Discovering the Taste(s) of Žirovnica – Gostišče Osvald

Regular readers of my blog will know that I have written numerous posts about the fantastic hiking opportunities the Žirovnica area offers, among them an ascent of Stol, the highest mountain in the Karavanke range. And now, since all hungry hikers (as well as cyclists and those pursuing other active pursuits) need plenty of sustenance and a ‘reward’ for their efforts, I have now set about delving more deeply into what is on offer at Žirovnica’s restaurants and inns – all in the name of research, of course!

So, let’s begin with a popular and traditional Slovenian restaurant – Gostišče Osvald, which is located on the main road through Žirovnica in the hamlet of Selo pri Žirovnici and is the oldest restaurant in the area.

One of my desires when writing such blogs is to try and uncover and share with readers any particular dishes that are a real speciality of a particular restaurant or area. Hence I left it to owner Anže to dish me up his specialties!

I hit gold with this giant buckwheat ‘krap’! ‘Krapi’ are usually smaller, individual dumplings, filled with curd cheese. This giant one, however, has a small amount of yeast mixed into the buckwheat dough to allow it to rise, is filled with a mixture of curd cheese and millet, and topped with pork crackling – ingenious and delicious!

Another speciality of the Žirovnica area is buckwheat with porcini mushrooms. It’s not dissimilar to a mushroom risotto, albeit it with grains of buckwheat instead of rice, with onion, herbs and sour cream to finish. It can be a hearty and filling dish on its own or a side dish.

Served together with a roast, I left fit to burst!

Anže then showed me around the other parts of the deceptively large building, which features two additional rooms for functions.

The restaurant was built in the mid-19th century. In bygone days there was a barn next door for the horses of horsemen who stopped in Selo pri Žirovnici on their onward travels and stayed in rooms above the barn.

Today you too can stay there – though above the restaurant rather than in the barn! – in the recently refurbished attic rooms, which are simple but make a bargain place to stay and ideal base for exploring the area.

Gostišče Osvald is in close proximity to Čopova hisa (Čop’s House), the birth house of Matija Čop, the first Slovenian philologist, literary historian and librarian, one of the greatest European scholars of his time and a good friend and mentor of France Prešeren.

His birth house is now also home to the Žirovnica Tourist Information Centre as well as the Ajdna Museum Room, featuring an exhibition of artefacts found during archeological excavations at Ajdna. Read more about hiking to Ajdna in one of my previous blog posts.

Also close by is the Avenue of Famous Men, located in front of the primary school in Žirovnica, and part of the Žirovnica Path of Cultural Heritage. You can take a horse and cart ride along the path every fourth Saturday in the month from March to October.

The ‘avenue’ features bust statues of five of the most famous and influential men from the Žirovnica area –Anton Janša, France Prešeren, Fran Saleški Finžgar, Janez Jalen and Matija Čop.

Click here for more information about what to see and do in Žirovnica and here for more about what, and where, to taste Žirovnica, and keep an eye out for more ‘tasty’ blogs to come too!

© Adele in Slovenia

Hurry on Down to Chocolate Heaven at the 8th Radovljica Chocolate Festival!

The 8th Radovljica Chocolate Festival is GO and even the current rather gloomy skies and chilly temperatures won’t stop the chocolate fun!

The festival, which is Slovenia’s biggest and best chocolate-related event, features a packed entertainment programme and, of course, chocolate of every size, shape and flavour imaginable. It all takes places in the beautiful setting of Radovljica’s historic old town centre, as well as in the town park and other locations – all of which are within easy walking distance.

The festival kicked off today at 1pm and will continue until 8pm, and thereafter continues for the whole weekend (Saturday 9am-8pm, Sunday 9am-7pm), so there’s plenty of time to get your fill of chocolate! Take a look at the festival video, featuring some of the highlights of last year’s festival, which is bound to get your mouth watering!

Below are just some of the highlights of the choc-packed programme, with something for all the family – even for those who possibly don’t like chocolate – including big name concerts, workshops, cookery shows, cookery workshops, and more!

Click here for the full 3-day festival programme.

Saturday’s highlights include:

10am–6pm: House of Experiments: Make your own bar of chocolate – from bean to bar

10am: Three Chefs’ Cookery Show: Uroš Štefelin, Igor Jagodic, Jorg Zupan

10am, 12noon, 4pm, 6pm: Rainbow cake pops, cookery workshop for children

11am–5pm: Villach Oldtimer Club, exhibition of classic cars

1pm–4pm: Sašo Avsenik Ensemble

4pm: Fashion Show

5pm: Suhu cvetje – concert

6pm: 101- ka Band – concert

Also don’t miss a chance to see the vintage steam train arrive in Radovljica on Saturday bringing passengers to the festival. It’s a sight and sound to be seen and heard!

While on Sunday some of the treats awaiting you include:

10am–5pm: House of Experiments: Make your own bar of chocolate – from bean to bar

10am, 12noon, 2pm, 4pm, 6pm: Smiley Biscuits, cookery workshop for children

12noon: Pohorje Express – concert

2pm: Nipke – concert

3pm: Help! Beatles Tribute Band – concert

4pm–6pm: Circus workshops with Čupakabra

5pm / Joške vn – concert

In addition, throughout the festival you can try your hand at chocolate bingo, have a go on the pumptrack course for bikes and scooters, shoot some arrows at the archery corner, zip across a zip wire, and find out about the new Radovljica Beekeeping Adventure (more about that to come soon!).

Though the weather isn’t as glorious as could be hoped, the majority of the festival locations and events are in marquees so the show goes on – come rain or shine! So, come on down and join in the chocolate fun. There’s still time, I haven’t eaten all the chocolate – yet!

© Adele in Slovenia

The Poignant Past + Delicious Present in Tržič: Mauthausen and Gostišče Karavla

The tranquil St. Ana valley is squeezed between the Karavanke mountains along the road leading from Tržič to the Ljubelj pass. The valley was named after St. Anne’s church, which can be seen nestled beneath the mountains shortly before reaching the top of the windy road.

The valley has a particularly poignant past, as it was the location of a former World War II Mauthausen concentration camp, also known as the Ljubelj Labour Camp, the remains of which can still be seen today at the preserved and protected cultural site. It was the only World War II camp of its kind in Slovenia.

The concentration camp, which was a branch of the Mauthausen Nazi camp, was established during the time of the construction of the Ljubelj tunnel on the strategically important road between the then Nazi Germany and the southern occupied territories.

Today the remains have been arranged into a memorial park.

Though its not the usual type of tourist attraction, those interested in history, as well as anyone with a sense of respect for the past – myself included – can’t fail to be moved and feel somewhat poignant when strolling through the camp mindful of the dreadful atrocities that took place there.

The first 330 political internees were brought to the camp on 3rd June 1943, and the camp closed on 7th May 1945. There was a maximum of 1,300 internees, the majority were French, whilst there were also Poles, Yugoslavs, Italians, Czechs, Jews, Norwegians, Belgians, and Greeks, among others, the majority of which met their death while interned at the camp.

Click here to take a virtual walk through the camp.

On the opposite side of the road there is a monument with commemorative plaques giving more information (in various languages, though not in English).

From the Mathausen camp you can see a building on the opposite side of the road almost hidden in the forest. This is Gostišče Karavla (formerly known as Gostišče Koren), which I must admit to having overlooked on previous visits to the area.

However, following my recent visit I can attest that a meal here is a ‘must’ – thanks to both the fantastic food and the exceptionally friendly team – and I highly recommend rewarding yourself after a sightseeing visit to the area, or after a hike, bike ride or, in winter, a ski tour, or just ‘because you’re worth it!’

The menu is varied, with a focus on game and Angus steaks, though there are also plenty of other traditional Slovenian dishes and numerous options for vegetarians too.

As the focus is on game, I just had to try the wild boar with cranberries, which is served with homemade curd cheese štruklji, and the black Angus steak was cooked to perfection and ‘melt-in-the-mouth’ delicious!

And although, for a change(!) it was ‘dinner-a-deux’…

…the dessert – the house speciality buckwheat sponge with hot cranberries and cream – was mine, all mine!

Click here to find out more about all this and all the other attractions in the Trzic area, and here to read my previous post about hiking and other activities at Zelenica and Ljubelj.

© Adele in Slovenia