The Begunje Shepherd’s Trail – My Favourite Hike in Radol’ca!

The Begunje Shepherd’s Trail (Pastirska pot) is one of my favourite of all the hiking trails in the Radol’ca area. The sheer variety of the terrain, the stunning views, and the fact that it is entirely circular all add up to one great hike!

The trail begins at the head of the Draga Valley in Begunje na Gorenjskem, where you can park and set off on foot on the 10.2km trail and where there is an information board showing the route.

The first mini ‘challenge’ that you encounter after just a few hundred metres, is crossing a stream – not advisable after heavy rainfall! Note: if it is impassable, then follow the road uphill for about 15 minutes to where it branches off steeply through the forest towards the Roblekov dom mountain hut, but continue past the next bend and then take a forest road (unmarked) to the right, which, eventually, meets the path coming up from the head of the valley.

The trail begins to lead up through the forest, passing a cascade of the stream.

Next comes a slightly bigger ‘challenge’, as the path leads up a steep gully between two rock faces, but there are iron foot rungs and an iron cable to help, so, with a steady hand (and feet!), it doesn’t present a major obstacle.

Its only a short climb, and the path soon levels out, well, until the next bit anyway! But that is why I love this path, as there’s never a dull moment, it keeps you on your toes – literally!

The path crosses the stream in several places, before reaching a ladder, equipped with a rope to hoist yourself up!

You then cross the stream one last time, before reaching a rest area with a bench, and then continuing up, ever steeper, through the forest.

Next you reach a giant fir tree, so giant, in fact, there was no way or being able to photograph it from within the confines of the trail, so you’ll just have to visit and see it for yourself! The statistics on the signpost below give the facts and figures: circumference 347cm, diameter 110cm, quantity of wood 12.5m3, height 35 metres

After about an hour to 1hr 15 mins, you reach the Preval mountain pasture and the Koča na Prevalu mountain hut, the first of four (yes, four!) mountain huts that you pass on this trail, where you can stop for refreshments (note: the huts are open daily during summer, but out of season some are closed whilst others open at weekends only) and enjoy the views before continuing on your way.

Now follow the road for about 10 minutes, which provides a mini-break from the steep path, before the path branches off to the right and begins to climb up again on the path ‘cez Roza’. But, it’s worth it, as you are soon rewarded with wonderful views of the Radovljica Plains, the Jelovica plateau, Lake Bled, and the Julian Alps.

There are still a couple of mini ‘hurdles’ to overcome, in the form of gullies to be crossed, but here and there, iron rods are provided to assist, and eventually the path levels out to become sheer enjoyment.

Shortly before the end of the path, you reach an abandoned manganese mine shaft with an information board, and the views open up further across the valley.

Click here for more information about the other themed hiking trails in the Radol’ca, and here for the Radol’ca hiking and biking map.

© Adele in Slovenia

Hop-On Hop-Off in Triglav National Park: Bohinj to Pokljuka

Triglav National Park, Slovenia’s only national park, extends over an area of 880km2 and covers almost the entire area of the Julian Alps in Slovenia.

Whilst many visitors to Slovenia, particularly those who visit to hike in the Julian Alps, are familiar with areas such as the ever-popular 7 Triglav Lakes Valley, and Slovenia’s highest mountain, Triglav, another area that is well worth a visit is the oustandingly beautiful Pokljuka Plateau, which during summer you can visit for FREE courtesy of the Hop-On Hop-Off Bohinj to Pokljuka bus.

The Pokljuka plateau is a paradise for lovers of the great outdoors, and offers activities year-round: hiking and cycling in summer, downhill and cross-country skiing, biathlon, snowshoeing and hiking in winter. The forested Karst plateau is around 20km in length and at an elevation of 1,100-1,400 metres.

Since parking charges have this year been introduced for the first time on Pokljuka, taking the Hop-On Hop-Off bus makes even more sense from both a financial and environmental perspective. The FREE bus runs three times per day from the Lower and Upper Bohinj valleys to the Triglav Pokljuka Sports Centre at Rudne polje on Pokljuka. Click here for the timetable.

Since Pokljuka is also a popular destination for cyclists – road cyclists enjoy the challenge of the long road that winds its way up to the plateau from either Bled or Bohinj, whilst mountain bike enthusiasts enjoy the gravel roads that criss-cross the plateau, the buses are also equipped with bike brackets and each bus can accommodate up to six bikes.

Personally, I love hiking on Pokljuka, both in summer and winter, though summer is, and always will be, my favourite time of year! There are walks to suit all levels – from easier, shorter walks to Pokljuka’s many mountain pastures, to more challenging hikes to its peaks.

If you are seeking a walk for all the family, I highly recommend walking from Rudne polje to the picturesque Uskovnica mountain pasture with its numerous small wooden chalets and interesting hummocks.

The route is well-marked and it only takes about 45-50 minutes to reach the pasture and the Koča na Uskovnici mountain hut.

The way there is pretty much all downhill, of course that does mean a bit of uphill on the return trip, but after a stop at the hut for some delicious blueberry strudel or one of the other homemade dishes, you will be raring to go! During summer on Pokljuka you can also buy cheese at one of the working dairies or mountain pastures.

En-route to the pasture you reach an ‘energy field‘, which attracts people from far and wide who come to sit on the various energy points that are believed to be beneficial for various ailments. There is an information board (in Slovene only) giving details of which point is for which ailment and how long should be spent at each point. I must admit to being rather cynical about such things, but if the number of people (and even dogs!) there every time I visit is anything to go by, I’m in the minority! So, why not go and try it out, and let me know the result(s)!

Uskovnica has one of the cutest little wooden chapels around. Here I am with parents on their recent visit!

Those looking for more challenging hikes are spoilt for choice. As you can see below, from Uskovnica, as well as from Rudno polje, there is a wide choice of paths to hike.

Among the most popular are the Zajamniki mountain pasture, Debela peč, the highest point of the Pokljuka plateau at 2,014m, and the peak of Viševnik, 2,050m.

After our walk we returned to the biathlon centre where we enjoyed a(nother!) drink at the hotel, ensuring we timed it right to catch the Hop-On Hop-Off bus back to the valley.

Even when the Hop-On Hop-Off bus ends its run for the season, from wherever you are staying in the Bohinj area you are never more than a 30-45 minutes drive from Pokljuka, and you can visit year-round.

Click here for more information and some interesting facts about Pokljuka.

© Adele in Slovenia

Summit Stol and Take a Seat Atop the Karavanke!

If I crane my neck, I can see Stol, the highest mountain in the Karavanke range, from my desk. Thus, it’s an ever-present feature in my life and, accordingly so, I can’t resist hiking to its top at least a couple of times per year, and yesterday it was time for the first hike to the summit this year!

The word ‘stol’ in Slovenian means ‘chair’, since when viewed from its western side (not the side I can see from here!), its summit forms a kind of ‘back’ for the flatter slightly lower summit which is home to the Prešernova koča mountain hut.

At 2,236 metres, Stol, along with the other mountains in the Karavanke range, forms a natural border between Slovenia and Austria, hence, on a clear day, there are always stunning views to be had in all directions.

Though quite a large percentage of those who hike to the summit of Stol do so by driving the 5km forest road to the Valvasorjev dom mountain hut and from there setting off on foot, I always opt to do the entire hike from the valley, as otherwise it just feels a bit like cheating to me!

After parking at the Završnica reservoir, I set off on the first part of the trail to the Valvasorjev dom hut (cca. 50 mins) from where, as you can see below, there are numerous paths leading in various directions.

Regular readers will know that I have a penchant for circular walks, and this time was no exception! I took the shorter, steeper Žirovniška pot (Žirovnica path) up, and the longer, less steep Zabreška pot (Zabreznica path) down, which is always my preferred route.

If you are feeling somewhat gallant, you might opt to not walk past the pile of logs without putting one in your rucksack or on your shoulder – the staff at the Prešernova koca mountain hut will be very grateful for your assistance in keeping the stove burning! Whether or not I was gallant enough to carry one up or not, I will leave you to decide!

It was somewhat overcast for the majority of the hike up, the story of this ‘summer’, but in actual fact a bit of cloud cover was welcome on the long, steep hike up, and on reaching the top, the clouds majestically began to part to reveal blue skies and warming sunshine, and, for a change, it wasn’t blowing a gale up there, as can so often be the case!

Before the final ascent to the top, the path leads up a steep stony gully, from where there is a real bird’s eye view of the Upper Sava Valley and the Julian Alps in the background. The path is distinct and well-marked throughout.

As you reach the summit, you will notice that the typical red and white Slovenian markers change to red and white with a green outer circle, denoting that the path is on the border with Austria – always a kind of exciting feeling, even after 11 years here!

It took me just over 3hrs 15 minutes to reach the summit. And, as is the tradition, don’t forget to sign the visitors’ book as you take your ‘seat’ at the top of the Karavanke!

Once at the top, among the magnificent sights, you can see Lake Bled on one side, whilst on the other Lake Worthersee in Klagenfurt.

You won’t be alone, since even if there aren’t many other hikers (on Sunday, there were!), there are always some brazen birds that don’t seem in the slightest bit scared of humans as they sit in wait for some tasty tit bits!

After descending from the summit, there was time for a quick bit of sustenance at the Prešernova koca mountain hut, where there is simple, but tasty mountain-type food and refreshments on offer, a(nother) visitors’ book to sign, and then it was time to begin the descent – more about which you can read in my next blog about the myriad of mountain pastures beneath Stol, coming soon…!

Click here for the Visit Žirovnica website where there is more information about this and other hiking trails in the Žirovnica area.

© Adele in Slovenia

Srednji Vrh: Seeking the Sun and a Stream in the Karavanke!

This ‘summer’ – not that it can really be called that thus far – hasn’t been kind to us outdoor types. This time last year we were basking in 35 degrees, whilst a week ago we had temperatures half that, and since the start of June there have only been a couple of days when there hasn’t been rain somewhere in Slovenia.

Thus, trying to find days with clear blue skies for hiking and getting some good snaps for my blog have been few and far between. Fed up with waiting, I just went anyway, and, though not as gloriously sunny as I would have liked, I managed to get in a good hike in the Karavanke mountains to Srednji vrh and the Dom pri izviru Završnice (mountain hut at the source of the Završnica stream) – and even stayed dry too!

Despite the less sunny photos, I hope you, nonetheless, enjoy this glimpse into just one of the many fantastic hikes in the Karavanke mountains in the Žirovnica area. Join me on my trip to see the source of the Završnica stream and Srednji vrh!

I started my hike from the Završnica valley. How far you go by car is a matter of choice – some choose to drive as far as possible along the valley, whilst I prefer to leave the car and set off on foot along the gravel road. You will want to stop and admire the reservoir (seen below on a sunnier day!), but if you have transport, then do continue along the valley further before parking, as its a long walk from here.

From here the road gets much rougher and it’s best to set off on foot. The area, with its many mountain pastures, is also popular for mountain biking.

The road rises gradually to reach the Tinčkova koca hut, which isn’t actually an official mountain hut, rather a private hut, but somehow the name has stuck!

The Dom pri izviru Završnice hut. which was recently renovated and has new beds and furniture, is situated at an altitude of 1425m above the Smokuč mountain pasture (Smokuška planina) and on the backside of the Zelenica ski piste (sadly, no longer operational).

The hut is open from 1st June to 1st October, and at other times at weekends, weather permitting, and by prior arrangement for groups. From the hut there are numerous options for continuing to explore the peaks of the Karavanke including Vrtača, Begunščica and Stol.

I always find the springs of rivers and streams fascinating. Where on earth does all the water come from? At the source of the Završnica stream, there is barely a trickle of water to be seen – and that despite the abundance of snow and rain this year – yet just a little further down the valley, it turns into a gushing stream.

The beauty of hiking in the Karavanke, particularly in the ‘summer’ (ahem!), is the lack of crowds. I hiked for close to 5 hours and only met around a dozen people in that time – bliss for those who really want to get away from it all.

As I like to make my hikes circular, where possible, I continued from the hut up the ski slope before turning left and heading on the slopes beneath Vrtača. In this area there is a lot of loose rock and scree, so you need to keep your wits about you. As you get higher, you are rewarded with a glimpse of Lake Bled in the distance.

Where the path branches off right to ascend the summit of Vrtača, I took the left fork marked for Stol. On reaching a junction I then descend to the Šija saddle, from where there is certainly no lack of choice of where to go next!

I chose the path to Srednji vrh (1796m), which is just a further 15 minute climb from the saddle. At the top there is a visitors’ book, a solitary bench and fab views!

I then descended back down towards the hut, which is less than half-an-hour from the Šija saddle before returning on the same road.

Click here for more information and this and other hikes in the Žirovnica area.

© Adele in Slovenia

Car-Free and Carefree in Bohinj and Triglav National Park

This summer you can take advantage of the new shuttle system in Bohinj, which enables visitors to leave their cars and cares behind and enjoy the beauty of Triglav National Park.

By parking in the one of the designated car parks and taking a bus, not only does it remove the stress of looking for somewhere to park, but it’s more environmentally-friendly and easy on the wallet too – in fact it’s FREE – so what’s not to like?!

I went to try it out for myself last Friday and it really is as easy as pie. So join me on my journey to Bohinj!

First, park your car in the large FREE car park at Camp Danica in Bohinjska Bistrica.

Next, take a FREE ticket from the machine and display it on your dashboard.

Then just hop aboard one of the FREE buses that run every 15 minutes from 9am to 8pm on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays from Camp Danica to Bohinj lake during July and August, and every 30 minutes in June and September.

The buses have various liveries, some easier to spot than others, but all offer the same FREE journey to/from the camp and the lake.

All that is left is to sit back and enjoy the short, scenic ride! You alight the bus just metres from the lake and the Monument to Four Brave Men – which commemorates the first four men who climbed to the summit of Slovenia’s highest mountain, Mount Triglav (2,864m) in 1778.

The rest of the day is yours to enjoy at your leisure, or to be as active as you like in the knowledge that you can easily and quickly get back to your car at day’s end when you have had your fill. Though, does, or can, one ever really have a fill of somewhere so beautiful?!

Walk or hike to your heart’s content, laze by the lake, do water sports in and on the lake, cycle, visit local attractions, soak up the views…

If, however, you are like me, you might like to consider taking a bus one way and walking the other – you get to see more and burn off a few of the calories ingested in ice-cream, too!

Walking on the traffic-free Bohinj Cycle Route from the lake alongside the Sava River back to the bus stop at Camp Danica (or vice versa) takes around 1.5 hours, though allow more as you will want to stop for photos and soak up (more of) the beauty along the way and at the rest areas.

This is just one of this year’s new additions in the Bohinj area. There are also additional car parks as well as buses running from Senožeta to the Blato mountain pasture, a favourite starting place for hikes in the Seven Triglav Lakes Valley, as well as the Hop-On Hop-Off bus to the Pokljuka plateau.

If you are staying in the Bohinj area for at least two nights, you can also avail of the Summer Mobility Card, which provides visitors with free parking, free bus rides and a whole host of other special offers and discounts.

Click here for more about this and what else to see and do in Bohinj, Triglav National Park and the Julian Alps.

© Adele in Slovenia

Hop-On Hop-On 2018 is Here – This Year Even Bigger and Better!

The Hop-On Hop-Off tourist bus made its first journey(s) of the season this week and this year there’s even more to see and do with two extra days added to the timetable and entirely new destinations to discover! Take a ride and discover the hidden corners of the Radol’ca countryside.

The Hop-On Hop-Off bus is a great way to discover more of Radol’ca and the surrounding areas. For those who do not have a car or those who want to simply leave the car behind and be chauffeur-driven for a change, without having to worry about reading maps, finding parking places etc.

On Tuesdays you can take the ‘Charming Towns and Villages‘ route, which includes visits to Radovljica, Posavec, Ljubno and Kropa. Among the highlights of this route are the Iron Forging Museum and the Vigenc Vice foundry in Kropa, where at the latter you can see a demonstration of hand nail forging, and the Museum of Apiculture and Lectar Honeybread Museum and Workshop in Radovljica.

A demonstration of hand nail forging, Vigenc Vice Foundry, Kropa

Lectar Inn Honeybread Museum and Workshop, Radovljica

On Wednesdays the ‘Bee Our Guest‘ bus provides a fascinating insight into Slovenian beekeeping and includes visits to the Museum of Apiculture in Radovljica, the Beekeeping Education Centre of Gorenjska in Lesce, Anton Janša’s apiary in Breznica, Bee Paradise in Selo pri Žirovnici and Kralov med beekeeping in Selo pri Bledu.

Kralov med, Selo pri Bledu

Anton Janša’s apiary, Breznica pri Žirovnici

Thursday’s ‘Tales from the Countryside‘ route takes passengers to places such as Vrba, Žirovnica, Begunje na Gorenjskem, Brezje and Podvin. Among the highlights of the route are the ruins of Kamen Castle, the Avsenik Museum and the Museum of Hostages in Begunje, Adventure Mini Golf in Gorica, the Villa Rustica archaelogical site in Mošnje, and the Basilica of Mary Help of Christians in Brezje.

Adventure Mini Golf in Gorica

Završnica Valley, Žirovnica

And on Fridays, the bus runs to Begunje na Gorenjskem and then along the ‘Panoramic Road to Tržič‘. Highlights include the ruins of Kamen Castle, the old town centre of Tržič, the Mebron foundry and the Dovžan Gorge.

Ruins of Kamen Castle, Begunje na Gorenjskem

Dovžan Gorge, Tržič

So, as you can see, there’s plenty to choose from; in fact the toughest decision could be choosing which of the routes to take!

Click here for more information and the full timetable.

© Adele in Slovenia

 

The Forgotten Village on Ajdna – A Fascinating Archeological Site and a Great Hike Too!

Ajdna is the name of a tooth-shaped peak that lies beneath Mt. Stol, the highest mountain in the Karavanke range. A hike to Ajdna is fascinating, interesting and, if you take the steep way up, also a little challenging – but don’t worry, there’s an easier route up there as well!

The site was first discovered by the field archaeologist Andrej Valič, who climbed to Ajdna with hunters in the 1970s. He identified the remains of an ancient village and archaeological excavations began in 1977. What they uncovered was, or rather is, truly fascinating. Below is an artist’s impression of the village on Ajdna.

Ajdna provided locals with an excellent refuge from the troubles taking place down below in the valley, though one can only imagine what conditions must have been like that led people to flee to somewhere so inaccessible and, particularly in winter one would imagine, inhospitable. Mind you, they certainly found a place of peace and with stunning views!

Ajdna was settled during the crisis times of the collapse of the Western-Roman Empire in 476 AD. Extensive, expensive and exceptionally complex conservation work was carried out and today there are well-preserved buildings and remains of buildings that are thought to date back to the late Antiquity, though some evidence shows that it may even have been inhabited far earlier.

It is estimated that Ajdna was destroyed at the end of the 6th or beginning of the 7th century. The desecration of the church points to the destruction most likely being the result of it being pillaged and set alight by attackers of other religions.

There are several ways to reach Ajdna, depending on which direction you are coming from and also depending on how far you want to walk. I took the path that leads from the reservoir in the Završnica valley. It first follows the path towards the Valvasor mountain hut, where, about 15 minutes before reaching the hut, you turn left onto a gravel road. From here its along the road for approximately 15-20 minutes until the junction with the turn off marked for Ajdna. The path at first goes downhill, through the forest, until reaching the base of the peak. From here there is a choice of the harder, climbing path (15 mins) or the easier path (20 mins). It is well marked throughout.

I chose the harder path up and the easier path down. The path up, though not technically difficult, does require sturdy footwear, a steady hand, concentration and no fear of heights as it leads directly up the rock face – but it is well-equipped with steel cable and rungs. For those not so keen on such ascents, or those with small children, take the slightly longer and easier path to the right. Whichever way you reach Ajdna, you will be richly rewarded for your efforts!

All the information boards at Ajdna are in both Slovenian and English (I should know, I translated them as part of the exhibition catalogue!), so you can read more about the finds and the history of the site.

In addition, to complement a visit to Ajdna, you can visit the Ajdna Museum Room in Čop’s Birth House (Čopova hisa) in Žirovnica, where you can learn more about the site and see exhibits of the many fascinating finds including tools, earthenware, jewellery and weapons.

The house is also the seat of Tourism Žirovnica, thus you can also find out more about what to see and do in the area and/or click here for more information.

© Adele in Slovenia