Spoilt for choice!

It’s been another fabulous week – well at least for those of us who love the heat. Of course there are some folk moaning that it’s too hot but then most Slovenes love the winter – I’m just not one of them! The only problem I’m faced with now every morning is which of the many wonderful hiking paths or bike trips should I choose – I’m spoilt for choice!  At this time of year I’m time rich and cash poor, since it seems half of Slovenia de-camp to the coast for their holidays so there’s slim pickings when it comes to work. However, I’m fortunate that I enjoy activities such as hiking and cycling which require spending very little, other than having a good pair of walking shoes and bike.

My days tend to start early, no lazy lie-ins for me, in order to get a good few hours of hiking or cycling in before the midday sun. Then it’s time to seek refuge indoors, or at least somewhere in the shade, preferably with as huge an ice-cream as possible! But I really don’t mind the heat here. Despite my constant moaning and moaning (and moaning some more) about the long winters, there is one advantage to living in an alpine climate – in general the summers are without the humid, stifling heat that can be uncomfortable and even when it is scorching it’s never hard to find some shade or to head up into the mountains where the air is cleaner and cooler and with stunning views to boot.

When the temperatures really hot up, parts of Radovlijca can seem like a ghost town from late morning until early evening, when people begin to venture out again as the temperatures drop. There are always however a constant trickle of tourists visiting to see the compact, but magnificent, medieval old town centre with its frescoed buildings, St. Peter’s Church, the Šivec Gallery, the Radovlijca Mansion, the Lectar Restaurant and Live Gingerbread Museum and the amazing views across the valley and the Jelovica plateau and onwards towards Slovenia’s highest mountain, Triglav (2864m).

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So, where have I been this week? Where haven’t I been! Hiking to Begunščica, by car to the Trenta valley and hiking to Kriški podi, by bike to Pokljuka, cycling and hiking to Kropa and Vodiška planina – to name but a few. That’s what is so great about living here, pretty much the whole country is within easy reach. Let me elaborate further about at least one of my walks (so as not to bore you with them all)…

From Radovljica, the most direct way to reach Trenta and the Soča Valley is over the Vršič Pass. At 1611m, Vršič is the highest road pass in Slovenia and usually closed for most of the winter. Once over the 50 hairpin bends, the road descends to reach the Trenta Valley which comprises the small settlements of Trenta, Lepena and Soča and is entirely within Triglav National Park. If you are seeking peace, solitude and an abundance of walks and natural features, then this is for you, but there really is little else; one small shop, a handful of tourist farms, camps and restaurants and that’s about it. There are only around 100 residents living permanent in the valley, though during the summer season this number is somewhat inflated by tourists and tourism providers. The centre of the valley is the Trenta Lodge Information Centre, which houses a Triglav National Park Information Centre, the Trenta Museum and tourist apartments for rent.

The Zadnica valley, reached from Trenta, is the start point for a number of walks up into the high mountains of the Julian Alps. It is from here that I walked up to Kriški podi and to the mountain hut Pogačnikov dom na Kriških podih and the 3 Kriški mountain lakes. The path is long, with a 1400m ascent taking over 3 hours, but it is surprisingly easy and the spectacular views means one can be easily distracted from its length. The route follows an old World War 1 mule track, which begins pleasantly in the shade of the forest before emerging into the typical craggy limestone world of the Julian Alps, and leading up to the Kriški podi plateau. The lower lake (Spodnje Kriško jezero) is the largest of the three, and worth making the short diversion to see. The middle lake (Srednje Kriško jezero) can be seen from the mountain hut, though it was still half covered in snow when I visited and this is not uncommon, snow can remain here pretty much all year round. The upper lake (Zgornje Kriško jezero), which I did not visit as there is no direct marked path to it from here, is a further 200m higher.

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Next Sunday, the 4th of August, it’s the annual Medieval Day in Radovljica. I always look forward to this and make sure not to miss it as the old town centre comes to life with a whole host of activities, dances, street performances and a market – http://www.radolca.si/en/what-to-do/events-1/medieval-day-in-linhart-square/83/310/


The Bohinj Highlands and the Tourist Cheese Route

It’s been a fabulous week thanks to the glorious weather. Whilst I’ve never been one for lying on a beach in the sun, I do love being out in the sun hiking and biking. I’ve been out a lot this week as I just want to make the best of every minute of the summer while it lasts. You won’t find me complaining about the heat, especially since living here where the winters can be very long.

A trip that I do at least once a year, is to the many mountain highlands up above Lake Bohinj. It’s quite a long hike but not overly strenuous. I was walking for around 8 hours with only one quick break to eat, but because there’s so much to see it never feels like hard going and is well worth the effort. My route, which started from Stara Fužina in the valley, took in Planina Blato, Planina Laz, Planina Dedno Polje, Planina pri Jezerju, Planina Viševnik and Planina Vogar.

Planina Laz (seen below) is the oldest of the mountain highlands in Slovenia and, in the summer, is still very much and living and working highland where the herdsmen live and produce and sell cheese and sour milk. It is also part of the Tourist Cheese Route (Turistična sirarna pot). The route leads across the many highlands in the Bohinj area where cheese and other dairy products can be sampled and bought. The route, which is marked with yellow signs as seen below, also leads past numerous natural features of interest such as gorges, waterfalls, museums, churches, archeological sites and more. The path covers a very wide area so its not possible to walk it in its entirety (at least not in a day) so it is best to just choose part of it and visit one or two of the highlands and dairies.

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It is also possible to drive up to Planina Blato from Stara Fužina via the toll road so even for those who don’t wish to walk so far, it is still possible to visit some of the highlands and enjoy the fantastic scenery. This picture (below) shows Planina pri Jezeru – these are certainly lucky cows!


This week I also finally got to meet some of my blog readers face-to-face. It was so nice to know that reading my blog helped them to finally decide to come to Slovenia and to go walking in the Julian Alps and I was more than happy to show them around my home town of Radovlijca. I’m always willing to try and help with advice on planning hiking/biking trips to Slovenia, so don’t hesitate to get in touch!

Last weekend it was the annual Bled Days Festival in Bled. There were numerous events taking place across the weekend including concerts, an air show, a large market, a fireworks display and on Saturday evening candles on the lake. It’s a very popular weekend and Bled was packed but fortunately, since I live only 7kms away, I was able to walk there via the Sava river, so I didn’t have to worry about parking. The highlight of the weekend for me was the air show where acrobatic planes were swooping down low, almost skimming the surface of the lake, before performing dramatic aerial climbs and nose-dives – quite a sight against the backdrop of Bled Castle.


In Radovljica this week there will be live music in the Old Town Centre on Thursday from 8pm with Nula Kelvina and on Friday at 9pm the open-air cinema on the terrace of the Mansion House will be showing the film Cowboy.

Stol – The Karavanke

So this week I made it to Stol! I usually go at least a couple of times a year but I’d been waiting (and waiting…..) for a day when it didn’t look as if it was going to rain at any time. Stol is notorious for having a little ‘cap’ of cloud on its top, and it can also be get very windy up there, so it’s wise to carefully choose the day for an ascent. However, I gave up waiting and went on Thursday anyway and I’m pleased to say I did make it up and down before the rain appeared though there were literally only seconds to spare as within half a minute of getting back to the car it started raining – phew! Alas, as I was rather rushing, and since it was cloudy at the top, I wasn’t able to take any great photos on this occasion but here are a few from previous trips.

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At 2236m, Stol is the highest mountain in the Karavanke range and is visible from far and wide (including from my bedroom window!). The mountain is so named due to its shape which resembles a chair – Stol being the Slovene word for ‘chair’. Some people drive the first part of the route and start their walk from the mountain hut Valvasorjev dom (1181m). However, I like to take the route up from the valley floor, starting from the small reservoir in the Završnica valley and walking to Valvasorjev dom then on to the Žirovniška planina. From here there are a choice of two routes up to Stol – the Žirovniška pot or Zabreška pot. The former is a slightly shorter but steeper and harder ascent and I therefore prefer to take this route up and then return via the Zabreška pot – a slightly longer but easier descent – which also avoids having to take the same route there and back and makes for a partly circular route. Stol can also be climbed from the Austrian side however, as can be seen from this photo below, the northern face is more exposed and rocky than on the southern facing Slovene side.


The path is fairly relentless with hardly any level parts. It begins in the cool shade of the forest then in parts traverses open ground until the final section of the ascent which follows a broad rock gulley where it’s not unusual to find patches of snow, even in the height of summer.

The Prešernova koca mountain hut is perched in an idyllic location, about 20 minutes beneath the peak of Stol at 2174m, where you can rest and enjoy the stunning views across Slovenia and the Julian Alps. During the summer months it is open daily and offers food and drink plus overnight accommodation for those making longer tours or not wishing to do the entire trip in a day. From the mountain hut a rocky path leads straight up to the summit of Stol where you are rewarded with stunning views across Slovenia, along the Karavanke range and over Austria.


Meanwhile, back on terra firma, on Thursday evenings during July, there is live music in Linhart Square in Radovljica. The square comes to life with locals and tourists alike enjoying the lively atmosphere in the medieval old town centre. This past week we were entertained by the jazz group Papir. This coming Thursday 18th July its the Zebra Dots and then on the 25th July, Nula Kelvina – http://www.radolca.si/en/what-to-do/events-1/concert-zebra-dots/83/344/

Also this past week a friend and I went to see the simply amazing Slovene vocal group Perpetuum Jazzile. It was in fact the third time I have been to see them and they never disappoint. This time they were performing at the open-air theatre at Khislstein Castle and Mansion in Kranj. In contrast to some of their larger concerts, this was a smaller venue but it was perfect as it created an intimate feeling with great accoustics. Perpetuum Jazzile have now achieved world recognition and are touring venues far and wide. The group has a wide repetoire which includes some Slovene classics, modern popular disco and pop and thanks to their new Music Director, who is Swedish, they have also recently begun performing a medley of Abba songs, some of which can be heard here – http://perpetuumjazzile.si/ I’d also recommend checking out their version of Toto’s song Africa (Youtube) – it’s my favourite!

The Blacksmiths Festival/Summer Events in Radovljica

Regular readers of my blog, and those that know me, know that I’m not a fan of winter so now, with summer in full swing, I’m in my element. There are lots of outdoor events happening in Radovljica and across Slovenia and plenty of opportunities to get out hiking in the mountains and on my bike. I love the summers in Slovenia- I just wish they were a bit longer and the winters a bit shorter!

In the northwest of Slovenia where I live, the alpine region, hot summer days rarely seem to pass without an afternoon thunder storm or two but they usually only last a matter of minutes. Therefore, if you are planning a trip to the mountains or bike rides, picnics etc. my advice is to always pack your waterproofs and I usually aim to go early to be back before the storm clouds gather. There was a quite spectacular electric storm last night which I was rather glad to be watching from inside rather than out!

Despite the high temperatures, there are still areas of snow in the high mountains where it is necessary to take extreme care and be well-equipped. Additionally, just for information for anyone planning walks in the Julian Alps, I have just read that due to rock fall, the path from Kriški podi to Planja and Razor is totally closed.

On Saturday morning I went for a long bike ride on the Radovna Cycle Path (see my June 2013 blog ‘Churches galore and the Radovna Cycle Path’). Later, in the afternoon, I visited the annual Blacksmiths Festival in Kropa. The picturesque village of Kropa, the cradle of Slovene iron-forging, is nestled into a narrow valley at the foot of the Jelovica plateau. The small village is crammed with interesting and authentic sights, unique architecture, preserved technical heritage and the roaring waters of the Kroparica stream which runs through the village centre.


I attended the festival on its main day, Saturday, and timed my visit perfectly to watch the old-timers bike parade. In addition I watched demonstrations of hand forging of nails in the Vigenjc Vice Blacksmith Museum, browsed the handicrafts market, watched local artists at work, visited the Blacksmiths Museum and the Fovšaritnica Museum House and the open-day at the headquarters of UKO Kropa Ltd, who specialise in made-to-order wrought iron forging e.g. home accessories, balconies, railings, door handles, candelabras etc. and also have a small shop onsite where visitors can purchase a variety of smaller items and gifts.

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There are plenty of events happening in the old town centre of Radovljica during the summer months. Every Thursday evening throughout July there is live music in Linhart Square from 8pm. Every Friday throughout July and August there is an open-air cinema on the terrace of the Radovljica Mansion House. The films span a variety of genres and languages and subtitles are shown for films in foreign languages. For more information about this and other events, and to purchase tickets, visit the Radovljica Tourist Information Centre at the entrance to the old town centre and/or click here – http://www.radolca.si/en/what-to-do/

I got up early on Sunday morning with the intention of a long hike to Stol, the highest mountain in the Karavanke range. However, it was raining so I went back to bed! Not for long though, by 8.30am the rain had eased to leave a strange, hot and very muggy day and I then set off for a bike ride and walk to Valvasor. Sunday afternoon was spent in an unusually relaxing way for me, watching the Wimbledon tennis final, though the nail biting match was actually far from relaxing! Finally after 77 years of waiting Britain has a new champion – well done Andy Murray!