Slovenian Beekeeping: Bee our Guest!

This week I’d like to bring you some exciting news about a great new initiative and book – both on the theme of beekeeping – something at which Slovenia excels. Despite not being a beekeeper myself, since living in Slovenia I have become acutely aware of the importance that bees play in the world and, I believe, it’s something that should be of great importance to us all. Read on…!

Photo: S Senica

The Radovljica area has long been known for its ‘sweet’ traditions, primarily beekeeping-related, as well as chocolate in recent years thanks to the very popular Radovljica Chocolate Festival! Radovljica’s old town is home to the Museum of Apiculture, whilst the Beekeeping Education Centre of Gorenjska is situated in nearby Lesce.

Now, a new initiative has been launched to unite and promote Slovenian beekeeping in the Upper Gorenjska regionBEE OUR GUEST!

Photo: S Senica

BEE OUR GUEST is a collaboration between the municipalities of Bohinj, Bled, Gorje, Žirovnica, Radovljica and Kranjska Gora, and its aim is to acquaint visitors with Slovenian beekeeping in the Upper Gorenjska region, as well as offer information, tours and packages that combine beekeeping with the region’s other numerous sights and attractions. Thus, Bee Our Guest offers something for all those who want to see and experience a different side of the area’s natural beauty – whether you are a beekeeping enthusiast or just a lover of nature and all things ‘sweet’!

The Museum of Apiculture is located in the magnificent Radovljica Mansion in the heart of Radovljica’s old town centre, where, amongst other exhibits, you can see a rich collection of hand-painted beehive front panels, including the oldest in the world; each of the panels tells its own story!

You can also observe the bees busy buzzing about their business in the observation hive! More information can be found here – http://www.radolca.si/en/radovljica-apiculture-museum/

You can pay a visit to Lectar Inn, where in the cellar you can visit the workshop and museum where they have been making traditional Lectar honeybreads for centuries. You can buy gifts and souvenirs for your loved ones or for special occasions or, upon prior arrangement, join in a workshop and have a go at making one yourself.

On the website (http://www.beeourguest.eu/) and Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/BeeOurGuest.Slovenia/) you can also keep up-to-date with all the latest developments regarding World Bee Day, which has now been officially declared as 20th May, the birth date of Anton Janša (1734-1773), considered Slovenia’s greatest beekeeper.

“Every third spoonful of food on Earth depends on bees or, more precisely, on pollination. The more the meadows are polluted and the more frequently they are mown, the smaller the number of bees. Do we even realise what that means for our future and for us?” This comes from the authors of the newly-published book No Bees, No Life, available in English and Slovene, and is something we should all most definitely be aware of.

Written by the President of Slovenia’s Beekeeping Association, Bostjan Noč, the head of the breeding programme for the Carniolan honey bee, at the Slovenian Beekeeping Association, Peter Kozmus, and author of many books in the fields of ethnology and apiculture, Karolina Vrtačnik, as well as 66 contributions from 32 countries, the book has been receiving wide acclaim. You can find out more and/or order a copy here – https://beebooks.si/en/

I’ll be bringing you plenty more on this subject, and exploring it in more depth in the not-too-distant future, but for now, I’m off for for some quiet contemplation – oh and a cup of tea with Slovenian honey!

© Adele in Slovenia

 

The Path Along the Rapallo Border

The Rapallo Border Theme Path has been designed to acquaint those who walk along all or part of it with the period between the 1st and 2nd World War and the effect the Rapallo border had on the towns and villages along its length. Armed with a copy of a leaflet giving details of the route and its history, I set off to explore!

The theme path begins at Žiri Museum – more about which, as well as the area itself, you can read in one of my blogs from earlier this year – https://adeleinslovenia.com/2017/04/17/discovering-the-most-ziri-things/

There is an information board opposite the museum. With your back to the board, head steeply – and I mean steeply! – uphill to Tabor and continue to follow the usual Slovenian hiking trail markers – a red circle with a white inner.

After just a few minutes you are already rewarded with a fantastic view over the town and valley.

The Rapallo Border was established as a result of the Treaty of Rapallo that was signed on 12th November 1920 in the Italian town of Rapallo. The treaty required a third of the territory of Slovenia to be handed over to Italy.

The effect on those living in the border areas was dramatic with neighbours, relatives and friends overnight becoming citizens of two separate kingdoms – the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (later the Kingdom of Yugoslavia), and the Kingdom of Italy.

The entire border was 244km in length and was divided in 70 sections. At the start of each section there was a main boundary stone, with smaller boundary stones in between.

The Rapallo Border Theme Path covers the area of five main boundary stones numbered from 35 – 39.  The path is rather, or very, sparsely marked in places, so do keep your eyes peeled for the red and white circles (on trees, stones, buildings, behind you, in front of you, etc.) as well as the odd yellow theme path sign. Alternatively, you could contact Visit Škofja Loka and arrange to arrange a guide, thus eliminating any such worries, and getting the added benefit of the chance to find out more interesting facts and figures from a local expert.

You could choose to walk its entire length (46km, 9-10 hours), or for a shorter, easier version, take the circular path from Žiri to Mrzli vrh and back, which is 13km and takes approximately 4 hours, with optional extensions to additional boundary stones.

Shortly after leaving Tabor and emerging from the forest you are rewarded with another great view.

If you’ve got kids in tow, or in fact even if not, trying to spot the border stones can be treated as something of a treasure hunt! No. 39 was easy to spot…

..whereas as first I walked straight past no. 38 as it is somewhat concealed by a tree and undergrowth!

If you choose to continue to Mrzli vrh, at the village of Breznica the path descends a little on the road, before continuing upwards, at first on the road then again leading into the forest, towards the peak of Mrzli vrh and the Koča na Mrzlem vrhu mountain hut. The hut is open on Friday, Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays.

From here you could opt to return by the same route, or alternatively take the circular route via Ledenica to return to Žiri; the latter, however, means quite a few kilometres, though a pleasant walk, back through the valley to return to the museum.

The views that accompany you along the ridge of Mrzli vrh aren’t half bad either!

There is also an alternative start for the route which begins in Sovodenj and leads to Mrzli vrh (14km, cca.4 hours – one way), or you could walk a shorter circular route from Sovodenj to Nova Oselica and back (6km, cca. 2 hours).

For more information, see the Visit Škofja Loka website or visit the Škofja Loka Tourist Information Centre to pick up a leaflet – http://www.visitskofjaloka.si/en/experiences/theme-paths/rappalo-border

© Adele in Slovenia

A Taste of the Pivka Lakes

The Taste of Pivka Lakes festival last Sunday was definitely among the best food events I have been to since moving to Slovenia! Not only due to the food – though that was delicious, believe me – but mainly because of the atmosphere and good spirit of the event.

Many of the villages that fall within the boundary of the Pivka Lakes Nature Park, a Natura 2000 area in Slovenia’s Green Karst area, come together on an annual basis to showcase their local specialities, some of which even vary quite substantially from village-to-village.

What I particularly liked about the Taste of Pivka Lakes festival is, unlike the majority of foodie events, there was no element of profit-making, no competitiveness, no-one trying to sell or promote their goods; it is just a case of good old-fashioned co-operation, goodwill and home-cooking by people from all walks or life regardless of their status and without any hint of greed or gluttony from either those participating or those attending – a rarity indeed! Whilst all the stalls had a makeshift box for voluntary donations, these were gratefully received but certainly not a necessity.

Those taking part included residents from local villages – Suhorje, Kal, Narin, Palčje, Šempeter na Pivki, Stara Sušica, Selce, Klenik, Trnje, Juršče, Zagorje, Drskovče – as well as the Pivka Tourist Association and the Pivka Park of Military History.

There was all manner of delicious, local, sweet, savoury, hot and cold dishes and delicacies to try; can you imagine what a tough job I had trying to do justice to it all – all in the name of research, of course!

Nettle burek, various kinds of štruklji, biscuits, numerous flavours of potica, strudel, pancakes, flancati, hearty cauldron-cooked soups, stews, goulash, locally produced cheese, etc. – all served with a hefty side order of goodwill!

A brass band from Pivka’s twin town of Durach in Bavaria, provided the entertainment and joined in the fun, too!

The Pivka Lakes themselves comprise 17 intermittent karst lakes which, during and after heavy precipitation, mysteriously fill with water; at other times the water simply vanishes to leave flower-covered meadows.

The largest of the lakes, when it is a lake, that is, is Palčje Lake (Palško jezero).

Photo: Zelenikras.si

The area is known for its biodiversity, with hundreds of species of plants, insects and butterflies, and the territory is also known for its bear, wolf and lynx. More about the lakes can be found here – https://www.naravniparkislovenije.si/en/nature-parks/the-seasonal-lakes-of-pivka-nature-park

You can read more in this blog from last year about my visit to the 2nd biggest lakePetelinsko jezero – and the new Eco-Museum of the Pivka Seasonal Lakeshttps://adeleinslovenia.com/2016/05/05/pivka-pause-ponder-play/

Find out more about what to see, do, and taste in the Green Karst area here – http://zelenikras.si/en/

© Adele in Slovenia

Roblekov dom – Slovenia’s Best Mountain Hut 2017

The Roblekov dom mountain hut on Mt. Begunščica in the Karavanke mountains has just been announced as the winner of the title ‘Best Mountain Hut 2017’.

Photo: Jani Kolman

The competition was contested by 72 out of the 181 mountain huts (including bivouacs and shelters) in Slovenia, and of the 70,000+ votes cast by the public, Roblekov dom was this year’s clear winner.

There are numerous reasons why Roblekov dom is such a well-known and popular destination for hikers from all over Slovenia – not least due to the popular song, which surely almost every Slovene knows by heart, ‘Na Roblek bom odsel’ (I’m going to Roblek), written and performed by the legend of Slovenian folk music, Slavko Avsenik. Watch and listen here!

These days the song is still performed by the hugely popular Avsenik Ensemble, from Begunje na Gorenjskem.

The Roblekov dom hut has long been a popular destination and now, with the new caretaker managers – Zdenka and Rok Podpečan, who took over the running of the hut last year and assure visitors a warm welcome regardless of the weather – the hut has now become even more popular and they have added a few of their own new touches, too!

For many, myself included, the fact that you can’t reach the hut by car is a major plus i.e. you have to hike up to earn your view and/or tasty treat, making it all the more rewarding, not to mention peaceful and pollution-free.

Roblekov dom is accessible year-round, and is actually probably even more popular during winter than in summer. I love hiking up there in winter to enjoy some winter sun, often finding myself above the cloud that is lingering above the valley.

Even when there is A LOT of snow, you might find me (somewhere!) up there!

Even though I don’t like snow, I will make an exception to visit Roblek dom on a sunny winter’s day!

The hut can be a destination by itself, just sit and soak up the views whilst enjoying some tasty mountain food, or as part of a hike to the top of Mt. Begunščica, which you can read more about in this blog post from earlier this year here – https://adeleinslovenia.com/2017/06/18/the-karavanke-mountains-majestic-mt-begunscica/

The most usual place to begin a hike to Roblekov dom is from the Draga valley, which is reached through the village of Begunje na Gorenjskem, and is home to the impressive ruins of the mighty Kamen Castle. You can either take the direct route up or take the Shepherd’s Trail to Preval then the path ‘čez Roža’ to reach the hut. Note, however, that during winter, when there is snow and/or ice, it isn’t advisable to attempt the Shepherd’s Trail. More about the Shepherd’s Trail can be found here – http://www.radolca.si/en/shepherds-trail-begunje/

Photo: Miran Kambić

Roblekov dom is open year-round; daily during the summer months and at weekends only throughout the remainder of the year, as well as on public holidays.

So, don’t delay, visit today, and find out for yourself why Roblekov dom has been voted Slovenia’s best mountain hut!

© Adele in Slovenia

Šubic House – The Creative Centre of the Poljane Valley

Šubic House (Šubičeva hisa) in the Poljane Valley is the creative centre of the valley. Once home to two of Slovenia’s most renowned painters, Janez and Jurij Šubic, today the house operates as a cultural centre with a permanent museum collection, an exhibition space, gallery of caricatures, an information point for visitors to the valley, and an area for enjoying and sharing creativity!

As a young lad, Boris Oblak, formerly the manager and now a guide in Šubic House, used to walk past the house on a daily basis on his way to school and admire its carved wooden doors and wonder why such a magnificent house lay empty. It is for this reason that he now still has to pinch himself when he is the one who has access to that door on a daily basis, and his infectious passion for the house and its content is clear to see from the moment you cross the threshold.

This is no ‘ordinary’ museum, it’s a centre for all. The first thing you see on entering is the imposing memorial plaque dedicated to Janez and Jurij Šubic, which was erected in 1896 in the old Poljane church and later,  following World War 11, was lost during demolition of the church. Fortunately, just a couple of years ago it was re-discovered in one of the houses in the Poljane valley and now stands proudly in its rightful place.

A family tree on the wall helps visitors to better understand the history and importance of the family and their work. In brief: according to records, Pavel Šubic Sr. (1772–1847) was the first Šubic to start with woodcarving, creating works for churches in the Škofja Loka area, and, as was typical for artisan workshops of that time, he passed the ins and outs of the artistic processes to three of his sons, Štefan, Blaž and Janez (Sr.)

Štefan Šubic (1820 ­- 1884) was the most renowned among them, creating paintings, woodcarvings and frescos all around Slovenia. His workshop was the most important Slovenian artisan workshop of the 19th century.

The artistic tradition was passed on to all five of Štefan’s sons – Jurij (1855 – 1890) and Janez Šubic (1850 – 1889) being the most renowned among them. They both studied at academies abroad and, although they died relatively young, they remain among the most important Slovenian painters.

If you would like to find out more about the artists and see their works, the National Gallery of Slovenia in Ljubljana, has permanent exhibitions featuring paintings by Jure Šubic – http://www.ng-slo.si/en/permanent-collection/1870-1900/jurij-subic?tab=collections&authorId=500 and Janez Šubic – http://www.ng-slo.si/en/permanent-collection/1870-1900/janez-subic?tab=collections&authorId=495

Jurij Šubic – A Letter

Janez Šubic – Still Life with Pots

Upstairs in Šubic House, the museum area has been carefully and thoughtfully arranged. I particularly like the original use of the beautifully handwritten letters – over 1,000 of them exist in total – sent between the Šubic family telling of their life, work and relationships. The letters have been imaginatively placed on, and attached to, some of the museum exhibits. Find out more about Šubic House here – http://subicevahisa.com/

There is also an original black kitchen, complete with real smoked sausages hanging from above, and, if you are lucky, you can even try a slice!

Black kitchen in Šubic House – Photo: Klemen Razinger

Black kitchen in Šubic House – Photo: Klemen Razinger

I found it rather sad, and also poignant, to think that in the future, there will be no such lasting memories of people of the present and future generations, since these days, in this age of rapid social media, everything is so fleeting and the days of letter writing are all-but-gone.

Getting hands-on in the museum is encouraged -try wood carving, painting, join in a creative workshop or try your hand at drawing a caricature.

‘Before the Hunt’ by Jurij Šubic – I can’t take the credit for this one!

In addition to running the house, Boris is also an extremely talented artist himself, specialising in caricatures. A few of his works are exhibited in Šubic House but to see more of his amazing creations, see his website here – http://www.karikatureboris.com/en/  His drawings make great original gifts for various celebrations and occasions. Of course, he couldn’t help himself and he quickly got to work on a new caricature …

The result of which was …

One needs a sense of humour! Love the Slovenian flag, too!

From May to the end of October Šubic House is open on Tuesdays-Fridays from 10am-5pm and Saturdays 10am-1pm; winter opening times from November to the end of April are Tuesdays-Friday 10am-4pm and Saturdays 10am-1pm. For groups of 10 people or more, visits outside of these times can be arranged upon prior notice.

I recommend visiting Šubic House as part of a visit to the Poljane valley, where there’s plenty to see and do including the Pustotnik Dairy, walking the Rupnik Line theme path, hiking to Blegoš, a visit to Tavčar Manor or one of the many tourist farms. For more information about the valley see the Visit Škofja Loka website where you can also find links to my blogs on all the above topics – http://www.visitskofjaloka.si/en/

© Adele in Slovenia

A Sweet Weekend in Store – Mošnje Days, a Roman Feast and the Festival of Honey

Next weekend promises to be a ‘sweet’ one in the Radovljica area – in more ways than one – since there are two events taking place, both of which promise to be tasty!

In fact, the first event – Mošnje Days – begins on Friday 22nd September. This year marks the 10th hosting of Mošnje Days and it promises to be bigger and better. This year it is particularly dedicated to Roman times, due to the Mošnje Villa Rustica archeological site – the remains of a villa dating from the 1st century which were discovered in 2006 during works to extend the Gorenjska motorway.

On both Friday and Saturday you can take a free guided tour of the Mošnje Ethnological Museum where you can see some of the artefacts found at the site including ceramicware, keys and jewellery whilst at on Friday at 6pm in the Mošnje Cultural Centre (Kulturni dom) you can see an exhibition of products from a 3-day mosaic workshop, which is also taking place as part of this year’s event, and watch a performance by pupils from the Mošnje primary school.

You can read more about the Mošnje Archeological Trail here – http://www.radolca.si/en/mosnje-archaeological-trail/

On Saturday 23rd from 1pm you can try Roman food as well as traditional Slovene dishes – there’s always something bubbling in the cauldron! – browse and buy local handicrafts, be entertained by live music from the PROJEKT ensemble, and there will be workshops for children.

Did you know that the Romans were very advanced in the field of cuisine? Why not treat yourself to the Roman-based menu available all weekend at Vila Podvin in Mošnje – one of Slovenia’s top restaurants – where head chef and co-owner Uroš Štefelin specialises in a modern take on traditional Slovenian food with a focus on local ingredients, and where you can always find something innovative to tantalise your taste buds! You can find more details about the Roman weekend menu, price and booking details here – http://goo.gl/u9m7xt

Meanwhile, at the Beekeeping Education Centre of Gorenjska in Lesce, this year’s Festival of Honey and Day of Honey in Cuisine takes place on Saturday 23rd September from 10am.

Come and find out more about Slovenian honey, taste honey and honey products, sample honey beer and honey cocktails, treat yourself or buy some gifts for friends and family, and take a tour of the centre and the apitherapy beehive.

The festival programme is below (in Slovenian only) and more about the centre can be found (in Slovenian, English and other languages) on the website – http://www.cricg.si/

From 22nd-24th September you can enjoy special honey-themed menus at selected Taste Radol’ca restaurantsGostilna Lectar, Lambergh Chateau & Hotel, Gostilna Kunstelj, Gostišče Draga, and Gostišče Tulipan, with 3-course menus costing just 15 euros per person (except Kunstelj Inn – 25 euros).

Pork fillet in honey-pepper sauce at Gostišče Draga

I’m looking forward to the ‘sweet’ weekend ahead. Do come and join the fun, too!

© Adele in Slovenia

The Begunje Village Trail – Along the Paths of Slavko Avsenik

The village of Begunje na Gorenjskem is the birthplace of the founder of Slovenian folk music, Slavko Avsenik, and a gateway to numerous hikes in the Karavanke mountains.

Get to know more about the village, its history, famous residents, and village life by taking a stroll along the Begunje Village Trail.

The trail begins opposite the Avsenik guest house and restaurant, where you can visit the Avsenik Museum to find out more about the legendary Slavko Avsenik and the music of the Avsenik Brothers Ensemble, as well as about the history of the village.

You can also see some hints and tips from the Avsenik Ensemble about how and where to see and enjoy the best of the area!

Continue past the cemetery through the narrow village lanes, passing the stream in places, heading towards St. Ulrich’s church.

Prior to reaching the church you will see an information board and to the right you can visit Robačnekov mill. It is officially open on Tuesdays and Fridays from 9am-12noon, however, outside of these times if the owner is home, as she was when I visited, just smile nicely and she will be happy to show you round!

After passing the church you can continue through the park past Katzenstein Mansion which today houses a psychiatric hospital and, at the rear, the Museum of Hostages. It is worth visiting the museum for a sobering, somewhat chilling, but interesting experience.

1n 1875 the mansion was sold to Austro-Hungarian judicial authorities and a prison, holding 300 female prisoners, was established. During the German occupation, it became a Gestapo prison and political prisoners were incarcerated in the mansion; after the war it again reprised its role as an all-female prison. Inside, on the walls of the former prison cells, you can see written records left by the prisoners and announcements by the occupiers concerning executions.

 The park is particularly known for its pavilion and the Chapel of St. Joseph, designed by the most famous Slovenian architect, Jože Plečnik, and is also home to a small cemetery where 457 hostages and 18 World War II combatants are laid to rest.
So, as you can see, Begunje na Gorenjskem may be a relatively small village, but it’s crammed with natural and cultural sights, so be sure to stop-off to wander the village trail to find out more! More information about this and other walking and hiking paths in the Radol’ca area can be found here – http://www.radolca.si/en/hiking/

© Adele in Slovenia