Christopher Pratt (cpratt) wrote,
Christopher Pratt

And on a completely unrelated topic...

... Dan and I are going to Slovenia in May for five days. Last night, I whipped out my Hungarian map of Slovenia and Croatia, and happily lost myself in thought for a while. For example, I found the town of Idrija, near Ljubljana, home of mercury mines; there's a town south of San José, California, called Idria, where they mined... mercury. [Similarly, there's a town in Spain called Almaden where they mine mercury - and that's why it's called the San José Mercury News.]

I then found Lipica, home of Lippizzaner horses, Trieste, which I imagine used to be called something like Trst, and all kinds of other small, strange places. For example, the Triglav, a mountain at the center of a national park that of course will always make me think of Laibach.

Of course, the map only really gets into full-on strange mode when you start looking at all the weird border crossings to Austria and Italy; there sure seem like a lot of in-construction motorways in that part of the world. It's all so very European.

Luckily, Croatia is on the map as well, so if that weren't interesting enough for you, you can follow its coastline and thrill to the sight of Bosnia's wee intrusion to the coastline north of Dubrovnik. Perfect for those of us who think Point Roberts, WA is cool, and who have always wanted to visit Nakhichevan - there's just something interesting about national boards with weird missing bits like that.

Finally, I now know where Zinfandel came from. Just west of that territory interruption, there's a very long, skinny peninsula jutting out into the Mediterranean. Somewhere within 40km of here there's a vineyard with eight vines - only eight of them - of crljenak kasteljanski, an exceedingly obscure grape variety that was imported to the east coast of the USA in the 1800s, probably sourced from inventory in the Austro-Hungarian botanical collections. It made its way to California as a table grape, but someone figured out you could make really good wine from it at one point, and the rest is history. It's now called Zinfandel, or Primitivo in Italy.

So, when looking at the map, it's fun to think that this one grape originated in this very, very small corner of the world. I don't know of other grapes like that [not including of course genetically engineered grape varities such as Müller-Thurgau, Ruby Cabernet, Pinotage, etc.] I'd love to visit the area, but it's just too far to go for the limited time we're there - and, well, there probably aren't any commercial producers of Croatian zinfandel; after all, with only eight or so known plants, they probably don't give much of a crop. [Actually, further discoveries have since been made, but the number of plants is still very small. The problem is simply that this grape does not do well in the Croatian climate; related grapes such as plavac mali do fine, but not Zin. Therefore, it's been allowed to (nearly) die out over the years.]

  • It's July 2013.

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