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

Lovely Little Ljubno and the Brezje Pilgrimage Trail

The village of Ljubno might be small but its numerous beautifully frescoed houses and ‘miraculous’ church are a real feast for the eyes!

When driving along the Gorenjska motorway from east to west, just before reaching the Ljubno tunnel, to the left you can see the village and its closely-packed houses. However, its not until you get up close and take a walk among the houses, that you get a true sense of this small village.

Ljubno was once a centre of pottery in the Gorensjka region. Today you can find out more about the tradition and see examples of Ljubno pottery at the Manufaktura pottery shop and workshop in Radovljica’s old town centrehttps://adeleinslovenia.com/2019/01/05/manufaktura-a-new-year-and-a-new-addition-to-radovljicas-linhart-square/.

There is an interesting story of how Ljubno was transformed into an important pilgrimage place in the 17th century. During renovation of Ljubno’s village church – the Church of Mary Help of Christians, also known as the Church of the ‘Stricken’ Mary – a builder struck the statue of Mary and blood poured out of the ‘wound’ and wouldn’t stop. The story quickly became known throughout the land and attracted ever more pilgrims. Today it is not as popular as nearby Brezje, however, when in the area, it is still worth a visit.

A visit to Ljubno can be an extension of a walk along the Brezje Pilgrimage Trail (Božja pot), which today runs along the once most commonly used pilgrimage trail from Otoče to the Basilica of Mary Help of Christians in Brezje. There is an information board (in Slovene) about the trail adjacent to the church.

The path in Otoče begins at the railway station, hence making it ideal for those reliant on public transport.

Immediately on leaving the station you will find the first information board about the trail (in Slovene).

First walk along the village road to the junction with the main road and turn left. After just a few metres you can choose to follow the marked path to make a detour to Ljubno, or take the direct route to Brezje. If you opt for the latter, which is cca. 5kms one-way, continue along the verge of the road for a further cca. 5 mins until you reach the shrine of St. John of Nepomuk (kapelica sv. Janeza Nepomuka).

After crossing the bridge over a stream take the wooden steps to the right of another shrine that lead up steeply on a forest path.

On emerging from the forest head towards the underpass under the motorway. Shortly thereafter you will see the sign for the village of Brezje. Follow the road up a short incline into the village and then just ‘follow your nose’ to the basilica, you can’t exactly miss it!

In 1988 the then Church of St. Vitus was elevated to the status of minor basilica by Pope John Paul II, who also visited in 1996. The basilica has become a popular pilgrimage destination to where people flock from all over Slovenia and further afield, too, particularly on Assumption Day, which is celebrated on 15th August and is a public holiday in Slovenia.

Whilst there you can also visit the Nativity Museum, which is located just behind the basilica and contains almost 400 nativity scenes from all over the world. Read more in a previous post here – https://adeleinslovenia.com/2017/12/10/feel-the-festive-spirit-at-the-nativity-museum-at-slovenias-national-shrine-in-brezje/

Opposite the basilica there is a small park where you can sit in peace and admire the basilica, read the information boards about Brezje’s history, and soak up the views of the surrounding countryside and mountains.

You don’t need to be a pilgrim, or even to be particularly religious, to enjoy a walk along the trail; it’s just one of the many attractions in the Radol’ca area. Click here to see even more, oh and by the way, if you happen to be in the area in April, or are planning a visit and are pondering when to come, don’t miss the Radovljica Chocolate Festival from 12th-14th April, about which I will, of course, be writing (and eating!) more soon!

© Adele in Slovenia

Discover Tržič and the Three Bells Trail

From time-to-time, when not dashing up and down hills and mountains, and especially at this time of year when many of the paths at higher altitudes are treacherous due to snow and, particularly, ice, I find that an easier, flatter walk such as the Three Bells Trail (in Slovene: Pot treh zvonov) is the perfect choice!

The mainly flat trail leads along quiet traffic-free country lanes and paths and through the Udin boršt woods and offers numerous beautiful viewpoints and places to rest and enjoy the sights and sounds of nature along the way.

Since the trail is circular, you can start anywhere really; I chose to begin in the village of Sebenje where there is an information board about the trail.

The trail is well marked throughout so once you find the first sign showing three green bells, you can just follow them and can’t really go wrong. However, if you want more information and like having a map in hand, then you can pick up a copy of the trail brochure at the Tržič Tourist Information Centre or download the brochure here.

Set off towards the newly renovated ski jump centre in Sebenje (in Slovene: skakalni center).

Then after a short while the tarmac road becomes a gravel path as you enter the Udin boršt woods where you will find the first of 2 trim trails along the way – ideal for a warm-up before heading onward!

After leaving the woods the trail leads in the direction of the village of Senično, from where there are wonderful views of Kriška gora (1471m), with its highest point Tolsti vrh (1715m), and neighbouring Storžič (2132m).

Before reaching the village, the trail turns right, passes a parachuting practice area, then leads to the hamlet of Novake.

Soon you reach one of the three small bells (the first, second or third depending on where you start the trail!).

Shortly after the trail re-enters the woods, where it leads gently uphill, before reaching the next bell and a pleasant rest area.

Shortly before exiting the woods you pass another trim trail – another chance for some extra fitness!

Then, you emerge into the village of Žiganja vas, whose inhabitants came up with the idea for the Three Bells Trail at the time when three bells where being replaced in the village church.

On a clear day, there are far-reaching views from one side of the Julian Alps, all the way to Triglav

…and on the other towards the Karavanke mountains that form a natural border between Slovenia and Austria.

In the centre of Žiganja vas, adjacent to St. Ulrich’s church, stands the giant village linden tree, which is so huge, and in places hollow, you can actually go inside it – and who could resist such an opportunity!

The trail then returns back to Sebenje completing the 9km-long circular route. Much of the route is also suitable for cycling (mountain or trekking bike). You should allow around 2 hours, more if you make frequent stops, and it is a truly pleasant way to while away a sunny winter’s afternoon!

You can find out more about the other walking and hiking trails in the Tržič area here, and, of course, stay tuned to my blog for more ideas and inspiration to come too!

© Adele in Slovenia

 

 

Test Your Skiing Skills at the Elan Alpine Skiing Museum!

The Radol’ca area is synonymous with Elan – the world-famous producer of skis, and now you can find out more about the company’s history and innovative products whilst enjoying some interactive fun at the new Elan Alpine Skiing Museum.

The museum is located at the company’s production unit in Begunje na Gorenjskem, just a short distance from Radovljica. It was opened in 2018 by the legendary Swedish skier Ingemar Stenmark, who competed using Elan skis throughout his entire career. The first pair of skis on which Stenmark competed in World Cup races is among the museum’s exhibits.

Elan was established in 1945 upon the initiative of the ski jumper and ski maker Rudi Finžgar (1920-1955) who in 1941, despite being young and inexperienced, became the first Slovenian ski jumper to jump over 100 metres. The company quickly became known for its innovative and trend-setting designs.

The museum showcases Elan’s 70-year history and its sources of inspiration for the future,

There are also exhibits showing some of the achievements of the company’s other divisions, including boats, aeroplanes, sports equipment and wind turbines.

The exhibits are spread over two floors in the small museum. Upstairs you can get a glimpse into a workshop…

…test your balance on skis and a snowboard – not as easy as it looks…

…and there is a chance to test your skills and get interactive on the ski simulator. Needless to say, I didn’t score top marks but it was fun having a go nonetheless and a pretty good workout too!

The museum is open Tuesdays – Saturdays from 10am-6pm and offers a great experience for all the family, even for non-skiers like me!

Adjoining the museum is the Elan Sports Shop, which is crammed with sports apparel, both Elan’s own-brand products and other brand names, which you can access from outside or alternatively once you make it past the finish line!

Whilst in the area you can also visit the many other numerous attractions and sights of interest in the village of Begunje na Gorenjskem and its surroundings, among them Kamen Castle, the Avsenik Museum, Katzenstein Mansion and the Museum of Hostages and two Taste Radol’ca restaurantsGostišče Draga and Gostilna Pr’Tavčar. If you want to get active then you can take a walk on the St. Peter’s Trail, the Begunje Village Trail or visit the Draga Valley from where you can set off on hikes in the Karavanke mountains.

© Adele in Slovenia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

© Adele in Slovenia

 

Manufaktura: A New Year and a New Addition to Radovljica’s Linhart Square

Linhart Square is the compact, quaint heart of Radovljica’s historic old town. As of today, in addition to the numerous frescoed bourgeois houses, the gothic St. Peter’s church, and the magnificent Radovljica Mansion, the square has become even richer for the opening of the new Manufaktura ceramics shop and workshop.

As well as being a very welcome addition to the old town, Manufaktura has an important story of heritage; the building was originally bought by the Magušar family’s great grandfather 150 years ago, and the ceramics and owners of Keramika, Oli and Urban Magušar, assisted by their son Jeron, have now repurchased, renovated and brought it back to life.

Oli talked me through the photos of their ancestors; a wonderful tale and a wonderful addition to Linhart Square.

Personally I’m delighted to see such an opening, since many of Slovenia’s historic old town centres have fallen victim of the large, out-of-town, generic shopping centres, which are dominated by the same chain stores wherever you go. Slovenia already has the highest number of shops per head in Europe (if not further afield too!), yet more ghastly shopping centres are still springing up at a rate of knots and, unfortunately, Radovljica is not immune to this either, with a new shopping centre currently being developed at the entrance to the town.

I’m so anti these kinds of developments, especially when there are already way too many shops for the population of 2 million; shopping seems to have become a national obsession, sadly. Hence, shops such as Manufaktura really do play an important part in maintaining Slovenia’s heritage and traditions, and we must support them by buying locally to ensure they can be sustained. And judging from the crowds at today’s opening, it seems I’m not alone in my delight and enthusiasm!

The building features an area where traditional Magušar bowls and other handmade ceramics and accessories can be bought, including the new range of mini replicas of the houses in Radovljica’s old town centre, which adorned the Christmas tree this year in Radovljica Mansion and which make great souvenirs.

Part of the room has been allocated to enable visitors to watch the ceramists at work.

The other room, with its beautiful tiled floor, has a display of 150 different kinds of clay and their properties, various implements, and there are plans for a museum too.

Manufaktura is open on Mondays-Fridays from 10am-1pm and 2pm-4pm, on Wednesdays until 7pm, as well as on the first Saturday of the month. A website is coming but for now, should you want further information, you can contact them through the Glinca Facebook page or, of course, drop into the shop itself!

Among the other main highlights of Radovljica’s old town centre is the Lectar Honeybread Museum and Workshop, which is located in the cellar of Gostilna Lectar, a family-run restaurant and guest house with a tradition dating back to 1766.

The Šivec House Gallery, which is the place to be for all art lovers. One part of the gallery is dedicated to a permanent exhibition of original illustrations, whilst the other hosts monthly exhibitions by fine Slovenian and foreign artists, and upstairs there is a room used for civil wedding ceremonies. The building itself it also notable for its exterior fresco and the unusual layout and architecture of its preserved interior.

Photo: Miran Kambič

And the Museum of Apiculture, housed in the Radovljica Mansion, houses Slovenia’s largest collection of painted beehives front panels, including the oldest known in the world. Each of the painted panels tells a folk story.

So, take time for a linger through Linhart Square, admire the magnificent buildings, and treat yourself or your loved ones to some handmade Slovenian products and/or souvenirs, all in the knowledge that you are helping to support local heritage and traditions and, maybe, hopefully, together we can help to keep those chain stores away from our precious historic towns!

© Adele in Slovenia

 

(Re)Discover Tržič with Adele in Slovenia!

So, the new year is here and with it, in addition to my regular blogs about Radovljica and Žirovnica, this year I will be exploring another destination for you ; this time I’m turning my attention to Tržič – the dragon’s town!

I’m already quite familiar with the Tržič area, as I LOVE hiking its many fantastic trails, and I’m so excited to now have the chance to delve even deeper into the wealth of natural and historical attractions in the area and to share them with you.

Whilst Tržič might not be an obvious choice for many, the town and its surroundings has a fascinating past and is worth adding to your list of places to visit whilst in Slovenia. Since I know that also a significant percentage of readers of my blog are locals, I hope that, through my blog posts, you too will take the time to (re)discover Tržič; yes, its heyday has been and gone, but it still has a wealth of sights and attractions to offer to each and everyone who takes time to discover it.

The obvious place to start is in the historic old town centre.

At the entrance to the old town centre you can see the last remaining original ‘firbec okenwindow – a window for the inquisitive, or rather, putting it less politely, the nosy!

The bottom of the window protrudes, thus allowing those looking from the window to be able to look directly out and down at those below them – though I can be seen here doing the exact opposite!

Just opposite the window you will find footprints affixed to the ground, which you can follow around the town on the Traces of Industry Trail, which leads to the main sights of interest in and around the old town.

In addition to the window, you can see Kurnik House – the birthplace of the poet Vojteh Kurnik; one of the rooms is devoted to his life and work. The building is an exceptional example of Tržič’s architectural heritage.

And the Germovka forge – the best preserved of its kind in the area.

Although If I’m honest I wasn’t really expecting much of the Tržič Museum, it actually turned out to be the highlight of my recent visit to the old town. Hence, I stand corrected since, following a complete renovation of its museum collections, it is now well up there with some of the best museums in the country. I came away enthusiastically singing its praises to anyone who cares to listen locally and now to you, dear readers, too!

The museum is housed in Pollak’s Mansion (Pollakova kajža), which dates from 1811.

So, it was time to put my best foot forward and discover the inside!

The museum’s numerous collections take you through Tržič’s historic industries including shoemaking, leather, crafts, trade, winter sports, local history, and art.

I particularly liked the fact that so many of the exhibits are interactive, thus making a visit far more interesting and enjoyable, whilst also helping to keep any little ones you have in tow entertained.

The building is also home to the newly-renovated Slovenian Skiing Museum with it’s new ‘Let’s Ski’ exhibition.

So, I hope you will join me in discovering more of Tržič’s history and the area’s myriad hiking and cycling trails, culture, legends, traditional food and more – it promises to be a revelation and adventure for us all!

© Adele in Slovenia

 

Christmas in Slovenia – Festive Radol’ca 2018

The festive season is upon us and Radovljica’s cute old town centre is looking postcard-pretty. But don’t just take my word for it, take a look at the video below to see more, and/or come and see it for yourself!

The switching-on of the Christmas lights took place yesterday in Radovljica’s Linhart Square, together with a St. Nicholas market and the closing event of this year’s Taste Radol’ca.

The old town centre was packed full of people eagerly awaiting the official start of the festive season. The mayor invited some of the younger among the spectators to help him switch on the lights.

And the street food offered by Taste Radol’ca restaurants proved to be a hit too!

Take a look at the December in Radovljica event calendar to see all the events taking place throughout the festive period.

There’s something for all the family including an Advent Market and numerous entertainers and performers in Linhart Square, among them fairytale horses and dogs, the excellent Ana Snežna street theatre, the Čupakabra stilt walkers, Grandfather Frost, young dancers of ballet and other contemporary dances, orchestras featuring pupils from Radovljica Music School, storytellers, shows and workshops for children, and more!

Radovljica’s ice rink officially opened on Friday and will be open throughout the winter from 3pm-6pm midweek and from 10am-6pm at weekends, school holidays and public holidays.

Admission for children with their own skates is FREE, while the price is just €2 for adults. Skate hire is available and You can warm up after skating with hot tea and mulled wine from the friendly team at Kofler Sports, who also offer skating courses for beginners (like me!).

A great way to find out more about Radovljica and see more of its attractions is on the family ‘Find Grandfather Frost’s Postbox‘ orientation adventure. Drop by the Radovljica Tourist Information Centre to pick up a copy of the instruction leaflet then follow the coloured arrows to various points in the old town centre and nearby park.

At each interactive point take an interesting, funny and original photograph with your nearest and dearest, and, if you share your photo on the Facebook page of Radovljica’s Tourist Information Centre@Visit Radol’ca – you could be in with the chance of winning a prize.

Tis the season to be jolly, so come on down and join the festive fun!

To end, albeit a bit early, Merry Christmas to one and all from me!

© Adele in Slovenia