Spas, Caves, Eats and Other Rainy (and Not So Rainy) Day Ideas!

Anyone visiting Slovenia in the last fortnight might be forgiven for thinking it rains here a lot! Please be reassured, however, that this much rain in June is not the norm. In the 9+ years I’ve been living here, I don’t think I can remember such a prolonged period of wet weather at this time of year. It really is turning out to be a strange year, weather-wise. After having very little snow during winter, we then had snow in late-April, and now, in the second-half of May and early June, it seems to be April! It’s been either raining torrentially or the clouds have been looming ominously, making it frustratingly difficult to go anywhere too far from home.

The good news is that it’s set to improve soon, just a couple more days of these storms then hot, dry weather is headed our way, yippee! In the meantime, I thought I’d share some of my ideas for how to spend rainy, as well as not so rainy, days in the Radovljica area and elsewhere in Slovenia.

VISIT A SPA

It doesn’t matter what the weather is doing outside if you are inside getting wet anyway! All of Slovenia’s thermal spas feature indoor and outdoor pools, saunas, jacuzzis and modern wellness facilities, offering something for all the family. You can read plenty more about spas and the facilities here and read some insider tips from me, here – https://spasinslovenia.com/

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DELVE INTO THE MAGICAL UNDERWORLD IN CAVES

A visit to one Slovenia’s caves, such as Postojna Caves or the UNESCO-listed Škocjan Caves, is ideal whatever the weather. There are over 9,000 caves in Slovenia, though only a small number of these are open to the public. The temperature in the caves is constant year-round so it really doesn’t matter if its snowing or there’s a heat-wave! All of the caves are fascinating and unique, and the current phenomena of the newly-hatched ‘baby dragons’ at Postojna Caves provides an additional reason to visit. Read more here – https://adeleinslovenia.com/2016/06/01/the-phenomenal-postojna-proteus-phenomena/

Underground river Pivka in Postojna Cave_photo Iztok Medja for Postojnska jama

VISIT, TASTE & DRINK RADOVLJICA

Rainy days always bring an influx of visitors to the Radovljica area as the small town packs in quite a few sights of interest. You can visit the Lectar Gingerbread Workshop, the Museum of Apiculture, the Šivec House Gallery, and the Beekeeping Education Centre of Gorenjska. More here – http://www.radolca.si/en/

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I don’t know about you, but this miserable weather makes me want to eat, eat, and then eat some more! The participating Taste Radol’ca restaurants all offer home-cooked, and locally sourced and produced food. Or why not visit the Sodček Wine Bar for a wine tasting session. More here – https://adeleinslovenia.com/taste-radolca/

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LISTEN TO SLOVENE FOLK MUSIC AT AVSENIK

Visit Avsenik in Begunje na Gorenjskem – home to the world-renowned legendary Avsenik music – a popular style of folk music. There are regular live events, festivals and workshops, and you can also visit the gallery and museum. More here – http://www.avsenik.com/en

TAKE IN SOME CULTURE AT SUMMER MUSEUM NIGHT

There are hundreds of museums and galleries in Slovenia and a lot of attention is placed on culture and cultural-related events and activities. Next Saturday, 18th June, is Summer Museum Night, when, from 6pm until midnight, museums and galleries throughout the country offer free entrance and host special events. More information here – http://www.tms.si/PMN/?page_id=67

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GO SHOPPING

Admittedly, I’m not a fan of shopping, particularly large shopping centres and especially when on holiday in a place where the great outdoors is so ‘great!’ So when I say ‘shopping’ I don’t mean traipsing round clothes shops, and getting hot, bothered and irritated in changing rooms (or is that just me?). Instead, when on holiday, I prefer to browse craft shops, visit local markets, buy and try local produce, and try to find unique buys. I particularly like foodie events such as Odprta Kuhna (Open Kitchen), which takes place every Friday (weather permitting) in Ljubljana. Closer to home at Vila Podvin in Mošnje a market takes place on the first Saturday of every month from 9am-noon, come rain or shine. You can meet local producers, buy food and non-food goods, and enjoy a delicious lunch cooked by one of Slovenia’s top chefs, Uroš Štefelin. More information here – http://www.vilapodvin.si/events

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I hope to have provided some ideas and inspiration, after all, the weather may mean some plans have to curtailed but there’s always plenty more to see and do until the next sunny day comes along!

© Adele in Slovenia

 

 

Perfume made with Slovene Honey? Not just an idea, a reality!

As a lover of all things sweet, though not a beekeeper myself, I consider myself a beekeeping enthusiast. So, when I read that Bostjan Noč, President of the Slovene Beekeeping Association, had just launched a perfume made with Slovene honey I buzzed straight over to visit and take a smell for myself!

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Fortunately I didn’t have far to go since the family-run Noč Beekeeping is in the hamlet of Selo, near Žirovnica, just a few kilometres from Radovljica. At the front of the family home there is a hive featuring 42 front panels painted with motifs from beneath Mt. Stol – the highest mountain in the Karavanke range. The interior of the hive is used as an outlet for selling honey and honey-related products.

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The family have been practising beekeeping for centuries and have over 400 hives spread across various locations in Slovenia.

The perfume ‘Medena Noč’ (med being the Slovene word for honey), is exclusive to Noč Beekeeping and is currently only available direct from them, thus enquiries or orders should be address to: parfum.noc@gmail.com

In future it is planned that the perfume will be available in other outlets, so I’ll provide an update on that here in due course.

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The scent is described as being reminiscent of “delicate flowers, warm early-summer evenings, with a subtle undertone of honey” and I wouldn’t disagree. It really lasts too, I could still smell it hours after my test spritz! In a blind ‘smelling’ I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have been able to identify honey as a key ingredient, as it’s not immediately obvious, but in a good way, as it means its not too sweet smelling and the combination of ingredients works.

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The painted front panels on this small hive are dedicated to the Slovene folk music legend, Slavko Avsenik, from nearby Begunje na Gorenjskem.

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And, of course, I couldn’t come away empty handed without some Slovene honey!

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More information about Noč Beekeeping can be found here (in Slovene only) – http://www.cebelarstvo-noc.si/default.asp

© 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

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

 

 

Culinary Radol’ca & a Festival(ful) Weekend

As I mentioned in last week’s blog, there were a lot of events going on this past weekend, and I had some difficulty choosing which to attend. In the end I managed to fit in 3 in one day, such is the benefit of living in a small country. The weather also contributed to my decision as when I awoke early on Saturday morning the skies were looking ominously gloomy and so I decided that a day out to the coast to visit the Sweet Istra Festival and to see some sunshine and sea would make a change. It was like mid-summer there, so I certainly achieved what I set out too and I even managed to also squeeze in visiting the Festival of Honey in Lesce, and Mošnje Days in Mošnje.

The Sweet Istra Festival (Sladka istra) takes place in Koper every September, and for lovers of all things sweet i.e. me, it makes a great day out. It’s held right next to the sea in the old town of Koper, home to Slovenia’s only port. There were cakes, chocolates and sweets of all shapes and sizes. Even, as seen below, a giant fish made out of chocolate being sculpted by Blaž Habjan in the Land of Chocolate, where I recognised many of the chocolatiers from Radovljica’s Chocolate Festival.

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There were typical Istran dishes such as this koruzni šmorn – a kind of shredded pancake made from corn flour.

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On my way back I stopped off at the Festival of Honey at the Beekeeping Centre in Lesce where there were stalls selling honey and beekeeping products, workshops for children, honey drinks, ice-cream and other dishes, and a chance to look around the centre and see the various equipment available for beekeepers for processing wax, bottling etc.

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I was particularly taken by these cute honey pots!

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My final port of call was to Mošnje where the Mošnje Days event was taking place. There was an open-day at the village museum, locally produced food, stilt walkers, and much merriment. I arrived rather late after my long day out but fortunately there was still a little food left in the pot!

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Tourism Radol’ca have produced a new culinary guide to the Radol’ca area which includes details of all the restaurants that are part of Taste Radol’ca, and since the focus is on local food, the guide also include details of local suppliers. Additionally, the chefs have divulged recipes for some of their favourites dishes so you can try making them at home.

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Take a look at the brochure here – http://issuu.com/turizemradovljica/docs/kulinaricna_brosura_radolca