52 Shades of Radovljica – Part One!

The COVID-19 lockdown in Slovenia, which from 30th March meant that we were not allowed out of our municipalities, was finally lifted today, hooray! Of course, we aren’t out of the woods yet; strict social distancing measures are still in place, we still have to wear masks in enclosed places, there’s still no public transport, schools are still closed…but things are gradually beginning to open and get back to some degree of normality.

Other than a somewhat uncomfortable feeling of a loss of freedom, fortunately, it actually didn’t affect me too much since I work from home and the municipality of Radovljica has so much to offer in terms of the great outdoors. In addition to my usual local haunts, it was actually quite interesting working out and planning just where (and where not) I could hike and cycle. I was surprised to discover that the municipality of Radovljica comprises a whopping 52 towns, villages and hamlets!

This gave me an idea for a blog – well actually two – in which I will photograph and describe (in brief!) each – or most – of the 52. A task-and-a-half indeed! So, in alphabetical order, here is the first half!

Begunje na Gorenjskem – one of the bigger villages in the municipality, with plenty to see and do! The birthplace of Slovenian national folk music, home to the Avsenik Museum, the Elan Alpine Skiing Museum, the Draga valley, Kamen Castle, and more.

Brda – a small hamlet at the start of the Lipnica valley near Lancovo.

Brezje – this village, though small, is considered Slovenia’s national pilgrimage site and is home to the Basilica of Mary Help of Christians as well as the Nativity Museum.

Brezovica – a hamlet in the Lipnica valley near Kropa.

Češnjica pri Kropi – follow the windy road up to this sunny settlement for wonderful views of the Karavanke mountains.

Črnivec – a small village near Brezje with a pizza place and a restaurant.

Dobravica –  a small hamlet near Češnjica pri Kropi.

Dobro Polje – another small hamlet, this one is near Brezje.

Dvorska vas – a small settlement near Begunje, home to the Lambergh Chateau and Hotel.

Globoko – a small settlement, which is home to the Barbaner Lipizzaner stud farm and the Globočnik homestead, which is about as traditional and homely as it gets!

Gorica, just a handful of houses but also a great mini golf course!

Hlebce and Hraše – two small settlements between Lesce and Begunje that I often confuse as they are located parallel to each other and both start with the letter ‘H’!

Kamna Gorica – sometimes also referred to as Slovenia’s ‘Little Venice’ due to its numerous water channels, the village is also home to the Sextons’ Museum House and the Church of the Holy Trinity, from where there are great views of the surrounding hills and mountains.

Kropa – the cradle of Slovenian iron forging. Home to the Iron Forging Museum, two churches, the Vigenjc vice forge, and numerous water sources that served the needs of the forges in their heyday.

Lancovo – home to the confluence of the Sava Dolinka and Sava Bohinjka rivers.

Lesce – plenty of restaurants, a sports airfield, the Church of the Assumption of Mary and the Beekeeping Education Centre of Gorenjska.

Lipnica – the lush Lipnica valley winds its way from Radovljica towards Podnart. Great cycling territory, either on the flat through the valley or by mountain bike on the forested Jelovica plateau.

Ljubno – known for its numerous frescoes packed into one small village, as well as the Church of Mary Help of Christians.

Mišače – I often pass through this peaceful hamlet when cycling through the Lipnica valley and back towards Radovljica via Globoko. In recent times a new ECO river camp has sprung up.

Mlaka – to be honest I’m not sure! I know of one area called Mlaka beneath the old town of Radovljica and a small hamlet beneath Mt. Dobrca, but not sure which one this is!

Mošnje – home to the fine dining restaurant Vila Podvin as well as the Mosnje Ethnological Museum, the Villa Rustica Archeological Trail and one of the oldest churches in Slovenia.

Nova vas pri Lescah – a small hamlet between Radovljica and Begunje.

Noše – a small hamlet near Brezje.

Otoče – a small village with a railway station on the main line between Ljubljana and Jesenice.

Ovsiše – located on sunny plains above the Lipnica valley and home to the Porta organic farm.

So, as you can see, there’s far more to Radol’ca than just Radovljica – and that’s just the first half! My work here is not yet complete! Until next time…

© Adele in Slovenia

Radol’ca Strikes Gold!

In these testing times for all, it’s nice to at least be able to convey some good news: Radol’ca has struck gold! Well, obviously, not literally but it has been awarded a Gold Slovenian Green Destination label, which is surely as good, if not better! And, as one of just 14 destinations in the country that are holders of gold labels, I think that’s something to shout about!

The label, which is awarded by the Slovenian Tourist Board, is proof that Radovljica is on the right track not only in the field of tourism but also those of sustainable development, preserving nature and cultural heritage, and social inclusion.

So, why not come and see for yourself – when the virus situation allows, of course – why Radovljica is a ‘Gold’ destination, and experience its nature and culture, and, while you are here, you can play your part in helping its sustainable practice, too.

Choosing accommodation that is environmentally-friendly is a good way to start. One such is the Woodhouse B&B in Dobro polje, near Radovljica, which was conceived in a sustainable way, thus requiring less operating and maintenance costs. In fact, this B&B alone played a key part in Radovljica being awarded a ‘Gold’ destination label, since it is the holder of a Green Key certificate, which is one of the requirements for applying for a Slovenian Green Destination label. Click here to see the full range of accommodation in Radol’ca.

The fact that Radovljica offers so many cultural and natural assets and attractions was also key in obtaining the label. Radovljica’s crowning glory is Linhart Square, the heart of the historic old town centre, with its frescoed houses, the magnificent Radovljica Manor, and numerous museums and galleries.

Keep up the good work Radol’ca!

Of course, I couldn’t end without mentioning Coronavirus and its effect here in Radovljica and Slovenia as a whole.

At the time of writing (Monday 23 March), there have been three deaths here (all of whom had previous medical conditions) and over 400 confirmed cases. Social distancing is being enforced, whereby no more than five people are allowed to be outdoors together at any one time, but we can – for the time being and I’m praying that it stays this way – at least go out for walks in forests, etc., providing we maintain a safe distance from others we encounter.

Fortunately the Radol’ca area has numerous places where you can walk and escape into the embrace of nature whilst avoiding public areas. In addition to such trails being ideal now at a time when we are all forced to avoid each other, they are also great places to walk in the summer to avoid the heat and crowds. In Radol’ca these include the Lipnica Castle Trail and the Grabnarca Waterside Nature Trail.

All shops – other than food shops, post offices, banks and petrol stations – are closed, as are cafes, and all other services such as hairdressers, garages, etc. Sadly, the Radovljica Chocolate Festival has become a ‘victim’ of the virus too and has thus been cancelled. Such a shame for the organisers as a significant amount of work and time had already been invested. But I have no doubt that it will be back bigger and better than ever next year from 16-18 April 2021.

Click here to keep up-to-date on the developments in the Radol’ca area – in tourism terms.

I hope to be back with you soon with some more cheerful news and some photos of me out hiking and enjoying all that the Radol’ca area has to offer! Until then, stay safe and well!

© Adele in Slovenia

 

 

By Bike to Žirovnica and the Završnica Valley

The Završnica valley, located in Žirovnica, is crammed full of interesting natural sights and attractions. It is best explored on foot or by bike, so join me on my bike to discover (just) some of the highlights!

It is a pleasant ride from Radovljica, where I live, along quiet, mainly traffic-free roads through Lesce and Hraše, where you can join the Imperial Road. In the past, the road, which is mostly untarmacked, was used by carriages for the transport of various goods. Today it makes a great traffic-free cycle route between Begunje na Gorenjskem and the villages under Mount Stol – the highest peak in the Karavanke mountains – that form the municipality of Žirovnica.

Along the way, and/or by making short detours, you can stop to see the many sights, particularly cultural, among them the Alley of Famous Men, and the birth houses – now museums – of famous men hailing from Žirovnica,

Those interested in beekeeping should make a beeline for Anton Janša’s apiary and Bee Paradise.

On reaching Žirovnica itself you can continue through Moste and then slightly uphill towards the Završnica valley and reservoir, where you can just ‘chill’, or continue further along the valley to the Zavrh bar and the Završnica Recreation Park, or even further if you want in the direction of Tito’s Village; for the last part, however, you will have dismount your bike and set off on foot.

Can you spot me?!

This is just one of the many options for cycling in the Žirovnica area; there’s something for everyone, from short, easy rides suitable for families to longer, more challenging mountain bike trails – such as the Predigra adrenaline ascent.

The 2 kilometre-long descent is rated as ‘very demanding’ and is therefore only suitable for experienced mountain bike riders with suitable equipment. It is therefore recommend that you book a guide to take you on the descent, and who can also guide you along the numerous mountain pastures beneath Mount Stol or to other parts of the Završnica valley. Contact the Žirovnica Cycling Club (KK Žirovnica) for more information: kkzavrsnica@gmail.com, +386 (0)41 474 984.

Photo: KK Završnica

Watch the video below to find out more about cycling in Žirovnica and/or click here for more information.

© Adele in Slovenia

By Bike to Begunje and Bees!

Not only is cycling good for you and for the environment, it’s also a wonderful way to explore an area, and the Radol’ca area is no exception. In fact, I find it the best way to get around and much prefer two wheels to four! There’s no need to worry about where to park, you are out in the fresh air, and you can see so much more than you do in a car and can stop at your leisure.

So, join me on a bike ride to, and through, Begunje na Gorenjskem to discover some of the sights of the Radol’ca countryside!

I have listed the places below in order so as to suggest a circular ride, however, you can of course pick and choose what to see and do, and the list is by no means exhaustive. Starting from Radovljica head past the Spar supermarket, pass under the motorway then continue to the village of Nova vas.

On reaching the t-junction in Zapuže, turn left then shortly afterwards turn right (there is a bar on the corner) towards Zgoša. On reaching the junction, as seen below, turn left towards Begunje.

After a few minutes you will reach the Elan factory, shop and Alpine Skiing Museum, more here – https://adeleinslovenia.com/2019/01/27/test-your-skiing-skills-at-the-elan-alpine-skiing-museum/

Continue towards the village of Begunje, the birthplace of Slavko Avsenik, who, together with his brother Vilko Avsenik, were the founders of Slovenian folk music. You can also visit the Avsenik Museum.

Opposite the Avsenik Museum is the Begunje Tourist Information Centre, where you can pick up more information about the area.

Continue through the village towards the Draga Valley, stopping first to admire and explore the ruins of Kamen Castle (grad Kamen).

Shortly after leaving the castle, there is a small cemetery that contains graves of hostages from the time when Begunje fell under German rule during World War II. You can also make a side trip to visit the Museum of Hostages, housed in Katzenstein Manor.

Now its just a few minutes more to reach the head of the Draga valley and the Gostišče Draga restaurant, which situated next to a stream and makes an ideal place to cool down, rest and/or enjoy some sustenance in the form of a drink, ice-cream, something sweet or some hearty traditional Slovenian food.

You can even stay overnight in one of the newly-renovated rooms and continue your cycling trip the next day! Or stay longer and enjoy the tranquility of the valley, which is also a great place for hiking in the Karavanke mountains.

On the way back, instead of returning the same way, after leaving the valley, you can turn left at the junction just after passing a sawmill. You could also make a detour to visit the Robačnekov mill. It is officially open on Tuesdays and Fridays from 9am-12noon, however, outside of these times if the owner is home, ask nicely and she will be happy to show you round!

Those interested in beekeeping, and even those who think they might not be interested but will likely discover that actually they are(!), can visit Luznar Beekeeping (Čebelarstvo Luznar).

Upon prior arrangement, you can call in to visit Erik at home, where you can purchase his award-winning honey and other honey products, and/or you could arrange to meet him in the Draga valley, where you can get up close to one of his many hives and his amazing new ‘book’ hive, which allows a fascinating, close up, and unique view of Slovenia’s indigenous Carniolan grey bees hard at work. Email cebelarstvo.luznar@gmail.com or call 040 321 556.

Photo: Erik Luznar

Photo: Erik Luznar

You can also visit Begunje and the Draga valley – as well as Erik and his bees(!) – on the Hop-On Hop-On tourist bus, which runs every summer throughout July and August. It’s a great way to discover the villages and countryside of the Radol’ca area. In addition to the ride, there are guided tours and walks as well as other attractions to see and visit at each destination.

Click here for more information about cycling in the Radol’ca area.

© Adele in Slovenia

 

Sports and Entertainment at the Završnica Recreation Park

The Završnica Recreation Park, with its reservoir, trim trail, and beautiful backdrop of the Karavanke mountains, is a great place to visit whether you want to be mega active, moderately active, or to just chill! The park, and the entire Završnica valley, offers something for everyone, and even more so last weekend at the ‘Day of Sport and Entertainment‘.

The day included a chance to try out activities including climbing, beach volleyball, 9-pin skittles, football, summer sledging and more.

Live music contributed to the fun atmosphere, too!

Some of the activities are available throughout the year, such as a children’s playground, horse riding, and a trim trail, where, on the latter, you can test your strength and balance…

…of which it seems I have neither!

There’s no shortage of hiking, cycling and mountain bike trails. in the valley and the surrounding peaks of the Karavanke mountains.

If all these activities aren’t your cup of tea, or if/when you’ve had your fill of being active, head for the Zavrh bar, where you can sit beside the Završnica stream, enjoy a cup of something hot or a glass or something chilled, or even have a light meal (burgers, stews, salads etc.).

It is possible to hire the entire sports park, or part of it (e.g. the volleyball court, football pitch) for private events, school groups, team building events, etc., which includes an area for picnics/barbecues, plus sports activities and ample parking, and there are also organised school summer camps.

For further information and prices contact TVD Partizan or the Žirovnica Institute for Tourism and Culture.

But it’s not just summer, there’s fun to be had in the Završnica valley during winter too, so it’s a real year-round leisure destination!

© Adele in Slovenia

Hiking in Žirovnica: The Turkish Cave

The Turkish Cave (Turška jama) is located at an altitude of 835m above the Završnica valley. The name of the cave derives from when, many centuries ago, women and children retreated to the cave to seek refuge from Turkish invaders.

The path to the cave is just one of the 16 trails included in the new map of hiking and mountain bike trails in the Žirovnica area, which you download here or pick up a copy (available in Slovene and English) at the Žirovnica Tourist Information Centre in Čop’s House (Čopova hiša).

The trail begins at the car park at the Završnica reservoir, which is a very popular place among locals either for just chilling or as a starting point for numerous hiking and cycling trips in the Završnica valley and the surrounding Karavanke mountains, or, of course, both, i.e. first hike or bike, then chill!

Set off along the gravel road towards the Valvasorjev dom mountain hut, where, after cca. 1 kilometre, you will reach a sharp left turn. There is a rest area and a sign showing the path towards the Turška jama cave.

From the sign it takes just 5-10 minutes to ascend through the forest to the cave.

The cave has two entrances, is 18 metres long and 2 metres deep.

The view from the cave is somewhat obstructed by trees…

…so it’s worth venturing (carefully!) a few metres further…

…where you a richly rewarded for your efforts with fabulous views.

You can also extend your trip by visiting the Valvasorjev dom mountain hut – three times the winner in recent years of the title of ‘Slovenia’s Best Mountain Hut’ – or you can even continue to Stol, the ‘top’ of the Karavanke!

© Adele in Slovenia

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