Seriously Scrumptious Štruklji!

It’s kind of difficult to describe štruklji, and when reading menus there are all manner of descriptions that get lost in translation –  the majority of which certainly don’t do them justice! I love them and was therefore even more delighted when I recently saw that Draga Inn, which is among my favourite local restaurants, and which already makes great savoury štruklji, has now added a new range of sweet štruklji to its menu, which can also be bought to take home.

It didn’t take me long to go and try them out for myself, especially since chocolate is involved! Oh my, are they good, if you like štruklji, you simply have to try them! This is the white chocolate version, which was my favourite among the new varieties, though the walnut one came a close second!

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Štruklji are made using a light dough, of which there are many variations but the most basic ingredients are flour, water, a dash of oil and a pinch of salt – some doughs also contain egg. Once the dough has been allowed to rest it is rolled out, filled, wrapped in a soft muslin cloth, then boiled, or occasionally wrapped in foil and baked.

They can be eaten either as a side dish, instead of potatoes, rice etc., as a main meal in itself, or sweet versions as dessert.

The most common type of štruklji are filled with skuta – a type of curd cheese (not cottage cheese as it is invariably translated). At Draga Inn the savoury version are served as an accompaniment to their delicious venison goulash, which I can also highly recommend.

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Of course, the quality varies, as does the ratio of dough to filling. Sometimes they can be somewhat bland and dry, but the ones at Draga Inn have a perfectly light dough with a very generous amount of filling and are anything but bland. It was impossible to choose which one(s) to taste, as they all looked and sounded so delicious, so I just tasted all the new flavours – blueberry, walnut, white chocolate, and dark chocolate – and left both very content and fit to burst!

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Draga Inn is one of the participating Taste Radol’ca restaurants, where the emphasis is on using local ingredients, and these štruklji are no exception. Read more here – http://www.radolca.si/en/taste-radolca/

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Draga Inn is located at the end of the Draga Valley, in Begunje na Gorenjskem. The valley is a very popular starting point for hikes in the Karavanke mountains and en-route to the valley you can visit the ruins of Kamen Castle.

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You can find more information about Draga Inn here (note that the website is currently being reconstructed) – http://www.gostisce-draga.si/

Until the expiry of the offer on 8th June, you can also use the Adele in Slovenia Discount Card at Draga Inn. Even more reason to go and try the delicious food! More here – https://adeleinslovenia.com/contact/

© Adele in Slovenia

Birthdays in Slovenia

On the whole, birthday celebrations in Slovenia at not dissimilar to the birthday celebrations I was used to in the UK, and probably those in countless other countries. The birthday girl/boy might celebrate with friends and/or family, invite people round or go out for a drink and/or a meal and those with birthdays in the summer often have a picnic or barbeque.

However, the one big difference, and one which I’m still at odds with, even after having now celebrated 10 birthdays since moving to Slovenia, is that the one whose birthday it is has to arrange AND pay for whatever the celebration is! Now, this isn’t by any means a question or money, it’s just, for me at least, the principle that it should be the one day in the year that the birthday girl/boy is made to feel special and doesn’t have to run around preparing everything and paying for it too!

So, this year I was particularly delighted when a friend, who knows my feelings on this subject – and knowing I would otherwise be alone and would no doubt spend the day working, offered to organise my birthday celebration. We started with a lovely spread and a few sherries!

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Followed by a delicious Hersheys chocolate cake – minus the Hersheys!

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Later we drove to Kranj to watch our friend, Tanja Jamnik – President of the Musica Viva Choir, perform with the choir for their 70th anniversary concert. The hall was jam-packed, with standing room only at the back and it was lovely to see such appreciation of good music and recognition of the choir’s significant achievements throughout the years.

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Musica Viva, which currently comprises 37 singers, has performed as far afield as Argentina and the USA, as well as scores of concerts in Europe, and has won a host of awards. More information here – http://www.musicaviva.si/

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As someone who has moved over 30 times, from country to country and home to home, it has always been difficult to make, and maintain real friends. Having finally found my ‘home’ in Slovenia I have really learnt to appreciate such occasions, so, thank you Neda, Emilija, Jana, Tanja and Anja for a lovely evening. Perhaps the idea of making the birthday girl/boy feel special might even catch on!!!

This coming weekend Market Day, the main event of this year’s International Ceramics Festival in Radovljica, will take place on Saturday 28th May from 10am – 7pm. More than 20 ceramists will be exhibiting and selling their works in Radovljica’s historic old town centre.

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More information here – http://www.radolca.si/en/what-to-do/events-1/radovljica-international-ceramics-festival/83/385/

© Adele in Slovenia

 

 

World Bee Day: The Anton Janša Honey Route

Much of the history of beekeeping in Slovenia can be attributed to Anton Janša (1734-1733) and still today barely a word is said about Slovenian beekeeping without his name being mentioned. Perhaps it was fate then that I moved to Slovenia, and particularly to the Gorenjska region, from where more than 150 prominent beekeepers hail, including Anton Janša, with whom I also share a birthday – 20th May – which is now (hopefully) to become World Bee Day! I live in Radovljica, home to the Museum of Apiculture and close to the village of Breznica where Anton Janša, was born.

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Slovenia is the only EU member state that has protected its indigenous bee, the Carniolan bee, which means that no other bee can be bred here. The Carniolan bee is the 2nd most widely used breed of bee in the world and originated in this region of the country.

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The initiative for a World Bee Day was started by the Slovene Beekeeping Association, who, rightly so, believe there should be a World Day in recognition of something that is of such vital importance to the world. I whole-heartedly support this movement, after all, there are World Days for pretty much everything these days, so bees more than deserve to be recognised.

To mark this, I went on my own little ‘bee adventure’, following part of the Anton Janša Honey Route, which takes in Radovljica, Bled, Vrba, and Škofja Loka.

I began by visiting Janša’s beehive in Breznica which is part of the Žirovnica Path of Cultural Heritage that connects the birth places of many notable Slovenes including Dr. France Prešeren, Matija Čop, Franc Saleški Finžgar and Janez Jalen. More information here – http://bit.ly/1T26zxe

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As with the majority of hives in Slovenia, Jansa’s features original painted beehive panels, unique to Slovenia, each of which depicts a humorous or satirical story – this one shows animals taking over the role of humans.

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I also visited the Kralov med hives in the hamlet of Selo, near Bled, where beekeeper Blaž Ambrožič oozed enthusiasm when showing and telling me about the wonders of bees.

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I thought I knew a reasonable amount about beekeeping, however, Blaž told me so many astonishing facts about beekeeping that I can but recommend that you go and find out more for yourself! After all, it seems that barely a day passes when there isn’t more astonishing evidence about the importance of bees and the benefits of honey. It really is one of the best foods of nature as well as being credited with alleviating a range of medical conditions and lately has also become the latest trend in beauty products. You can also read about my recent experience of a bee sting facial here – http://bit.ly/1Spm1o2

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The star of the show at Kralov med is undoubtedly the hive that was painstakingly transplanted from a tree trunk and transported, bees and all, to where it sits today, and where the bees are still working diligently.

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As a measure of the calm characteristics of the Carniolan bee, Blaž encouraged me to put my hand inside the hive and the bees were completely unperturbed by my presence.

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I had a chance to try some of the honey and learn about the various characteristics and properties of the different kinds of honey and propolis.

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At the time of my visit a brand new hive had just been built which will also be available for apitherapy and visitors will even be able to sleep there, all the while inhaling the intoxicating scents of the bees, which is known to have beneficial effects, particularly for those suffering from respiratory diseases.

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Can you find out more about Kralov med here – http://www.kralov-med.si/en/home/

The Anton Janša route also includes:

  •  The Carniolan queen mating station in the Završnica valley
  • The Museum of Apiculture in Radovljica, which features, amongst other exhibits, hundreds of beehive front panels including the world’s oldest – http://www.radolca.si/en/radovljica-apiculture-museum/
  • The hamlets of Combe and Bitnje in Bohinj, where the internationally renowned bee merchant Jan Strgar kept his bees and who, together with Mihael Ambrožič, was responsible for the spread in popularity of the Carniolan bee

You can also visit the Beekeeping Education Centre of Gorenjska in Lescehttp://www.cricg.si/angleski-jezik/ and follow developments regarding the World Bee Day Initiative here – https://www.facebook.com/worldbeeday/?fref=ts

So, come on, let’s unite to support World Bee Day and Save the Bees!

© Adele in Slovenia

 

 

A Feast of Festivals in Radovljica

Linhart Square, named after the Slovenian playwright and historian Anton Tomaž Linhart, is the hub of Radovljica’s cultural scene. A whole host of events take place in the square throughout the year, including:

  • The annual Chocolate Festival – April
  • The International Ceramics Festival – May
  • Summer Music Evenings – June & July
  • The Early Music Festival – August
  • Medieval Days – August
  • Advent Market – December

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The Baroque Radovljica Mansion hosts concerts all year round, featuring national and international choirs, bands, and the very popular annual Early Music Festival, as well as being home to the Museum of Apiculture and the Municipal Museum.

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Šivec Houseivčeva hisa) stands out amongst the town houses and is regarded as one of the finest examples of medieval burgher architecture in the whole of Slovenia. The façade of the house is dominated by a 17th century fresco depicting the Creation of Eve.

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Šivec House is a bourgeois house from the middle of the 16th century of late Gothic architecture. After restoration in 1976 all of the houses’s original beauty was uncovered including the façade as well as the interior with a collonaded entrance hall, kitchen and granary, and, on the first floor, a representation of living quarters. Nowadays, this room, with its extraordinary ambiance, serves as a wedding hall, and the collonaded entrance hall houses as an art gallery.

The gallery on the ground floor hosts rotating exhibitions (on average 10 per year), whilst the upper floor houses a permanent collection of original illustrations and another room is used as a venue for civil wedding ceremonies.

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The next new exhibition, Modern German Ceramics, will open on 29th April, with the opening ceremony at 7pm, and run until 29th May.

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More details about Radovljica’s museums and the Šivec House Gallery, including opening times and admission prices, can be found here – http://mro.si/english/ and more about Radovljica here – http://www.radolca.si/en/

© AdeleinSlovenia 2016

Pivka: Pause, Ponder & Play

Just when I thought I had discovered most of the best that Slovenia has to offer, a short break spent in the Pivka area, part of Slovenia’s Green Karst region, has opened my eyes to a whole new world, ripe for exploring and perfect for lovers of the great outdoors.

So why the title ‘Pause, Ponder & Play’?

PAUSE – I, as I’m guessing countless others, am guilty of passing through Pivka en-route to Croatia. But, I urge you, don’t! There really is so much to see and do in this area, it deserves at least a few hours of your day, if not a few days, so, pause in Pivka!

PONDER – A visit to the Park of Military History is a must, where you can ponder and reflect on the action seen by all the tanks, aircraft, artillery and ammunition.

PLAY – There’s plenty to see and do for all the family. Visit or stay at a tourist farm, get outdoors – hiking, cycling, visit one of the numerous bunkers or caves, such as the Pivka cave, seen belowor, in the spring, one of the 17 intermittent lakes.

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Photo: Iztok Medja – http://www.slovenia.info/

 

I began my 2 day visit at the Ecomuseum of the Pivka Seasonal Lakes. This brand new museum acquaints visitors with the phenomena of the 17 Karst lakes which, after heavy rainfall, fill with water.

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There are a number of interactive exhibits, including an encounter with a bear! Speaking of which, bear watching is something that can also be arranged in the Pivka area.

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I visited the 2nd biggest of the lakes, Petelinsko jezero, and it was hard to imagine that within a month or so of my visit the water will have entirely disappeared, leaving just a flower-covered meadow.

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It was rather convenient that at the time of my visit, there just happened to be a private party, or rather the remains of one, taking place by the lake, and I was treated to champagne and chocolate-covered strawberries!

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My next stop was to visit the Park of Military History. I’ll hold my hands up and admit that, not being a particular fan of either museums or military history, I wasn’t expecting to be won over by it, however, how wrong I was, and it has now earnt its place as by far my favourite museum in Slovenia!

Immediately on approach the imposing renovated barracks impress. The barracks were built by the Kingdom of Italy around 1930 in order to defend the Rapallo border and were later home to the Yugoslav People’s Army. Since 2004 the museum has been developing and has now become the largest museum complex in Slovenia, as well as one of the largest military historical complexes in this part of Europe.

One of the highlights of my visit was undoubtedly the chance to go inside a submarine – a first for me! During the winter the submarine is housed indoors, then in late spring it is moved outdoors –  at 19 metres in length and weighing 76 tonnes thats no small feat. The P-913 Zeta submarine was gifted to the Park of Military History in 2011 from the Republic of Montenegro.

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Photo: Simon Avsec – http://www.slovenia.info/

If you opt for a guided tour of the park, which I recommend (for groups upon prior booking), you also have a chance to go inside the submarine.

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There is a huge collection of tanks and other military vehicles, aircraft and ammunition. Exhibitions include ‘The Armour of Freedom’ and ‘Partisan Tanks’, which includes Soviet tanks, such as the T-34/85 Soviet tank, one of the best known tanks of the Eastern front. The M47 Patton, the heaviest tank in the collection, consumes an incredible 700 litres of high-octane fuel per 100km. Environmentally-friendly it’s not!

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Housed in an entirely new building, there is an exhibition entitled ‘The Road to Independence’, which documents Slovenia’s road to independence. There are plenty of interactive exhibits and all exhibits are described in both Slovene and English.

The museum shop stocks a wide range of military souvenirs, clothing, equipment and other memorabilia.

You can find more information about the Park of Military History here http://parkvojaskezgodovine.si/en/ and watch this short video to see more.

You can also find more information about Pivka and the Green Karst area here http://zelenikras.si/en/ and watch this video.

© AdeleinSlovenia 2016

 

The Four Seasons of Spring!

Last week we really did have all the four seasons within the space of four days. It began with a few snowflakes on Wednesday morning, which later became heavy snowfall,  and certainly made a bit of a mockery of last week’s blog entitled ‘Spring in the Karavanke’. It’s now anything but spring in the Karavanke!

Though it had been forecast that it could snow in places at around the 700 metre level, Radovljica, where I live, is at 496m, so no-one, forecasters included, was quite expecting the snow to reach the valley – and certainly not so much of it – considering the previous week we had had temperatures in the twenties.

So this is what spring in the Karavanke now looks like!

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It wasn’t just in Gorenjska in the north-west of Slovenia either, it also snowed in other lower-lying regions of the country. I spent 2 days in Dolenjska, in the south-east, and it even snowed there too.

Hiking at the moment isn’t advisable as the late-spring snow is very wet and heavy, and has caused a lot of damage with branches and trees down, whilst the danger of avalanches is at level 4 – the highest level being 5. Instead however, those who are die-hard fans of winter and skiing once again took to the slopes as the Vogel ski resort re-opened for the extended holiday weekend.

On Saturday it was a return to temperatures of 18 degrees and the valley was bathed in sunshine and the Sava river at Radovljica was looking its sparkling best when I went for an early morning walk.

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However, it was a different matter when I got into the forest as I tried, and in places failed, to pick my way under and over fallen trees on the path up to Talež. It’s amazing the devastation just 24 hours of snow caused – more than in the whole of last winter.

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I was amazed and saddened at the number of fallen trees and branches, almost reminiscent of the damage caused by the glaze ice two winters ago, though, thankfully, nowhere near to that extent.

Some trees, such as this one below, had literally been torn apart under the weight of the heavy snow.

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It’s been over 20 years since there has been such heavy snowfall this late in the year, so this prompted me to try and uncover some historical snowy spring facts:

  • In 1907 40cm of snow fell on 29th April in Bohinjska Bistrica
  • In 1974 in Nomenj it snowed on the 10th of June
  • In 1985 it snowed on 3rd May
  • In 1988 it snowed on 24th April
  • The earliest snowfall of the year was recorded in 1972 on 11th September in Kotlje

Unfortunately it has also caused a huge amount of damage to crops and vines – in places its reported that up to 90% have been destroyed. This year’s honey production is also expected to be severely affected. Over one-third of honey produced in Slovenia is acacia honey, and a large number of the blooms have been destroyed. It’s all such a shame and another reminder of the equal wonders and cruelty of nature.

Roll on summer!!!

© Adele in Slovenia