Taste the Treasures of the Forest with Taste Radol’ca 2019!

Yes, it’s that time of the year again, the tastiest time of the year in Radol’ca – the Taste Radol’ca Month of Local Cuisine!

Photo: Boris Pretnar, Source: http://www.radolca.si

As in the past, for the whole month of November you can visit any (or all!) of the nine participating Taste Radol’ca restaurants to try their special menus created using ingredients sourced and grown locally by local suppliers in the Radol’ca area.

The theme of the menus this year, of course in addition to local ingredients, is the forest, which offers an abundance of ingredients, some of them rather unusual. The talented Taste Radol’ca chefs have been hard at work coming up with new flavour combinations using the wealth of ingredients readily available in the forest during autumn. You can try dishes such as rosehip soup, fillet of white fish with spruce tip salt, venison occo bucco with juniper berry sauce, forest honey and spruce tip ice-cream…

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Every year the opening Taste Radol’ca event is held at one of the participating restaurants, and this year it was the turn of Gostišče Draga in the Draga valley in Begunje na Gorenjskem to host the event. It began with a market featuring local and guest suppliers and the chance to try their products…

…as well as the chance to meet the chefs and taste some of their creations.

And of course there was plenty of entertainment too!

The evening continued (or rather is continuing as I write!) late into the night with the opening dinner where diners were treated to a five-course feast.

Photo: Boris Pretnar, Source: http://www.radolca.si

Photo: Boris Pretnar, Source: http://www.radolca.si

There are two changes to the line-up of restaurants this year, with Jostov hram and Restavracija Lambergh exiting the fold, while Restavracija Center and Restavracija Tabor have joined the happy Taste Radol’ca family!

The other significant addition this year is supplier open days. On Fridays, Saturday and Sundays during the month of November you can visit some of the suppliers in the Radol’ca area where you will have an opportunity to meet the producers and taste their products.

Local Taste Radol’ca November menus will be available from 26th October to 30th November at a price of €19 for (a minimum of) three courses. So, don’t miss the ‘tastiest’ month of the Radol’ca year and the chance to treat your taste buds and support local suppliers too! And, in addition to treating yourself, you can now also treat your friends/loved ones by buying them a Taste Radol’ca gift voucher.

© Adele in Slovenia

Kunstelj Inn – A True and Tasty Tale of Tradition!

Kunstelj Inn in Radovljica is a family-run restaurant with rooms that has a long tradition and a great reputation. It is also one of the participating Taste Radol’ca restaurants, takes part in other culinary events such as Slovenian Restaurant Week and is featured in the Gault&Millau restaurant guide.

Five year’s ago, Maja Buden (nee Štiherle), daughter of Toni and granddaughter of Tone and the fourth generation to head up the family business, took over as manager of the inn. To mark this anniversary, as well as a certain ‘big’ birthday with a zero at the end, she threw a celebratory gathering last Friday! Happy Birthday and congratulations Maja!

And, of course, a Slovenian celebration wouldn’t be complete without accordion music and traditional entertainment!

Having recently translated a special edition newsletter to mark this special anniversary, I was keen to be able to share with readers of my blog some of the highlights and photographs of the inn’s long and fascinating history, and, fortunately, Maja gave me the nod to do so!

Kunstelj Inn was opened by Franc Kunstelj in 1873 and some years later handed it over to his son Rudolf. Rudolf was very ambitious and had a vision and belief that the small family inn could become the heart and soul of social life in Radovljica.

The Rudolf Kunstelj Inn in 1906. Photo: 110 years of the Radovljica Tourist Association

He set to work building a large lounge with a stage for celebrations, a wine cellar, a freezer and a veranda with views of the Julian Alps. The renovations placed Kunstelj Inn on the map of the most popular local restaurants in Slovenia.

Grandmother Jerica later took over the running of the inn. She had a reputation as a fearless woman who always knew exactly what she wanted and was not afraid to tell people to their face what was on her mind! She survived two wars, became a widow at a very young age, raised two sons, and took over and managed Kunstelj Inn all by herself.

Many of the dishes Jerica introduced onto the inn’s menu can still be found today, albeit with a modern ‘Maja twist’, as well as other traditional Slovenian food, including blood sausages, Carniolan sausage with sauerkraut or turnip, buckwheat polenta, homemade štruklji and more.

Meanwhile, grandmother Maria left home at the age of 14 to work at the Roblek dom mountain hut. Tone and the now legendary Slavko Avsenik – the founder of Slovenian folk music – used to visit the hut as rumour had it that there were a lot of pretty girls there! And it turned out to be true, since Tone and Maria met and later married, and Slavko Avsenik even played at their wedding!

Grandmother Maria (second from left) doing washing at the Roblek dom mountain hut

A particularly amusing tale is that of Grandad Tone and his golf ‘caddy’ Grol. Tone didn’t start to play golf until he was 62, when, due to his weak heart he gave up hunting as well as skiing and golf became a form of relaxation and enjoyment.

As the doctors had instilled in him that he must strictly avoid all forms of exertion, for some time Tone thought about how he could lighten the load of carrying his heavy golf clubs from one hole to the next and he hit on the idea that his faithful companion Grol could help!

Uncle Ivan made Grol a special trolley for transporting Tone’s golf clubs, and Grol adapted really well to his role as ‘caddy’.

Maja’s father Toni regularly went on exchange to Switzerland to “learn from the best”. It was there that he learnt skills from one of the most well known Swiss patisserie chefs, Hans van den Klinkenberg, in Hotel Eden in Lugano. Toni brought all the tricks and secrets he learnt from the patisserie chef to Kunstelj Inn’s kitchen, which led to Kunstelj’s strudels, pies, ice-cream and other cakes soon gaining a reputation as the best desserts in Gorenjska.

Like her father, Maja also has a passion for desserts and, also like her father, she went to Austria to learn her patisserie skills. Her role model, who she met on one of her culinary travels, is Lea Linser; at that time Lea was running an acclaimed restaurant in Luxembourg and was the first ‘tv chef’ on German television. To this day Maja turns to Lea’s cookery books for inspiration for her signature desserts.

Some year’s back Maja created the first Kunstelj ‘grizike’ (cake pops), which later became – and still are – one of the star attractions of the Radovljica Chocolate Festival!

You can also visit during the time of Slovenian Restaurant Week, which takes place twice per year for 10 days in autumn and spring, when you can take advantage of a 3-course menu for just 19 euros per person, the next edition will take place from 11th – 20th October (note: the website is currently only available in English, but menus will soon also be available in English and by next year the entire website too – working on that one too!).

Kunstelj Inn is also part of Taste Radol’ca and for the whole month of November all nine participating Taste Radol’ca restaurants offer special menus based on local ingredients also for a set price of 19 euros  per person.

So, now you know (some of) Kunstelj Inn’s history, why not visit to find out (and taste!) more!

© Adele in Slovenia

Picerija pri Daretu, Žirovnica – My Go-To (and gluten-free) Pizza Place!

It will come as no surprise to regular readers of my blog when I say that I have always enjoyed eating out. Not just for the food itself but also for a change of scenery; working at home has many advantages, but when one’s home is also one’s office – and hence the place you spend the most time – going out becomes even more of a treat.

However, having recently been diagnosed with coeliac disease, I now find myself in a kind of period of ‘mourning’ for all the delicious things that, literally overnight, have become off limits for me. And then there was the realisation that a lot of my blogs are also food-related, so how am I going to square blogging with coeliac disease. Therefore, I was more than delighted when I discovered that Picerija pri Daretu in Selo pri Žirovnici offers gluten-free pizzas, and good ones too!

My first taste of gluten-free pizza in a local pizzeria was, well, a total disaster; it was barely big enough to feed a small child and the dough was all-but raw. So, to be honest, I wasn’t holding out my hope. But, what a revelation, this places does excellent pizzas – the regular kind and the gluten-free ones too – my ‘pizza partner’ for the evening confirmed that his regular (gluten-full!) pizza was also delicious!

It can’t be denied that, from the outside at least, Picerija pri Daretu doesn’t look like a pizzeria per se, and one could easily pass by without noticing it, in fact, I confess that I have been past hundreds of times without giving it much thought. However, as well all know, looks can be deceptive, and, from now on, this will definitely be my ‘go-to’ pizza place!

I got lucky as, following a week of unseasonably cool and wet weather, on Friday afternoon the skies suddenly brightened and it was even warm enough to sit outside and soak up the view!

So, I took the opportunity to ask the owner, Darko Noč, a bit more about the pizzeria and how, and why, he and his team decided to offer gluten-free pizzas.

He told me that since taking over the pizzeria around five years, there has been a noticeable increase in requests for gluten-free pizzas. Therefore, around two years ago the team decided to find out more and undertook some education about the requirements. They then spent the next two years or so perfecting a recipe for gluten-free dough and, as you can see below, it actually looks like – and tastes – like a regular pizza! And, trust me, anyone who has tried gluten-free pizza or bread will know that producing something like this is a major achievement!

And the salads are pretty good too!

I should stress, however, for those with severe symptoms of coeliac (fortunately I’m not among them), as the pizzeria is only small, they do not have a separate area for preparing gluten-free food, so those worried about cross-contamination should chat to the friendly team if they are unsure.

Picerija pri Daretu is open daily from 11am – 10pm, oh and, by the way, they offer delivery too, yippee! And for gluten-free pizzas, it’s recommended that you call in advance as the dough is made fresh to order and therefore takes a little longer to prepare. Click here for more information about this, and other places to eat in the Žirovnica area.

If you want to work up an appetite prior to eating, or even burn off some calories after your meal, I recommend the short hike up to St. Lawrence’s church (725m). There are a number of paths to reach the church, one of which starts almost opposite the pizzeria from where you can follow the road up through the village, past St. Cantius’ church, then follow the sign (to the right) for sv. Lovrenc.

A church was first built here during the time of the Turkish invasions, but was later abandoned in 1821 when a new parish church was built in the village of Breznica. In the 1990s volunteers built a new church on the foundations of the original one.

A particular feature of the church is its presbytery which has painted pictures of the flowers that are found in the area surrounding the church.

On the outside wall there is an unusual mosaic of St. Christopher.

The path to the church 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).

© Adele in Slovenia

Discovering the Taste(s) of Žirovnica – Gostišče Osvald

Regular readers of my blog will know that I have written numerous posts about the fantastic hiking opportunities the Žirovnica area offers, among them an ascent of Stol, the highest mountain in the Karavanke range. And now, since all hungry hikers (as well as cyclists and those pursuing other active pursuits) need plenty of sustenance and a ‘reward’ for their efforts, I have now set about delving more deeply into what is on offer at Žirovnica’s restaurants and inns – all in the name of research, of course!

So, let’s begin with a popular and traditional Slovenian restaurant – Gostišče Osvald, which is located on the main road through Žirovnica in the hamlet of Selo pri Žirovnici and is the oldest restaurant in the area.

One of my desires when writing such blogs is to try and uncover and share with readers any particular dishes that are a real speciality of a particular restaurant or area. Hence I left it to owner Anže to dish me up his specialties!

I hit gold with this giant buckwheat ‘krap’! ‘Krapi’ are usually smaller, individual dumplings, filled with curd cheese. This giant one, however, has a small amount of yeast mixed into the buckwheat dough to allow it to rise, is filled with a mixture of curd cheese and millet, and topped with pork crackling – ingenious and delicious!

Another speciality of the Žirovnica area is buckwheat with porcini mushrooms. It’s not dissimilar to a mushroom risotto, albeit it with grains of buckwheat instead of rice, with onion, herbs and sour cream to finish. It can be a hearty and filling dish on its own or a side dish.

Served together with a roast, I left fit to burst!

Anže then showed me around the other parts of the deceptively large building, which features two additional rooms for functions.

The restaurant was built in the mid-19th century. In bygone days there was a barn next door for the horses of horsemen who stopped in Selo pri Žirovnici on their onward travels and stayed in rooms above the barn.

Today you too can stay there – though above the restaurant rather than in the barn! – in the recently refurbished attic rooms, which are simple but make a bargain place to stay and ideal base for exploring the area.

Gostišče Osvald is in close proximity to Čopova hisa (Čop’s House), the birth house of Matija Čop, the first Slovenian philologist, literary historian and librarian, one of the greatest European scholars of his time and a good friend and mentor of France Prešeren.

His birth house is now also home to the Žirovnica Tourist Information Centre as well as the Ajdna Museum Room, featuring an exhibition of artefacts found during archeological excavations at Ajdna. Read more about hiking to Ajdna in one of my previous blog posts.

Also close by is the Avenue of Famous Men, located in front of the primary school in Žirovnica, and part of the Žirovnica Path of Cultural Heritage. You can take a horse and cart ride along the path every fourth Saturday in the month from March to October.

The ‘avenue’ features bust statues of five of the most famous and influential men from the Žirovnica area –Anton Janša, France Prešeren, Fran Saleški Finžgar, Janez Jalen and Matija Čop.

Click here for more information about what to see and do in Žirovnica and here for more about what, and where, to taste Žirovnica, and keep an eye out for more ‘tasty’ blogs to come too!

© 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

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

Rainy Day Activities in Bohinj

First, let’s get something straight, Bohinj Lake and the surrounding areas are always beautiful, whatever the weather! Try as they might, even on a dull and seemingly dismal day, the lake and surrounding mountains of the Julian Alps fail to look anything but beautiful and still have a certain charm. The way the light penetrates through the clouds casts shadows and reveals a different perspective, making it seem almost even more majestic and magnificent.

However, of course there are those wash out days when it rains, rains, and rains some more for good measure, which can be frustrating when you want to get out there exploring all that natural beauties in the area.

So, in this blog, I have provided a few ideas of what to see and do on rainy (or even snowy!) days in the Bohinj area, since, as we all know, the weather is the one thing that none of us have any control over, so we just have to make the best of it!

A great place to while away some time is the Triglav National Park Information Centre in Stara Fužina.

Downstairs you can pick up brochures, leaflets and get other information about Bohinj Lake and Triglav National Park. On a fine day the views from the panoramic windows upstairs are breathtaking…

… and, as you can see, they’re not bad on a partially cloudy day too!

You can just chill out on the comfy chairs…

… or challenge yourself by trying out the various experiments.

You may have noticed that Slovenia certainly has no shortage of churches – 800+ in fact! And whilst it looks like a fairly ordinary church from the outside, the interior of the Church of St. John the Baptist in Ribčev Laz is among the most ornate.

The walls and ceilings of the Gothic presbytery feature exquisite 15th and 16th century frescoes.

Climb the steep stairs up to the bell tower for fantastic views and yet another entirely different perspective of Bohinj Lake.

If you yearn for a bit of culture, then there are three museums in the local area. The Tomaž Godec Museum in Bohinjska Bistrica is housed in a reconstructed tannery. The museum is named after its former owner, a Partisan who, in addition to being a top sportsman and mountaineer, played a role in the formation of the former Yugoslav Communist Party.

The Oplen House Museum (Oplenova hiša) in the village of Studor, which is known for its toplar hayracks, offers visitors an insight into life in Bohinj in the past.

It features an original black smoke kitchen, as well as numerous other original tools, equipment and household objects.

The Alpine Dairy Farming Museum, housed in a former dairy in Stara Fužina, offers an insight into life in the past for herdsmen who lived and worked on Bohinj’s numerous mountain pastures.

Photo: Mitja Sodja Photography

If you’d like to have a splash, but on your own terms, then the Bohinj Water Park in Bohinjska Bistrica is the place to head!  It features a recreational pool, a children’s pool, a jacuzzi and sauna, as well as a wellness centre for those seeking a little R&R.

Photo: Bohinj Aquapark

And of course, food is always the answer, regardless of the question or the weather, so be sure to check out the From Bohinj  range of foods and products, which makes ideal gifts for you or your loved ones back home.

Photo: Mitja Sodja Photography

So, don’t let the rain stop you, embrace it and just get out there and see a different side of Bohinj! Visit the official Bohinj website here for more information about the above and even more ideas for what to see and do in Bohinj and Triglav National Park.

© Adele in Slovenia