Speciality Slovenian Foods

I’m afraid I haven’t any glorious sunny hiking trips to write about this week because, as had been forecast, a mammoth storm arrived on Tuesday night bringing the temperatures crashing down and even though the rain only lasted a short while, the sheer amount that fell in such a short time – a record amount for October – caused landslides, floods and millions of euros worth of damage. It’s been dry again since then but the low cloud has meant that temperatures have struggled to get into double figures and I for one am freeeeezing already! It wouldn’t be so bad if the temperatures were to come down gradually, so one has time to adjust, but going from 20 degrees to 5 degrees, literally overnight, is a bit extreme and I’m a wimp when it comes to the cold! People often (jokingly) tell me I need to eat more, especially zaseka, a kind of lard with minced pork, which is eaten spread on bread and which is perfect for adding a layer of warmth for the winter! Alas, I don’t like it so I’ll have to find other ways to keep warm; answers on a postcard to……

Thank goodness I had such a lovely hike to Srednji vrh last week (see last week’s blog) as this week it certainly wouldn’t have been possible as it is now covered in snow as Tuesday’s storm also brought the first snow of the season in the mountains, and quite a bit too as you can see from these photos of the Karavanke mountains (below) taken on Wednesday; the morning after the night before! In the picture on the right, you can just about make out the mountain hut, Presernova koca, on the top of Stol, the highest peak in the Karavanke range.

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In last week’s blog I mentioned that I was going to be presenting at an International Tourism and Hospitality Conference that was taking place in Ljubljana. Well, I did, and I’m pleased to report that it went well (at least I think so!). I presented a little about blogging in general and then some of the facts and figures related to my blog in particular. As another measure of its success, an article was written about my blog in last week’s Gorenjski glas newspaper. I especially like the part where the reporter referred to my ‘beautiful, fluent, and very correct Slovene’ – albeit it with an English accent! http://www.gorenjskiglas.si/article/20141020/C/141029987/1082/1039/z-blogom-navdusila-celo-havajce-


As regular readers know, in the absence of hikes, trips etc. my mind usually turns to my other great love; food. So, this week I thought I’d write a little about some of the Slovene specialities which have a specially protected status and which visitors should keep an eye out for on their travels through the country to have a chance to tasting these genuine Slovene products.

Cheese: Nanoški sir (Nanos cheese), Sir Tolminc (Tolminc cheese from Tolmin), Bovški sir (Bovec cheese), Mohant sir (Mohant cheese, a semi-soft cheese from the Bohinj area which has a particularly distinctive taste and smell i.e. it smells like the smelliest socks you’ve ever known!)

Honey: Kraški med (Karst honey), Slovenski med (Slovenian honey), Kočevjski gozdni med (Kočevje forest honey)

Meat: Kraški pršut (Karst prosciuttio), Zgornjesavinjski želodec (Upper-Savinja stomach), Kraški zašink (a Karst meat product made from neck of pork), Prleška tunka (smoked pork), Sebreljski želodec (stuffed pork stomach), Kranjska klobasa (Carniolan sausage), Kraška panceta (Karst pancetta)

Other specialities include: Prekmurska gibanica (Prekmurje cake), Idrijski žlikrofi (Idrija dumplings), Belokranjska pogača (Bela Krajina bread), Štajersko-prekmursko bučno olje (Styrian-Prekmurje pumpkin-seed oil), Ekstra deviško oljčno olje Slovenske Istre (Extra virgin olive oil from Slovene Istra)

Talking of food, my tastebuds are already tingling at the thought of this year’s Taste Radol’ca (Okusi Radol’ca) opening event, taking place this Thursday. The event begins at 4pm in the old town centre with a fair and presentation of local dishes and products, then the opening event dinner will take place at Lectar Inn at 6pm; a 5-course dinner prepared by the chefs from all the participating restaurants. Then, for the whole month of November, each of the participating restaurants will have a special Taste Radol’ca menu prepared using the local ingredients. There will even be adjovi krapi (filled buckwheat flour pockets – read more here https://adeleinslovenia.wordpress.com/2014/10/07/traditional-slovene-food-struklji-and-krapi/) on the menu which, as I wrote about 2 weeks ago, are seldom found on menus these days so this will be the perfect opportunity to try them. Below you can see one of the chefs at Lectar Inn preparing them. They look a bit more professional than the ones I made, however, as they say ‘it’s the taste that counts’!!!

Lectar 2  Krapi

© AdeleinSlovenia 2014



Zelenica – The Karavanke

Slovenia’s Karavanke mountains are, without a doubt, at their most beautiful during the autumn months, and this year is no exception, especially when the autumn weather is as glorious as it has been these past couple of weeks. It doesn’t exactly make-up for the dreadful “summer” we encountered this year, and is all set to end tomorrow with temperatures forecast to plummet, but it has at least provided a welcome respite from battling the elements.

So on Sunday morning, after a particularly busy week spent largely working at the computer, I decided it was time for a bit of ‘me time’! However, seeing as I knew I still had a mountain of work awaiting me at home, I needed to go somewhere not too far from home, yet far enough to make me feel I’d had a few hours away from the usual environment. This is one of the pitfalls of being self-employed and working from home. Of course it has its upsides too but, as with all jobs, there are the inevitable downsides and for me isolation and constantly being in one room are the predominant ones.

Anyway, fortunately I’m surrounded by the most stunning scenery so when moments of calm and respite are needed from time-to-time, they are never far away. Totting up all the options and taking into account the limited time, the position of the early-morning sun, and where I hadn’t been for a long while, I decided to head to Ljubelj for a walk up the Zelenica ski piste and onward to the peak of Srednji vrh.

The Zelenica ski slopes are set between the mighty north-walls of Begunščica and Vrtača to the south (at 2060m and 2181m respectively, the 7th and 5th highest of the Karavanke range). There are stunning views across the Podljubelj valley to the east and the Završnica valley to the west.

Due to unfavourable snow conditions, and the consequent financial implications, unfortunately the ski resort has not been in regular operation for the past couple of years. However, the mountain hut Dom na Zelenici was renovated a few years back and regardless of the season, or whether the ski piste is operating, this is still a very popular area year-round with hikers and also ski tourers who simply put their skis on their backs and walk up to one of the surrounding peaks before skiing back down. Ski touring is popular in Slovenia and it also means, as in this case, that the lack of operational chairlifts needn’t present a problem.

Ljubelj is one of the border crossings (though nowadays obsolete) from Slovenia into Austria. There is still a duty-free shop, a restaurant and a large parking area, just as well, as by the time I returned to my car, the car park and all the surrounding parking areas were absolutely rammed – I don’t think I’ve ever seen it so busy, again a reflection of people’s desire to make the most of the little sunshine that we have been afforded this year.

My morning began with the steep slog up the ski piste, passing the Vrtača koca hut, where interestingly the sign, as seen below, tells us to ‘BEWARE OF APPLE STRUDEL’! Note the cloudless blue sky – not many of my photos have looked like that this year – hence I ended up taking a lot of photos, too many to be shown here, so I will post the rest on my Pinterest page.

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Continuing onwards the Zelenica mountain hut (Dom na Zelenici, 1536m) is reached in less than an hour from the carpark, and for some people this popular hut is a destination in itself. However, there are still many beauties awaiting ahead so I continued, first in the direction of Vrtača, crossing its steep scree-covered lower slopes, before branching off on the route signed towards Stol, and again branching off to the Šija saddle. It was great to see that since I was last here, quite some considerable effort has been made to update and renew the signage and, as can be seen below, there’s no shortage of choice!

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From the Šija saddle, I took the path up to the peak of Srednji vrh (1796m) for a quick photo stop and the amazing far-reaching views across the valley towards Bled lake and the Julian Alps. On returning to the saddle I then took the path down to the picturesque mountain hut ‘Dom pri izviru Završnice’– so named as it sits very close to the spring for the Završnica stream. Don’t expect to see rushing waters though, in fact if you didn’t know it was there, blink and you’d miss it!

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The week ahead looks like being another busy one, not least because I have been asked to be a plenary speaker at an international tourism and hospitality conference taking place this Friday. My presentation is entitled ‘Blogging for Tourism’ – Wish me luck!

Meanwhile, don’t forget that Taste Radol’ca begins next week (http://www.radolca.si/en/taste-radolca/) and also from 25th October – 1st November, the Radovljica Manor will host the 10th Chopin’s Golden Ring Competition. This is an international competition which sees 40 young pianists compete in three categories. More information can be found on the organiser’s website – http://goo.gl/90EygY or Radol’ca’s website – http://goo.gl/IkErne

© AdeleinSlovenia 2014


An Indian (or Hawaiian?) summer in Slovenia!

There’s a new look to my blog this week to reflect the beautiful hues of autumn that are now here in the valley and the surrounding mountains. It certainly looks and smells like autumn with the crimson and auburn leaves on the trees, chestnuts, pumpkins and all manner of ghastly Halloween-type things appearing in the shops. However, in the topsy-turvy world of Slovene weather this year, last week was more akin to summer, certainly drier and with temperatures in places reaching 26 degrees, it was warmer than much of August too. The record high for temperatures at this time of year hasn’t quite been beaten, that stands at 27 degrees, but it wasn’t far-off and, as you can imagine, I was revelling in it!

Perhaps I have some Hawaiians to thank for that – let me explain; Back in the winter I received an email from the leader of a group of 12 Hawaiians friends who every year travel somewhere together on holiday. This year’s holiday was to be a European tour covering many of the major cities and sights and including 2 days in Slovenia. Over the course of the ensuing half-year we traded numerous emails, the upshot of which being that by the time they arrived in Slovenia we already felt like old friends. The day of their arrival was also splendidly ‘Hawaiian’ with brilliant, warm sunshine and cloudless skies, and therefore my wish and request that they ‘bring us some Hawaiian sunshine’ really did come true! Having arranged for them to begin with a guided tour of Škofja Loka, which along with Radovljica is one of the 3 best preserved medieval towns in Slovenia, I met the group on their arrival in Radovljica and it was my pleasure to show them around the town, which was looking at its best on such a wonderful day. They then continued with their visit to Radovljica which included a visit to the Lectar Gingerbread Workshop, where they also took part in a workshop and decorated their own gingerbread hearts, lunch at Lectar Inn, and a a visit to the Museum of Apiculture, before they left for their overnight accommodation. Fortunately, they left us the sun too, and brought me some Hawaiian chocolates – aptly named ‘Sunshine Chocolates’!

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Last week my blog hits reached another new milestone – over 30,000 – and the number of readers, and countries where it is read, is growing exponentially and continues to surprise and amaze me in equal measures. Interestingly, I’ve noticed that the posts I have written about food, such as last week’s one about struklji and krapi, seem to attract the most interest, views and comments; just as well then that I love to eat and still have plenty to write about on that score! Fortunately also then that Slovenia’s bi-annual Restaurant Week (Teden restavracij) is due to begin again shortly, and will run from the 18-26th October. This event sees some of the best restaurants throughout the country offering diners a chance to try out specially chosen three-course menus for a set price of just 14 euros. Two of Radol’ca’s restaurants will also be participating; Vila Podvin and Gostilna Kunstelj. More information can be found here (only in Slovene language) – http://tedenrestavracij.si/ and you can also read reviews about these restaurants in the Taste Radol’ca section of this blog.

On Saturday I visited some friends in Zaloše, a small village near Podnart, where they own and run the restaurant Joštov hram. The weather was perfect for a short walk in the forest up to the viewpoint of Stovc, from where there are magnificent views across the wide Radovljica plains and the mountains of the Karavanke range. Though not a mountain, or even really a hill, there was the customary record book (vpisna knjiga), where those who visit can record the date and time of their visit and the number of times they have visited in that year.

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This is quite common practice at mountain huts, and on certain peaks, in Slovenia. Some people like to tot up the number of times they go, setting themselves personal goals, and in some cases, at certain mountain huts, there are even prizes awarded annually for those achieving the highest number of visits per year and the season ends with a social gathering including music, food and other festivities. For some, this certainly provides the perfect incentive to get, and keep, hiking in Slovenia’s mountains. In this area, some of the most popular and frequented mountain huts are Koča na Taležu, Roblekov dom and Valvasorjev dom – the latter of which recently won the prized title of ‘Mountain Hut of the Year’ in the annual competition which is voted for by the public, and they also added to this accolade by winning last weekend’s ‘Best Strudel’ competition. I frequently hike to all three of the above mentioned huts, although rarely do I go in as I’m usually in a hurry, however, now I will have to make a point of stopping by sometime to taste that great strudel for myself!

Valvasorjev dom    Valvasor strudel

There’s a fascinating new exhibition on view at the Beekeeping Education Centre of Gorenjska, which exhibits photographs of Carnolian honey bees’ honeycomb as never seen before. If you are in the area or passing, it’s worth a look. The exhibition will be on view until December. More information can be found here – http://www.cricg.com/novice.html

Would you like to see the Julian Alps from a different perspective? Here’s the chance with this panoramic flight taken from Lesce Sports Airfield. The 45 minute flight has been compressed into just a 3 minute video and gives a wonderful impression and bird’s eye view of the beauty of Slovenia’s Alps – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7nbDjsLfZfQ

© AdeleinSlovenia 2014

Traditional Slovene Food: ‘Štruklji’ and ‘Krapi’

Regular readers and those that know me, know only too well that I love my food! When I moved to Slovenia in 2007 it would be fair to say that I could have been described as a borderline fussy eater. However, living here has immeasurably broadened my horizons and my palate as well as heightening my awareness and desire to eat home-cooked, in-season and locally grown and produced food. Even when I’m pushed for time as I have been of late, I would still rather cook up a soup or stew from scratch than go and buy something pre-prepared. I’m not professing to be a saint when it comes to food though – pizza, chocolate, cakes, biscuits etc. still form a staple part of my ‘diet’ too!!

Each region of Slovenia has its own unique and characteristic dishes, as well as having their own festivals and other food and drink related celebrations. Within the regions there are also local specialities and, in the case of štruklji and krapi, in places even neighbouring villages have their own distinguishable recipes that have been handed down through the generations. Both of these foods also happen to be among my favourite Slovene foods, so, when I saw an advert recently for a workshop to learn to make štruklji and krapi, using traditional recipes from the Upper Sava Valley area of Gorenjska, I knew I wanted to be a part, to learn a little more, and to get to taste some local variations of these dishes so I enrolled myself immediately. Although a little time consuming to prepare, in fact neither of these foods are actually that difficult to make and both make a filling, hearty meal on their own or as a side-dish.

The workshop was held at the Mišmaš bakery (Pekarna Mišmaš) in Gozd Martuljek, near Kranjska Gora, which, as can be seen from the photo below, is worth going to for the views alone. Pekarna Mišmaš is actually based on a children’s fairy tale about a baker who is helped by mice and at the bakery in Gozd Martuljek there are regular workshops held for children whose faces are painted to get them into character and where they learn about how to bake bread and about the story of Pekarna Mišmaš. For adults, in addition to the štruklji and krapi workshops, there are other workshops and some new ones planned for the future featuring other traditional Slovene foods such as potica – a rolled filled cake.

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The workshop began with an introduction and short discussion about the history and various origins of the flavour combinations used in this part of Slovenia. Next, it was time to don our aprons, each hand-designed with its own Pekarna Mišmaš character, roll up our sleeves, and get stuck in – literally – as the first step was to make the dough. The same basic dough mixture can be used for both štruklji and krapi. We made 2 variations, one using just plain flour, the other a mixture of plain and buckwheat flour. Once the dough had been mixed, kneaded, slapped about a bit (there’s probably a more cookery related term for that but it doesn’t spring to mind – anyway, apparently the ‘slapping’ helps!), it was left to rest whilst we got on with making the fillings.

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Krapi are pockets of unleavened dough with various fillings which are then boiled and served with different toppings. To make štruklji the dough is rolled out very thinly, the filling added, and then the whole thing is rolled up to resemble a swiss roll. As with krapi, there are numerous variations and ways of filling, shaping and serving them. In both cases, the shape and filling used varies from region to region, town to town, and even from village to village.    We made three fillings for the krapi; curd cheese, polenta, garlic, parsley; dried pear, fried onions, polenta; curd cheese, fried onions, millet; and another filling for the štruklji; curd cheese, sour cream. Whilst they were cooking, we also prepared a mushroom sauce and some other toppings, prepared a salad to enjoy with our meal and, once everything was ready, it was time to sit down to enjoy the fruits of our labour over a sociable dinner and a glass of wine (not for me I hasten to add since I was driving!).

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These days krapi are not found on many menus, other than in places particularly known for them, such as in the village of Rateče. Štruklji, however, can be found on the menus of many restaurants throughout Slovenia and they are often one of the dishes offered in Slovenia’s many mountain huts. In the Radovljica area, štruklji can be found on the menus of several restaurants such as at Gostilna Kunstelj, Lectar Inn and Gostila Tulipan – these are just some of the restaurants that are part of Taste Radol’ca. Štruklji can be served sweet or savoury with ever more inventive fillings such as walnut, carrot, bean, spinach; some of which will also no doubt feature in the forthcoming Taste Radol’ca week which is coming soon and which last year was a great success and looks like being even bigger and better this year – I’m already looking forward to it! This year’s event will begin on the 30th October with a market of local produce and a special 5-course dinner prepared by the chefs from the participating restaurants, then throughout the month of November each restaurant will offer a Taste Radol’ca menu for just 15 euros. More information can be found here – http://www.radolca.si/en/taste-radolca/

okusi radol'ce© AdeleinSlovenia 2014