The Sečovlje salts flats covering over 800 hectares are the northernmost salt flats in the Mediterranean. Here, history is not only alive but working…still producing salt the traditional way for many centuries. Salt production has been documented going back 1,000 years in the Balkans.
The salt flats habitat outside Piran, Slovenia is extremely diverse and provides home to close to 300 bird species, as well as a rich marine eco-system. This prompted the Slovenian Government to declare the salt flats a nature park and a heritage site.
When we got there the salt production which runs year round was just starting to get under way. It’s at its peak from June to September when the crystallized salt is collected from the saltpans. We stopped at Lera Salt Shopin a restored salt flat building and bought some salt – and locally made chocolate delicious with salt crystals in the chocolate. A local favorite, said our friends Nives and Tamara. They were right as the treat never made it home.
Birdwatching is excellent at Fontanigge, the southern part the park, and we could see white herons and birds flying overhead. We didn’t have much time so elected to stick to the main section and visit the Museum instead. The displays were informative and with no one else in the building I imagined the role that salt played in the days of Marco Polo. Rumors here are that he had visited these Salt Flats just as we were today. The story is not far-fetched as these were producing salt during his time. Salt was used as currency hence terms such as “worth his salt”. The word salary comes from Latin’s word for salt.
In Marco Polo’s days it was extremely important to Venice’s economy. Venice and Genoa fought in the War of Ferarra also known as the Salt War in 1482 to 1484. Venice won and declared a monopoly on it, taxing it heavily and growing extremely rich over it.
Salt played a major role in the economies of Trieste, Piran, Izola and Koper, our hometown. No wonder we Polo’s were such salty dogs.
Today was a special day because we had our childhood best friends Nives and Tamara with us. We laughed and we played tourist, but we had a little detective work to do. We had found a photograph that showed Adriane and Tamara on the bow of a boat that our parents had bought. We remembered playing on the boat as they worked on it. Could that boat still be floating?
Tamara remembered clearly the location and we headed off to Portoroz in search of our boat building heritage. We found the small shipyard and looking was fun but too many years had passed. We didn’t find the boat but we found lots of memories.
I watched a man work on a boat and his body shape was familiar. I could see my father leaning over our sailboat that he would build a few years later in Canada. The 58’ sailboat Rhapsodia would become our home in British Columbia, setting us off another adventure that still continues today.
On our way to the Salt Flats we had made a surprise stop at a small beautifully ornate church where Father Bojan was now living.
Father Bojan played a huge role in our childhood and we had fond memories of the young charismatic priest.
As we walked towards the doors, he greeted us as if it was just yesterday and not a lifetime that had passed. “You were the young girls who went to Canada,” he exclaimed. My father and he had many a debate on life and philosophy in our small apartment in Koper, with us absorbing it all in.
Time flew back and I was six years old. I am watching my feet hit the black and white marbled floor as I move forward, gripping my candle, hoping I don’t trip or worse yet- that a stray draft blow my candle out and send me straight to hell. It was my communion and my parents were very proud and I was very serious. We loved that church – it was white and bright and full of Father Bojan’s loving personality.
Invited in with such warm hospitality we sat with our childhood friends in the kitchen and listened to his recollections of our family — and we knew we were truly blessed.