Tasting Radol’ca for You!

It may only be the 4th of November, i.e. the start of the Month of Taste Radol’ca, but I’ve already managed to wolf down, or rather ‘savour’, three delicious Taste Radol’ca meals. And all this hardship is in the name of blogging – just for you! Oh dear, I fear it’s going to be a calorific month ahead!

In addition to the opening dinner last Friday at Joštov hram, this week I also enjoyed Taste Radol’ca meals at Gostišče Draga in the Draga valley in Begunje na Gorenjskem and Gostišče Tulipan in Lesce.

Gostišče Draga never disappoints, be it for a mid-week meal, Sunday lunch, a special occasion, or a Taste Radol’ca meal. In the years that I have been living in Radovljica, this restaurant has gone from strength-to-strength, and continues to do so.

Much of what chef and owner Aleš Tavčar magics up in the kitchen comes from the family farm, so you really know you are getting locally produced food. What they can’t source themselves, they get from local suppliers.

My partner in dine (see what I did there?!) for the evening was Radol’ca’s award-winning beekeeper, Erik Luznar, whose honey can be found in two of the dishes on the Taste Radol’ca menu, so it’s only fitting that he got a chance to try them too!

The family-run Gostišče Tulipan in Lesce has long been a staple among locals. Thanks to its numerous rooms and thus large capacity, it is a particularly popular place to hold various celebrations, but is also just as popular due to its good, honest Slovenian cuisine.

The four-course Taste Radol’ca menu is exceptional value. In fact, all Taste Radol’ca meals during the month of November are great value at just €18 for three or four courses.

So, that’s three down, six to go, if I don’t burst out of my trousers before then! Browse the menus, take your pick and Taste Radolca – I might just see you there!

© Adele in Slovenia

Taste Radol’ca 2018 – a Triumph of Taste and Talent!

Last Friday saw the opening event of this year’s Month of Taste Radol’ca.

There are 9 restaurants that co-operate in Taste Radol’ca, and every year the opening dinner is held at a different venue. This year it was the turn of Joštov hram in Podnart where, as has become the tradition, all the talented Taste Radol’ca chefs combined their skills, knowledge and creativity, culminating in a unique menu and a wonderful, memorable evening.

Photo: Boris Pretnar for Visit Radol’ca

The evening began with a farmers’ market and a chance to meet local producers and try some of their produce and products direct from the farm.

And we had a chance to sample a few Taste Radol’ca treats to keep us warm too!

Being home to the Museum of Apiculture and the Beekeeping Education Centre of Gorenjska, the Radol’ca area is synonmous with beekeeping and the theme of this year’s Taste Radol’ca is honey. The Radol’ca area is home to numerous beekeepers, among the most well-known is Erik Luznar of Čebelarstvo Luznar, whose acacia honey was recently judged the best in the country – congratulations Erik!

Throughout the evening music was provided by the excellent band Suho cvetje, who first played outdoors as a backdrop for the farmers’ market, and then moved indoors. Their unique style of music was just perfect for such an intimate venue, not overpowering and the perfect compliment to the jovial atmosphere.

At 7pm it was time for the main event, and we were ushered to our tables to let the feasting begin!

The whole focus of Taste Radol’ca is that all dishes are prepared using exclusively local ingredients, thus supporting local farmers and producers and ensuring an absolute minimum number of food miles. The other essence is that everyone mucks in, there are no egos at play here, it’s a case of ‘all hands on deck’ as all the chefs work in harmony with spectacular results. In addition to joining forces in the kitchen, the chefs, as well as restaurant owners and staff, all muck in too!

We began with a cold starter consisting of game pate, salami, hummus, pumpkin and mini peppers, prepared by Gostišče Draga and Gostišče Tulipan.

The soup was a particular treat for me – parsnip soup – parsnips are very rarely seen in supermarkets and almost never on the menus of restaurants, so bravo Vila Podvin and Lambergh Restaurant for using this wonderful vegetable! It was served with tortellini filled with mohant cheese – a distinctively pungent and whiffy cheese from the Bohinj area – served with hazelnuts, yoghurt and honey.

The hot starter was porcini mushrooms, from beneath Roblek, with locally-farmed trout and spinach, prepared by Gostilna Avguštin and Gostilna Pr’Tavčar.

The main course, courtesy of Joštov hram, Gostilna Kunstelj and Gostilna Lectar, was a mouthwatering combination of Kraskopolje pig wrapped in bacon with bean puree, roasted pepper sauce and spring onions.

With a nod to this year’s theme of honey, dessert, the brainchild of Gostilna Kunstelj and Gostilna Lectar, featured honeyed milk with a bee-shaped honeybread to dunk served with succulent honey cake.

And this is but the start, there is still the whole month of November ahead to enjoy meals at all the 9 Taste Radol’ca restaurantsJoštov hram, Gostilna Avguštin, Gostilna Lectar, Gostišče Draga, Gostilna Pr’Tavčar, Lambergh Restaurant, Vila Podvin, Gostilna Kunstelj and Gostišče Tulipan.

And to give you even more incentive, if you visit at least 5 restaurants by the end of November and collect a stamp at each one, you will receive two vouchers for food at the Taste Radol’ca closing event, which will take place on 1st December together with the switching-on of the Christmas lights and the opening of the Advent Market.

I hope this has whetted your appetite to try more – I know it has mine; Taste Radol’ca here I come! Check out the menus here to help you decide where to go (first)!

© Adele in Slovenia

The Begunje Lambergh Trail – Explore Kamen Castle, Archeological Sites and Caves in the Draga Valley

The Lambergh Trail (Lambergova pot) begins at the Krpin recreation area in Begunje na Gorenjskem. It leads through the forest past the ruins of Kamen Castle, passing two small archeological sites, and ending in the lush Draga valley at the Gostišče Draga restaurant, where you can enjoy a drink, snack or slap-up meal to gather your strength for the return journey, or you could even continue further on one of the trails that lead into the Karavanke mountains.

It takes around an hour to walk the almost 8km path (one-way), though if you stop to explore the castle, which is a must(!), then you should allow more time. The terrain is undulating, so good footwear is required. There are information boards along the way where you can find out more.

The Njivice archeological site dates back to the Old Iron Age.

There are vast caves to explore, too, some of which make you feel rather small!

Halfway along the trail you emerge briefly from the forest and are greeted by wonderful views over the upper part of the village.

You then reach the mighty and impressive ruins of Kamen Castle.

The castle was once home to the Counts of Lambergh – hence the name of the trail. It has preserved Gothic and Renaissance entrances and the partial restoration works that were recently carried out have made the castle more accessible.

Kamen Castle was built in the 12th century by the Counts of Ortenburg; later it was owned by the Counts of Celje, and from 1436 the Counts of Lambergh. The counts abandoned the castle in the 18th century when they moved to the more comfortable Katzenstein Mansion in the centre of the village.

The path ends at the Gostišče Draga restaurant at the head of the Draga valley. The restaurant, a member of Taste Radol’ca, is renowned for its game, fresh river trout, and numerous other traditional Slovene dishes.

The štruklji alone, both the sweet and savoury versions, are definitely worth the walk!

You can either return the same way following the signs back to the Krpin recreation centre, or alternatively you could first walk along the valley road beside the stream back to the castle, where you can rejoin the path back to the start.

You could also take time to explore Begunje itself; the Begunje Village Trail is just one of the many theme trails in the Radol’ca area. Click here for more.

© Adele in Slovenia

The Begunje Shepherd’s Trail – My Favourite Hike in Radol’ca!

The Begunje Shepherd’s Trail (Pastirska pot) is one of my favourite of all the hiking trails in the Radol’ca area. The sheer variety of the terrain, the stunning views, and the fact that it is entirely circular all add up to one great hike!

The trail begins at the head of the Draga Valley in Begunje na Gorenjskem, where you can park and set off on foot on the 10.2km trail and where there is an information board showing the route.

The first mini ‘challenge’ that you encounter after just a few hundred metres, is crossing a stream – not advisable after heavy rainfall! Note: if it is impassable, then follow the road uphill for about 15 minutes to where it branches off steeply through the forest towards the Roblekov dom mountain hut, but continue past the next bend and then take a forest road (unmarked) to the right, which, eventually, meets the path coming up from the head of the valley.

The trail begins to lead up through the forest, passing a cascade of the stream.

Next comes a slightly bigger ‘challenge’, as the path leads up a steep gully between two rock faces, but there are iron foot rungs and an iron cable to help, so, with a steady hand (and feet!), it doesn’t present a major obstacle.

Its only a short climb, and the path soon levels out, well, until the next bit anyway! But that is why I love this path, as there’s never a dull moment, it keeps you on your toes – literally!

The path crosses the stream in several places, before reaching a ladder, equipped with a rope to hoist yourself up!

You then cross the stream one last time, before reaching a rest area with a bench, and then continuing up, ever steeper, through the forest.

Next you reach a giant fir tree, so giant, in fact, there was no way or being able to photograph it from within the confines of the trail, so you’ll just have to visit and see it for yourself! The statistics on the signpost below give the facts and figures: circumference 347cm, diameter 110cm, quantity of wood 12.5m3, height 35 metres

After about an hour to 1hr 15 mins, you reach the Preval mountain pasture and the Koča na Prevalu mountain hut, the first of four (yes, four!) mountain huts that you pass on this trail, where you can stop for refreshments (note: the huts are open daily during summer, but out of season some are closed whilst others open at weekends only) and enjoy the views before continuing on your way.

Now follow the road for about 10 minutes, which provides a mini-break from the steep path, before the path branches off to the right and begins to climb up again on the path ‘cez Roza’. But, it’s worth it, as you are soon rewarded with wonderful views of the Radovljica Plains, the Jelovica plateau, Lake Bled, and the Julian Alps.

There are still a couple of mini ‘hurdles’ to overcome, in the form of gullies to be crossed, but here and there, iron rods are provided to assist, and eventually the path levels out to become sheer enjoyment.

Shortly before the end of the path, you reach an abandoned manganese mine shaft with an information board, and the views open up further across the valley.

Click here for more information about the other themed hiking trails in the Radol’ca, and here for the Radol’ca hiking and biking map.

© Adele in Slovenia

Hop-On Hop-On 2018 is Here – This Year Even Bigger and Better!

The Hop-On Hop-Off tourist bus made its first journey(s) of the season this week and this year there’s even more to see and do with two extra days added to the timetable and entirely new destinations to discover! Take a ride and discover the hidden corners of the Radol’ca countryside.

The Hop-On Hop-Off bus is a great way to discover more of Radol’ca and the surrounding areas. For those who do not have a car or those who want to simply leave the car behind and be chauffeur-driven for a change, without having to worry about reading maps, finding parking places etc.

On Tuesdays you can take the ‘Charming Towns and Villages‘ route, which includes visits to Radovljica, Posavec, Ljubno and Kropa. Among the highlights of this route are the Iron Forging Museum and the Vigenc Vice foundry in Kropa, where at the latter you can see a demonstration of hand nail forging, and the Museum of Apiculture and Lectar Honeybread Museum and Workshop in Radovljica.

A demonstration of hand nail forging, Vigenc Vice Foundry, Kropa

Lectar Inn Honeybread Museum and Workshop, Radovljica

On Wednesdays the ‘Bee Our Guest‘ bus provides a fascinating insight into Slovenian beekeeping and includes visits to the Museum of Apiculture in Radovljica, the Beekeeping Education Centre of Gorenjska in Lesce, Anton Janša’s apiary in Breznica, Bee Paradise in Selo pri Žirovnici and Kralov med beekeeping in Selo pri Bledu.

Kralov med, Selo pri Bledu

Anton Janša’s apiary, Breznica pri Žirovnici

Thursday’s ‘Tales from the Countryside‘ route takes passengers to places such as Vrba, Žirovnica, Begunje na Gorenjskem, Brezje and Podvin. Among the highlights of the route are the ruins of Kamen Castle, the Avsenik Museum and the Museum of Hostages in Begunje, Adventure Mini Golf in Gorica, the Villa Rustica archaelogical site in Mošnje, and the Basilica of Mary Help of Christians in Brezje.

Adventure Mini Golf in Gorica

Završnica Valley, Žirovnica

And on Fridays, the bus runs to Begunje na Gorenjskem and then along the ‘Panoramic Road to Tržič‘. Highlights include the ruins of Kamen Castle, the old town centre of Tržič, the Mebron foundry and the Dovžan Gorge.

Ruins of Kamen Castle, Begunje na Gorenjskem

Dovžan Gorge, Tržič

So, as you can see, there’s plenty to choose from; in fact the toughest decision could be choosing which of the routes to take!

Click here for more information and the full timetable.

© Adele in Slovenia

 

A Celebration of Birthdays and Bees in Begunje!

Sunday 20th May, in addition to being the first World Bee Day, also happened to be my birthday. So plenty of reason for celebration this year, even if it wasn’t a ‘special’ birthday (thank god!).

When deciding where to hold a small gathering for friends that would comprise great food, a beautiful setting, something active, and some beekeeping-related, the choice was obvious, it just had to be the Draga Valley in Begunje na Gorenjskem!

So, I set about making plans and my plans all came together rather well, even if I say so myself!

We began with an introduction to archery on the parkour archery course. Regular readers may recall, however, that I’m not a complete archery novice, as I went to check out the course last year when I spent a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon under the professional guidance of Robert Levstek.

It’s great fun making your way around the course with its 30 life-size animal targets dotted throughout the forest. Those with a competitive nature, and even those without, will enjoy a fun day out surrounded by the wonderful nature of the Draga Valley. Find out more here – https://adeleinslovenia.com/2017/04/10/archery-adventures-and-delicious-draga-delights/

Next came the beekeeping-related part of our afternoon, and for this I contacted the local beekeeper Erik Luznar, who has one of his many hives in the valley.

Since the average age of Slovenia’s 10,000 beekeepers is 57, Erik is certainly bucking the trend in this respect, and his youth, spirit and enthusiasm made listening to him waxing lyrical about his beloved bees both pleasurable and fascinating.

And also in contrast to the majority of Slovenia’s beekeepers, beekeeping is not just Erik’s passion and hobby, it is his livelihood. He offers various types of honey (floral, acacia, forest, linden, chestnut, pine, fir), as well as royal jelly, pollen, propolis and beeswax. He also breeds queen bees, which are then sent throughout the world. So, whilst in the Radovljica area, if you would like to have a tour of his hives – independently or as part of a Taste Radol’ca tour – find out more about Slovenian beekeeping, or buy some of his award-winning honey or other bee products, he’s your man! Contact: cebelarstvo.luznar@gmail.com

Of course, no good celebration is complete without great food, and in the Draga Valley that comes in spades at Gostišče Draga, one of the participating Taste Radol’ca restaurants. If you want to enjoy a drink or three without worrying about getting home, there are rooms available above the restaurant too!

Since the Draga Valley is also an excellent starting point for hikes in the Karavanke mountains, the restaurant is a very popular choice for some post-hiking sustainance, but is equally as popular as somewhere to enjoy great Slovenian cuisine – in summer in the cool of the garden next to the stream, in winter next to the roaring wood burner.

Continuing with the honey theme, we dined well on dishes such as rumpsteak in pepper and honey sauce, štruklji with honey, and other savoury delights, and not forgetting a cake, too!

For an added twist, throughout the evening there was a chance to taste many varieties of honey, with the aim of guessing which was which.

Then, to see how much we had all taken in from Erik’s educational session, I had prepared a quiz about Slovenian beekeeping, too! Of course, this meant a bit of work on my part too. I felt like a school teacher marking tests!

For the perfect end to the evening, I was given some lovely birthday gifts, including vouchers for massages (can’t wait Simona Slegel!) and this hand-embroidered apron that reads ‘Ta prava Radol’canka‘. Radol’canka is the word used for a female from Radovljica, so it reads ‘A real Radol’canka‘!

So, as you can see, the Draga Valley is a one-stop destination for active and tasty outings, and with a bit of added ingenuity and forward planning, a great place for group celebrations and events. Thanks to everyone who contributed to a lovely evening!

® Adele in Slovenia

 

 

Made in Radovljica: What to Buy, Try and … Enjoy!

With the focus these days ever-more on locally grown and produced products and foods, here are some ideas for what is available in the Radovljica area – genuinely local products that you can buy and try for yourself or purchase as ideal gifts for friends and loved ones.

Being the home of the Museum of Apiculture and the Radovljica Chocolate Festival, the Radol’ca area is synonymous with beekeeping and all things sweet.

If I want to take a small gift when visiting friends or loved ones, particularly those with a sweet tooth, I like to take Čokobelica chocolates. These bee-shaped chocolates are made exclusively for, and in, Radovljica and available at Radovljica Tourist Information Centre. The chocolates have typical, traditional Slovenian fillings such as walnut potica, tarragon potica, and poppy seed. Tried and tested – delicious!

For honey and all-things honey-related visit the Beekeeping Education Centre of Gorenjska in Lesce, where, in addition to the well-stocked Bee Shop where you can buy a wide selection of honey, honey products and beekeeping equipment, you can also see the centre’s beehive with its colourful hand-painted frontal panels.

In summer you can admire the beehive from the small terrace of the centre’s coffee shop. It could perhaps be said, however, that some of the clientele are a bit odd!

The heart of Radovlijca’s old town centre is Linhart Square (Linhartov trg), named after the famous Slovenian playwright and historian Anton Tomaz Linhart (1756-1795). At Lectar Inn you can try Linhart’s cake (Linhartov cukr). The idea for the cake came about during conversations held in Lectar Inn between its proprietor, Jože, and locals who recalled how in days gone by in Linhart’s era, local school children used to come to Lectar for cake.

And so the idea to try to recreate and revive this tradition was born and Jože and his team at the Lectar Inn set about trialling and testing recipes, based upon traditional recipes, until they were satisfied with the result. It contains only natural ingredients, – a light sponge base topped with a moist apple layer, using organic locally grown apples, and finished with a light cream icing and silhouette of Linhart.

Magušar’s House (Magušarjeva hiša) in the heart of Radovljica’s old town has an arcaded gothic courtyard and pottery workshop where you can buy Magušar bowls and other pottery items made by the owners, Oli and Urban Magušar. Occasional exhibitions, workshops and other events are also held in the house.

They are also currently working on producing a catalogue of Slovenian clay, and, as you can see below – Urban in his ‘Aladdin’s cave – they have already gathered quite a selection!

Photo: Jošt Gantar for Visit Radol’ca

Kropa is the cradle of Slovenian iron forging. It experienced its biggest boom in nail-making in the 18th and the beginning of the 19th century, when the ironworks in Kropa and Kamna Gorica together employed more than 2,000 people. The end of the 19th century brought the end of the 500-year operation of the ironworks in these villages, due to the lack of domestic iron ore and unprofitability.

The area’s iron-forging tradition is still alive, albeit on a more boutique scale, and hand-forged wrought iron furnishings and fittings are still made and can be bought either ready-made or made-to-order at the headquarters of UKO. Upon prior arrangement, a demonstration of hand forging of nails can be seen in the Vigenjc Vice Nail Forge, and there is a wide range of exhibits at the Iron Forging Museum, which also has a small gift shop, and is open year-round.

If its skis and other outdoor equipment and clothing that you are after, then you should visit the Elan factory and showroom in Begunje na Gorenjskem.

So, there’s no excuse to leave Radovljica empty handed or with an empty belly, either!

Click here for more ideas and to find out more about ‘Made in Radol’ca‘.

© Adele in Slovenia