A Celebration of Birthdays and Bees in Begunje!

Sunday 20th May, in addition to being the first World Bee Day, also happened to be my birthday. So plenty of reason for celebration this year, even if it wasn’t a ‘special’ birthday (thank god!).

When deciding where to hold a small gathering for friends that would comprise great food, a beautiful setting, something active, and some beekeeping-related, the choice was obvious, it just had to be the Draga Valley in Begunje na Gorenjskem!

So, I set about making plans and my plans all came together rather well, even if I say so myself!

We began with an introduction to archery on the parkour archery course. Regular readers may recall, however, that I’m not a complete archery novice, as I went to check out the course last year when I spent a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon under the professional guidance of Robert Levstek.

It’s great fun making your way around the course with its 30 life-size animal targets dotted throughout the forest. Those with a competitive nature, and even those without, will enjoy a fun day out surrounded by the wonderful nature of the Draga Valley. Find out more here – https://adeleinslovenia.com/2017/04/10/archery-adventures-and-delicious-draga-delights/

Next came the beekeeping-related part of our afternoon, and for this I contacted the local beekeeper Erik Luznar, who has one of his many hives in the valley.

Since the average age of Slovenia’s 10,000 beekeepers is 57, Erik is certainly bucking the trend in this respect, and his youth, spirit and enthusiasm made listening to him waxing lyrical about his beloved bees both pleasurable and fascinating.

And also in contrast to the majority of Slovenia’s beekeepers, beekeeping is not just Erik’s passion and hobby, it is his livelihood. He offers various types of honey (floral, acacia, forest, linden, chestnut, pine, fir), as well as royal jelly, pollen, propolis and beeswax. He also breeds queen bees, which are then sent throughout the world. So, whilst in the Radovljica area, if you would like to have a tour of his hives – independently or as part of a Taste Radol’ca tour – find out more about Slovenian beekeeping, or buy some of his award-winning honey or other bee products, he’s your man! Contact: cebelarstvo.luznar@gmail.com

Of course, no good celebration is complete without great food, and in the Draga Valley that comes in spades at Gostišče Draga, one of the participating Taste Radol’ca restaurants. If you want to enjoy a drink or three without worrying about getting home, there are rooms available above the restaurant too!

Since the Draga Valley is also an excellent starting point for hikes in the Karavanke mountains, the restaurant is a very popular choice for some post-hiking sustainance, but is equally as popular as somewhere to enjoy great Slovenian cuisine – in summer in the cool of the garden next to the stream, in winter next to the roaring wood burner.

Continuing with the honey theme, we dined well on dishes such as rumpsteak in pepper and honey sauce, štruklji with honey, and other savoury delights, and not forgetting a cake, too!

For an added twist, throughout the evening there was a chance to taste many varieties of honey, with the aim of guessing which was which.

Then, to see how much we had all taken in from Erik’s educational session, I had prepared a quiz about Slovenian beekeeping, too! Of course, this meant a bit of work on my part too. I felt like a school teacher marking tests!

For the perfect end to the evening, I was given some lovely birthday gifts, including vouchers for massages (can’t wait Simona Slegel!) and this hand-embroidered apron that reads ‘Ta prava Radol’canka‘. Radol’canka is the word used for a female from Radovljica, so it reads ‘A real Radol’canka‘!

So, as you can see, the Draga Valley is a one-stop destination for active and tasty outings, and with a bit of added ingenuity and forward planning, a great place for group celebrations and events. Thanks to everyone who contributed to a lovely evening!

® Adele in Slovenia

 

 

Žirovnica – The Place to Be(e) to Celebrate World Bee Day!

So, at last, the long-awaited first ever World Bee Day took place on Sunday 20th May and Žirovnica was the place to be(e)!

The celebrations were centred around Breznica, the birth place of Anton Janša and home to his memorial apiary, which, following recent renovation, has been further improved by the placing of a new memorial plaque to mark World Bee Day.

There were celebrations throughout the land to mark this momentous day, even more momentous since Slovenia, and in particular the President of the Slovenian Beekeeping Association, Bostjan Noč, was the initiator of the campaign to have 20th May, the birth date of Anton Janša, Slovenia’s greatest beekeeper, proclaimed World Bee Day. After all, as we all know, or should all know, every third spoonful of food we eat is dependent on pollination by bees, thus ‘No Bees, No Life‘!

I don’t have the official numbers, however, it seemed as if the majority of Slovenia’s 10,000 beekeepers came dressed in their finest to celebrate. For a population of just 2 million, well, do the maths…!

A meeting of Slovenian beekeepers took place under the honorary patronage of the President of the Republic of Slovenia, Borut Pahor, whilst throughout the day there were bee-themed events and entertainment.

Visitors were able to watch a film presentation to find out more about the plans for the ‘Bee Park’ – a competition was held recently to come up a name for the new park. The winner has been chosen, however, as yet the name is still under wraps!

A honey market lined the streets and there were concerts, street entertainers and more!

To mark the day, a new stamp was issued by the Slovenian postal service, and Slovenia also launched a special 2 euro coin. Look out for the 2 euro coins in circulation throughout the euro area –  I’ve already got mine!

A great day was had by all and the future for Slovenia’s bees and beekeepers looks very bright. The nation sure did its bees proud!

Photo: Simon Senica

This summer you can take a ride on the Bee Our Guest Hop-On Hop-Off tourist bus, which will take you on a journey through the surroundings of Bled, Radovljica and Žirovnica every Wednesday in July and August. Along the way you can visit some of Gorenjska’s beekeepers, Janša’s memorial apiary, Bee Paradise, the Beekeeping Education Centre of Gorenjska, and more!

For more information about apitourism in Slovenia see the Bee Our Guest website, and to find out more about the ‘Cradle of Slovenian Beekeeping‘ see the Visit Zirovnica website.

© Adele in Slovenia

 

 

Magušar’s House – An Aladdin’s Cave of Clay!

The fruits of the first year of a three year project titled ‘Catalogue of Slovenian Clay‘ are being unveiled today in an exhibition at Radovljica’s Magušar’s House. The official opening of the exhibition begins today at 7pm, so you’ve still got time to get along, but if you don’t make it, don’t worry, the exhibition will be on view until the end of the summer (entrance is free, however, prior notice is required).

Photo: Miran Kambič

For the owner of the house and initiator of the project, Urban Magušar, clay isn’t merely a raw material from which he has been creating for decades – it is his life. “Those that work with clay all the time, are in touch with the origin of the universe”, said Urban in a recent blog post (the English version of the brand new website is coming soon!) for Tourism Radol’ca.

The current finds of Slovenian clay are shown on the map below. Incidentally, is often said that Slovenia, when viewed as a whole on a map, is shaped like a chicken. Do you agree?

After coming up with the idea, Urban set about contacting ceramists throughout Slovenia and over 100 samples were brought to the workshop in Magušar’s House where they were tested for basic physical properties: contraction, porosity, colour and granulation and heated to temperatures of 800-1,300˚C to determine the temperature range of sintering and melting.

Below you can see Urban in his ‘Aladdin’s cave of clay’!

Being a total clay ‘virgin’ it was fascinating to see all the different kinds of clay and how they react and change when heated and treated.

The artist and ceramist Živa Slavec explained to me about the different characteristics of the clays, for example, those from the Gorenjska are lighter in colour as there is more limestone, whereas those from the flat lands in Slovenia’s north-east are darker in colour and also more easy to locate and access.

Magušar House in itself is also worth a look, with its arcaded gothic courtyard, dating from c.1500, and pottery workshop where you can buy Magušar bowls and other pottery items. Occasional exhibitions, workshops and other events are also held there.

You can also find Magušar bowls being used in some of the Taste Radol’ca restaurants, where the focus on local food is further enhanced by serving it in local bowls made just minutes away – certainly no food miles involved here!

Taste Radol’ca at Gostilna Kunstelj

The Visit Radol’ca website has more information about Magusar’s House and the other historic houses in Radovljica’s old town, Taste Radol’ca restaurants, as well as plenty more information on what else to see and do in the town and its surroundings.

Do go and take a look, it sets you thinking and you will probably never look at a clay bowl the same way again!

© Adele in Slovenia

Čebelji raj – A Real Bee Paradise!

The newly-opened Bee Paradise (Čebelji raj) in the hamlet of Selo in Žirovnica, is a great acquisition for Slovenian beekeeping, Slovenian tourism, the Municipality of Žirovnica, and last but not least, for Slovenia’s bees!

Bee Paradise is the brainchild of the president of the Slovenian Beekeeping Association, Bostjan Noč, who has been involved with beekeeping from an early age and is an exemplary example of a diligent and devoted ‘father’ to his numerous colonies of bees, as well as working tirelessly to preserve and promote beekeeping in Slovenia.

 

Indeed, it was Bostjan, together with other leading members of the Slovenian Beekeepers’ Association, that was the driving force behind Slovenia’s initiative to have 20th May, the birth date of the pioneer of modern apiculture, Anton Janša, declared as World Bee Day. And they succeeded in this not-insignificant achievement, when the United Nations General Assembly unanimously declared the first World Bee Day will be held on 20th May 2018.

Apitherapy has been the buzz word in alternative therapies of late, and at Bee Paradise you can sample its health benefits by taking a seat in one of the comfy loungers, listening to soothing music and the gentle buzzing of the bees and breathing in the intoxicating air. The benefits of bee products – honey, propolis, royal jelly, pollen – are combined in apitheraphy to prevent and/or heal numerous conditions and diseases.

Both inside and outside you can get up-close-and-personal with the Noč family’s bees. Suspended from the ceiling, this ingenious glass sphere allows the bees to come and go as they please, whilst providing a fascinating perspective for visitors.

Tasting sessions and special programmes can be arranged for groups upon prior arrangement, as well as various workshops, professional lectures, presentations etc. Contact details: Tel: 040 431 930 or https://www.cebelarstvo-noc.si/ (website in Slovenian only).

In the garden there is an area planted with special honeybee plants, and from April to October there is a viewing hive where you can watch the bees close-up.

A speciality is the uniquely-designed hive containing jars that the bees fill directly with honey – how ingenious and labour-saving is that!

In front of the family house there is a painted hive and a small shop where you can stock up on goodies and gifts!

And, of course, you can’t visit without tasting the fruits of the bees labour! There are 7 varieties of Slovenian honey to choose from, as well as 2 new products, available exclusively at Bee Paradise; bela medolada – a combination of white chocolate and honey, and temna medolada – cocoa and honey. Paradise indeed for someone with a sweet tooth like me!

The first World Bee Day is fast approaching, and Bee Paradise, as well as Anton Jansa’s memorial apiary, which is just minutes away, will be part of the numerous celebrations taking place throughout Slovenia, and indeed the world!

More information about Slovenian beekeeping and World Bee Day can be found on the Bee Our Guest website, and for more information about what else to see and do in the Žirovnica area, see the Visit Žirovnica website.

© Adele in Slovenia

Visit Žirovnica – Visit Tito’s Village (Titova vas)

Tito’s Village (Titova vas) was a secret World War II partisan camp that was hidden deep in the forest in a remote, hidden and relatively inaccessible location beneath the peak of Smokuški vrh, in the municipality of Žirovnica. The camp had its own newspaper, a choir, butchery and everything needed for everyday life at that time.

For a longer walk, you can start from the reservoir in Žirovnica where there is an information board about the trail to Titova vas and from where it is a pleasant cca. 45 min walk along the valley road which rises gently to the trailhead. If you would prefer a medium-length walk then you can start a little further along the valley at the recreation area by the Zavrh bar, or for a short walk begin at the trailhead itself further along the valley.

Do keep your eyes out for errant kangaroos, though!

From the trailhead it is just approx. 20 mins on foot to reach Tito’s Village.

The camp provided partisans with shelter from the German occupators. Considering its location, in close proximity to German strongholds in nearby Žirovnica, Bled, Koroška Bela, Javornik, Jesenice, Lesce, Radovljica, Brezje, Poljče and Begunje, the existence of the camp from 21 November 1944 – 31 January 1945 – though only 2 months – was considered long for those times.

The well-marked path leads uphill through the forest crossing small bridges and wooden footbridges over a small stream.

One get’s a real sense of how well-hidden the camp was and though today, thanks to the well-arranged trail, it’s a pleasant walk and fun to explore the area. One can only imagine what it must have been like to survive a winter here, although at least a fresh supply of water presumably wasn’t an issue.

On reaching the small camp there is a visitors’ book, information boards (in Slovene only) and a memorial stone.

The walk to Tito’s Village is  interesting, educational and enjoyable, and, combined with the other sights of interest in the Završnica valley, is well worth a visit.

See the Visit Žirovnica website to find out more and this and other hiking trails in the Žirovnica area.

© Adele in Slovenia

The 7th Radovljica Chocolate Festival: the Most ‘Chocolate’ Weekend of the Year – ON NOW!

The 7th Radovljica Chocolate Festival has just begun, and, being the chocoholic that I am, I’m not known for having a modicum of restraint when it comes to chocolate. Since I’m lucky enough to live on the doorstep, I headed straight down to the opening to check it out for you (ahem!).

This year there are almost 50 chocolatiers showcasing their chocolates and other chocolate-based creations.

 

The festival takes place in Radovljica’s historic old town centre, as well as in the town park, and in Vurnik Square (Vurnikov trg).

As in previous years, there is a jam-packed entertainment programme, which has something for all the family.

Entrance to the festival, as well as (the majority of) the entertainment programme, is FREE. Tasting of chocolates takes place through the purchase of tasting coupons, which cost 0.50 cents, and come in strips of four.

I also like to check out any new and original flavours of chocolates – there are SO many, it’s mind boggling. However, one can always rely on Čokohram to come up trumps. Last year, among the unusual flavour combinations it offered chocolate with mohant cheese (a particularly smelly cheese, available this year too!), new for this year it’s chocolate with nettle. Throughout the festival, at the 50+ stalls, you can try literally hundreds of different flavour combinations.

Below are just some of the highlights of the weekend ahead.

Events taking place throughout the 3-day festival include:

  • House of Experiments – make your own bar of chocolate; From Bean to Bar (Saturday from 10am-6pm and Sunday from 10am-5pm)
  • Cookery workshops with Radovljica College of Catering and Tourism
  • Pumptrack course for bikes and scooters
  • Archery, handball and minigolf corner
  • Chocolate journey with adventures through Radovljica
  • Chocolate face painting
  • Chocolate roulette

Throughout the festival there are also numerous FREE concerts, workshops, cookery shows and other events, including:

SATURDAY

  • Creative dance day with the Waldorf School and Nursery (9am-5pm)
  • Uroš Štefelin, Igor Jagodic and Marko Pavčnik, Three Chefs’ Cookery Show (10am)
  • Beer Belly, Irish band (10am-1pm)
  • A meeting of two clowns and circus workshops with clown Eva Škofič Maurer
  • Veseli Begunjčani ensemble, concert (1pm)
  • Abba Mia, concert (4pm)
  • Small Tokk, concert (6pm)

The Three Chefs’ Cookery Show – Photo: Visit Radol’ca

SUNDAY

  • Napoli Tango, music (10am-1pm)
  • Dixie Flash Mob with the Lesce Wind Orchestra and dancers (12noon)
  • Maček Muri and Muca Maca with Neca Falk, concert (2pm)
  • Uroš Perič, concert (4pm)

And don’t miss the arrival of the vintage steam train on Sunday, which is always a sight to behold. The train leaves Ljubljana at 10.40am, arriving in Radovljica at 12noon. Click here for more information.

And if you are craving something other than chocolate (why would you?!), then visit the food marquee where some of Taste Radol’ca’s restaurants  – Gostišče Draga, Gostilna Tavčar and Joštov hram – are cooking up some treats, too!

Gostišče Draga – something for those who prefer savoury treats!

Try ‘šmorn’, a kind of shredded pancake served with jam, at Gostišče Draga

And there’s even craft beer too, which will no doubt go down a storm in this heat, yes, heat, in April, when just a few weeks ago I was (still!) moaning about the snow!

But that’s far from all. There’s plenty more! Click here for more information and the full programme (in Slovene) and here for the English version.

So, don’t miss out, come on down. A ‘hot’ chocolate weekend awaits indeed, as the weather is, and promises to be, fab, too!

© Adele in Slovenia

Gostilna Knafel: Dine with the stars…in Žirovnica!

Through the years, the Žirovnica area has been home to numerous of Slovenia’s most well known talents. Of this, the most well known are the ‘famous five’ – Anton Janša, France Prešeren, Fran Saleški Finžgar, Janez Jalen and Matija Čop.

You can ‘meet’ these five by visiting their birth houses and also see bust statues of them outside the Žirovnica primary school at the Alley of Famous Men, which is part of the Žirovnica Path of Cultural Heritage.

The Karavanke mountains form a backdrop to the villages and hamlets that form the Municipality of Žirovnica, and, on one of the first truly warm and sunny spring days this year, yesterday it was at last, after the long, bleak winter, time to get out exploring again- hooray!

 

Then it was time to ‘dine with the stars‘ at the Gostilna Knafel restaurant, which is in close proximity to the Alley of Famous Men, where you can enjoy a hearty meal in the company of Žirovnica’s famous men! Depending where you choose to sit in the restaurant, you can ‘dine’ with one of them, or rather in the knowledge they are watching over you as you eat!

France Prešeren (1800-1849), Slovenia’s most famous poet.

And read some of their words of wisdom…

Anton Janša – Slovenia’s greatest beekeeper and the pioneer of modern apiculture.

Not far from Gostilna Knafel you can also visit Anton Jansa’s apiary, which was reconstructed in 2017.

There’s a kid’s corner, where Fran Saležki Finžgar keeps a watchful eye!

The team at Gostilna Knafel strive to offer traditional Slovenian dishes such as buckwheat krapi (similar to ravioli) filled with curd cheese topped with pork crackling,

Take a peek into the kitchen and you can even see krapi being freshly made! The before…

And the after…

One of my favourite Slovenian foods is štruklji, so I was spoilt for choice with homemade savoury štruklji (a light dough filled and rolled like a swiss roll) with a porcini mushroom sauce.

As well as sweet buckwheat štruklji with curd cheese, honey and walnuts.

There is also a full a-la-carte menu, daily malice (light lunches from Mon-Fri), and pizzas – something for every taste!

The Visit Žirovnica website has more information about Gostilna Knafel and the other food and beverage outlets in the Žirovnica area, which I am looking forward to getting more acquainted with – and tasting too, of course!

© Adele in Slovenia