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A night at Kobe Gothic Fetish bar: Idea! Killstar Satanic occult fashion, pentagram harness dresses.

goth punk spikes sexy dress

Devil horns, times two! Appropriate attire… as I was ready to party at a Gothic and Fetish bar in Kobe, Japan.

● I’m wearing a pastel goth ram horns headband from Devilish 666. Love the lavender poof detail on a silver band.
● My bodycon dress is a one-off from Hong Kong’s Spider, similar to many of the fashions by Killstar

occult wiccan satan bar

Idea (pronounced “E-day-ah”) is one of the most authentic and unique underground bars in Japan. Those with a dark disposition will love the occult decor, particularly a light-up pentagram at the center of the bar. 

killstar kill star gothic dresses

What better place to wear occult, Gothic, fetish-inspired fashion? These recent designs from Killstar would fit right in with the aesthetic. My favorites are:

1. Spooky Harajuku Backpack — reminds me of the Ghostbusters ghoul, and is a perfect mix of spooky and cute.
2. Repent Vegan Leather Choker — I have a similar one, which you can see in this outfit post.
3. Living Dead Skater Dress  — Skeleton prints never go out of style.

pentagram satanic fashion killstar

Killstar has lots of pentacles and other Satanic symbols in their fashion. Such as:

4. Band Of Misfits Crop Top — such a killer cut-out design, and can be styled in so many ways.
5. In Like Sin Skater Dress — the horned devil on top, and a hem of Satan’s crosses.
6. Templar Initiate Knit Cardigan — a cozy oversize coat, with a pentagram devil on the back
7. Silver Spring Skater Dress — pentagrams all over. There’s a pentagram leggings version of this as well.

✪ Shop more from Kill Star by clicking the images below ✪

japan goth girls, parties

Many visitors overlook Kobe as a travel destination, or only know its name because of “Kobe beef.” But the city has tons to offer (food, nightlife, sights) — and the locals are known for their down-to-earth, friendly vibe.

I was traveling around the country on a Japan Rail Pass, and it made perfect sense to stop in Kobe. The station is only 45 minutes from Osaka, and 1.5 hours from Kyoto. With an unlimited J Rail Pass — which I highly suggest you book — you can hop on and off the trains, and easily see this city.

kobe okonomiyaki restaurant

John introduced me to his local friends, who as you can see are fellow creatures of the night. Alternative fashion, Visual Kei and more devil horn salutes!

We went to a cozy restaurant and ordered lots of drinks and dishes to share. The Kansai district is known for its okonomiyaki (Japanese savory pancake, grilled at the table). This restaurant’s version was probably the best I’ve ever had, especially the one made with natto (a fermented sticky bean that is not to everyone’s taste, but delivers cheesy umami in this dish).

pentagram coasters, satan bar

After this perfect meal, we walked to the Goth & Fetish bar where two of the ladies work: Idea.

Address: IDEA is located at 2-17-8 Nakayamate-dori, Chuo-ku, Kobe (it’s found near Kobe Mosque, here on Google Maps).
The bar is open from 8pm to 3am. Look for the chained-up slave boy at the entrance, and you’ve arrived.

gothic fetish bar idea, kobe japan

For those who love horror movies and witchery, Idea is a revelation. You’ll walk past a collection of skulls and taxidermy, and arrive at a long bar with nails under the glass… and an evil baby doll on top of the pentagram! 

goth halloween themed bar japan

Mistress Midori opened Gothic & Fetish Bar “IDEA” in July 2010. It’s comprised of two floors, with a spectacular Devilish VIP room on the upper level.

Under the glass counter, there lies a torture device: a nail bed with 8800 deadly spikes. The ladies can open it up, in case someone is in need of punishment!

pentacle skull, satanic altar

Mistress Midori has amassed an impressive collection of Satanic symbology. This black table is a miniature altar, strewn with skulls and roses. Nearby, there’s a life-sized replica of Dracula in “bat” form from “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” hanging on the wall.

Idea also keeps a ball python and scorpion as pets at the bar, and plenty of occult-related books on the coffee tables upstairs.

japanese goth mistress bar

Everyone who sits down at the bar gets personal attention from the staff, dressed in enticing Gothic garments. Our hostess Naito spoke conversational English, and made sure I always had enough yuzu chips and whiskey on the rocks.

Behind her, you’ll see metal rods behind the bar arranged in three rows of six (to signify 666, the number of the Beast). The red-and-black bathroom has the same black metal rods lining the room — but there are 72 of them, one for each demon of the Goetia or invocation of demons.

pentagram tarot coasters home decor

Idea’s pentagram logo (and much of the interior design) is the work of Taiki. He runs the magnificent Gothic club night Black Veil, and occult store Territory in Osaka, which I will feature soon. Taiki is also the cousin of Mistress Midori.

The speakers broadcast DJ Taiki’s Industrial-electronic-Goth mixes all night, which brought back fond memories of my earlier clubbing days in Japan.

japanese mistresses, fetish

Despite the frightening objects found in every corner (such as this three-eyed demon baby), the ladies make Idea a fun and positive space. Don’t feel intimidated about coming here: everyone is so welcoming.

(Naito is wearing a lace-up skull corset similar to this one.)

shibari rope tying bar japan

After a few hours of hanging out, it was time for a shibari performance (Japanese fetish rope-tying). Choose your weapon… there are plenty on-hand.

japanese s&m dominatrix

It’s incredible to watch Mistress Midori in action. She’s an experienced artist at the ropes, and has a deep connection with her girls.

shibari rope domination club

Mistress Midori tied up Naito with both care and speed, inverted her and spun her around, and applied flicks of the whip. 

candle wax sado masochism

On special occasions, she will often incorporate ritualistic elements such as lighting candles on a candelabra and raising up a skull, and then snuffing the flames after the show has ended.

For this performance, she lit red candles and dripped them onto Naito’s mouth, an image reminiscent of vampire blood.

japan medical hospital theme bar

Idea also has special events on all of the traditional pagan “wheel of the year” days (and women get in free). On Halloween, Walpurgis, and the Summer and Winter Solstices, she tends to have bigger events with rope shows and hook suspension as well.

osaka kobe goth clubs parties

Time flies when you’re having fun… and torturing victims.

pregnant goth mother

That must be Rosemary’s Baby, ready to come out and play!

japan goth occult wiccan

If you’re looking for an offbeat Japanese bar and nightlife experience to remember, come and experience IDEA in Kobe. The ladies may even let you lie down on the nail bed…

(For ideas for something to wear, there are pentagram and harness dresses below:)

baker street sherlock holmes kobe museum

I only had a brief time in Kobe, but there’s a lot to see. John and I walked around the hilly Kitano district, home to trendy bars and cafes. Many foreigner merchants and diplomats lived here in the 19th century, and their European-style houses are still around.

Fans of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s detective should check out the Sherlock Holmes Room, a replica of 221 B Baker Street in Kobe. (I didn’t have time to visit, but I went to a similar Sherlock Holmes cafe in Shanghai).

daruma shrine, kawaii altar

We also visited the Shinto Ninomiya Shrine, which is dedicated to good health, fortune and luck.

This colorful shelf of daruma and lucky cats caught my eye and made me smile.

Ninomiya Shrine, Kobe japan

Ninomiya is a small shrine, beautifully maintained. The stone gardens lead to fortune papers and red torii gates.

(Read more about Shinto worship and traditions in my post about Kyoto).

arashi shrine, japanese idol worship

On the less traditional side: why are there wood wishing boards (ema) with drawings of Arashi, the Japanese idol boy band? Because J-pop fans are hardcore. The singer of the group is named Kazunari Ninomiya, and this shrine shares his last name — so it’s part of the “Arashi shrine tour” that fans visit on a pilgrimage.

japanese snake statue shinto

I leave you with a white snake, coiled up inside the shrine. Fox and pig spirits help guard the exterior.

Did you know Kobe, Japan was home to such a fascinating Goth bar? If you’re drawn to the the dark side, here are more designs by Killstar below (click to see details).

Better Late Than Never, Hong Kong: travel TV show with William Shatner, Henry Winkler! Sydney Opera House.

better late than never hong kong episode

Thank you for your fantastic response to the Hong Kong episode of Better Late Than Never, the new NBC show travel TV show!

It was a dream come true to hang with The Fonz, Henry Winkler (of Happy Days fame)…

nbc better late than never hong kong episode

… and William Shatner, aka Captain Kirk on the original Star Trek. That is indeed me, dancing with Shatner in the streets of Mongkok, for this travel TV shoot! (Thanks to Thomas for this epic shot — full photo credits below.)

nbc better late than never hong kong episode

I’m very happy that “Better Late Than Never” has been raising lots of laughs and positive reactions! I couldn’t believe it when the producers contacted me to be part of the series. I was flown to Hong Kong and got to take part in this second episode.

This hilarious travel-reality show stars Terry Bradshaw (quarterback and broadcaster), William Shatner (Star Trek’s Capt. Kirk), Henry Winkler (The Fonz on Happy Days) and George Foreman (boxer and grill-master). Along with comedian Jeff Dye, these funny guys travel around Asia in search of adventures and Zen, with lots of mishaps along the way.  

nbc better late than never hong kong episode

Their journey throughout Asia includes Tokyo, Kyoto, Seoul, Bangkok and Chiang Mai. I was thrilled to have them be in Hong Kong with me — my friends and family even got to join the big dance scene in Mongkok.

(My dress is Spider by Natalie Lam. I’m currently selling a lot of my personal wardrobe; let me know if you’re interested in any of my fashion/accessories! Take a look at my store listings here, and email me to let me know what you’d like.)

nbc better late than never hong kong episode

The weather was a little iffy that day, but the rain and clouds cleared in time for the big dance number. Believe it or not, we took over one of the busiest streets of Hong Kong!

nbc better late than never hong kong episode

The Fab Four arrived on the scene — Henry Winkler turned his camera on us for this shot. Terry Bradshaw whipped out a microphone and burst into song!

nbc better late than never hong kong episode

Then it was time to dance, dance, dance. I was impressed by their ability to pull off a choreographed number!

nbc better late than never hong kong episode

So much fun, to dance in the streets with Captain Kirk and Fonzie! 

(All of the amazing photos above are by Thomas Sandfield of Sandfield Productions. Thank you for capturing this epic day.)

nbc better late than never hong kong episode

I was glad to have my local friends with me, to take part in the scene.

nbc better late than never hong kong episode

Chaos, color, song… that’s the spirit of Hong Kong! Can you see me dancing with William Shatner in the middle?

(Above two photos by K. Lau of Bright Production.)

nbc better late than never hong kong episode

I also filmed a scene on the minibus, where I talked about Hong Kong’s travel attractions and general awesomeness. (Love the V-fingers photobomb behind me.)

nbc better late than never hong kong episode

What a joy to joke and riff with Henry Winkler and George Foreman, for this TV scene. They’re truly kind and humble, and up for anything!

nbc better late than never hong kong episode

Here are more black and white images from Thomas Sandfield of Sandfield Productions. It was a genius idea to pair “culture and Zen” William Shatner with “let’s roughhouse and sing” Terry Bradshaw on a travel show!

nbc better late than never hong kong episode

We were dancing along to the Otis Day and the Knights song “Shout (You Make me Wanna).”

captain kirk travel tv show asia

Above shots by Arthur Rash. Thanks to everyone who supported the TV shoot, and for watching NBC’s Better Late Than Never!

travel influencers snapchat account

On that note… I never got around to posting about my travels in Sydney, Australia. But better late than never, right?

If you have me on your Snapchat (@lacarmina), then you’ll have glimpsed me taking selfies under Harbour Bridge, earlier this year. (Since many of you asked, I’m wearing Karen Walker sunglasses.)

sydney harbour bridge fashion blogger

I’m wearing a Black Milk top and skirt: this Great Wave maxi-skirt is one of my favorites (see me wearing it at New Zealand’s Hobbit Town). Blackmilk’s designs are fantastic for travel because they’re lightweight and don’t crease, and easy to pack in luggage. (And stylish, of course). My fuzzy purse is from Mercibeaucoup in Shinjuku.

sydney opera house architecture

I had never been to Australia, and had very little time to explore. However, it was worth the trip to go down under and at least see Sydney. I’ll have to come back soon to see the Gold Coast, Melbourne and more.

As a first-timer, I had to visit the Sydney Opera House. I took the subway to Circular Quay, and walked over.

harbour bridge, famoous sydney australia bridge

The Sydney Harbour Bridge is also located here. Many travellers do the “bridge climb” where they walk on top of the structure for panoramic views. I’m not afraid of heights, but you aren’t allowed to take your own photos, and must wear a not-so-stylish jumpsuit… I’d prefer to pose below, wearing Black Milk!

sydney fashion blogging, hair

Even from “down under” the bridge, you can’t beat these views of the harbor.

(My sunglasses are Karen Walker, similar to these round ones by her. More of her styles below.)

sydney opera house tour

I don’t usually like to do “tourist” activities in cities, but I thoroughly enjoyed the Sydney Opera House tourThis guided tour lets you go inside the concert halls and see Jorn Utzon’s masterful architecture up close. 

I learned, for example, that the “white” sails of the roof are actually made over a million chevron tiles, in two shades of cream. Our guide spoke about the politics involved in the construction process, and how the Danish architect eventually left the project. (He’s never even been inside the completed structure, which opened in 1973.)

Jørn Utzon room, sydney opera house

I had the opportunity to see Jørn Utzon’s room, defined by concrete structural beams and a 14 meter long tapestry of his own design. On the opposite end, giant windows overlook the harbour waters.

circular quay, australia harbor

Our guide spoke about how Utzon solved design problems in innovative ways, such as by peeling an orange to see how the curved sails could fit together.

As you can tell, I learned so much from the multimedia Opera House tour. Anyone who is interested in modern architecture should check it out.

lunch restaurant sydney opera house

I selected the Tour and Tasting Plate, which ends with an al fresco meal underneath the sails.

opera kitchen menu, food

At Opera Kitchen, I got to try a three-tiered lunch set with a range of finger foods: sushi, mini burgers, dumplings, salad and more.

restaurant with view, sydney harbor

The perfect lunch for sharing with a friend, especially when paired with Australian pinot noir. I got to enjoy the sunshine, and bask in this uninterrupted view of the Harbour Bridge and waters. 

lion statues, royal botanic gardens sydney

From Circular Quay, it’s a short walk to the Royal Botanic Garden. This large park is filled with different themed gardens, and has a pond and Asian pavilion.

bondi beach, sydney australia

It would be tragic if went to Sydney and skipped out on Bondi beach. I rode the subway to Bondi Junction, and then hopped on the bus that runs frequently to the beach. When you see this curving cove of sand, you’ve arrived.

famous sydney beaches, bondi surfing

This 1 km long beach is classic Sydney. I watched surfers ride the waves, and walked barefoot on Bondi’s warm and soft sand. 

best sydney brunch breakfast cafe

Time to chow down. I’ve heard that Sydney is famous for its breakfasts, and found this to be true. This salmon eggs Benedict, with an almond milk flat white, was as good as it looked on my Instagram.

ceru restaurant, sydney levantine cuisine

I loved the breakfast at Ceru Restaurant so much that I came back for dinner. (I went to the Potts Point location, but the restaurant is currently moving to a new spot.)

I was accompanied by my friend Leanne, writer at Trashtastika. We were charmed by the Middle Eastern ceramics near the windows.

ceru restsaurant menu, mezze appetizers

British chef Tom Kime launched Ceru as a celebration of Levantine cuisine. He incorporates flavors and recipes from the Eastern Mediterranean, infusing them with a modern interpretation.

We started by sharing a spread of mezzes and salads. Beetroot and chickpea purees, with cucumber sticks and pita — everything is organic, and the menu is vegan and gluten free friendly.

ceru middle eastern food

Fresh pomegranate, mint, and pistachio add dimension to this lamb dish. These Levant spices pair marvellously with Ceru’s craft cocktails and cold-pressed juices.

sydney dessert house

I’m still thinking about Ceru’s honeycomb baklava ice cream… with flavors of burnt caramel and roasted nut. Possibly the tastiest and most creative dessert I’ve had all year.

nbc better late than never hong kong episode

PS – you can find out more about Better Late Than Never on their website, including viewing times and clips.

nbc better late than never hong kong episode

I leave you with a few more scenes from this huge network shoot. There were so many moving parts, but the team pulled it off.

nbc better late than never hong kong episode

“We-eee-eeel…. / You know you make me wanna (Shout!) / Kick my heels up and (Shout!) / Throw my hands up and (Shout!)”

nbc better late than never hong kong episode

For more Hong Kong adventures and travel tips, check out all my posts here. And don’t forget to take a glimpse at my wardrobe sale.

Have a happy weekend!

Guide to Visiting Angkor Wat: travel video! Siem Reap tour, Lara Croft temple & Buddha statues.

award winning travel blogs, female traveler

I’ve long been fascinated by the mysterious temples of Angkor Wat. It was a dream come true to live out my “Tomb Raider” fantasies in Siem Reap.

If this UNESCO site is on your bucket list, then I hope you’ll enjoy my latest Cambodia travel video (watch here), which includes tips on what to see and do.

siem reap cambodia ruins

I’ll also share the dramatic photos we took amidst the ancient temple ruins — inspired by Lara Croft! 

nbc better late than never hong kong episode

But first, a special announcement. I’m excited to finally reveal that I’m in a new NBC travel TV show, “Better Late than Never” — starring William Shatner (Captain Kirk) and Henry Winkler (The Fonz!) I shot this series last year in Asia, and had to keep it secret until now.

You can see me goofing off in Hong Kong on this major network program, which airs on Tuesday, August 30th at 10pm ET. (Check your listings to make sure of the exact air time, and stay tuned to my social media for previews.)

henry winkler better late than never tv show

“Better Late than Never” is basically four elder celebrities on a bucket list adventure all throughout Asia. That’s correct: I got to be on-screen with William Shatner (Star Trek), Henry Winkler (Happy Days), boxer George Foreman, and football legend Terry Bradshaw! 

Can you imagine how much fun I had with these legends? There was dancing, singing and costumes involved… Be sure to tune in this Tues, Aug 30 for a good laugh at our Hong Kong shenanigans! 

angkor wat tree roots

Outfit Details:

1990s dark floral skirt: from Pylo. Here is a similar shorter version of this skirt.

My glasses are by Oliver Goldsmith, whose styles are inspired by Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly and other silver screen icons.

Please take a moment to watch our short Cambodia travel video (above and on @lacarmina YouTube). It highlights some of the best travel attractions in Siem Reap, from the circus to the temples.

cambodia fashion blog

What’s the best hotel in Siem Reap?  My vote goes to the magnificent Le Méridien Angkor hotel. They have a lush backyard garden…

le meridien angkor lobby

… and modern interiors, inspired by classic Khmer design. The location is also as good as it gets: Angkor Wat is less than a 10 minute drive away.

le meridien siem reap swimming pool

Le Meridien has one of the coolest swimming pool designs I’ve seen. The waters are framed by gardens dotted with Hindu statues.

goth pincurls hair style

In my happy place. Wearing a Michi cut out top, and blue Linda Farrow sunglasses.

michi athletic fashion, designer fitness clothes

Lotus flowers add to the feeling of peace.

tomb raider swimming pool

Posing with my travel buddy John Skeleton. We also went to Vietnam together, one of my favorite trips.

luxury art hotel siem reap

See many more photos of my outfit and Le Meridien Angkor, in this previous post

fashion blogger income, money

Thanks to Ken Yuen and Sniper Chau for the photography.

angkor wat pyramids

Now, let’s tackle the temples!

I recommend going to Angkor Wat at 5pm the day before your visit, to purchase your ticket (for one, three or seven days entry).

cambodian sunrise

This way, you can go inside to see the sunset and skip the line-up the next day.

sun rise dawn angkor

Our Le Meridien guide took us to a prime photo-taking position by the second reflective pool.

I am not a morning person, but it was worth waking up at 5am to see the sunrise over the towers of Angkor Wat.

big tree roots cambodian jungle

After dawn breaks, many tourists go on to explore the main buildings of Angkor Wat. However, to avoid the crowd, I suggest seeing other temples in the morning (there are over a thousand in this large complex).

Walking through the humid jungle can be a challenge, but you’ll get to see powerful trees with roots like this. 

demon statues, angkor wat

Some tourists ride tuk-tuks or bikes, but my team and I had a driver and guide, which made it easier to get around.

The left side of this pathway over the water had Buddha statues. We preferred to take photos of the right side, which was lined with scowling demons.

elephant wall carving cambodia

Our guide showed us the Terrace of the Elephants. It was the site of public ceremonies for the Khmer king and his troops.

bayon buddha heads

One can’t help but smile when you come across these beaming Buddha faces, peeping out from the trees.

angkor wat carvings

I was mesmerized by this long wall of carvings, which depict Hindu devas.

hindu deva bas relief

Some of the faces have been worn down by the elements and time, adding to the feeling of mystery.

tomb raider photoshoot cosplay

Words can’t capture the feeling of standing right in the doorway of century-old ruins. The Cambodian architecture stands the test of time.

climbing angkor thom

Anyone can get up close to the structures, and even climb them. Just watch out for the slippery moss.

angkor temple ruins

Feeling like I’ve entered a lost world. There were no other tourists around us, since our guide helped us avoid the crowds.

travel blogger siem reap

Imagining that I am Lara Croft for a day. I even wore a braid in my hair.

lara croft cosplay angkor wat

The fallen bricks are as beautiful as the standing structures, in their own way.

ta prohm tree roots

If you only have one day, be sure to visit Bayon with its smiling Buddha faces. You also can’t miss Ta Prohm, the “Tomb Raider” temple with tree roots converging into the ancient architecture.

reflecting pond angkor temple

In the afternoon, I suggest returning to the main Angkor Wat temple. The lighting conditions are best at this time, letting you capture dramatic light and shadows.

angkor wat photography sunlight

A big thank you to HK Express for making this epic journey possible. This short-haul airline goes directly from Hong Kong to Siem Reap, and the service is phenomenal. They fly to Tokyo, Osaka, Seoul and other destinations in Asia as well.

cambodia lotus pond

In addition to the temples, you can experience a wide range of nightlife, restaurants and entertainment in the city center. Be sure to check out my Siem Reap travel guide for food and bar tips.

angkor wat temple silhouette

If these photos caught your attention, then come see my Angkor Wat Cambodia video (click to play).  I hope you find my recommendations helpful.

And don’t forget to tune in on Tuesday, August 30th — NBC channel — to watch me on “Better Late Than Never” with Henry Winkler, William Shatner, Henry Foreman and Terry Bradshaw! Life can be full of amazement, wouldn’t you agree?

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Why Travel to Slovenia? The Mediterranean beaches of Portoroz, Slovenian food, Fonda sustainable fish!

portoroz, piran slovenia beach

Ah, there’s nothing like the Mediterranean coast in summer. Could this be the Italian Riviera? Dubrovnik in Croatia? Surprise… I’m standing in Slovenia! 

Before my trip, I knew very little about this tiny European country — and I’m guessing you’re in the same shoes. To my surprise, I discovered a world class beach town, creative restaurant scene, and ethical food produced by Slovenians with passion.

On our first day, my filmmakers and I learned straight away that Slovenia is a travel destination full of surprises. 

skull goth undercut hairstyle

But first, a style revelation: there’s a dyed skull underneath my hair!

If you’ve been following my social media, you’ll have seen images of my skull-shaped undercut, which is the work of stylist Stephanie Hoy at Sugar Skull Studio in Vancouver. I’ve trusted her with my rainbow hairstyles throughout the years, and am thrilled with this big change.

Want to know how to achieve a skull shaved hairstyle like mine? Then watch the video of my hair transformation, step by step! You’ll see how Stephanie used clippers to sculpt the shape, then bleached and dyed the skull and crossbones. (Watch it on LaCarmina Youtube.)

long clothing, grace neutral fashion

Outfit of the day: I’m wearing a Long Clothing x Grace Neutral oversize tee — the print also comes in a crop top version. My black and white sandals are these Sorel Torpeda slides.

(Shop more designs by Long Clothing with a click below — this nu-Goth brand rocks!)

pattern design undercut shaved hair

My nail art is Miffy meets the devil. They’re by Glam Nail Studio, an award winning salon located in the Vancouver area, specialising in Japanese nail art.

My head feels so much lighter, after taking out the lower layers of hair. I like how I can wear it up to show off the skull, or leave it down to cover it. Perfect for my summer travels.

Mediterranean hotel, slovenia spa

Slovenia is an easy, quick flight from most European countries (it only took 2 hours for me to get here from Amsterdam). The country is also within a few hours drive of Austria, Italy and Croatia — it’s possible to visit all three by car, in a single day!

Many people assume that Slovenia is a land-locked country, since it appears to be that way on the map. In fact, there’s a warm and gorgeous coastal stretch along the Adriatic Sea. (How glorious is this waterfront view from my hotel window?)

hotel slovenija, portoroz vacation

My filmmakers and I started our journey in Portoroz, one of these seaside towns known for wellness. We stayed at Hotel Slovenija: beautifully designed, luxurious and modern.

Their spa offers therapies related to the surrounding nature and healing mineral waters. I was glad for a massage after multiple flights and jetlag.

portoroz travel, tartini square

Crowds of tourists can ruin experiences for me. In Slovenia, there’s nothing of this sort. No Starbucks or McDonalds. Not a single bus tour in Tartini Square.

salt shop, slovenia

I loved walking around and seeing the layers of history in the architecture. Portoroz feels like an undiscovered seaside town in Croatia or Italy. 

slovenia red rooftops

I stopped to take a Vine video of the red roofs overlooking the Adriatic. (I’m @lacarmina on Vine, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat.)

Perhaps this gorgeous country is overlooked by travellers because it’s so tiny. It only has two million inhabitants, over 20k square kilometers.

salt mining, portoroz piran

The small size is a big advantage, when it comes to food production. Slovenian ingredients are outstanding because locals can take their time and use natural methods to bring out the best possible flavors.

My travel film team and I visited Soline / Sečovlje Saltworks, the famous evaporation pond located in Piran. At these saltworks, everything is done in the traditional method.

Piranske Soline, salt flats slovenia

Saltmaking is one of Slovenia’s oldest economic activities. At Soline, the process is the same as it was centuries ago: the sea, sunshine, and a lot of muscle work. The salt flats also have an ecological benefit, as they encourage flora and fauna.

Sečovlje Saltworks

I pretended to be a salt-worker, and failed. Let’s just say that I only managed to push the cart a few inches on the track!

Slovenian salt also has health benefits, since it’s high in minerals and crystallized naturally.

slovenian salt, miffy nail polish

I’ve tried a number of gourmet salts, but Sečovlje’s product is outstanding. The taste is light, with hints of minerals. Since the crystals are enhanced by the seawater captured inside, flavors are nuanced rather than explicitly “salty.”

Slovenian salt gets my “Miffy two thumbs up!” If you’re curious, you can order Piranske Soline salt through their website.

fonda fish farm, slovenia

My next stop was again an eye-opener. I always thought of “fish farming” as bad for both the creatures and the environment, and preferred the taste of wild-caught. However, at Fonda Fish Farm (Ribogojnica Fonda), I met a woman who is taking a very different approach.

Dr. Irena Fonda (molecular biologist and award-winning researcher) joined her family in raising fish via the free-floating method, or cages in open water. The rich sea water, continuous movement, and natural environment result in sea bass that are ethically raised — and recognized as the best quality in the world.

RIBOGOJNICA FONDA, mussel farming

Dr. Fonda took us on a boat ride through the warm and beautiful Piran Bay. As the waters deepened, we came across what looked like yellow caterpillars, floating on the gentle waves. It turned out to be Fonda’s mussel farm! Ropes hang down from these buoys, and the mollusks grow on them.

feeding slovenia fish, fish farm

We arrived at the pens, and they were nothing like the crowded, dirty “fish farms” that I always heard about. The sea bass swim freely about in the fresh Piran waters, which have an ideal balance of salt and minerals. The cages also become homes for other underwater organisms, supporting the local ecosystem.

Every day, Fonda’s team comes to feed the sea bass (they grow for 2-3 years). I got to give it a try: you can watch me tossing food to the fishies, in this Instagram video!

RIBOGOJNICA FONDA, fonda seabass

Dr. Fonda impressed us with her heartfelt dedication to every aspect of her work, including education and package design. If you see Fonda sea bass on a menu, you’ll know this means the highest grade. The body had a clean, pleasing smell — nothing “fishy” is going on.

(On the boat ride, I wore this exact Sorel Torpeda sandal, which is both stylish and practical — you can walk all day long, and they match most clothes. I also love Sorel’s studded sandals. See more of their footwear below.)

fonda piran sea bass

It doesn’t get any fresher than this: sea bass carpaccio, straight from Slovenian waters. With a sprinkle of Soline salt (from the flats we visited) and local olive oil (which was better than any I’ve had in Italy or Greece, no joke).

“Na’zdravje” or cheers to Fonda fish farm for the enlightening tour and snack.

domacija sepulje

With our appetites whetted, it was time to sit down for lunch. Our guide and driver Ales took us to Domačija Šajna, which is the definition of a charming Slovenian village. We passed through these big doors into an open courtyard with a flowering garden. 

slovenian best restaurants, local food

Yet another pleasant surprise: Slovenian cuisine has a lot of seafood and Mediterranean influences. It’s certainly not the “central European” stereotype of meat and potatoes.

We started with farm-fresh cheeses and prosciutto, paired with Slovenian wines (all were outstanding). At the bottom right, I could have eaten ten servings of this shaved truffle gnocchi. 

slovenia desserts, Šepulje

The chef used local fruit and wines to add both color and flavor. He served aged beef steak in wine sauce, poached pears, and millefeuille with strawberry.

Everything is close by in small Slovenia, and Domacija Sajna is well worth a drive for a meal like this.

Štanjel church

Our road trip continued with a few more scenic stops. In the Littoral region (Municipality of Komen, in the Karst plateau), we walked around Štanjel church.

visit slovenia, church of prophet daniel

This Parish Church of the Prophet Daniel was built in the 15th century. It has a Games of Thrones feeling, doesn’t it? I half expected the High Sparrow to step out.

owl wall sculpture

Are you surprised by what we found in Slovenia? This is what I love about off-the-beaten-path destinations: they’re full of hidden treasures, which surpass our expectations about a place.

long clothing grace neutral shirt

In a single day, I had my eyes opened in many ways. Coming up, I’ll show you what we found in the capital of Ljubljana, the island on Lake Bled, and more.

goth fashion blogger, long clothing model

Hvala (thank you) Visit Slovenia for the opportunity to come here with my team. All photos by Borderless Media.

If you’re digging my outfit, you can shop these same items below:

And here’s the DIY tutorial hair video of my skull shaved cut. Would you do an undercut style like this?

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