Keep Cool in Kropa: The Source of the Kroparica Stream

The recent heat wave across many parts of southern Europe, including Slovenia, has seen temperatures in the mid-high 30s. I LOVE the heat and HATE the cold, so I haven’t been complaining, and since Slovenia is almost 60% covered by forest and there are rivers and streams aplenty, there’s always somewhere to escape the heat.

One such ‘cool’ place is Kropa – the cradle of Slovene iron forging.

Due to its location, nestled into a corner at the foot of the Jelovica plateau, Kropa remains cool even on the most sweltering of days.

The Kroparica stream is one of the two streams that springs from the foothills of the Jelovica plateau. The stream runs through the heart of the village and joins the other stream – the Lipnica – before continuing through the valley to meet the Sava river at Podnart.

In September 2007 the stream, which ironically was once the lifeblood of the village, burst its bank following heavy rainfall causing flooding and significant damage – as can be seen by the video below.

In its heyday of nail-making in the 18th and start of the 19th century, the ironworks in Kropa and nearby Kamna Gorica employed more than 2000 people.  The most important markets at that time were the area of the Republic of Venice and Trieste.

In the lower part of the village you can see the renovated pool which is a remainder of the lower foundry, whilst in the upper part of the village the water cascade, water troughs and barriers are remains of the upper foundry.

The Vigenc vice nail forge, located in the upper part of the village, is the only preserved foundry  for the manual forging of nails with an authentic preserved exterior and blacksmithing equipment inside. It is situated on the left bank of the stream below the dam of the former upper foundry. Next to the stream there is a wheel for driving the bellows, the interior contains three blacksmiths’ fireplaces. Around each fireplace there are six stone stumps for anvils, above the fire in the centre is the ‘kitchen’, the place where blacksmiths’ wives put their pans and cooked whilst working.

When walking around the village you can see some of the preserved technical objects beside the Kroparica stream which are evidence of the former lively ironworking industry. The Slovenian smelting furnace (Slovenska peč), dating from the 14th century, is located on a bend in the winding road that leads from Kropa up to Jamnik. Archeological remains of this important technical monument were discovered in 1953 and a protective building was erected to preserve it. The smelting furnace was 3 metres high and in 10 hours it produced 200 kilogrammes of wrought iron for forging.

Just after passing the furnace, you will see a sign on the right-hand side of the road to Vodice – one of the many hiking paths that lead to the Vodiška planina highland and the Partisanski dom na Vodiški planini  hut. If you would like to see the source of the Kroparica stream take this path but do NOT cross the small wooden bridge, continue instead ahead, slightly uphill on a somewhat overgrown stone path for a few hundred metres to reach the source.

The path isn’t marked but just follow your nose, and the water! The stream makes its way down from its source through the village through artificially constructed water drainage systems and barriers through which water from the stream’s main channels ran to the ironworks and blacksmiths workshops.

You can reach Kropa under your own steam, or until the end of August you can catch the Hop-on Hop-off tourist bus every Tuesday. Find out more about the Hop-On Hop-Off bus here – http://www.radolca.si/en/hop-on-hop-off-radolca/

You can find out plenty more about Kropa’s old village centre, the ironworks, the museum, and its technical heritage on the Tourism Radol’ca website here – http://www.radolca.si/en/kropa/

© Adele in Slovenia

A Recce of the Rupnik Line

Another day of exploring the scenic Poljane valley; this time walking along part of the former Rupnik Line – a system of fortifications that were built during the 1930’s by the Kingdom of Yugoslavia as a defence line on the border with the Kingdom of Italy.

It transpired that the strategically placed forts were never actually used for military or defence purposes, but the building of the fortifications at least brought residents a temporary solution to the unemployment and financial troubles which affected them due to the location of the Rapallo Border.

The Rupnik Line theme path begins at the cemetery in Gorenja vas where there is an information board showing the route.

The path is well marked; in places with green signs, such as seen below, in other places with yellow markings painted on trees.

There are actually two paths – a shorter 4.5km circular path and a longer non-circular path which is 6km one-way. However, due to the ever present damage in the forest due to the glaze ice in the winter of 2014 – the clear up job is still ongoing throughout many parts of the country – walking on the longer path is not currently advised.

For the first 2km both paths follow the same route, first uphill on an asphalt road, which later becomes an unmade road then into the forest where you soon reach the first bunker.

It takes a few minutes for your eyes to adjust to the darkness, but thereafter you can take a look inside. I clearly woke a bat from its slumber and not sure who was more startled, me or it!

Continue until you reach this sign, where you should take the shorter (krajša) path to the right.

The path continues past more bunkers, each with it’s own information board where you can learn more about the fortifications and take time to explore, but do exercise caution and have sensible, sturdy footwear.

You can enter some of the bunkers, whilst others are not so accessible.

Though not part of this theme path, one of the best-preserved and largest fortifications is the underground fortress on Goli vrh where there is a permanent exhibition of remains from the time of building. I shall be writing more about this in a future blog so watch this space! Find more information about the Rupnik Line theme path on the Visit Škofja Loka website here – http://www.visitskofjaloka.si/en/experiences/theme-paths/the-rupnik-line-construction

The annual Pisana Loka Festival (Colourful Loka) takes place this year in Škofja Loka from 25th August – 3rd September. The festival is a mixture of concerts, workshops and performances – many of which are FREE – that take place at various locations, including in the heart of the old town centre and at Loka Castle.

This year part of the festival will be dedicated to Latino Loka on 2nd September in the Town Square (Mestni trg), and promises to be sizzling!

More about the festival can be found here (in Slovene only) http://www.skofjaloka.si/objava/80730, whilst further details about all the events taking place this month in Škofja Loka, including in English about the Pisana Loka Festival, can be found in the latest events calendar here – http://www.visitskofjaloka.si/si/files/default/Newsletter/Avgust%202017/spletni%20KAM-1%20avgust.pdf

© Adele in Slovenia

 

Adventure Mini Golf Panorama – The Name Says It All!

Now I know why the new mini golf course in Gorica, near Radovljica is named Adventure Mini Golf Panorama. Wow, it offers a panorama in the truest sense of the word, and with a heat wave forecast this week, its the ideal place to escape the heat, too.

I run through the village of Gorica regularly and had seen the signs for the new mini golf course, but, if I’m honest, I thought it would probably be nothing that special. Well, I couldn’t have been more wrong – this place really is rather special!

Whether you are a fan of mini golf or not, you simply must visit; be it to play a round or two or just to sit on the terrace with a drink and savour the stunning panoramic views of the Julian Alps and the Jelovica plateau.

The 12-hole mini golf course has been thoughtfully arranged using superior-quality materials and is set in the cool of the forest.

Photos alone don’t do it justice, particularly as it was slightly overcast on the day of my visit. So, just go and check it out, I believe you won’t be disappointed and you’ll hopefully come away as enthusiastic as I was!

The forest setting provides the perfect respite from the heat and the whole ambience makes you instantly feel relaxed and at ease.

The course is suitable for all ages and abilities – from the littlest to the largest – as long as you can hold a club you can play!

Owner Andreja and her husband are there with a warm welcome and don’t take much persuading to join in a round or two!

The first round per visit costs 5 euros for adults, 4 euros for children, each round thereafter during the same visit costs 2 euros for adults, 1.50 euros for children.

During summer the course is open from 10am – 9pm and you can check the latest opening hours on the website here – http://adventureminigolf.si

© Adele in Slovenia

 

 

Hike Blegoš and Dine at Pr’ Andrejon – A Winning Combination!

At 1562m Blegoš is among the highest of the peaks surrounding Škofja Loka and, together with the Koca na Blegošu mountain hut, is one of the area’s favourite destinations for lovers of hiking and nature.

Blegoš can be reached from many directions, but whichever you choose, I recommend that you also take time to visit the Pr’ Andrejon Open Door Farm, where you can buy home-produced cheese and reward yourself with some fantastic, traditional, home-cooked Slovene food.

If you would like to take the shortest route to the peak, and the one which puts you in easiest reach of the Pri Andrejon farm, then you should begin your hike from Črni Kal, from where it only takes around an hour to the top of Blegoš.

I, however – not being prone to ever taking the ‘shortest’ or ‘easiest’ way! – opted to take the route from the hamlet of Volaka which leads past the Mountain Guards’ Shelter on Jelenci (Planinski zavetišče na Jelencih), which, rather oddly, is only open at weekends during winter.

The path, which leads up through the forest, is never overly steep but at the same time is challenging enough to work up a sweat!

The path is very well marked; at times the usual red circle with a white inner is on rocks and/or trees, at other times there are more prominent markings.

It took me exactly 2 hours to reach the summit, having first passed the mountain hut, where I didn’t pause on the way up, but did stop briefly on the way back down to check out their legendary ocvirkova -a kind of savoury potica made using pork crackling.

Although it was one of those mornings when the weather couldn’t quite make up it’s mind, the views were still stunning, and in fact perhaps even more so for the dramatic cloud cover.

Despite the cloud, it was still hard to choose where to look first, such were the panoramic views. An orientation table assists with getting one’s bearings.

Although not the easiest of places to reach, a narrow winding road that seems to go on and on… when you do eventually reach the Pr’ Andrejon farm in the hamlet of Gorenja Žetina above the Poljane valley, the warm welcome and excellent food means all is soon forgotten!

Whilst it is not a tourist farm, i.e. there are no rooms available for overnight accommodation, they consider themselves an ‘Open Door Farm’, meaning, as the name implies, they are pretty much always open. However, despite its relatively remote location, this place is hugely popular, so advanced booking, particularly for large groups, is a must.

Despite my arrival coinciding with that of 2 large pre-booked groups (hence, heed my advice to book in advance!), Anka still managed to rustle up some home-produced cheese and cold cuts and the most amazing bread, fresh from the wood-burning oven. I’d travel a long way for bread that good – oh yes, I actually did – so I had to get some to take home too!

During my brief visit, I was amazed at how many people stopped by to buy cheese direct from the farm.

Pr Andrejon is also a popular stop for cyclists, as part of the Loka Cycle Route goes right past the door. More information here – https://adeleinslovenia.com/2017/06/11/active-and-historic-loka-the-skofja-loka-cycle-trail/

The farm’s website has more information (only in Slovene), or you can contact Anka by email or phone to make reservations and find out more – anka.vodnik@gmail.com, tel: 045 188174 or 051 389108 – http://www.freeweb.siol.net/mvodnik6/default.htm

You can find more information about the wide range of hiking paths in the Škofja Loka on the Visit Škofja Loka website here – http://www.visitskofjaloka.si/en/experiences/active-breaks/hiking/hiking-trails-in-loka

© Adele in Slovenia

 

Fit and Fun in Radovljica!

For many people, no doubt the thought of exercising on holiday couldn’t be further from their minds; then there are those of us for whom being active is a way of life, and whether at home or away, we like to find ways of ensuring we stay fit and healthy whilst also having fun!

So for those of you who fit into that bracket – myself included – Radovljica is the perfect destination!

As is widely known and acknowledged, the key to keeping fit is to find an activity, or activities, that are enjoyable, so taking part doesn’t feel like a chore and we are more likely to stick with it.

With the beautiful backdrop of the Karavanke mountains and the Jelovica plateau, as well as the Sava river and the Draga and Lipnica valleys, there are myriad outdoor sports and activities right on the doorstep or within close proximity of Radovljica, so here are some ideas:

HIKING – the Jelovica Plateau, the Karavanke range, or the nearby Julian Alps

WALKING and/or RUNNING – from short strolls or runs on theme paths such as the Sava River Trail, to long cross-country rambles and runs

CYCLING – of all types, mountain biking, road biking, endless possibilities

FISHING on the Sava river

HORSE RIDING or horse and carriage rides – get to know Lipizzaner horses at the Barbana stud farm in Globoko, or go riding at the Mošnje Horse Centre – just two among the places offering horse riding in the area. More here – http://www.radolca.si/en/in-the-company-of-horses/

WATER SPORTS – rafting, kayaking, canoeing

Other adrenalin-fuelled activities –  paintball, zip line, zorbing, caving, climbing

ARCHERY – on the parcour course in the tranquil Draga valley. Find out more here – https://adeleinslovenia.com/2017/04/10/archery-adventures-and-delicious-draga-delights/

SWIMMING at the Olympic size swimming pool in Radovljica – open-air in the summer, covered in the winter; or at the Kropa outdoor pool

PARACHUTING and PANORAMIC FLIGHTS over the Julian Alps from Lesce Sports Airfield

Find out more about sport, recreation and fun in the area here and I wish you fit and fun adventures in Radovljica! – http://www.radolca.si/en/sport-recreation-and-fun/

© Adele in Slovenia

Železniki: A Step Back in Time and Tradition + Lacemaking Days

The small town of Železniki is nestled snuggly in one of the narrowest parts of the Selca Valley (Selška dolina). The town is split into the older ironworks area and the more modern industrial part. Walking through the old part of the town feels like taking a step back in time – in a good way – since it is untouched by the trappings of modernity i.e. ghastly shopping centres and the like, and the town boasts a wealth of tradition and heritage.

Železniki was once a centre of ironworking, and later, after the closure of the last blast furnace, the tradition of lacemaking began to flourish. The best way to learn more about this fascinating place is to visit the Železniki Museum.

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There are 12 collections over three floors crammed into the beautiful 17th century ironworkers house. There are an impressive number of models, some of which also ‘come to life’ with moving parts and/or sound. Collections include the iron industry, the timber industry, lace-making, and the National Liberation Battle in the valley.

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Get a glimpse into the working of a timber mill.

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And maybe even try your hand at lace-bobbin work. Believe me, it’s a skilled trade requiring patience and dexterity, both of which, in this case at least, I clearly lack!

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Once you’ve mastered it, then you can produce all manner of intricate patterns.

The remains of the last mighty blast furnace, used for smelting iron-ore, known to be the only preserved furnace of its kind in Europe, are directly opposite the museum.

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After visiting the museum I recommend taking a walk through the old part of the town beside the Selca Sora river, from where you can admire the traditional ironworkers houses, some still with the traditional slate roofs, and, if you get lucky with the weather, bask in the sunshine!

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Plnada is the oldest house in the town.

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The well, known locally as ‘Šterna na Plavžu’, was renovated and erected on the occasion of the 40th Lacemaking Days event. In the past the well provided water for 40 houses in the upper part of the town.

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This year the 55th Lacemaking Days event takes place from 12- 16 July. The rich cultural programme includes a craft market, organ grinders, a procession, and even a 24-hour lacemaking competition. The main parade will take place on Sunday 16th July at 2pm. You can also visit the museum and admire the windows of the town’s houses which are adorned with lace during the event.

On Saturday 15th July at 9pm, and on Sunday 16th July from 3pm you can watch demonstrations of manual iron forging with Železniki blacksmiths and have a go at making your own nails.

The full programme is below (in Slovene), or you can contact the Železniki Tourist Information Centre or Visit Škofja Loka for more information.

Interesting, earlier this year the Municipality of Železniki was declared the best out of Slovenia’s 211 municipalities in which to live in Slovenia in terms of a number of factors including health of its residents, availability of accommodation, access to nature and leisure facilities etc.

One of the town’s most popular events is ‘Luč v vodo’ (Lights in the Water), an age-old iron-forging custom takes place annually in March. The models, which are a mixture of unique art creations made from paper, cardboard and wood with candles affixed either on the exterior or interior, create a colourful effect against the dusk setting. This custom dates back to the era of manual iron-forging, before the introduction of the Gregorian calendar in 1582, when the name day of St. Gregory was considered the first day of spring.

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Photo: TD Zelezniki

Other sights of interest nearby include the Lomski slap waterfall, the stone bridges in Kovže and below Griva, numerous examples of architectural ironwork heritage, and hiking trails, including to Ratitovec – about which I will be writing more in the not too distant future!

So, as you can see, and as I found out, there’s more to Železniki than first meets the eye. So do add it to your list of places to visit whilst exploring the Škofja Loka area. Find out more here – http://www.visitskofjaloka.si/en/skofja-loka-area/zelezniki and here – http://www.visitskofjaloka.si/en/experiences/culture-and-art/museums-and-galleries

© Adele in Slovenia

 

 

The Kropa Iron Forging Festival – 8th July 2017

The ever-popular annual Iron Forging Festival (Kovaški šmaren) will take place this Saturday 8th July in the village of Kropa, the cradle of Slovene iron-forging.

I love visiting Kropa in summer, when it’s hot and the village is bathed in sunshine, and especially at the time of the Iron Forging Festival when the village comes to life and visitors can get a glimpse into life in the past for the village ironworkers and their families.

Kropa sits nested into the far eastern edge of the Jelovica plateau and is crammed with interesting sights and architecture and preserved technical heritage which is showcased during the annual festival.

There are demonstrations of hand forging of nails in the Vigenjc Vice Nail Forge, a small local craft market, old-time bikes, open days at the Iron Forging Museum and the Fovšaritnica Museum House, as well as at the headquarters of the company UKO Kropa, which specialises in all manner of wrought iron furnishings and fittings and is keeping the village’s iron-forging tradition alive.

Be sure to take a walk around the village, alongside the Kroparica stream, that runs right through its heart, and admire the former ironworkers houses embellished with decorative wrought iron.

If you’d like to make a day of it, why not take a hike up to the Vodiška planina highland. You can choose to take the steeper route (marked ‘Vodice – strma pot, 1hr 15mins) which begins at the parish Church of St. Leonard, one of the two churches in the village. There is a small parking area beside the church or otherwise you park in the centre of the village, by the memorial, and take the steps which lead between houses up to the church.

Or, alternatively, there is another path that is found by following the road through the village in the direction of Jamnik. The path begins on the bend in the road next to the former Slovenian smelting furnace (Slovenska peč).

Both paths eventually reach the highland and the Partizanski dom mountain hut where you can get refreshments and tasty home-cooked food – the štruklji are particularly popular!

For those without a car the Hop-on Hop-off tourist bus also visits Kropa every Tuesday during the summer months. More information and the timetable can be found here – http://www.radolca.si/en/hop-on-hop-off-radolca/

More information about the Iron Forging Festival can be found here – http://www.radolca.si/en/the-iron-forging-festival/

© Adele in Slovenia