Valvasorjev dom – Voted Slovenia’s Best Mountain Hut for the 3rd Time in 5 years!

So, it’s official, Valvasorjev dom is the winner of the title of Slovenia’s Best Mountain Hut – making it the third time it has won this prestigious title!

Last year, due to the rules of the competition which state that huts cannot be nominated two years in-a-row, Valvasorjev dom wasn’t in the running, but this year it once again breezed to become the holder of the title ‘Slovenia’s Best Mountain Hut 2018’. Congratulations to Aleš Štefe and the team!

Having already won the title in 2014 and 2016, this is a pretty impressive feat for a hut that doesn’t even have much of a view! But what it lacks in views, it makes up for with its great food, friendly team and welcoming atmosphere – all of which have proved to be a winning combination.

Valvasorjev dom (1,181m) lies beneath Stol (2,236m) – the highest peak in the Karavanke range. For those looking for a short hike, the hut can be a destination in itself – you can reach it in a little over an hour from the car park at the Završnica reservoir, or you can visit as part of a longer hike to Stol itself or numerous other destinations – as can be seen from the signs (below) in front of the hut.

During summer, you can also visit the other mountain hut on Stol, Prešernova koča – just a short distance from the summit – from where there are also numerous choices of onward routes.

The fascinating Ajdna archaelogical site is just a 30-minute walk from Valvasorjev dom.

Or you can visit one or more of the numerous mountain pastures beneath Stol such as the Zabreška planina highland (1,225m), or the Zirovniška planina (1,200m) highland.

Valvasorjev dom is also a popular destination for mountain bike enthusiasts, who can ride up the 5km forest road before heading off to traverse some of the afore-mentioned mountain pastures.

The fact that it is one of the few huts that is open year-round is also an added bonus, and Valvasorjev dom is as popular in winter as it is in summer.

When conditions permit, the 5km road from the valley is turned into a sledging track, too.

So, as you can see, there are more than enough reasons to visit the Valvasorjev dom mountain hut and to find out for yourself why it is a three-time winner!

Click here to find out more about hiking and other activities in the Žirovnica area beneath Stol.

© Adele in Slovenia

A Spectrum of Sports and Culture Beneath Stol!

Stol, the highest mountain in the Karavanke range, which presides majestically over the Žirovnica area, together with the villages that lie beneath it, offer a whole spectrum of sporting activities with something for everyone – from challenging hikes to summits and family-friendly meanders along the many mountain pastures, to horse riding, cycling, running and even an adrenaline-filled zipline over the Sava Dolinka river.

Zipline Dolinka is a new, exciting way to get some adrenaline whilst marvelling at the stunning scenery around and below you. Its 5 cables offer a total of 2,371 metres of descent over the Sava Dolinka river.

For those who prefer to have both feet on solid ground, the Žirovnica area offers walks and hikes for all the family.

For example, if you looking for a more level walk, you could drive the 5km mountain road up to the Valvasorjev dom mountain hut and then set off on foot, first passing the Žirovniška planina mountain pasture and then on to one of my favourite spots – the Zabreška planina mountain pasture.

Though not an official mountain hut, in fine weather at weekends you may be able to get refreshments at the pasture hut, where you can take a seat on the wonderful, unique wooden furniture and soak up the views!

Kids – big and small – will love it too!

You can even continue further to the Doslovška planina mountain pasture and towards the Dom pri Izviru Završnice mountain hut, which I wrote about in a previous blog here.

Those wanting more challenging hikes are well catered for too, with trails to the summit of Stol itself, as well as, among others, to the Valvasorjev dom mountain hut and the Ajdna Archaelogical Site. Find more information here about this and other hikes in the Žirovnica area.

For those that like running, why not take part in the popular ‘Run Under the Free Sun‘ (Tek pod svobodnim soncem) on Saturday 1st September. The 10.7km route, which begins at 10am, leads past the important sights along the Path of Cultural Heritage. There are also shorter 200m, 400m, 600m and 900m routes, beginning at 9am, for children. Hurry with your registrations by 28th August. Find more here about this event and running in the Žirovnica area.

Cyclists are also well catered for in the Žirovnica area. From short, easy rides on the flat Imperial Road, and along the Path of Cultural Heritage, to longer, more challenging rides in the Završnica valley and onwards to the numerous mountain pastures beneath Stol. More information and route descriptions can be found here.

So, as you can see, there really is something for everyone and lovers of sports, culture and, not forgetting, beekeeping, should make a beeline for Žirovnica! There’s a fair chance you will find me there on my bike or on foot too!

© Adele in Slovenia

Hop-On Hop-Off in Triglav National Park: Bohinj to Pokljuka

Triglav National Park, Slovenia’s only national park, extends over an area of 880km2 and covers almost the entire area of the Julian Alps in Slovenia.

Whilst many visitors to Slovenia, particularly those who visit to hike in the Julian Alps, are familiar with areas such as the ever-popular 7 Triglav Lakes Valley, and Slovenia’s highest mountain, Triglav, another area that is well worth a visit is the oustandingly beautiful Pokljuka Plateau, which during summer you can visit for FREE courtesy of the Hop-On Hop-Off Bohinj to Pokljuka bus.

The Pokljuka plateau is a paradise for lovers of the great outdoors, and offers activities year-round: hiking and cycling in summer, downhill and cross-country skiing, biathlon, snowshoeing and hiking in winter. The forested Karst plateau is around 20km in length and at an elevation of 1,100-1,400 metres.

Since parking charges have this year been introduced for the first time on Pokljuka, taking the Hop-On Hop-Off bus makes even more sense from both a financial and environmental perspective. The FREE bus runs three times per day from the Lower and Upper Bohinj valleys to the Triglav Pokljuka Sports Centre at Rudne polje on Pokljuka. Click here for the timetable.

Since Pokljuka is also a popular destination for cyclists – road cyclists enjoy the challenge of the long road that winds its way up to the plateau from either Bled or Bohinj, whilst mountain bike enthusiasts enjoy the gravel roads that criss-cross the plateau, the buses are also equipped with bike brackets and each bus can accommodate up to six bikes.

Personally, I love hiking on Pokljuka, both in summer and winter, though summer is, and always will be, my favourite time of year! There are walks to suit all levels – from easier, shorter walks to Pokljuka’s many mountain pastures, to more challenging hikes to its peaks.

If you are seeking a walk for all the family, I highly recommend walking from Rudne polje to the picturesque Uskovnica mountain pasture with its numerous small wooden chalets and interesting hummocks.

The route is well-marked and it only takes about 45-50 minutes to reach the pasture and the Koča na Uskovnici mountain hut.

The way there is pretty much all downhill, of course that does mean a bit of uphill on the return trip, but after a stop at the hut for some delicious blueberry strudel or one of the other homemade dishes, you will be raring to go! During summer on Pokljuka you can also buy cheese at one of the working dairies or mountain pastures.

En-route to the pasture you reach an ‘energy field‘, which attracts people from far and wide who come to sit on the various energy points that are believed to be beneficial for various ailments. There is an information board (in Slovene only) giving details of which point is for which ailment and how long should be spent at each point. I must admit to being rather cynical about such things, but if the number of people (and even dogs!) there every time I visit is anything to go by, I’m in the minority! So, why not go and try it out, and let me know the result(s)!

Uskovnica has one of the cutest little wooden chapels around. Here I am with parents on their recent visit!

Those looking for more challenging hikes are spoilt for choice. As you can see below, from Uskovnica, as well as from Rudno polje, there is a wide choice of paths to hike.

Among the most popular are the Zajamniki mountain pasture, Debela peč, the highest point of the Pokljuka plateau at 2,014m, and the peak of Viševnik, 2,050m.

After our walk we returned to the biathlon centre where we enjoyed a(nother!) drink at the hotel, ensuring we timed it right to catch the Hop-On Hop-Off bus back to the valley.

Even when the Hop-On Hop-Off bus ends its run for the season, from wherever you are staying in the Bohinj area you are never more than a 30-45 minutes drive from Pokljuka, and you can visit year-round.

Click here for more information and some interesting facts about Pokljuka.

© Adele in Slovenia

Highlights of My Škofja Loka Year 2017

As 2017 draws to a close, so does another chapter in my exploration of another area of Slovenia – Škofja Loka, which I have explored the length and breadth of during the past year. As is customary for many at time of year, it’s a time for reflection on what we have achieved, and time to look forward to the next year and the challenges ahead.

So, here’s a look back at just some of the highlights of my adventures in 2017 exploring Škofja Loka and the Selca and Poljane valleys, which I hope will also serve as inspiration for those of you planning a visit to the area in the future.

I began, as every visitor to Škofja Loka should, with a visit to the old town and a walk up to the beautiful Loka Castle.

I tried my hand at making Loka honey breads at the DUO Arts & Crafts Centre under the watchful guise of the master carver Petra Plestenjak Podlogar – https://adeleinslovenia.com/2017/01/13/loka-honey-breads-and-handicrafts-at-the-duo-arts-crafts-centre/

One of the main events of the year in Škofja Loka is the Festival of History (Historial), which takes place annually in June – https://adeleinslovenia.com/2017/06/25/highlights-of-the-skofja-loka-historial-2017/

I had the honour of being shown around the Capuchin monastery by 80-year-old Father Bernard as part of my discovery of the UNESCO-listed Skofja Loka Passion Play – https://adeleinslovenia.com/2017/04/04/the-unesco-listed-skofja-loka-passion-play/

Photo: Tomaž Sedej

And I thoroughly enjoyed getting active, such as cycling around the town on part of the Loka Cycle Trail with a great guide, Matej Hartman – https://adeleinslovenia.com/2017/06/11/active-and-historic-loka-the-skofja-loka-cycle-trail/

Then it was time to start exploring further into the area’s two valleys – the Poljane valley (Poljanska dolina) and the Selca valley (Selska dolina).

I had a snowy adventure at the Soriška planina ski resort and explored Sorica – one of Slovenia’s most picturesque mountain villages  – https://adeleinslovenia.com/2017/02/20/sorica-super-skiing-and-slovenias-most-beautiful-mountain-village/

Showed off my creative side (ahem!) making Dražgoše honey breads in the sunny hilltop village of Dražgoše – https://adeleinslovenia.com/2017/03/07/delightful-drazgose-the-home-of-drazgose-honey-breads-and-serious-sunshine/

I was won-over by scenic, tranquil Žiri, known for its bobbin lacemaking and shoemaking traditions as well as its unspoilt nature – https://adeleinslovenia.com/2017/04/17/discovering-the-most-ziri-things/

As well as by Železniki, known for it’s iron-forging and bobbin lacemaking traditions – https://adeleinslovenia.com/2017/07/09/zelezniki-a-step-back-in-time-and-tradition-lacemaking-days/

And I hiked some of the area’s peaks such as Blegoš – https://adeleinslovenia.com/2017/07/23/hike-blegos-and-dine-at-pr-andrejon-a-winning-combination/

Explored (some of) the bunkers of the Rupnik Line on my ‘Recce of the Rupnik Line’ – https://adeleinslovenia.com/2017/08/06/a-recce-of-the-rupnik-line/

Too numerous are the highlights to include them all here, but they are all there on my blog, and will remain so, for those interested in finding out (even) more about the area.

2018 will bring a new chapter in the Adele in Slovenia story, a new destination to be explored in-depth, albeit one I am already very familiar with, but one I can’t wait to get even more familiar with! Watch this space for more details very soon, and I hope you will continue to join my own my journey.

Happy New Year!

© Adele in Slovenia

The Path to Pustal – Combs, Frogs and the Devil’s Footbridge!

The Puštal area of Škofja Loka is just a stone’s throw from the historic, medieval old town centre and the imposing, hilltop Loka Castle.

Puštal is largely a residential area that has had an interesting history and offers numerous sights of interest. Join me here on a stroll along the Path to Puštal to see some of the highlights and find out more about combs, frogs and the Devil’s footbridge!

The path starts at the far end of Town Square (Mestni trg). From here cross the road to the area of the town known as Karlovec. Continue along Kopališka ulica where, at number 8, you can see Firbar’s House (Firbarjeva hiša), formerly home to Jurij Pokorn, a painter and an ex-mayor of the town. If you look at the left, upper part of the house, you can see the rather unusual ‘rake’ which was used for drying coloured flax linen.

Continuing along the street you can see the birthhouse of Fran Jesenko, a famous botanist and geneticist, and also one of the founders of Triglav National Park.

At the intersection of the streets Kopališka ulica in Fužinska ulica stands a shrine known locally as ‘Lepo znamenje’ (The Beautiful Shrine).

Photo: Marko Plesko

From here it is just a short walk, following the path markers on the ground, to the Devil’s footbridge (Hudičev brv). This footbridge over the Sora river has to be one of the most scenic places in the whole town, and in summer it is an open-air, natural area for a quick refreshing dip!

Legend has it that the footbridge got its name after reputed visitations from the devil. When locals built shrines on both sides of the bridge, they drove the devil away for some time. However, his visitations then began in the middle of the bridge, until they finally managed to drive him away under the Šturm rock by building a shrine in the middle of the footbridge dedicated to St. John Nepomuk – the patron saint of bridges.

Cross the bridge then continue on the right bank of the Sora river towards the 16th century Nace’s House (Nacetova hiša). This preserved townhouse was thoroughly renovated in 1755 and is the only house in Škofja Loka whose appearance has not significantly changed since the mid-18th century and is considered the best-preserved rural building in the Škofja Loka area and the Ljubljana hinterland.

Upon prior arrangement it is possible to view the house and its objects and equipment, which bear witness to the life of many generations and, despite being museum objects, are still usable today. You can read more about this and other historic houses and museums in the Škofja Loka area here – http://www.visitskofjaloka.si/en/experiences/cultural-sights-of-interest/historic-houses-and-museum-collections

Next you will walk past Puštal Castle (Puštalski grad). The castle was first mentioned in the 13th century but its present-day appearance dates from the 16th century. The Chapel of St. Cross in the castle contains a fresco of ‘The Descent from the Cross’, painted by Guilio Quaglio in 1706, and is considered one of the most valuable works of art in the town. Today the castle houses a music school.

So, where do combs and frogs come into the equation in connection with Puštal? Well, in bygone days, many of the residents of Puštal made their living through non-agricultural activities, of which comb-making was one of the most widespread, and one of the most unusual was by catching and selling frogs, which were in abundance in Puštal at that time. Fascinating stuff, hey!

Another highlight, and a spectacular end to the Path to Puštal, is the hill Hribec and the Church of the Holy Cross. The path leads uphill past the 18th century chapels of the Stations of the Cross. Not only is it a scenic walk up to the church, but the view over Škofja Loka and the castle is really quite special, as I discovered earlier this year when I took a guided cycled around the area as part of my discovery of the Loka Cycle Route – read more here – https://adeleinslovenia.com/2017/06/11/active-and-historic-loka-the-skofja-loka-cycle-trail/

You can pick up a brochure about the Path to Puštal at the Škofja Loka Tourist Information Centre and/or find more information about this and other theme paths in the area here – http://www.visitskofjaloka.si/en/experiences/theme-paths

© Adele in Slovenia

 

Križna Gora above Škofja Loka – Hiking, Cycling, Great Views and Heavenly Food, Too!

Križna Gora is a hill that rises to 681m in close proximity to the centre of Škofja Loka and is a very popular hiking and cycling destination among locals and visitors to the area. It is also home to an excellent restaurantGostilna pri Boštjanu, which I can highly recommend from first-hand experience. Read on to find out more!

At the top of the hill stands the Church of the Holy Cross (Sv. Križ), built around 1500, and the area is also the site of a mass grave and an unmarked grave from World War II. The church contains well-preserved frescoes. At the time of my visit (late October 2017), access was limited as the church is currently undergoing restoration work to repair the roof that has been leaking water for the past few years. Should you wish to see the interior of the church, contact the Škofja Loka Tourist Information Centre.

To reach Križna Gora on foot the path begins opposite the Mercator supermarket in Podlubnik, near Trnje, where there is a parking area. From the car park cross the main road and continue ahead along the fairly narrow tarmac road through the village of Trnje. After a short distance take the right fork that leads slightly downhill where the tarmac ends and becomes a gravel track where there is a red sign showing 1 hour to Križna Gora. The path first crosses a field before reaching a fairly steep path up through the forest.

Hereafter, the path is well marked with the usual Slovenian system of signs – a red circle with a white inner – which are found in various places – on trees, rocks, and, as seen below, even on shrines.

After around 15 minutes of hiking, you emerge from the forest for a great view back over the town of Škofja Loka.

Then ahead in the distance you catch sight of the church and your destination – Križna Gora!

However, people don’t just flock to Križna Gora for recreation and the great views, oh no, they also know where to go for some of the tastiest local Škofja Loka food, and now I do too!

Gostilna pri Boštjanu is part of the project ‘Tastes of the Škofja Loka Countryside’ (Okusi loškega podeželja), the aim of which is to acquaint visitors with traditional foods and dishes from Škofja Loka and the surrounding valleys, and in doing so preserve them for generations to come. The focus is on homemade, local food with an emphasis on tradition and innovation – past and present.

There are wonderful views from the terrace of the restaurant – with something to keep the whole family amused! – whilst inside there are multiple dining areas to choose from including the conservatory for great views and the snug room with wood-burning stove.

On the recommendation of the owner, Boštjan, I plumped for the Tasting Menu which comprises a choice of two 5-course menus of homemade delights. Cold starters are pheasant pate with homemade bread – fresh from the clay oven, or venison carpaccio. For the hot starter I chose buckwheat ravioli with porcini mushrooms.

Garlic or beef soup was followed by roast pork or foal (can’t quite bring myself to eat the latter!), and the dessert – chocolate dream – was a triumph, and certainly something to dream about!

Gostilna pri Boštjanu is also particularly known for it’s St. Martin’s Day feast (Martinovanje). In November every year St. Martin’s Day, when grape juice matures into wine, is celebrated throughout Slovenia – even in non-wine growing areas (any excuse for a celebration!), with, of course, wine, and typical dishes such as roast goose or duck with red cabbage and mlinci (a kind of thin, shredded flatbread). Reservations, especially at weekends, are essential – this place is hugely popular, for good reason, too!

You can find more about Gostilna pri Boštjanu on the Facebook page here – https://www.facebook.com/Gostilna-pri-Boštjanu-138860049611989/ and find out more about Škofja Loka cuisine, traditions, hiking paths and more on the Visit Škofja Loka website here – http://www.visitskofjaloka.si/en/

© Adele in Slovenia

The Path to Crngrob and the Pri Marku Tourist Farm

The Church of the Annunciation in Crngrob near Škofja Loka is among the most notable of Slovenia’s 800+ churches.

Photo: Jana Kuhar, Visit Škofja Loka

You can easily reach the church by car, however, if time permits I suggest setting off on foot or by bike from the centre of Škofja Loka along the Path to Crngrob theme path, where along the way you can see numerous shrines and admire the pleasant Škofja Loka countryside.

The 5km path starts at the information board opposite the bus station in front of the Nama department store. You can pick up a leaflet about the path from the Škofja Loka Tourist Information Centre or find more information about this and other theme paths in the area here – http://www.visitskofjaloka.si/en/experiences/theme-paths

The path, which is marked with a yellow circle with a white inner, is relatively level and mostly on quite country lanes.

You can also go by bike, as I did when exploring part of the Škofja Loka Cycle Route earlier this year. Read more in a previous blog here – https://adeleinslovenia.com/2017/06/11/active-and-historic-loka-the-skofja-loka-cycle-trail/

You first pass the shrine of Pieta, the work of the well-known Slovenian impressionist painter Ivan Grohar.

The Red Shrine, which was erected at the beginning of the 16th century as a reminder of the plague, is one of the oldest shrines in Slovenia.

A few minutes on you reach the village and church. Though from afar the outside of the church doesn’t look particularly remarkable, other than the fact it is a particularly large church for a village with just a handful of houses – the reason for this is that it was intended for pilgrims – as you get closer and glimpse the large fresco of St. Christopher on the exterior, and another of Holy Sunday in the shelter of the neo-gothic porch, you begin to get a sense this is no ordinary church.

Then you step inside and see the full beauty of the ornate interior, particularly the gold baroque altars and magnificent painted ceiling, you will soon realise why it is considered among the most valuable churches in the country.

It was originally built in the 13th century and extended over time with the bell tower dating from 1666 and the neo-gothic porch being added in 1858.

As befits something of such value, the church is kept locked, therefore to arrange to a guided tour of the interior you should contact Tourism Škofja Loka by email (info@skofja-loka.com) or by calling +00386 45 170 602 or +00386 41 424 776.

I recommended combining a visit to Crngrob with a stay or a visit to the Pri Marku tourist farm, which is situated just a few hundred metres from the church. The farm’s setting is idyllic, surrounded by rolling green hills, the church as a backdrop, and though only 5kms from Škofja Loka, it has a real air of being far from the hustle and bustle of life.

Pri Marku has 10 well-appointed rooms, or for a different experience you can also stay in the farm’s hayloft. All rooms come with a view!

You can get to know the farm’s animals – this one seemed very keen to get to know me!

Of course no Slovenian tourist farm is complete without delicious home-made, home-produced food and drink! Those staying at Pri Marku have half-board, but you can also drop by for a snack or a hearty lunch at weekends (prior booking essential) and try some other traditional Slovenian dishes and house specialities.

More information about the Pri Marku tourist farm can be found here – http://www.pri-marku-porenta.si/ANG/

© Adele in Slovenia