The Karavanke Mountains – Majestic Mt. Begunščica

At 2060m, Begunščica is amongst the highest mountains in the Karavanke range, and a favourite destination among locals and those looking for a moderately challenging and very scenic hike.

The approximately 120-kilometre-long Karavanke mountain range forms a natural border between Slovenia, to the south, and Austria, to the north. Thus, in late-spring it’s not uncommon for there to be snow on the northern facing slopes of the Karavanke, whilst it’s green on the sunny Slovenian side!

Green and sunny to the south, snowy to the north!

There are several ways to reach the summit; the most popular among them is to start from the Draga Valley in Begunje na Gorenjskem. If coming from Radovljica, drive through the village and continue in the direction of Tržič, then on the left you will see the road towards the valley. The valley is a popular starting point for hikes in the Karavanke range. The routes are well-marked and signposts show approximate walking times.

I recommend taking time to stop in the village of Begunje na Gorenjskem to have a stroll around the park, and also at the entrance to the Draga Valley to see the ruins of Kamen Castle.

Continue to the end of the valley to the parking area and from there you set off on foot. You can choose to either go via Preval on the first part of the Shepherd’s Trail, which is the more direct, short, but steeper route, or hike first up to the Roblekov dom mountain hut (1657m), where you can stop for refreshments either on the way up or down – or of course both ways! You can find more information about the Shepherd’s Trail here – http://www.radolca.si/en/shepherds-trail-begunje/

Looking down on the Preval mountain hut on the path up towards Begunščica

If you choose the route to Preval, it takes a good hour from the valley to reach the Koča na Prevalu mountain hut, again an optional break for refreshments here – then prepare yourself for the very steep path directly up to the summit. Here you leave the Shepherd’s Trail and take the marked path to Begunščica which, at times, can feel like an almost vertical ascent. However, apart from one small rocky section, it isn’t overly exposed and is manageable for competent and experienced hikers.

As you approach the summit you can’t fail to notice the ‘carpet’ of sheep droppings from the sheep that are taken to graze on the slopes of Begunščica during summer! I always wonder how on earth so few sheep manage to produce so many droppings! At the summit there is an orientation table which provides assistance when you are gobsmacked by the stunning views and don’t know where to look first!

Personally I prefer to do the hike in the direction as I have described it: Draga – Preval – Begunščica – Roblek – Draga, as the descent from the summit to Roblek is easier and more ‘knee-friendly’ than the steep path from the summit down to Preval. I also like doing it this way as it makes it an entirely circular route.

The path from the summit down towards the Roblekov dom hut

Whilst there is no hut at the summit, there’s no shortage of huts to visit; in addition to the aforementioned Koča na Prevalu and Roblekov dom huts, there is also the Tomčeva koča hut (1180m) on the Poljška Planina highland and the hut on the Planina Planinca highland (1136m), both of which are found at approximately the halfway point between the Draga Valley and the Roblekov dom hut.

The hut on the Planina Planinca highland

You can find out more about this and other hiking routes nearby on the Tourism Radol’ca website here – http://www.radolca.si/en/hiking/

© Adele in Slovenia

Active and Historic Loka: The Škofja Loka Cycle Route

I’m really enjoying getting to better know the Škofja Loka area this year. So far I’ve done most of my discovering on foot, so this time I set off by bike to discover part of the Škofja Loka Cycle Route. The route is divided into 13 sections and covers a total area of 390km. There is something to suit all levels and kinds of cyclist; some of the routes are shorter and easier, others longer and more demanding.

You can rest assured that whichever route you take, you will cycle through unspoilt nature, past numerous sights of interest, soak up the great views, enjoy fresh, clean air, and take a breather for refreshments at tourist farms and other refreshment stops. The hardest part is deciding which of the great routes to take! A ride through the historic old town centre is the obvious place to start, and a must!

Luckily I didn’t have to make the tough choice about where to go as I had a fab guide – Matej Hartman – who runs mountain bike tours in Slovenia as well as abroad. I really recommend hiring a guide, particularly when cycling in an area you are not so familiar with. Instead of having to faff about with maps and lose precious time, riding with Matej I was able to focus on enjoying the ride whilst taking in the views and listening to his wealth of insider knowledge about the area. Oh and the fact that he also happens to be a dab hand with a camera was an added bonus. Thanks Matej! You can find out more about Matej and his mountain bikes tours on the website MahMTB.com here – http://mahmtb.com/

If you plan to cycle multiple sections of the route, your first port of call should be the Škofja Loka Tourist Information Centre, where you can pick up a map and a card on which you can collect stamps at the various control points along the route. Bikes can also be hired at the centre, trekking or mountain bikes, and decent ones too – mine was a Scott!

With only a few hours available for our trip, we agreed on taking some of the routes around the outskirts of the town, through Puštal, across the Sorica fields and to Crngrob. One of the highlights was seeing Škofja Loka Castle from an entirely different perspective – from Hribec, part of the Path to Puštal. Stunning, I’m sure you’ll agree!

We crossed fields, meadows and pastures, and Matej led me to hidden beauty spots in the cool of the forest.

We crossed numerous bridges over the crystal clear Sora river.

And visited Crngrob, home to the Church of the Annunciation, which is known for its treasured frescoes. The pilgrimage church has a fresco of Saint Christopher with Jesus on his shoulder on the front façade, whilst in the shelter of the neo-gothic porch on the facade, the fresco of Holy Sunday can be seen. This originates from the middle of the 15th century and shows tasks which were at the time prohibited on Sundays.

More information about the Škofja Loka Cycle Route can be found on the Visit Škofja Loka website here – http://www.visitskofjaloka.si/en/experiences/active-breaks/cycling

If you, like me, like running, then the Four Bridges Night Run, is for you! It is one of the most popular running events in Slovenia and takes place this year on 17th June. As the name suggests, the 10km route crosses four bridges and runs through the historic old town and around the picturesque town of Škofja Loka and over the Sora river. The main event begins at 9pm with children’s runs taking place earlier and even a pasta party the night before the race! More information about the route and race registration can be found here – http://www.tekstirihmostov.si/razpis-t4m-2016/?lang=en

Another ‘Don’t miss’ event, and one that I won’t be missing is the Škofja Loka Historial (Festival of History), which this year will take place on Saturday 23rd June. There is a jam-packed programme of events with something for all the family. The full programme can be found here – http://www.historial-skofjaloka.si/home.aspx

Just one more reminder of my trip to round off this scenic cycling blog!

© Adele in Slovenia

The Pri Andrejevih Tourist Farm: Fab Food, Family and Fortifications!

Staying at a tourist farm offers a unique experience in every sense. Each of them are different – some of them are working farms with vast with acres of land, others small, simple but homely. Whatever the size and the facilities on offer, you can be sure of a friendly welcome at family-run tourist farms with copious helpings of home-made and home-produced food.

There are over 800 tourist farms in Slovenia spread through the country, so deciding where to stay can be a minefield.

I’ve visited quite a few in my 10 years of living here and, of those that I’ve visited so far, Pri Andrejevih in the village of Narin, stands out.

The village of Narin is situated midway between Pivka and Ilirska Bistrica and is ideally located for exploring all the area has to offer. In this previous blog, you can read much more about what to do and see in Pivka including the Park of Military History, which is well worth a visit – http://wp.me/p3005k-1w8

The family-run Pri Andrejevih farm comprises a working farm, where organic farming is practiced, simple, well-appointed rooms in the upper part of the house, an outdoor swimming pool, and great Slovene home-cooked food, which is available for guests or, upon prior arrangement, also for day visitors.

Immediately upon arrival, I couldn’t help but notice the imposing church on a hill directly above the farm, and I couldn’t wait to set off to explore it!

The church is located in the small settlement of Šilentabor, which, though there is nothing left today to suggest so, was once the largest fortification complex in Slovenia. You can reach the settlement on an easy path which is part of the Circular Trail of Military History which runs almost past the door of the Pri Andrejevih farm.

From the farm you cross the railway line – observing the stop sign, of course!

Then, just keep following the green signs! Here the path leads up to Šilentabor, or you can continue on the circular path.

You pass the family’s pastures where their horses graze.

Once there the views over the entire Green Karst area are breathtaking, so much so you may need to take a lie down!

From the viewpoint continue past the bear (!) onwards towards the church. Shortly before reaching the church the return route to Narin leads down to the left, but it’s worth making the extra few minutes detour to St. Martin’s church.

It takes about 1.5 hours for the route from Narin to Šilentabor and back, or, for the entire 11.3km circular path allow 3-4 hours.

Of course, by now, hunger had set in and it was time for a delicious dinner, which I had been looking forward to ever since my previous visit to Pri Andrejevih, as they cook and serve the most natural and delicious food – simplicity at its best.

They also produce and sell their own honey, vinegar, juices and fruit liqueurs.

When not out walking and exploring, there’s a chance to relax in the farm’s outdoor swimming pool and to ‘get to know’ the family pets.

Then watch the sun setting from the terrace. A perfect end to a perfect day!

After a good night’s rest and more farm products at breakfast, I set off on another day of exploration of the Green Karst, about which you can read here – https://adeleinslovenia.com/2017/05/07/sneznik-and-slivnica-witches-and-castles-in-the-karst/

Find more details about the Pri Andrejevih Tourist Farm here – http://www.andrejevi.com/ and about the Green Karst region here – http://zelenikras.si/en/

© Adele in Slovenia

http://www.andrejevi.com/