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

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

 

 

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