To Jamnik and Beyond!

As you might have noticed, there are many hilltop churches in Slovenia. When visiting the Gorenjska region in the northwest of Slovenia one of the most prominent is the Church of St. Primus and Felician, which stands proudly atop a hill, beneath the slopes of the Jelovica plateau, and can be seen from far and wide.

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The church is located in Jamnik, a small settlement above the traditional iron-forging village of Kropa. It’s a great place to go for stunning panoramics views; the wide Radovljica plains and the Karavanke mountains to the north and the Škofja Loka hills and beyond to the south.

You can reach Jamnik by several means. My favourite, in the summer at least, and as I did this Sunday, is to go by bike. The effort put in on the 5km windy road leading up from Kropa is more than rewarded by the views. Jamnik and Kropa can be destinations in themselves, or you can continue onwards and visit other areas and sights of interest including Dražgose, Škofja Loka and Železniki.

You can also reach Jamnik on foot through the forest from Kropa (cca 1 hour), or by car. To reach the church take the path from the layby at Jamnik and just follow your nose – you can’t miss it!

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The small settlement of Jamnik is nestled snuggly into the slopes beneath the Jelovica plateau.

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Whilst there take some time to look around the quaint iron-forging village of Kropa where, amongst other things, you can wander around the village and see the impressive iron work that adorns many of the village houses, visit the Museum of Iron Forging, and enjoy a meal at the Pr’Kovaču restaurant.

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However you choose to go, Kropa and Jamnik should be on your list of places to visit when in the Radol’ca area.

This Sunday, 31st July, its the annual Medieval Day in Linhart Square in Radovljica. There’s a medieval market, music, dance and other performances, archery, and more. Find out more here – http://www.radolca.si/en/what-to-do/events-1/medieval-day-in-linhart-square/83/310/

© Adele in Slovenia

Gostilna Gačnk – Slovene Food and Hospitality at its Best!

Gostilna Gačnk, in the settlement of Log near Cerkno, is a family-fun traditional Slovenian guest house and restaurant with a more than 100-year tradition. I stayed there last weekend whilst exploring Cerkno and the surrounding areas for a future blog post and had originally intended to just mention where I’d stayed, however, I soon found out that to do so would be an injustice, since this place deserves a blog all of its own, so, here it is!

Despite being mid-summer, on the day of my arrival it was unseasonably chilly thanks to a brief cold front that had spread across the country the day before. So, I took a seat next to the wood burner, had a cup of tea (as we English do!), and enjoyed a lovely natter with the very affable owner, Matjaž.

After discussing what to see and do during my weekend visit, and following a short walk, I was offered a glass of homemade schnapps made from ‘palaj‘ (Latin: Micromerio thymifolio), which grows exclusively in the area around Novaki, specifically on and between the peaks of Kopa and Porezen, and, as such, is a real speciality and rarity.

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This was just a prelude to the excellent hospitality and meals I was to enjoy over the weekend. For a change I had some company for dinner, when a fellow blogger, who lives in Cerkno, joined me and was to prove great company as we shared tales of blogging. We left it to the team in the kitchen to surprise us with some local delights (other than instructions from me for ‘no fish!’). I particularly enjoyed the starter as it was something I’ve never tried before – ‘smukavc‘ – a thick soup made from cabbage and served in a pastry ‘bowl, with home-produced sausage.

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Gačnk specialises in dishes cooked outside over an open fire and other traditional Slovenian dishes such as žlikrofi and štrukjli.

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As I was planning a full day of exploring the next day, I arranged for a ‘packed breakfast’ which was excellent and included bread freshly baked in the clay oven, which is a weekend speciality at the gostilna.

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Gostilna Gačnk is ideally situated for visiting the Franja Partisan Hospital, the entrance to which is only 10 minutes away on foot. The gostilna’s main dining area is dedicated to the physician Franja Bojc Bidovec, after whom the hospital was named.

After a full day out exploring, I returned starving and eagerly awaiting dinner. There was also a wedding taking place, one of many that are held regularly at weekends here, so I was able to look on and enjoy watching others enjoying their celebration whilst savouring a beautifully presented, and equally delicious, dinner.

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Though it could be considered a little out of the way for some, Gostilna Gačnk is actually excellently located for exploring the Cerkno area, and even further afield, particularly if you like hiking, skiing, cycling, or other outdoors activities and are seeking peace and quiet. I will be writing plenty more about what to see and do in the area in a future blog coming soon, so stay tuned!

You can find more information here – http://www.cerkno.com/

© Adele in Slovenia

Spend a Night with a Knight at Opulent Otočec Castle!

You are never too far away from a castle in Slovenia since there are around 500 of them. One of the most famous is Bled Castle, perched on a cliff above picturesque Lake Bled – an iconic image which is undoubtedly one of, if not the, symbol of Slovenian tourism.

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Another is the mighty Predjama Castle, which is built into the mouth of a cave and is entered into the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest cave castle in the world.

Photo: Nea Culpa

A good majority, though not all, of Slovenia’s castles are open to the public and are well-maintained. There are a few that have seen better days, but somehow even the ruins of once mighty castles seem impressive, such as this one, Kamen Castle in Begunje na Gorenjskem. The castle stands at the entrance to the Draga Valley, a popular start point for hikes in the Karavanke mountains.

Photo: Miran Kambič

At quite a number of castles you can get married or hold various types of functions and gatherings. This one, for example, Sevnica Castle, features an impressive wine vault.

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I can attest that the wine pairs perfectly with salami from Grajske mesnine butchers. You can read plenty more about the castle, my experience of the Sevnica Mountain Marathon, and what else to see and do in Sevnica, in this previous blog post – https://adeleinslovenia.com/2015/09/10/sevnica-so-much-to-see-and-do/

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Surprisingly, however, there are only a handful of castles in Slovenia where you can actually stay and live it up like a King or Queen! Among them my favourite would have to be Otočec Castle. Both the castle itself and the stunning setting, on an islet in the middle of the Krka River, make it quite unique.

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Nowadays the castle operates entirely as a luxury five-star hotel, the Relais & Chateaux Otečec Castle Hotel. The hotel seamlessly blends the castle’s history with modern luxurious furnishings, superior rooms and suites, and gourmet dining. More information here – http://www.grad-otocec.com/en/us/home/

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As with all good castles, there is a knight in shining armour! This one stands guards over the hotel reception – perhaps to weed out any unsavoury looking guests!

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The setting is about as idyllic as it gets!

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For lover’s of the great outdoors, Hotel Sport, within walking distance and owned by the same company, offers a wide range of sports activities available for guests staying at the Otočec Castle Hotel, including an indoor pool filled with thermal water, Turkish and Finnish saunas, covered tennis courts, and the Otočec Adventure Park offers fun for all the family.

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Golf Grad Otečec is just a stone’s throw away from the Otočec Castle Hotel and is one of Slovenia’s longest and most attractive golf courses.    http://www.golf-otocec.si/en

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To whet your appetite further, you can watch this short video and, if you have the chance, do go and experience Otočec for yourself!

© Adele in Slovenia

Mysterious Lake Cerknica – Now You See It, Now You Don’t!

Cerknica Lake is the largest intermittent lake in Slovenia and one of the largest in Europe.

For up to six months per year this fascinating, mysterious lake is, well, a lake, filled with water with a mean depth of over 6 metres. During the remainder of the year the water simply disappears, leaving just green, wild flower-covered fields.

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The lake is fed by a number of openings with a series of subterranean reservoirs or caverns, some of which are above the lake level in the surrounding hills. In dryer months the lake completely drains into the reservoirs lying beneath it, revealing rich vegetation. In the wetter months, the surrounding higher reservoirs fill and discharge suddenly through subterranean passages into the lake, which very rapidly regains its volume and may even inundate the surrounding countryside.

A great way to visit, and to get a real impression of the vastness of the lake, is to cycle around the area. At the time of my visit in late June, there was still some water, in places up to 3 metres deep, though it was rapidly disappearing.

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Every weekend bikes and canoes can be hired from the Notranjska Park Information Point, located in the main car park in the village of Dolenje Jezero. You can also, as I did, arrange a local guide for your cycling trip, who will take you to the best vantage points and provide plenty of local information.

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We began by cycling through the valley of the Rakov Škocjan Landscape Park. This fascinating natural wonder, packed with karst phenomena, was formed by the Rak river, which springs from the Zelške cave, runs above the surface for 3.5kms, then once again goes underground in the Tkalca cave at the other end of the valley.

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The main attractions are the two natural bridges at each end of the valley – Veliki naravni most (Big natural bridge) and Mali naravni most (Small natural bridge). There is a well-marked walking trail that leads between the bridges and to other parts of the valley and information boards are provided at the main points. On a hot summer’s day, it was a wonderful place to seek respite from the heat!

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This place offers wild nature at its best, no crowds, just the chance to savour up close the fascinating geological formations, of which there are plenty.

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You can view them from up above or from down below!

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We then continued to one of the best vantage points of Cerknica Lake from where one can really get an idea of its size. The whole area that you can see behind me in the photo below, is, for around half the year, a lake. If you look closely you can just see the last remains of the water at the lake’s far end.

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Although its fascinating to see the lake when it is actually a lake, even if there isn’t any, or isn’t much, water, it’s still worth a visit. Regardless of whether you visit when the lake is or isn’t, a great way to get a full impression of this mysterious lake is to visit the Museum of Lake Cerknica at Jezerski Hram in Dolenje Jezero.

Although it has areas with typical museum exhibits, this is no ordinary museum. It is the impressive model of the lake, hand-built by the museum’s owner Vekoslav Kebe, that is the standout feature. The model, the result of three year’s work, shows the topography of the area as well as demonstrating how, and where, the lake fills and empties.

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After viewing the model and listening to accompanying commentary and sounds of nature, narrated by Vekoslav himself, visitors move upstairs to watch a multimedia presentation, which is available in a number of foreign languages. The museum also houses a collection of tools and other implements, used by local at various stages of the year when tilling the fields or fishing on the lake.

The museum is open Saturdays at 3pm, and at other times by prior arrangement.

Drevak boats were once the staple way of transporting supplies across the lake. This one seen below, at the Museum of Lake Cernika, again made by Vekoslav (a man of many talents!), gives visitors a real impression of the size of the boats and the work that goes into mastering the art of making these long, curved vessels. More information about the museum can be found here – http://jezerski-hram.si/en/

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In the past even larger vessels, as can be seen below, sailed on the lake.

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Author of photo: unknown, photo collection: Julka Hvala – www.stareslike.cerknica.org

Every weekend during summer, Notranjska Regional Park hosts themed Sundays at the lake, offering visitors the chance to take part in a range of activities such as horse-drawn carriage rides, fishing and boat trips, guided hikes and bike rides, and botanical and ornithological workshops. Find more information about Notranjska Regional Park here – http://www.notranjski-park.si/en

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More information about all this, and all the other sights of interest in the surrounding areas, can also be found at the Green Karst website here – http://zelenikras.si/en/

© Adele in Slovenia

Love Swimming, Love Slovenia!

It’s always lovely to hear from, and meet, readers and self-professed ‘fans’ of my blog. In the past 3 years I have received hundreds of emails, comments, messages on Facebook etc., some wanting ideas and advice, others just writing to say ‘thanks’, and have also enjoyed many a wonderful Taste Radol’ca meal together with readers generously wishing to show their appreciation.

It was particularly nice, then, when I recently met a whole group of readers! Patricia, a regular reader of my blog, has shared it with many of her group of fellow Americans, who were staying in Radovljica for a family swimming camp. She told me how helpful my blog had been in planning excursions and activities for the swimming camp and invited me to join the group for their final night’s banquet dinner at Kunstelj Inn – one of the Taste Radol’ca restaurants and just one of the venues where members of the group stayed during their visit.

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Maja and her team at Kunstelj Inn cooked up a delicious meal, using locally-sourced ingredients, and, as ever, the views from the terrace provided the icing on the cake!

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This was the 4th consecutive year that the Piranhas Swimming Club from Stuttgart chose Radovljica as the base for its summer family swimming camp. This year’s group totalled 108, comprised of 40 swimmers, with their families and friends, and, in some cases, 3 generations of the same family.

During their time staying in Radovljica, they certainly packed in a lot of sightseeing and activities, which just goes to show, as if proof were needed, what a wonderful place Radovljica is to base yourself for a holiday in Slovenia.

Radovljica’s Olympic-size swimming pool was the venue for the daily pool-based training and fun sessions. More information about Radol’ca’s swimming pools here – http://www.radolca.si/en/swimming/

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They swam in Bled Lake.

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And did an open-water swim in the Adriatic sea in Piran Bay.

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When not swimming, and for the non-swimmers among them, there was a whole host of other organised activities including cookery classes at Kunstelj Inn.

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Rafting on the Sava and Soča rivers.

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Other activities included a visit to the iron-forging village of Kropa, a ride in the cable car to Vogel, kayaking on Bohinj Lake, hiking to the Savica waterfall, a visit to the Škocjan Caves, fishing, playing golf, making the famous Lectar gingerbread hearts at Lectar Inn in Radovljica, and more!

Patricia told me that they have all ‘fallen in love with Slovenia and Radovljica’ and are already planning the 2017 camp. So, I look forward to seeing you all back here next year. In the meantime, I’ll keep writing and providing ideas for some more activities for next year, so, stay tuned!

© Adele in Slovenia

Award-Winning Olimje – A Very Special Slovene Village

The village of Olimije is located in the east of Slovenia in the Styriatajerska) region, right on the border with Croatia. The whole area is idyllic, awash with unspoilt nature, lush green forests, hills, vineyards, and far from any major roads, industry and pollution. It’s no wonder, then, that it has won several ‘best kept’ village awards.

The star of the show, which has people flocking to see from far and wide, is the Olimje church, Minorite monastery and old pharmacy.

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Olimije is almost a direct extension of the town of Podčetrtek, which has a tourist information centre, numerous accommodation options, eateries and a handful of shops. The town is also served by special ‘spa trains’, operated by Slovenian Railways, which run from Ljubljana. Visitors arriving by train are also entitled to special discounts and benefits. More information here – http://www.slo-zeleznice.si/en/passenger-transport/around-slovenia/the-spa-train

Once there, the dinky tourist road train is a perfect way to get around and see all the area’s sights of interest.

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During my 3-day visit I stayed at the Olimia Thermal Spa, which makes an ideal base for exploring the area, and where you can also indulge in some luxurious treatments and water-based activities at the Orhidelia Wellness Centre that has for the last five consecutive years been voted the best in Slovenia. You can read plenty more about that here –https://spasinslovenia.com/2016/06/07/terme-olimia-the-best-wellness-centre-in-slovenia/

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From the spa I went by bike on the cycle path to Olimje. My first port of call was a visit to the Olimje church, monastery and old pharmacy. This place, formerly a castle, was first mentioned in historical records in 1208 as a place of the Shrine of the Assumption of Mary. The castle was then turned into a monastery and pharmacy – now one of the oldest pharmacies in Europe.

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For over 120 years it was inhabited by the Pauline Monks, who, in 1665, were responsible for building the magnificent and extremely ornate Baroque church, which features one of the biggest golden altars in Slovenia, as well as numerous other notable pictures, frescoes and statues.

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The Pauline Monks produced their own natural remedies, and, according to their monastic rule, the monastery had to have a room for any sick brothers with an adjacent room for medicine and remedies. The frescoes in the pharmacy were painted by Lerchinger in 1780 and represent various biblical scenes.

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I was astonished at the number of people, hailing from all over Europe, that were queuing in the pharmacy to buy herbal teas, tinctures, syrups and apiculture products. There seems to be a ‘cure’ for every ailment imaginable, all of which are grown and produced by the monks-in-residence.

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Adjacent to the monastery building is the Syncerus Chocolate Boutique (Čokoladnica Olimje). Yes, you’re right, that was the MAIN reason for my visit!

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I was, literally, like a kid in a sweet shop trying to choose from all the delicious handmade chocolates on offer and I might, just might, have bought a few (kilos!). The shop is open daily throughout the year, from 10am – 5pm in winter, and from 10am – 7pm in the summer season. More information here – http://cokoladnica-olimje.si/

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My next stop, just a few minutes uphill from the monastery, was the Jelenov Greben deer farm. The estate comprises a guest house and apartments, a restaurant, a shop selling homemade products such as venison sausages, jams, juices, honey etc., the Star Ata winery and, the stars of the show, the deer and mouflon which roam the estate freely and seem largely unperturbed by humans – meaning you can even get right up close to feed them. More information here – http://www.jelenov-greben.si/

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Also within close proximity is the Amon Estate, which is a family-run business and the oldest private winemaking company in Slovenia. The estate features a 9-hole golf course – A Golf, a guest house, and a small shop selling homemade products. It was a perfect spot for me to sit back, take a break, and enjoy the tranquillity and the views. More information here – http://www.amon.si/index.php?si

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More information about all the above, and more, can be found here – http://www.turizem-podcetrtek.si/en/

© Adele in Slovenia

Summer 2016 in Radol’ca – Hop-On Hop Off Tourist Bus

Regular readers will know that I usually publish my blogs on Mondays. However, I decided to purposely delay this one since yesterday it was raining, again, and I couldn’t face writing, and subject you to reading, yet another blog moaning about the rain!!!

Today, thankfully, is much better and we also had 4 glorious summer days of blazing sunshine last week. So, let’s just focus on more of those to come and not on the other 24 rainy days thus far in June! Woops, there I go again…

There are lots of things to look forward to this summer in Radol’ca*. Here are just a few of the events taking place in July to whet your appetite.

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  • The Hop-On Hop Off Tourist Bus begins operating again from 1st July until 31st August. The bus runs on Tuesdays (Bled-Radovljica-Kropa) and Thursdays (Bled-Radovljica-Begunje-Brezje), as well as at weekends to Bohinj and the Pokljuka plateau. Tickets, which are valid for the whole day, cost just 5 euros for adults, children up to the age of 10 travel free. More information here (click where it says Vec o Hop-On Hop Off to see the timetable) – http://radolca.si/kaj-poceti/dogodki/hop-on-hop-off-radolca-2016/83/904/

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  • FREE guided tours of the old town centre – Tuesdays at 9am in July and August, other months at 10am. Meet at the Radovljica Tourist Information Centre at the entrance to Linhart Square.

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Radovljica SLO 2011

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I always attend this event as I love the quaint iron-forging village of Kropa, nestled snuggly into a corner of the Lipnica Valley under the Jelovica plateau, where the tradition of iron-forging is still much in evidence. You can also try some local food, visit the village museums, and have a general nose about the narrow lanes.

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* In case of any confusion, Radol’ca is  the name used in the tourism slogan ‘Radol’ca, Honestly Sweet’. The Radol’ca area comprises the main town of Radovljica, as well as the surrounding towns and villages including Begunje na Gorenjskem, Brezje, Kropa, Kamna Gorica, Lesce, Mosnje and other smaller hamlets.

© Adele in Slovenia