Along the northeast coast of the Adriatic, wedged tightly between Italy’s elegant Trieste and the mountainous coast and islands of Croatia, lies a tiny sliver of Slovenia. The ancient town of Koper occupies this narrow shard providing otherwise land-locked Slovenia with its only access to the sea.
As Yolanda and I wander Koper’s walled old quarter, its ancient streets echo to the hoof-on-stone sounds of a team of horses clopping and sliding down the gentle incline of age-polished cobbles. Seeking protection within a doorway gives the colorful cart of tourists space to pass.
The town is clean and bright. Shuttered, lightly pastel houses and buildings rise only occasionally higher than two stories. Being a Sunday, few people other than tourists are about.
Finding ourselves quickly outside the walls of the old section, we encounter the modern side of Koper, again, low sleak buildings sloping gently to an azure harbor filled with boats. Only a very few boats belie the apparent modest incomes of this newly-formed country cloven from the former, communist Yugoslavia.
Wandering along the harbor on this gorgeous, clear, fall morning, a hive of activity surrounds several large tents. We’ve stumbled upon a local harvest fair. Booths inside the tents display local cheeses, olive oils, honeys, vinegars, vegetables and wines.
Proud farmers eagerly hand out samples hoping to entice purchases or simply to share their land’s bounty. A local mushroom-gatherers club displays numerous varieties as a fragrant batch is sautéed for sampling.
Emerging from this festival for the taste buds, the distant snow-covered mountains of Italy and Austria rise to the west of the deep blue Adriatic. A long, white line, miles away, appears very strange. Using my telephoto, the line resolves into a massive volumn of sails, thousands as it turns out. Trieste, Koper’s Italian neighbor, is holding their annual yacht race, the largest in the world. Over two thousand yachts participate each year!