A Green Christmas and a Winter Fairytale!

It’s looking like it’s going to be another green Christmas this year. The last two Christmases were the same, although last year the first snow arrived on Boxing Day. I, of course, am most definitely not complaining! Though, it was somewhat odd to have a mosquito buzzing around my head in bed on Saturday night, you definitely don’t expect that in December!

Despite the Alpine climate here in the Gorenjska region, it really is unseasonably mild and we also have luck that being a little higher in altitude – Radovljica is almost 500m above sea level – we usually manage to escape most of the gloomy fog that so often hangs above the Ljubljana basin at this time of year.

Undoubtedly one of the best vantage points, and for a guaranteed smug feeling, is from up high. So, when I woke to a perfect cloudless morning on Saturday, I just had to decide where to go – that’s often the hardest part! This time I chose Dobrča (1478m) which has a very popular mountain hut – Koča na Dobrči – and is among the favourite winter hikes for locals from in and around the Radovljica area, as well as from further afield. With views like this, is it any wonder!

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Sunday was a busy day which began with a(nother) hike, this time to St. Peter’s Church above Begunje na Gorenjskem, then it was off to Radovljica’s old town to see the Bernese mountain dogs – decked in their finest Christmas outfits – who visit every year at this time to entertain the crowds and small children can take a ride in a horse-drawn cart.

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In the afternoon I visited the Winter Fairytale at the Brdo Estate in Kranj. The estate, which dates back to 1446, has had numerous owners throughout the years, and for a time served as a holiday residence for the former president of the Republic of Yugoslavia, Josip Broz Tito. It is now owned by the state and serves many functions, most notably it hosts all the country’s top protocol events. It is a popular place to hold weddings, has a golf course, a hotel, a small lake, a castle, a park, and also offers a variety of adventures and experiences. During the winter, I often enjoy a walk around the 10km estate boundary, which is also very popular with joggers and runners and where, if you are lucky, you can glimpse some of the estate’s deer grazing.

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Unfortunately the area was shrouded in mist on Sunday, thus it was difficult to photograph the estate at its finest, but nonetheless it was very well attended and a real hit with children who were entertained throughout with fairytales and a visit from Father Christmas.

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Big(ger) children could keep warm around the burning logs.

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There were horse and carriage rides with the estate’s horses as well as other animals to pet.

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A chance to watch ice being creatively carved and to sample food direct from the estate – including venison, jams, chocolates, and home-produced tea.

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Regardless of the season Brdo is worth a visit, be it to walk around the park, to attend one of the many events, or you can just pop in for coffee and cake. Read more about the estate here – http://www.brdo.si/en

To close this week, all that remains for me to say is I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and may Father Christmas bring you all you desire!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christmas in Slovenia; Markets, Food, Traditions and more!

Slovenia hasn’t been celebrating Christmas for that long, well not in the form that many of us know it. However, the country has certainly caught up with, and caught onto, the festive spirit and now there are Christmas-related events happening throughout the land.

So, how is Christmas celebrated in Slovenia? What is/isn’t open? What is there to do, where to go?

As in many other countries in Europe, the evening of the 24th is when most families celebrate and get together for a special meal, exchange gifts and/or attend midnight mass. If you are visiting Slovenia at that time it is worth noting that many restaurants may be closed on this evening or close earlier than usual. Shops are usually open on the 24th but close a little earlier than usual. All shops are closed on the 25th and again this is a family day, often for some recreational activities perhaps skiing, hiking or visiting relatives. The 26th is also a public holiday, ‘Independence and Unity Day’ and therefore again many shops and business will be closed although these days most of the larger ones are open, at least for a few hours in the morning.

There are Christmas markets taking place in all the major cities, the largest being in Ljubljana, where there are numerous markets. The main market is held alongside the banks of the Ljubljanica river, but there are also other markets spread across the city’s squares, with a vast range of events and entertainment taking place from now until the New Year. More information here – https://www.visitljubljana.com/en/activities/entertainment/77402/detail.html

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Festive Ljubljana (Dunja Wedam)

In Maribor, Slovenia’s 2nd biggest city, there are numerous events taking place including the Fairy City (Vilinsko mesto), a Festive Fair and a long list of concerts and other events. More information here – http://maribor-pohorje.si/festive-december-in-maribor0.aspx

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Maribor Christmas Market (photo MP produkcija)

In Celje, ‘Fairytale Celje’ (Pravljično Celje), including a Christmas market, runs from 29th Nov – 31st Dec – http://www.dezela-celjska.si/en/node/72073

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Festive Celje

Other towns with smaller Christmas markets include the Festive Winter Village in Bled – from 4.12 – 17. 1 – http://www.bled.si/en/events/2015/12/04/2264-Festive-Winter-Village

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Festive Winter Village, Bled

The Alpine Village in Kranjska Gora – from 28.11 – 3.1 – http://www.kranjska-gora.si/si/files/default/plakat%20dec.pdf

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Alpine Village, Kranjska Gora

And not forgetting the Advent Market in small, but perfectly formed, Radovljica – where I live – http://www.radolca.si/en/what-to-do/events-1/festive-december-in-linhart-square/83/110/

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Advent in Radovljica (pakt media)

If you’ve never been to Radovjlica, just watch this video of a Christmas commercial shot here 2 years ago to see how magical it looks – http://klip.si/video-reklama-za-bauli-snemana-v-radovljici-4484

Those in, or heading to, the Slovene coast will also find a Christmas market in Portorož (http://bit.ly/1jhWPkH)

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Christmas Market in Portorož

There are of course many more towns that have Christmas markets and events – too many to list here – and many of these, including those listed here also have open-air ice-skating rinks.

If you are looking for a festive event with a difference, every year, weather conditions permitting, there is a live ice nativity play held in the Mlača Gorge in the village of Mojstrana. With the freezing temperatures we have had of late, this year’s event looks sure to be going ahead and the performances are scheduled to begin on Christmas Day. The entrance fee also includes a walk through the ice kingdom, a gallery of nativity scenes and the nativity performance held in the frozen waterfall. Be sure to wrap up warmly! More information can be found here – http://lednoplezanje.com/zive-jaslice-v-ledu/

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Live Ice Nativity in Mojstrana

Turning to food, no Slovene home is complete over the festive season without potica – a traditional rolled and filled cake. You will find it everywhere; in cafes, supermarkets, and in almost every Slovene’s home. Potica come in many varieties, the most popular varieties are filled with walnut or poppy seeds, but there are also other fillings including tarragon or coconut, and special editions with dual fillings, such as the one below – named ‘potica of our roots‘  prepared by one of Slovenia’s top chefs, Uroš Štefelin, from Vila Podvin.

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Potica of Our Roots

Wherever you choose to visit and/or spend Christmas in Slovenia, I hope you have a great festive season!