Feel the Festive Spirit at the Nativity Museum at Slovenia’s National Shrine in Brezje

At this festive time of the year, what could be more apt than visiting the Nativity Museum – a museum crammed full of nativity scenes from all over the world – at Slovenia’s national shrine, the Basilica of Mary Help of Christians in Brezje.

The museum is located in a separate building at the rear of the church where, even before you set foot inside, the first nativity scene awaits!

The recently renovated and enlarged Nativity Museum has been open in its present form since December 2016. In that time over 20,000 people have already visited and over 100 new nativity scenes have been donated to the museum’s already-rich collection.

The museum now contains almost 400 nativity scenes of all shapes, sizes, ages, and made from numerous materials. Some of the most notable among them are:

Bavarian nativity figurines

An Egyptian nativity scene

A white nativity scene

A traditional Slovenian corner nativity

After viewing the exhibits, you can take time to sit, reflect, listen to music and sign the visitor book.

The museum is open daily, except Mondays, year round; from April – October from 9am-7pm and from November – March from 9am-6pm.

Visit the basilica’s official website for more information – available in (an impressive!) eight languages.

Whilst in Brezje, you should also take time for a walk around the village to see the basilica, and the giant cross and monument opposite the museum, as well as the village’s other points of interest. The museum is number 4!

In 1988 the then Church of St. Vitus was elevated to the status of minor basilica by Pope John Paul II, who also visited in 1996. The basilica has become a popular pilgrimage destination to where people flock from all over Slovenia and further afield, too.

I have to admit, despite my dislike of the white stuff, Brezje does look lovely in the snow, wouldn’t you agree?

You can also click here to find out more about the basilica, the museum and all of Radovljica’s other cultural and natural sights of interest.

© Adele in Slovenia

Festive (and Boozy!) Škofja Loka in the Snow!

Winter arrived this year before winter even began – the official start of winter, that is! For many (myself not included, I hasten to add!), this adds to the festive atmosphere at this time of year, and Škofja Loka, with its quaint medieval old town centre, is no exception.

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Photo: Simon Primožič

On Saturday 2nd December the first of this year’s ‘Loka in the Snow‘ festive events will take place from 9am – 1pm in the old town centre. The event is a combination of the 20th Meeting of VintersSt. Nicholas’ Fair (Miklavžev LUFt), and ‘Windows of Imagination‘ (Izložbe Domišljije), all of which provide a great opportunity to try, and to buy, some unique gifts for friends, loved ones, and, of course, yourself!

Take a walk through the town to see the shop ‘Windows of Imagination’, a group sales exhibition of local arts and crafts.

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There will be around 80 stalls where you will have the chance to meet vintners from around Slovenia and taste their wines, and the sommelier Gašper Čarman will be on hand to provide advice!

To ensure you have something to ‘soak up’ the wine, chefs from the ‘Open Kitchen‘ will be cooking up dishes, and to add to the pleasant atmosphere there will be live music and entertainment.

And don’t miss a visit to, or at least a stroll up to, the imposing Loka Castle.

Rezultat iskanja slik za skofja loka v snegu

Photo: Sašo Kočevar

And, since we are talking about snow, it’s been an early start to the skiing season this year with many of the country’s ski resorts open or about to open, and both of Škofja Loka’s 2 ski resorts will be open soon!

The Stari vrh ski centre, which I visited earlier this year (https://adeleinslovenia.com/2017/02/01/sunny-skiing-stunning-views-and-romance-on-stari-vrh/) in located in the middle of the Selca and Poljane valleys, just a ten minute drive from Škofja Loka. Its proximity to Ljubljana makes it a popular destination; in winter for skiing, snowboarding and other winter sports, and in summer for hiking and cycling.

Stari Vrh offers 10kms of slopes (1km difficult, 5kms medium, 4kms easy), together with a snowboard park, night skiing, a toboggan run and a children’s snow playground.

Alas, I’m not, and will never be, a skier, but that doesn’t mean I can’t visit to watch others and enjoy the views!

The Soriska planina ski centre is located on the edge of the Julian Alps and can be reached from several directions; from Škofja Loka via Železniki, from Bohinjska Bistrica; or from Most na Soči via Baška Grapa. You can read more about the ski centre and the nearby village of Sorica, which is well worth a detour, in a previous blog from earlier this year here (https://adeleinslovenia.com/2017/02/20/sorica-super-skiing-and-slovenias-most-beautiful-mountain-village/).

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Facilities at the Soriška planina ski resort consist of a two-person chairlift, 3 drag lifts, a children’s drag lift, a snow park, a sledging trackcross-country ski trails and a restaurant.

For more information about Škofja Loka’s ski resorts and other winter sports venues, click here for the Visit Škofja Loka website.

Highlights of the other events taking place in Škofja Loka during the festive season include:

  • A Christmas Carol Concert on 14.12 at 7.30pm in the Sokolški dom
  • A(nother) Christmas LUFt market on 22nd December from 5pm-10pm with a visit by Father Christmas and performances by the Ana Mraz international street theatre,
  • A concert by Help! – A Beatles Tribute Band on 29th December at 9pm in the square beneath the castle
  • New Year’s Eve celebrations from 9pm with the group Joške vn in the square beneath the castle and the old town centre

© Adele in Slovenia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Festive and Tasty Season in Radovljica 2017

 

What at a tasty month November has been, thanks to Taste Radol’ca, and what an exciting festive month December promises to be, too!

I haven’t managed to visit all the nine participating Taste Radol’ca restaurants, thus far at least, though there is still time until the end of November! Those that I have visited, however, have mighty impressed me with their local, seasonal and creative menus. It is also a bonus knowing that eating Taste Radol’ca food supports local farmers and other small food producers, since the focus of Taste Radol’ca is on local food, thus it’s a win-win all round.

Taste Radol’ca 2017 at Gostišče Draga

Although November is drawing to a close, you can still Taste Radol’ca throughout the year. Some of the participating restaurants have special bee symbols on their menus denoting Taste Radol’ca dishes, whilst others, such as Vila Podvin and Gostilna Kunstelj, strive to ensure that menus are seasonal, using the best available local and seasonal products. Read more about Taste Radol’ca here – http://www.radolca.si/en/what-to-do/events-1/taste-radolca-2017/83/394/

December in Radovjlica also promises to begin on a tasty note when the festive season kicks-off on 2nd December at 4.30pm with the switching-on of the Christmas lights, the opening of the Advent Market (10am – 7pm), a show by Čupakabra including juggling, stilt-walking and a circus workshop (5pm) and the simultaneous closing event of this year’s Taste Radol’ca (5pm-8pm) with street food and a concert by the band Kontrabant (6pm-8pm).

The small Advent Market in Linhart Square – the heart of the old town centre – will be open on 22nd, 25th, 26th and 29th December from 12noon – 7pm, the 2nd and 23rd December from 10am-7pm, the 3rd and 24th December from 10am-5pm, the 27th and 28th December from 3pm-8pm, and the 30th December from 10am-8pm.

Other events taking place during the festive season include a street show for children on 23rd December (10am-11am) and on the same day children can take a ride on a ‘fairytale’ horse with the Sitar ranch (11am-3pm) in front of the church in Linhart Square.

On Christmas Eve there will be an acrobatic performance by Acromantix (11am), and a visit by the festive Bernese mountain dogs with the Papy dog bakery (11.30am-1pm).

On Christmas Day take a stroll to the old town centre (to walk off Christmas lunch!) where you can watch a performance by the Ana Snežna street theatre at 5pm, whilst the following day, Boxing Day, Čupakabra will perform at 5pm.

Children won’t want to miss a visit by Grandfather Frost (Dedek Mraz) and the children’s show ‘What has Grandfather Frost Brought?’ on Wednesday 27th December at 5pm in the Radovljica Mansion.

These are just some of the highlights of the festive season, for the full programme click here – http://www.radolca.si/en/what-to-do/events-1/festive-december-in-linhart-square/83/395/

 © Adele in Slovenia

 

 

The Path to Pustal – Combs, Frogs and the Devil’s Footbridge!

The Puštal area of Škofja Loka is just a stone’s throw from the historic, medieval old town centre and the imposing, hilltop Loka Castle.

Puštal is largely a residential area that has had an interesting history and offers numerous sights of interest. Join me here on a stroll along the Path to Puštal to see some of the highlights and find out more about combs, frogs and the Devil’s footbridge!

The path starts at the far end of Town Square (Mestni trg). From here cross the road to the area of the town known as Karlovec. Continue along Kopališka ulica where, at number 8, you can see Firbar’s House (Firbarjeva hiša), formerly home to Jurij Pokorn, a painter and an ex-mayor of the town. If you look at the left, upper part of the house, you can see the rather unusual ‘rake’ which was used for drying coloured flax linen.

Continuing along the street you can see the birthhouse of Fran Jesenko, a famous botanist and geneticist, and also one of the founders of Triglav National Park.

At the intersection of the streets Kopališka ulica in Fužinska ulica stands a shrine known locally as ‘Lepo znamenje’ (The Beautiful Shrine).

Photo: Marko Plesko

From here it is just a short walk, following the path markers on the ground, to the Devil’s footbridge (Hudičev brv). This footbridge over the Sora river has to be one of the most scenic places in the whole town, and in summer it is an open-air, natural area for a quick refreshing dip!

Legend has it that the footbridge got its name after reputed visitations from the devil. When locals built shrines on both sides of the bridge, they drove the devil away for some time. However, his visitations then began in the middle of the bridge, until they finally managed to drive him away under the Šturm rock by building a shrine in the middle of the footbridge dedicated to St. John Nepomuk – the patron saint of bridges.

Cross the bridge then continue on the right bank of the Sora river towards the 16th century Nace’s House (Nacetova hiša). This preserved townhouse was thoroughly renovated in 1755 and is the only house in Škofja Loka whose appearance has not significantly changed since the mid-18th century and is considered the best-preserved rural building in the Škofja Loka area and the Ljubljana hinterland.

Upon prior arrangement it is possible to view the house and its objects and equipment, which bear witness to the life of many generations and, despite being museum objects, are still usable today. You can read more about this and other historic houses and museums in the Škofja Loka area here – http://www.visitskofjaloka.si/en/experiences/cultural-sights-of-interest/historic-houses-and-museum-collections

Next you will walk past Puštal Castle (Puštalski grad). The castle was first mentioned in the 13th century but its present-day appearance dates from the 16th century. The Chapel of St. Cross in the castle contains a fresco of ‘The Descent from the Cross’, painted by Guilio Quaglio in 1706, and is considered one of the most valuable works of art in the town. Today the castle houses a music school.

So, where do combs and frogs come into the equation in connection with Puštal? Well, in bygone days, many of the residents of Puštal made their living through non-agricultural activities, of which comb-making was one of the most widespread, and one of the most unusual was by catching and selling frogs, which were in abundance in Puštal at that time. Fascinating stuff, hey!

Another highlight, and a spectacular end to the Path to Puštal, is the hill Hribec and the Church of the Holy Cross. The path leads uphill past the 18th century chapels of the Stations of the Cross. Not only is it a scenic walk up to the church, but the view over Škofja Loka and the castle is really quite special, as I discovered earlier this year when I took a guided cycled around the area as part of my discovery of the Loka Cycle Route – read more here – https://adeleinslovenia.com/2017/06/11/active-and-historic-loka-the-skofja-loka-cycle-trail/

You can pick up a brochure about the Path to Puštal at the Škofja Loka Tourist Information Centre and/or find more information about this and other theme paths in the area here – http://www.visitskofjaloka.si/en/experiences/theme-paths

© Adele in Slovenia

 

Križna Gora above Škofja Loka – Hiking, Cycling, Great Views and Heavenly Food, Too!

Križna Gora is a hill that rises to 681m in close proximity to the centre of Škofja Loka and is a very popular hiking and cycling destination among locals and visitors to the area. It is also home to an excellent restaurantGostilna pri Boštjanu, which I can highly recommend from first-hand experience. Read on to find out more!

At the top of the hill stands the Church of the Holy Cross (Sv. Križ), built around 1500, and the area is also the site of a mass grave and an unmarked grave from World War II. The church contains well-preserved frescoes. At the time of my visit (late October 2017), access was limited as the church is currently undergoing restoration work to repair the roof that has been leaking water for the past few years. Should you wish to see the interior of the church, contact the Škofja Loka Tourist Information Centre.

To reach Križna Gora on foot the path begins opposite the Mercator supermarket in Podlubnik, near Trnje, where there is a parking area. From the car park cross the main road and continue ahead along the fairly narrow tarmac road through the village of Trnje. After a short distance take the right fork that leads slightly downhill where the tarmac ends and becomes a gravel track where there is a red sign showing 1 hour to Križna Gora. The path first crosses a field before reaching a fairly steep path up through the forest.

Hereafter, the path is well marked with the usual Slovenian system of signs – a red circle with a white inner – which are found in various places – on trees, rocks, and, as seen below, even on shrines.

After around 15 minutes of hiking, you emerge from the forest for a great view back over the town of Škofja Loka.

Then ahead in the distance you catch sight of the church and your destination – Križna Gora!

However, people don’t just flock to Križna Gora for recreation and the great views, oh no, they also know where to go for some of the tastiest local Škofja Loka food, and now I do too!

Gostilna pri Boštjanu is part of the project ‘Tastes of the Škofja Loka Countryside’ (Okusi loškega podeželja), the aim of which is to acquaint visitors with traditional foods and dishes from Škofja Loka and the surrounding valleys, and in doing so preserve them for generations to come. The focus is on homemade, local food with an emphasis on tradition and innovation – past and present.

There are wonderful views from the terrace of the restaurant – with something to keep the whole family amused! – whilst inside there are multiple dining areas to choose from including the conservatory for great views and the snug room with wood-burning stove.

On the recommendation of the owner, Boštjan, I plumped for the Tasting Menu which comprises a choice of two 5-course menus of homemade delights. Cold starters are pheasant pate with homemade bread – fresh from the clay oven, or venison carpaccio. For the hot starter I chose buckwheat ravioli with porcini mushrooms.

Garlic or beef soup was followed by roast pork or foal (can’t quite bring myself to eat the latter!), and the dessert – chocolate dream – was a triumph, and certainly something to dream about!

Gostilna pri Boštjanu is also particularly known for it’s St. Martin’s Day feast (Martinovanje). In November every year St. Martin’s Day, when grape juice matures into wine, is celebrated throughout Slovenia – even in non-wine growing areas (any excuse for a celebration!), with, of course, wine, and typical dishes such as roast goose or duck with red cabbage and mlinci (a kind of thin, shredded flatbread). Reservations, especially at weekends, are essential – this place is hugely popular, for good reason, too!

You can find more about Gostilna pri Boštjanu on the Facebook page here – https://www.facebook.com/Gostilna-pri-Boštjanu-138860049611989/ and find out more about Škofja Loka cuisine, traditions, hiking paths and more on the Visit Škofja Loka website here – http://www.visitskofjaloka.si/en/

© Adele in Slovenia

Taste Radol’ca 2017 is Go!

It was a rather blustery, but nonetheless tasty, start to this year’s Taste Radol’ca last Friday. The opening event, a market where local suppliers were offering their products to try and buy, was followed by the gourmet 5-course opening dinner.

This year the opening dinner was held at Gostišče Tulipan in Lesce. Tickets sold out in record time thus, alas, for the first time since it’s inception I wasn’t present at the opening dinner, however I did pop to the pre-event market to try out some of the finger food!

This is now the 5th year of Taste Radol’ca and, as per the previous years, for the whole month of November all the participating restaurants will be offering set menus for a fixed price of 17 euros per person.

The ethos of Taste Radol’ca is locally produced products – products direct from local farmers, fruit growers, fish farms, bakers etc., thus with neglible food miles and every food item is traceable – as well as co-operation among restaurateurs = strength in numbers!

Photo: Boris Pretnar

This year there are 9 restaurants participating in Taste Radol’ca: Vila Podvin in Mošnje, Gostilna Avguštin, Gostilna Lectar and Gostilna Kunstelj in Radovljica, Gostišče Tulipan in Lesce, Gostilna Draga and Gostilna Tavčar in Begunje, Joštov Hram in Podnart, and Hotel and Chateau Lambergh in Dvorska vas.

Photo: Boris Pretnar

Although there are less restaurants taking part this year (there were 13 last year), the focus has shifted somewhat from quantity to quality. To this end, two of Slovenia’s best-known restaurant critics, Violeta and Uroš Mencinger, were invited to visit (unannounced) and evaluate each restaurant. The aim of this was to ensure that restaurants bearing the Taste Radol’ca name are upholding standards worthy of the name.

“It’s not all that simple to eat that much in all twelve restaurants. But it was good and therefore enjoyable! Radol’ca already has the most beautiful square in Slovenia, now it is well on the way to becoming a renowned and desirable culinary destination known for its variety – from top restaurants for the discerning and curious, to local, family, and traditional Slovenian restaurants for those who love eating and lovers of fine food.” said the Mencingers at the end of their evaluation of Taste Radol’ca restaurants.

I had a sneak peek of rehearsals for the evening’s sketch performance – proof that Taste Radol’ca’s talents don’t only lie in the kitchen!

Throughout the whole month there are also accompanying events taking place, such as free entrance to the Lectar Inn Museum and Workshop.

The new Taste Radol’ca brochure is now available, where you can find a brief description of each restaurant and a recipe, as well as details about Taste Radol’ca Tours, which are ideal for you if you are limited on time and/or can’t decide which of the restaurants to choose from. For more information about Taste Radol’ca Tours click the tab at the top of this page.

Find out more about Taste Radol’ca (in English) and see this year’s menus here (menus only in Slovene) – http://www.radolca.si/en/taste-radolca/

As ever, the hardest part will be deciding which of the delicious-sounding menus to try first, but I’m up for the challenge!

© Adele in Slovenia

Zali Log and the Path to Suša: Miraculous Wonders and Water

It might be quite a way to go to reach the village of Zali Log in the Selca valley (though, of course, that’s relative depending on where you live or are coming from!), however, the scenery along the way, the picturesque village and its houses with their prominent blue-grey slate roofs, and the Path to Suša – leading to the Church of Our Lady of Loreto – are among the reasons it is worth making the effort.

The village of Zali Log lies at the foot of Ratitovec, the highest mountain in the Selca valley, and is the last village in the level plain of the valley. The appearance of the village as it is seen today has changed little from when it was established in the 19th century.

Interestingly, the name of the village doesn’t come from the word ‘Zali‘, meaning ‘beautiful‘, but rather from the word ‘Zli‘, meaning ‘ugly’ or ‘bad’. This most likely originates from the position of the village in the narrow upper-part of the valley, surrounded by steep banks and with little cultivable land and sunlight.

Zali Log is also known for its slate roof tiles. In the 18th century, a special hard blue-grey slate was found on the slopes of Bintek (1000 metres above sea-level). The production of tiles for covering roofs from this slate began and replaced straw and shingle roofs, first in Zali Log and later throughout the valley. The tiles from Zali Log slate were of very high quality and were able to withstand the weather conditions for generations.

The Path to Suša theme path begins at the parking area at the entrance to the village. Although there are a couple of other paths that lead to the same destination, I recommend beginning here as there is ample parking and an information board with leaflets and brochures about the path and other sights of interest in the valley.

The path is very well marked throughout – in places with theme path signs, and/or with yellow circles painted on trees, rocks etc.

It only takes around half-an-hour to reach the church and there’s plenty to see along the way!

You can also see one of the many preserved bunkers of the Rupnik line that are dotted around the area – more about which you can read in a previous blog post here – https://adeleinslovenia.com/2017/08/06/a-recce-of-the-rupnik-line/

The pleasant forest path leads over ‘Galetove lajte’ to the pilgrimage Church of Our Lady of Loreto in Suša, which was built in 1877 and is included in Ema’s Pilgrimage Route. According to tradition, the origins of the church are linked with miraculous events. Throughout the years, a lot of people have sought the help of Our Lady of Loreto in Suša and have had their wishes granted, as is witnessed by the many pictures of thanks that are hung in the church, and today the church is still a popular place for pilgrims and others to visit.

If you peer down over the forest at the back of the church you will see beneath it a chapel with the statue of the Virgin Mary. Within the chapel there is a rock under which a spring rises which, according to local tradition, has healing properties, as has been confirmed in numerous stories.

One such story goes that when a mother brought her blind daughter to the spring, after washing her eyes with the water from the spring, she was able to see. The speciality of the water is that it contains no bacteria, thus it can be stored for several months, or even longer, if stored in a clean air-tight container, and is still as fresh as the day it sprung!

Locals, and people from further afield, regularly come here to get water and to enjoy the peace and energy that is present. A local lady I met whilst there told me about one particular special stone which, apparently, if you stare at it, emits “special energy”. I can’t say I felt any different after staring at it, but who am I to question a theory that has stood the test of time!

Should you feel the need for some extra luck – and let’s face it, who among us doesn’t – you can ring the wishing bell!

 You can download the theme path brochure and find out more on the Visit Škofja Loka website here – http://www.visitskofjaloka.si/en/experiences/theme-paths/path-to-susa

© Adele in Slovenia