My year in Slovenia

With 2013 drawing to a rapid close, I find myself reflecting on the past year, my sixth full year in Slovenia and its many highlights. There were of course the inevitable few low points too but best not to dwell on those.

It’s now exactly a year since I started writing my blog and astonishingly yesterday it achieved it’s 10,000th reader – yes, 10,000 – that isn’t a typo! It’s unbelievable that in such a short time, my humble blog has become so popular and is being read by people across the globe from Israel to India, Kuwait, Thailand, Bangladesh, Venezuela, Senegal, Iraq…….. I could go on but suffice to say I’m astonished, delighted and proud.

I have sometimes found it a difficult balancing act to write a blog that can be all things to all its (potential) readers:

  • a means for friends and family to keep up-to-date with my news
  • providing information for those interested in visiting Slovenia, particularly those keen on hiking and other outdoor activities
  • providing relevant and up-to-date information about my home town of Radovljica and helping it to achieve the recognition it so merits
  • providing a platform to showcase the best of what is on offer in and around Radovljica
  • providing information about events, restaurants, accommodation, concerts etc. in the vicinity
  • and last but not least, a way of me recording and communicating the myriad thoughts, ideas and experiences buzzing around in my head.

Since starting this blog I have been invited to openings, events and launches, been interviewed on the radio and in the local newspaper and met some great people, both locally and from abroad. I have received emails of thanks and support from across the globe and have helped numerous people with help and advice about planning their holidays in Slovenia, hiking routes, luggage storage,  reservations, guides and recommendations. It’s always lovely to put faces to names so getting to meet some of those I’ve helped has been a bonus too, among them Dorothy and Larry from Idaho, Ami, Carmi and Joni from Israel, Mike from Boston and Christie and Irene from California, some of whom now remain friends. I was initially worried if I would find enough to write about, but those thoughts were way-off the mark and in fact sometimes I have to curtail my writing in order to ensure each week’s blog remains succinct.

So, what have been the highlights of my year? Well, as probably the world’s biggest chocoholic one of the highlights would have to be the Radovljica Chocolate Festival, which took place in April. This event looks set to grow ever more popular and will now be a regular fixture on the event calendar. Read more about it here –

Another highlight was the launch of the Taste Radol’ca project. It was a super evening spent in good company and with a real feeling of community. Read more about it here –

And of course how can I possibly choose a favourite among all the amazing hikes and views I’ve encountered during the year. Here are but a few;

  • the first snowy walk of winter in December 2013 on Pokljuka, to Mrežce was a memorable one with perfect blue skies, sunshine and just the right amount of snow –
  • A summer walk in the Bohinj highlands and the Tourist Cheese Route
  • Snowshoeing in the Vrata Valley in January 2013 –
  • Visiting, walking and meeting a local legend in Jezersko

I certainly hope I have achieved at least some, if not all, of the aims I set out to achieve through writing my blog in 2013 and will continue to do so in 2014. I will continue to try to respond as quickly as possible to visitor enquiries. A good example is a recent email I received late on a Friday evening from an Argentinian, who, at that time was in Italy and considering a trip to Slovenia. After a couple of emails back and forth he arrived in Radovljica the very next day!

As always, I am also open to ideas from the local community, a (free) opportunity to present what you offer to potential visitors from across the globe, to inform readers, from both home and abroad, about upcoming events and more. Almost 50%  over the readers of my blog come from Slovenia with the remainder coming from across the globe so it provides a perfect opportunity to reach a nearer and wider audience.

So, do get in touch in 2014. I look forward to hearing from you and meeting more new people. I approach the new year with a pinch of trepidation but mostly with optimism and energy.


Christmas in Slovenia

Since Father Christmas had heard that I and all the other residents of Radovljica have been so hard working and well-behaved this year, he came and paid us a visit on Friday, to coincide with the opening of the Advent Fair. The fair runs daily until 6pm on 24th December so there’s still time to pop along and have a glass (or two) of mulled wine, buy some handmade gifts and see Linhart Square in the medieval old town in all its festive glory.

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And the fun doesn’t end there! On the 26th December there will be a street performance by the Tobia Circus from Italy, taking place in Linhart Square at 5pm, which is free for all to watch and attend. Also, on the same day there will be a Christmas/New Year Concert by the Lesce Wind Orchestra taking place at 7.30pm in Linhart Hall (Linhartova dvorana) – this is a ticketed event. There are also other concerts and events taking place up until New Year, find out more here –

CIMG6959So, how is Christmas celebrated in Slovenia? What is/isn’t open? What is there to do, where to go? In the past, during the time of communism in the former Yugoslavia, Christmas, as we know it i.e. 25th December, wasn’t really celebrated or recognised. However, these days Slovenia is rapidly (too rapidly perhaps?) catching up on celebrating Christmas. As in many other countries in Europe, the evening of the 24th is when most families celebrate and get together for a special meal, exchange gifts and/or attend midnight mass. If you are visiting Slovenia at that time it is worth noting that many restaurants may be closed on this evening or close earlier than usual. Shops are usually open on the 24th but close a little earlier than usual. All shops are closed on the 25th and again this is a family day, often for some recreational activities perhaps skiing, hiking or visiting relatives. The 26th is also a public holiday, ‘Independence and Unity Day’ and therefore again many shops and business will be closed although some of the larger ones may open for a few hours in the morning. So in actual fact these days it isn’t far from the kind of Christmas I was used to in the UK other than the distinct lack of sprouts – thank heavens for that!

If you are looking for a festive event with a difference, every year, weather conditions permitting, there is a live ice nativity play held in the Mlačca Gorge in the village of Mojstrana. With the freezing temperatures we have had of late, this year’s event is going ahead and the performances are scheduled to begin on Christmas Day and then daily up to, and including, the 30th December and additionally on the 1st, 3rd and 4th of January. There are 3 shows per day; at 4pm, 5pm and 6pm. The entrance fee of 12 euros for adults and 8 euros for children also includes a walk through the ice kingdom, a gallery of nativity scenes and the nativity performance held in the frozen waterfall. Be sure to wrap up warmly but there are stalls selling hot drinks and food too. Reservations are not necessary. More information, available in Slovene and English,  can be found here –


There’s no snow yet in the valley. We have had 2 weeks of very cold but mostly bright weather, followed by a period of slightly milder, cloudier, damp weather. It’s certainly different to last year’s winter when the snow came early and just kept on coming, and coming, and coming……… Who knows what the rest of this winter will bring – it’s anyone’s guess – but at least so far the ‘experts’ predictions that this year’s winter will be one of the coldest on record, doesn’t seem to be holding true.


The Radovljica Advent Fair / Lipnica Castle

There’s a lot happening, and a lot to look forward to, in Radovljica and the surrounding areas in these coming days. The event that has got the town folk’s tongue wagging is the forthcoming concert by one of Slovenia’s most popular singers, Jan Plestenjak. The concert will take place this Saturday, 21st December, at 8pm in the Radovljica School of Hospitality and Tourism (Sredna gostinska in turistična šola). Tickets can be purchased from Tourism Radovljica or the ticket booking website.

Another date for the diary is the Advent Fair which will take place in the old town centre of Radovljica, beginning on Friday 20th December and running daily until the 24th December. Various accompanying events will also take place including the arrival of Santa Claus on Friday at 5.30pm and other musical and theatrical street performances taking place throughout the five days. More about the Advent Fair, opening times and events can be found here –

I have never particularly enjoyed shopping but I had to do a bit of the dreaded and unavoidable Christmas shopping last weekend so I made a brief visit to Kranj, which is just 15 minutes by car or train, from Radovljica. Kranj is the capital of the Gorenjska region, the northwest part of Slovenia. There are several shopping centres there so you can pretty much find everything you need there these days without having to drive further into the capital, Ljubljana. I’m not a fan of big, soulless, out-of-town shopping centres and personally I much prefer wandering around old town centres, browsing the individual stores, interacting with their owners and savouring the atmosphere and the historic buildings. However, sadly the shops in the old town of Kranj, as like in so many town centres these days, and not just in Slovenia, are becoming fewer and fewer as businesses move out of town and/or close down due to lack of passing trade. It’s such a shame but a sign of the times. However, a wander through the old town of Kranj is still pleasant, as can be seen by this video which I saw this week, which shows just what the area has to offer –

Apart from shopping and working, I have of course found time for some recreation too. The first part of last week saw glorious sunny, dry weather only to be somewhat spoilt later in the week, and over the weekend, by the low cloud which lingered over the valley shrouding us in darkness and bone chilling cold. However, accustomed to this as I now am, I knew that I wouldn’t have to go far to get above the cloud and fog and be bathed in brilliant sunshine with that super smug feeling of being almost literally ‘on top of the world’, as can be seen in these pictures below taken on Saturday during my hike up to Dobrča.

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This week, I also went to Lipnica Castle, also known as ‘Pusti Grad’, which means ‘deserted castle’. I made a circular trip from home, first walking down to the Sava river and crossing it via the Fuxova brv suspension bridge, before walking through the forest on the Natural Science Trail to the ‘Galerija‘ area and onwards to the castle. I particularly like walking through the ‘Galerija‘ in summer as it remains cool, even on the hottest of days, so at this time of year it was certainly chilly to say the least, with icicles hanging from all the myriad rock formations. The area reminds me of something out of a Famous-Five or Secret-Seven book, books I enjoyed as a child – yikes, showing my age – as there are endless nooks and crannies ripe for exploration.

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Today, only the remains of Lipnica Castle are still standing but nevertheless it makes a pleasant and interesting trip and there are impressive views over the Lipnica Valley and the Jelovica plateau. The first written records of the castle date back as far as the early thirteenth century when it was in the posession of the Orthenburg family, who were at that time the most powerful noble family in the Upper Carniola and Carinthia area. There is a legend that says there is a hidden tunnel that links Lipnica Castle with the town of Radovljica under the Sava river, but this story has not yet been confirmed by archaeological research. Maybe one day on one of my many walks, I might discover it for myself – now that would be something to blog about!


Festive Radovljica / A winter wonderland on Pokljuka

Those who know me, will attest to the fact that I’m not a lover of winter, and certainly not a lover of snow. However, this past week at least has seen crisp, cold days with brilliant sunshine and, for a change, stable weather. These conditions have been perfect for winter hiking although one must now be very cautious as there is quite a lot of ice above 1000m, particularly in areas which are exposed to the sun during the day but then freeze overnight. However, at over 1500m there is enough snow to make hiking more pleasant. These are then the ideal conditions to head to Pokljuka, which I did on Saturday, and was rewarded with a real winter wonderland.

From Radovljica the drive to Pokljuka takes around 40 minutes, via Bled then up the long windy road to the top of the plateau. On this occasion I begun my walk from the Sport Hotel (1280m), first crossing the Zajavornik highland (Planina Zajavornik), then walking gradually up through the forest to reach the Lipanca highland (Planina Lipanca) and the mountain hut Blejska koča (1630m). From here I continued up to the peak of Mrce (1965m). The walk to Blejska koča is easy but thereafter it becomes quite steep in places and also the snow is a lot deeper but the snow is well trodden and with the help of my crampons, presented no problems. I was richly rewarded for my efforts with cloudless skys, warm winter sunshine and far-reaching views across the Julian Alps, to Triglav and Rjavina and along the length of the Karavanke range and the valleys below. This area is also particularly popular for ski touring and I was fortunate that a skier arrived at the top just a few seconds before me so I was able to ask him to take my picture. However, you can no doubt imagine my angst when having walked all that way, after just a few snaps, I discovered my camera battery was empty – a mistake I won’t be repeating!

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In these times of crisis and austerity it has, well at least for some of us, become necessary to be more inventive in finding ways of providing our own entertainment and sharing skills and knowledge with others. In this vain, last week I ‘shared’ my baking skills with some friends and we enjoyed an evening of English christmas cake baking. For those of you not familiar with this, the key to the cake begins with the soaking of dried fruit in alcohol for a few days prior to baking the cake, and more alcohol being added every few days after baking. This ensures the cake stays moist and can be kept for several months before covering with marzipan, icing, and of course eating. The cake is now safely tucked up enjoying its regular ‘feed’ of alcohol and not yet quite yet ready to make its appearance on the world stage, err I mean my blog……. photos to follow in due course! We aim to repeat such evenings as and when the occasions present themselves, the next such one being an evening of making soap.


The festive season is now well under way in Radovljica and there are plenty of events happening and coming up soon including the Advent Fair in Linhart Square in the old town centre, numerous concerts and carol singing. More information about these and all the festive events taking place can be found here –

If you are interested in following my blog and receiving it on a regular basis, I have now added a facility to enable this. Simply follow the instructions in the area towards the top of the right-hand column (Follow), and you will receive notification direct to your email each time there is a new post to read. Happy Reading!

The Polhov Gradec Hills

Many of Slovenia’s ski resorts opened this past weekend, at least in part, with others due to open during the course of this week. The main and largest ski resorts are at Kranjska Gora, Krvavec, Maribor Pohorje, Vogel and Cerkno, but there are also many others too such as Golte, Stari vrh and Soriška planina, to name but a few.

Sadly Kanin, Slovenia’s highest ski resort, remains closed and looks likely to be so for the foreseeable future. Personally, I cannot understand how this can be allowed to happen without the government, or someone, stepping in to offer assistance before it is too late; to allow what was the ‘crème’ of Slovene skiing to be left to rot taking with it the business and livelihoods of no doubt countless people in the town of Bovec, and the surrounding areas, where there is little work other than tourism. Let’s hope it won’t come to that and the resort will be revived to its former glory.

Sunday was a glorious day; very crisp and frosty but with brilliant winter sunshine, so I made the most of it with a trip to the Polhov Gradec hills, also known as the Polhov Dolomites (Polhograjski dolomiti), due to their rocky appearance. The area consists of a hilly region that extends from the southern side of Ljubljana to the northern side of the Škofja Loka area. The highest of the hills is Tošč (1021m) follow by Pasja Ravan at 1019m. It is interesting to note that Pasja Ravan was previously the highest however approximately 10 metres of its height was lost during the setting up of a rocket base there by the then Yugoslav Army. My favourite peak in the range is Grmada. At just 898m it is far from high but one really has the impression of being in the high mountains as the views from the top are simply stunning and far reaching in all directions.

There are a number of paths, leading from various directions, to reach the peaks. Many locals start from the visit of Topol, also known as Katarina due to the name of it church or from the village of Polhov Gradec. From either of these villages the walks are well marked and it takes only around an hour and 1.5 hours respectively, to reach Grmada. However, from where I live in Radovljica, it is closer and easier to access the area via Medvode, rather than having to drive up and over the hills or around Ljubljana. I therefore started my walk from Slavkov dom at Golo Brdo, making it a longer walk but then I would always rather walk further than drive! The path leads gradually uphill, never steeply, taking about an hour to reach Katarina, then a further good hour’s walk to Grmada.

Below are some photos of my walk beginning with the beautiful sunrise I was treated to as a reward for my early start and the view looking back towards Katarina.

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One of the signs I encountered en-route  – you’ve really got to know where you’re going here!


Here you can see the final part of the ascent to Grmada, complete with a light dusting of snow, from the direction of Gonte, which can easily be avoided by taking the direct path up to Grmada; me at the top with Triglav in the far background and wonderful views all around as far as the eye can see.

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As I wrote in a previous blog a few weeks ago (October 2013, Christmas comes early to Radovljica), Christmas came early this year to Radovljica, but only for one day, when a commercial, for a well-known Italian product was being filmed in the old town centre. Thn town was transformed into a magical, fairytale Christmas scene. Now the advert is available on YouTube, so you too can get a glimpse, an all too short glimpse, of the beautiful town where I live –