Snow Castles and Successful Slovenia

With a total of 8 medals, the success of the Slovenian team at the Sochi Winter Olympics was quite phenomenal; even more so when you consider the population of just 2 million people. I read some interesting statistics; in comparison, the USA, with 316 million people, would have needed to have won 1,106 medals to have equalled Slovenia’s success! Furthermore, there are only 148 registered ice-hockey players in Slovenia but the team made it through to the quarter finals, ranking them among the best 8 hockey teams in the world. Something for all Slovenes to be proud of and the rapturous receptions the competitors have been receiving on their homecoming, certain bears testament to that.

The snow in Radovljica was put to good use last week when, for the second year in succession, a snow castle was built in the old town centre. Locals were invited to come along and help build the castle so it really was a ‘team-town’ effort. Just take a look at these photos, more of which of these and others can be seen on my Pinterest page (, to see the results of the work, which was especially impressive when illuminated at night, thanks to the teams at ‘Playful Architecture’ and the ‘Centre for Architecture Slovenia’.

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Sunday, the last day of the winter school holidays, at least for those in the west of Slovenia, finally saw the brilliant sunshine that had been lacking all week and it seemed like half the land, if not more, took to the roads, ski pistes, hills and mountains to partake in winter sporting activities. The ski centres were doing a roaring trade and the roads to/from the main resorts, such as Bled, Pokljuka, Bohinj and Kranjska Gora, were thronging as if it were the height of the summer season.

I made the most of the day with a double-whammy of outdoor activities. My day started with an early morning walk to Valvasor (which I wrote about in last week’s blog) then, after some sustenance and a short rest, an afternoon walk to Štefanja Gora, home to the Church of St. Štefan. This hill (748m), is in an idyliic location above Cerklje na Gorenjskem and beneath the Krvavec ski resort. Although not high, there are wonderful and expansive views, to the south across the valley and to the north towards the Karavanke mountains. Just a few minutes beneath the church is the small tourist farm, Pr’Mežnarju, which offers refreshments and the winter sun meant it was even warm enough to sit outside with a nice cuppa!

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There are still a huge number of forest and mountain paths closed and inaccessible, due to the fallen trees, and the risk of avalanches still remains high, so it is therefore best to check the conditions before setting off. There is an up-to-date list of the paths closed on the Slovene Mountain Association website (some of the site is in English however this part isn’t), though it is not exhaustive since it lists only the main paths which are known to be closed and have been reported by the relevant section of the Mountain Association –

Preparations for this year’s traditional Shrovetide carnival pust continue with people busy planning, sewing and creating their fancy dress costumes. The street parade will take place on Saturday 1st March when Radovljica will be awash with a procession of witches, clowns, animals of every description and a riot of other original costumes. If you want to see it be sure to arrive early, as the surrounding streets are closed to traffic just before, and during, the parade, which will start at 2pm and travel through the centre of Radovljica ending in the old town centre at Linhart Square.

And just a reminder about the new Pust Dance that will also be taking place on the same day in the Radovljica Mansion. This unique event is aimed at reviving the tradition of ‘pust whilst combining it with characteristic cuisine and adding a dash of humour to the times in which we live. For those attending the dance, masks, or costumes, are obligatory and prizes will be awarded for the best ones. A meal will also be served, provided and cooked by the local restaurants involved in the Taste Radol’ca project. The entire evening’s entertainment, including a welcome drink, dinner, dance and guaranteed fun, will cost just 15 euros per person. More information and details about reservations can be found here –

Hope to see you there, though you might not recognise me!!!

© AdeleinSlovenia 2014

Seven Years in Slovenia!

I celebrated my 7th anniversary in Slovenia this week – gosh, how time flies! I spent a pleasant evening with friends who ensured I didn’t spend it alone and who pronounced themselves, resplendent with badges, the official founders of the Adele in Slovenia Fun Club! I’m not yet entirely sure what being a member of this club entails, but watch this space!!!


After what seemed like an eternity, although in reality it was only around three weeks, the sun finally made a very welcome reappearance  during the latter part of this week. Alas, it was somewhat brief, but it was much needed and almost at once it felt like the whole country, or at least this little alpine part of it, suddenly breathed a collective sigh of relief after the harsh bout of weather that Slovenia has had to endure during the past few weeks. There is, of course, still a huge clean-up operation taking place and, as is so often the case, once the media have left, little of the remaining work in clearing up after such a disaster, gets any coverage. Current predictions are that it will take at least a year for areas of forest that have been entirely, or at least extensively, devastated to be cleared.

I took full advantage of the few hours of brilliant early morning sunshine on Thursday and made a much longed for trip to Valvasor. Since the heavy snowfall and ice, which caused so much destruction, hiking had become pretty much a no-no, as most paths were inaccessible due to fallen trees. However, having asked around, I heard that the path to the Valvasor mountain hut (Valvasorjev dom), one of my regular winter haunts, was in good condition so I wasted no time in going. I certainly wasn’t alone and was surprised how many other people I met; skiiers, sledgers, hikers – no doubt all of whom had been (im)patiently yearning for some sunshine, much as I had. Incidentally, I noticed there is also now a new winter sports area, including a small cross-country skiing area, a children’s ski area, a sledging track and an ice-rink, located just 300metres from the Završnica reservoir.

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It occurred to me whilst listening to the news this week, which was once again dominated by bickering politians and the latest corruption scandals, that perhaps the only upside to all the recent weather related news was that the nation has had a brief respite from all the usual news – the same the world over no doubt! However, this week Slovenia has really had something to celebrate with our winter sports stars performing exceptionally well in Sochi. For the first time in the history of women’s downhill skiing, two gold medals were awarded as Slovenia’s Tina Maze and Switzerland’s Dominique Gisin recorded identical times and were named co-Olympic champions. Other Slovene medallists (so far) are Peter Prevc, silver in the men’s ski jumps, Vesna Fabjan, bronze in cross country skiing and Teja Gregorin, bronze in biathlon.

Here in Radovljica, preparations for this year’s traditional Shrovetide carnival, known here as ‘pust’ are in full swing. The street parade will take place on Saturday 1st March and is a spectacle of colours as the streets through the town are filled with a procession of floats accompanied by children (big and small!) dressed in handmade costumes and masks. The parade will start at 2pm and travel through the centre of Radovljica ending in the old town centre at Linhart Square.

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Additionally, this year a new event will be taking place in the Radovljica Mansion – the Pust Dance.   This unique event is aimed at reviving the tradition of pust whilst combining it with characteristic cuisine and adding a dash of humour to the times in which we live. For those attending the dance, masks will be obligatory and prizes will be awarded for the best ones. A meal will also be served, provided and cooked by the local restaurants involved in the Taste Radol’ca project. The entire evening’s entertainment, including a welcome drink, dinner, dance and guaranteed fun, will cost just 15 euros per person. More information and details about reservations can be found here –

I popped to the capital, Ljubljana, on Friday for a meeting and got ridiculously excited about seeing green grass! I’m not much of a city person usually but after seeing nothing but whiteness for some time now, the sights and sounds of the city were something to behold. Friday was of course Valentines Day too, so love was in the air – apparently! But then there’s always love in Slovenia since it’s the only country with ‘love’ in its name – sLOVEnia!

It’s school holidays for a week now and therefore the ski resorts throughout Slovenia, all of which are operating and have copious snow, will be in full swing. Meanwhile in Radovljica, the Olympic size swimming pool is offering free swimming for children all week from 9am – 11am; perfect for keeping the little ones occupied and out of mischief!

© AdeleinSlovenia 2014

A cultural weekend in Slovenia

There’s been significant international media coverage about Slovenia during the past week, which is rare for this little country, but then the ice storm that hit the country last week was also a rare and freak occurrence which wreaked havoc throughout the country and whose after effects are still being, and will continue to be, felt for a long time to come.

Fortunately, by Friday, temperatures finally climbed above freezing and the thaw has now begun. Not that this isn’t also without its hazards as large lumps or ice and vast amounts of snow fall from rooftops and trees. The sheer scale of the devastation in the forests will only really become apparent once the roads can be cleared of fallen trees and debris and forest workers can obtain access to begin to assess the damage. Suffice to say it is great; initial estimates are that up to 40% of all the trees in Slovenia have been affected, though this could well turn out to be on the conservative side. As I write, its now pouring with rain, which also brings further troubles due to flooding and avalanches. However, power to most areas has now been restored, even if only temporarily due to the use of generators, and most of the trains are once again up and running, albeit using diesel instead of electricity. Hopefully, slowly, some kind of ‘normality’ will begin to reign. A word of gratitude, on behalf of all citizens, must be extended to the thousands of volunteer firefighters who have so selflessly given up their time to help, often using their annual holiday entitlement, and who don’t receive a single euro in return for their time, effort and sacrifice.

Saturday, February 8th, was a cultural public holiday, Prešeren’s Day, named after the great Slovene poet, France Prešeren, who died on this day in 1849 and the day was chosen as a holiday in his commemoration. In Slovenia, unlike in the UK, public holidays are determined by date and therefore when, as is the case this year, the holiday happens to fall on a weekend then people really miss out because they are not granted that day in lieu. In the UK, public holidays (other than Christmas and New Year) are always on a Monday – ‘Bank Holiday Monday’ – so people always get an extra day off work and a nice long weekend to look forward to. If only that were the case here too. I’m sure if that were put to the vote, as so many things here usually are, there would be quite a high voter turnout!

Slovenes are great lovers of culture and none more so than on 8th February when cultural events take place throughout the country. My home town of Radovljica, being one of the three best preserved medieval town structures in Slovenia, is a popular choice for lovers of culture as it is home to the grand Manor House (graščina), where regular concerts, events and festival are held. To mark the cultural holiday there was a ceremony held in the Baroque Hall and additionally free admission to the Museum of Apiculture, the Town Museum and the Šivec House Gallery.

In Kranj, the capital of the Gorenjska region, the Prešeren Fair, which is one of the most important cultural events in Slovenia, takes place annually on the 8th February; an event which I always like to attend. Kranj is synonymous with France Prešeren who, although born in the village of Vrba, lived and worked in Kranj during the 19th century. The Fair, which takes place in the Main Square, is home to most of the city’s most visited sights, galleries, museums and the Prešeren Theatre, featuring a large statue of its namesake (seen below).


The streets and squares are transformed into an early-19th century experience featuring poetry recitals, dances, period music, demonstations of traditional crafts, costumed performers, a street fair and free admission and guided tours of all the cultural institutions. The weather even played along too, other than a few light showers one could almost, for a short blissful time, forget about the chaos and destruction outside of the confines of the town and they had achieved wonders in removing all the snow too! It wasn’t until I got home that I realised I had managed to, quite by chance, capture almost identical ‘then’ and ‘now’ photographs!

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Here are a couple more photos of the event (more to be added to my  Pinterest account- and just one of the many poems that Prešeren wrote, which have since been translated into English.

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A Wreath Of Sonnets (1/14)
A Slovene wreath your poet has entwined,
fifteen sonnets is the chaplet bound,
And in it thrice the Master Theme must sound:
Thus are the other harmonies combined.

Now from his source like streams in order wind
The sonnets, and the head of each is found
By the last line of the last sonnet crowned;
This is a semblance of your poet’s mind.

From one love all by thoughts arise,
and lo! Whene’er I sleep at night they cease to flow,
But stir when darkness flees before dawn’s rays.

You are the Master Theme of my whole life,
Which will be heard when I have ceased my strife
– A record of my pain and of your praise.

© AdeleinSlovenia 2014

Extreme Slovenia!

What a weekend! Records have been being broken throughout Slovenia during the past few days – alas for all the wrong reasons. The country is caught in some kind of an ‘ice-age’ and a ‘red alarm’ has been in place for successive days as metres of snow followed by frozen rain, more snow and more frozen rain, have been causing chaos and destruction on the roads and in forests, with thousands upon thousands of hectares of forest being affected and many homes being left without electricity. Slovenia usually copes admirably well with winter conditions, after all it’s a fact of life here; roads are usually cleared quickly and efficiently and public transport continues to operate largely unhindered. However, this time, due to the sheer rate at which the snow fell, combined with the unprecedented ice, workers have been unable to keep up with the sheer demand and at the moment it’s certainly a case of Nature:1 – Humankind:0

Although there has been something of an east/west divide, with the west faring by far the worse, nowhere seems to have escaped unscathed and great swathes of the country are facing extremely challenging conditions. Higher lying areas have seen a number of avalanches, road closures and problems with ice whilst lower lying areas are having to deal with flooded rivers and high tides causing floods at the coast too.

How ironic then that due to a lack of snow the Golden Fox Women’s Ski Cup competition was moved from Maribor’s Pohorje, where it is usually held, to Kranjska Gora, where on Friday 200 workers, many of them volunteers, battled through the night trying to pull off the almost unhuman feat of clearing up to 2 metres of snow to get the course ready for Saturday’s competition. And they almost succeeded too but in the end nature won, sense prevailed, and Saturday’s event was cancelled at the last minute due to fears for the safety of competitors, especially with the winter Olympics in Sochi only a week away – for many, the risks would have just been too great. This sadly adds another blow to a pretty dismal season for Kranjska Gora. Looking on the bright side though at least now, hopefully, once conditions normalise and stabilise again, they, together with the other Slovene ski resorts, will be able to make full use of the abundance of snow for the remainder of the season. And of course for lovers of all things ‘winter’, both locals and tourists alike, the winter season looks set to be extended and there will be no shortage of skiing, sledging, snowshoeing and the obligatory snowmen making.

This morning I set out to try and take some photos of the snow to post on this week’s blog; some kind of arty, snowy, winter wonderland scenes. However, I was defeated on a number of accounts. Firstly, since the cloud is currently so low that one can’t even differentiate between cloud and sky, everything is just white; additionally at the moment it really doesn’t look all that picturesque, more of a mess really, the sheer number of fallen trees is staggering and heart breaking to see, oh and add to that the fact one can barely walk anywhere as the pavements STILL haven’t been cleared (why?). So instead I thought I would attempt to describe some of the scenes and challenges of daily life at these extreme times. After all, there will no doubt still be plenty of opportunities for snowy photos in the weeks and months to come! But I can’t write a blog entirely without photos so I’ve included a few from some of my previous winter hikes to offer a reminder that ‘snow can be both fun and beautiful’ as my Slovene friends are always quick to remind me! Here I am during a hike in the Karavanke range, headed from Srednji vrh towards Zelenica.

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Even mundane chores, such as taking the rubbish out, become nigh on impossible. I was witness to this today when I watched someone first use a shovel to clear a path to the rubbish bins, having done that they then had to clear the snow from the top of the bins, only to find that the bins were firmly sealed shut by ice – mission aborted.

Hospital admissions have been soaring due to falls on the ice resulting in sprained and broken limbs and some pretty impressive bruises.

Family recreation time takes on entire new meaning involving the whole family out shovelling snow and/or chiselling away at ice in a vain attempt to clear their driveways, pavements, cars….

All the major passes from Slovenia into Austria are closed, meaning the only way to reach Austria, from this part of the country, currently is through the Karavanke tunnel and the only way to reach the Soča Valley is the (very) long way round. A huge number of roads are closed, due to fallen trees. Heavy goods vehicles are prohibited on most major roads. The military have been called in to help. The PM visited some of the affected areas today, as world leaders tend to do as such times to ‘offer their support’. Train travel is also severly disrupted however air travel remains unaffected and is operating as normal. 

Out of my window I’ve been watching people standing on step ladders in order to be able to reach the snow on the top of their cars, people perched precariously on rooftops shovelling the snow off in order to avoid roof cave ins. I could go on, but hopefully by now you get the point. If nothing else, these times certainly unite people, provide an opportunity for neighbourly ‘bonding’ and provide some useful calorie burning activities! I’m certainly very grateful to my neighbours for helping to clear the snow off my balcony roof which was starting to sag under the weight of the snow. I’m also very thankful to a friend who, on hearing the desperation in my voice, gently coaxed me out for a walk yesterday. Those that know me will attest to that fact that I never usually need encouragement to go out for a walk – quite the opposite in fact.

Of course it will impossible to assess the true extent of the damage until conditions stabilise and access can be obtained to the worse affected areas. Neighbouring countries have already offered help to Slovenia and with outside help plus a great deal of hard work all round of course we will recover and temperatures look set to rise during the course of the week so hopefully conditions will begin to improve.

People often ask me why I remain living here, in this alpine region of Slovenia, especially when I’m not a fan of snow and, if I wasn’t a fan of snow before, then this latest episode has only served to heighten my dislike of it. I must admit at times like this I do sometimes question my wisdom but the truth is that despite the often harsh long winters, there is still something special about this little corner of Slovenia that is now my home and therefore I just have to take the rough with the smooth and look forward to warmer, sunnier times ahead. Here I am snowshoeing last year in the Vrata valley!

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As a skiing nation, skiing being the number one sport in the country, each winter Slovenia hosts numerous world class ski events meaning avid fans don’t have to travel far to watch world class skiing. There is nothing like the atmosphere of a ‘home’ event where Slovenes rapturously cheer on their skiers, none more so at the moment with Slovene skiers, especially Tina Maze and the male ski jumpers, achieving world beating results. Here are just some of the annual skiing events in Slovenia where you can catch them in action:-

  • The Women’s Ski Jumping World Cup: 25th – 26th January in Ljubno
  • The Golden Fox Ladies Alpine World Cup: 1st – 2nd February in Maribor (usually!)
  • The World Biathlon Cup:– 3rd – 9th March on Pokljuka

  • The Pokal Vitranc Mens Alpine World Cup: 8th – 9th March in Kranjska Gora
  • Ski Jumping World Cup – 21st – 23rd March at Planica

This coming Saturday, 8th February, is a national holiday in Slovenia – Prešeren’s Day – named after the great Slovene poet, France Prešeren (1800-1849), born in nearby Vrba. There are events held all round the country to mark the day. Weather permitting, I usually like to attend the Prešeren Fair in Kranj, where the streets are lined with stalls selling various handicrafts and wares and the old town centre comes to life with music, traditional dances and people dressed in clothing from Prešeren’s time. Here’s a photo I took at last year’s event – note there’s no snow!

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In Radovljica there will be a ceremony on Thursday 6th at 7pm in the Mansion House (graščina) and on Saturday 8th visitors can take advantage of free entrance, from 10am to 3pm, to the Museum of Apiculture and the Town Museum in Radovljica and the Blacksmiths Museum in Kropa.

© AdeleinSlovenia 2014