Festivities in Radovljica

Golica Jan10 001I’m just back from dropping my parents off at the airport for their flight home. Even after almost six years of living here, farewells never seem to get any easier and it was another tearful one.

We made the most of our time together though and packed a lot in during their short visit including going to Kranj, the capital of the Gorenjska region, to walk around the Brdo estate, going to Ljubljana to see Mary Poppins on Ice, performed by a Russian company with great skating but actually rather disappointing as the Mary Poppins theme was totally lost, visiting and hosting friends here in Radovljica, watching the live nativity in Radovljica’s old town centre, and of course the obligatory overeating and drinking that comes hand-in-hand with the festive season.

We were planning to go to Ljubljana by train as the journey from Radovljica is really easy and also scenic, but in the end due to the rain we opted to drive. In my experience, the trains are very efficient, clean and with endless stunning vistas – the only downside is that they don’t run perhaps as frequently as they could but Slovenia is a small country and with only 2 million residents, there presumably isn’t the demand. However, with a bit of forward planning and patience it’s possible to go by train from here to pretty much anywhere in Europe. Here’s a link to the english version of the Slovene railway website if you are planning a visit – http://www.slo-zeleznice.si/en/passengers/slovenia

Apart from a torrential downpour yesterday, the weather has been great and unseasonably mild. I think my parents probably don’t believe me that it ever snows or gets really cold here since the last time they visited, in February 2011, it was also unseasonably mild, so much so that Dad and I were eating ice-cream!

One of the reasons I chose to live in Radovljica when I moved here, is that it makes a great starting place for trips all over the country and especially to my favourites such as trips into the surrounding Julian and Karavanke Alps, the lakes at Bled and Bohinj and even the stunning Soča valley, which is just a drive away over the Vršič pass.

So now the New Year beckons and boy do Slovenes love celebrating New Year. In days gone by, during the communist era, Christmas wasn’t celebrated so they really go to town when it comes to New Year, also aided by the fact that the sale and use of fireworks during the year is prohibited (what a great idea!) other than during the two-week festive period.

I’m just back from an amazing walk at Pokljuka so thought I’d attach the picture above. Adjectives fail me in trying to describe how beautiful it was up there today, so sunny and warm, people were in t-shirts and I even saw one man in shorts, though that was taking it to extremes! Everyone I met was echoing the same sentiment and sharing the same cheshire cat grins. I have never been a fan of winter but on a day like today nothing beats it! Tempted????

A mixed bag

Mrezice  25 November 2010 019There’s no denying winter is here (can you tell from the picture! This one was taken on Pokljuka) though so far its been a bit of a mixed bag. This week saw temperatures of minus 15 degrees one day followed by +5 the next; that’s a whopping 20 degree increase overnight. From heavy snow 2 weekends ago to torrential rain last weekend. It’s all being thrown at us and more and it’s still only December.

This can of course somewhat curtail ones plans and activities but fortunately, being the festive season, there’s still plenty going on come rain, shine or snow.

Last weekend was the International Biathlon on Pokljuka and fortunately, whilst it was raining down here in the valley, snow was falling up on the plateau. The biathlon is always a popular spectator event and Pokljuka itself is a great destination year-round for hiking and biking in the summer and skiing, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in the winter. Being so close to Bled, and therefore close to Radovljica where I live, it is also very accessible. And to top it all, there was a home win for Jakov Fak, formerly from Croatia but now living in and competing for Slovenia.

For a tiny nation, Slovene skiers do the nation proud. Tina Maze is currently leading the Women’s FIS Alpine Ski World Cup too. Oh and whilst on the subject of skiing many of Slovenia’s ski resorts opened their doors (or rather their lifts) last weekend including the biggest ones at Vogel, Cerkno, Krvavec, Kranjska Gora and Pohorje. Wow, I also just read that Slovenia has 87 ski resorts – not bad for a country with just 2 million residents.

I’m not a skier myself. Tried it but just can’t get over the fear of going down. Come to think of it, I don’t really enjoy anything that involves going downhill at speed. I’d always rather go uphill than down whether by bike or on foot. Actually I’d rather ski up and take the lift down!

So my winter sport of choice is hiking in the mountains and, when snow conditions permit, snowshoeing. Just this morning, which was a beautiful sunny winter’s day, I headed up to the top of Dobrča (1634m) where I was rewarded with that smug feeling of being above the low lying cloud that was shrouding the valley. Dobrča forms part of the chain of mountains belonging to the Karavanke Alps. From half way upwards the path was really icy but with my crampons on it was fine. Talking of which, something I didn’t realise until I moved here was that I am utterly petrified of ice (and we’re not talking the type found in a G&T!). It would be preferable to have a phobia of almost anything but ice since it comes with the territory of living in an alpine region but alas, we are not able to choose our phobias so one just has to try and live with it and now I always have 2 pairs of crampons with me throughout the winter just in case one pair should break – a handy tip maybe.

So now the festive season is upon us and I’m looking forward to the Christmas market in Radovljica, my parents arriving for a visit, going to watch Mary Poppins on Ice and the Live Nativity on Christmas Day in the old town of Radovljica. So watch this space for more about all of these soon.

A little bit of background…..

linhartov trg2[1]Having lived here in Radovljica, Slovenia (this photo shows Radovljica’s old town centre), for almost six years and with a change in my personal circumstances, I decided its time to start trying to recapture the passion and feelings I felt when first here and which initially attracted me to this country. Therefore, I decided to start this blog. Call it therapy if you like, I would prefer to see it as cathartic encouragement, providing me with an incentive to ‘get out there’ and see and do more rather than moping around feeling sorry for myself. However, in doing so I hope to inspire others, potential readers, of which I hope there will be a few, to come and visit this beautiful small but perfectly formed (do I sound like an estate agent?!) country that I now call home.

For the first couple of years after moving here, despite working, almost every day felt like a holiday. Where I live in Radovljica, near Bled, there is always somewhere new to explore, something unique to discover and experiences to be had. Be it from simply finding a new path to walk, a new dish to sample, meeting someone new, learning new words – every day did, and still does, present new challenges, some positive, some less so.

I won’t pretend it’s been easy. There are some huge obstacles to be overcome but steely determination means I’m still here. Would I recommend it to others? In truth probably not unless you have won the lottery, have a hefty pension pot or have a very secure job offer. Finding work and the bureaucracy may lead to temporary insanity. However, this blog isn’t meant as a forum to air these, though I can’t promise I won’t indulge in the occasional whinge from time to time!

However, I would encourage you to come and discover Slovenia on holiday and my aim is for this blog to be part-informative and part-inspirational. Whilst researching the writing of blogs, the key message appears to be having some different and unique to offer. Well of course I’m certainly not the only Brit living abroad though there aren’t that many of us here in Slovenia. I do believe I’m one of the rare few who actually speak the lingo fairly fluently, but that aside I also suspect I ‘get about’ (in the nicest sense!) more than many others since almost every day I can be found either hiking up a mountain, riding my bike or doing other equally active pursuits. Slovenia is certainly a great place for being active and especially so in the alpine part where I live.

So if you’re interested in finding out more about Slovenia, I hope you’ll join me on my journey and hope some of my photos might whet your appetite for more!