Nebesa, tells us, having just quietened his mower to greet us after tending to the meadow-like lawn in front of the chalets.
We had just pulled up at Nebesa (which literally means “heaven”) – a four-chalet haven near the top of the Alps above Livek in Slovenia. It’s also just a few miles outside of Kobarid which is well-known as being the Italian’s third line of defense in the First World War and a strategic geographical point in the turning of events. And of course, for being documented in Hemingway’s, Farewell to Arms. But more on that in a later post.
The reason we were in Slovenia to begin with was because Monkey and I had watched an episode of the Netflix hit series, Chef’s Table, during the winter. One particular episode featured a self-taught female chef, Ana Roš, who in partnership with her husband, Valter, has quietly been taking the global food world by storm. Their restaurant, Hiša Franko, was passed on to them by Valter’s parents who had owned the mountain lodgings for many years.
“We should go there,” I said to Monkey and immediately fired up my laptop to do some research. With an 8 course gourmet meal priced at below 100 Euros, I figured that it had to be worth the price of the flights and accommodation. #fuzzymath
More research revealed that Hiša Franko also offers rooms and breakfast. “Perfect,” I thought to myself. Sadly, on inquiry, the rooms were all booked, but the helpful staff pointed us to a place about 15 minutes away, called Nebesa. I looked it up and fell in love immediately with its staggeringly beautiful setting and contemporary architecture.
So here we were, months later, having just completed a windy, climbing journey from Lipica, and needing to do a quick change before our long-awaited 5pm reservation at Hiša Franko. But first, we had to drink in the sheer magic of this place.
In addition to being greeted by Bojan, we also spied their lovely old giant Newfoundland dog, Lola, who immediately stole Monkey’s heart. She is an astonishing 14 years old, almost unheard of for such a large dog. No doubt her longevity is due to the pure air and good Alpine living.
“Lola is dying,” Katja, Bojan’s wife and partner, told us kindly in her lilting accented English, as she too welcomed us. She immediately assuaged us, with assurances that Lola is destined for doggie heaven. Having cared for elderly dogs, I knew where she was coming from.
Before showing us to our chalet, Katja first took us to see the communal areas, explaining that part of their idea in creating Nebesa over 15 years ago, was to include everything you might need in the price, and let you help yourself, rather than overwhelm people with too much service.
Seeing the generously-stocked fridge in the fully functional kitchen and dining room, we felt a like kids in a candy store. Milk, eggs, cheese, nuts, butter, fresh seasonal fruit, multiple types of drinks—including an espresso machine—lots of different breads, and even rice, were in abundance. And Katja assured as we would find most of these items in the smaller kitchen in our own chalet.
Next she took us down stairs to the wine cellar. Again our eyes widened. Local red and white wine was on tap for free, with special bottles available to buy on an honor system. The shelves were stocked with liquors and other goodies to drink, along with homemade preserves, local cheese and an entire leg of cured ham. With a meat slicer, homemade salami and other dried meats, we knew we weren’t going to go hungry.
The next part of the tour took us into the fitness studio, which—like the entire property—overlooks the mountains. And then a tour of the self-service spa: three different types of saunas, including an infrared one, a set of cold showers including a dunking bucket, foot baths, and even a pebbled walkway based on the theories of Bavarian priest, Sebastian Kneipp.
And all this before we’d even seen our room. I was speechless. Every detail has been so well thought-through. So beautifully executed. It’s hard to describe in words.
Finally, we were shown our chalet. A stunning A-frame building created from glass, steel, wood and copper, with its own kitchen, living room, bathroom, deck and loft bedroom. All created in the style of a “tiny house” the now so-popular approach to ecological living. The dining table appears on wheels from out of the cabinet, and other necessities are cleverly stowed away to create a clean and minimalist space.
But above all else, it’s the views that just take your breath away. Majestic mountains that shift shape, color and even visibility throughout the day, depending on the weather. Always reminding you that the world is so much bigger than you or I.
In the morning, the white mist often masks the peaks, or hangs in the valleys, giving an entirely ethereal feel. By lunchtime, as the sun rises high, the colors of the place come to life: the bright green of the lush grass, contrasting with the pretty wild flowers, the white-lime tops of the mountains and the turquoise of the Socca river below (see featured photo above).
And at sunset, there is a golden reddish glow cast across it all. as dusk falls and things get still and quiet.
We got chatting to Bojan at one point, and he told us how they had had a crazy dream to turn an abandoned ski resort into something special. He said the place was literally covered in trash and presumably, remnants of the resort, which had fallen to disuse when the snow stopped coming. The couple engaged a local architect friend and gave him “carte blanche” to create a design. “I wanted to work with someone who knew this place and had a passion in his heart for it,” Bojan said. “And our friend had skied here as a child. He loved it here.”
They raised a loan and built the entire property for 2 million Euros (back in the early 2000’s), which sounds like incredible value. The couple are kind, informative, friendly, and something which I didn’t learn until we were seated at Hiša Franko, parents to Ana Roš. They are not the type to brag, and they have certainly built their own incredibly successful venture in hospitality.
Sadly for us, but happily for them, it’s time for them to retire from running Nebesa day-to-day, and at the end of this season, they will be handing over the reins to their other daughter, Maya. They’ll build a fifth “tiny” chalet on the property to live in themselves, and no doubt will continue to be at the heart of Nebesa for many years to come. Bojan tells us that his favorite season here is autumn when the mountains turn red as the wild beech trees start to lose their leaves.
It was with a real and deep sense of sadness that we drove away from Nebesa after just two nights. I know we will be back because both Monkey and I have left a little part of ourselves up there in the Slovenian Alps, surrounded by awe-inspiring beauty and the memories of the tragedies that took place during the First World War.
Prices for a chalet vary depending on the season. We paid around 520 Euros for two nights.
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