The Karst is a territory where groundwater is predominant due to the permeability of the rocks, while the dissolving limestone shapes typical formations both on and below the surface. The geological phenomena on this rocky terrain are so distinctive that the term karst grew to be used to denote such geographical features appearing anywhere in world. In Slovenia, Karst denotes the part of south-west Slovenia stretching among the nearby Italian border, the Vipava valley and the hills of Brkini.
The name is derived from the ancient word for stone, which is in abundance in the area. The buildings in ancient Karst villages featuring typical architecture are made of stone and covered with limestone plates (Slovenian name: skrle), while courtyards are enclosed by stone walls. The typical low stone walls separate plots and protect the fields, which were created by removing stones, from the strong Karst bora wind. The stone is that much more visible because the landscape is hardly covered with any forest – in the past, it used to resemble a stone desert because it was deforested for economic purposes, until a planned afforestation was started.
Because stone is so predominant in the area, it is quite surprising that Karst cultivates a tradition of viticulture, which goes two thousand years in the past. Likewise, the strong bora and winds from the sea, mostly dry periods, plenty of sunshine and a lack of surface water do not seem to speak in favour of growing vines, but in combination with the red soil that is rich in minerals, they obviously provide excellent conditions for wine production. The cultivation of the Refosco, the predominant vine variety of the Karst wine-growing region, goes back to the beginning of the Christian era. This territory produces variety of red wine called Teran from the refosco vine, for which Pliny claimed it had healing properties like no other wine. This unique, world-renowned wine contains more lactic acid and polyphenols than any other type. The Karst soil gives a specific flavour to other wine grape varieties as well.
The dry climate with frequent north winds and the bora also provides exceptional conditions for air-drying meat. Dried pork legs, which are called prosciutto, can be found practically everywhere in the Mediterranean region. They differ by the type of meat used, the method of processing, and the drying period. The Karts prosciutto is the most widely known and appreciated Slovenian prosciutto and also the holder of a protected geographical indication. The intense ruby colour and a salty-sweet taste of the Karst prosciutto is a gourmet delicacy that is well worth tasting.
Life always finds its way, even on the hard and once devastated Karst land. It is therefore of little surprise that over 300 species of butterflies live in the area, mostly in forests, dry grasslands, wet meadows and ponds, while a wide plethora of plant and animal species can also be found in rocky terrains. A large part of the Karst plateau is included in Natura 2000, a European network of protected areas that was established for the preservation of biodiversity. An undemanding biking path leads through the nature and the typical features showing life in Karst, i.e. stone, Teran and prosciutto.