I couldn’t believe my eyes this morning when I woke up and looked out the window to see a thick blanket of fresh snow, which is still falling heavily now as I write. It seems even the forecasters hadn’t seen it coming as rain was forecast rather than snow. Those that know me well, and any regular readers, will know that I am not a big fan of the white stuff and especially now when there has already been so much of it this winter. It’s a particular shame as Saturday was a beautiful sunny day and I was revelling in seeing the many spring flowers which had been rapidly appearing from the undergrowth during the past week – what a welcome sight- but now once again buried under heavy snow. I for one hope the rain will appear soon to wash it all away so spring can really get on with springing! For the skiers out there though, its going to be a very long ski season so they are certainly happy.
Despite the less than favourable weather, there has been quite a lot happening in the Radovljica area this past week. On Monday at dusk, the tradition of floating handmade models, made by local children and illuminated by candles, in the streams in the villages of Kropa and Kamna Gorica took place. This age-old iron-forging custom, takes place annually on the eve of St. Gregory’s Day. 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. What a shame that once again this year the spring gods didn’t appear to be listening or taking any notice but it is nonetheless a magical scene to watch the faces of the children as their colourful creations float off along the stream.
On Wednesday the new bookshop in Radovljica played host to the great Slovenian alpinist, author and expedition leader, Viki Grošelj, who came to give a short talk (and of course book promotion) and I was lucky enough to be able to go along and listen to him recounting some of his experiences and recalling anecdotes. Viki is one of the few alpinists in the world who has climbed the ten summits of over 8,000 metres in the Himalayas, including Everest and K2, and has written numerous books about his experiences. We in the audience only got to hear a fraction of his tales but undoubtedly he must have a lifetime of stories to tell, of jubilant triumphs, extreme conditions, harrowing successful and less successful expeditions – some of them tinged with sadness – as inevitably friends and colleagues have fallen victim to the might of the mountains and the elements along the way.
On Saturday, it was a crisp but beautifully sunny day and I decided to take a little trip out to the town of Škofja Loka. Škofja Loka boasts one of the three best preserved medieval town centres in Slovenia, the other two being Radovljica, where I live, and Ptuj, where I’m ashamed to say I still haven’t been, though it’s definitely firmly on the list of places to go! Škofja Loka was actually among one of the places I considered living when I moved to Slovenia. Like Radovljica, it has a lot of history and many places, buildings and natural features of note, is surrounded by pristine nature, offers a mulititude of walking and cycling paths and is also convenient for getting to Ljubljana. However, in the end I plumped for Radovljica, a decision I don’t regret.
Škofja Loka has several castles, two of which I visited. The newer of the two, the impressive and imposing Loka Castle (Loški grad), was originally built in the 13th century but was completely renovated following an earthquake in 1511. The castle stands on a small hill just above the town centre and also houses the Loka Museum. The remains of the Old Castle (Stari grad), shown in the picture below, stand a little further and higher away and can be reached on foot, approximately 30 minutes walk away from Loka Castle, by following the signs for the Loška Nature Trail.
Incidentally, Radovljica also briefly got its own castle this winter, albeit a snow castle!