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

Taste Radol’ca 2017 is Go!

It was a rather blustery, but nonetheless tasty, start to this year’s Taste Radol’ca last Friday. The opening event, a market where local suppliers were offering their products to try and buy, was followed by the gourmet 5-course opening dinner.

This year the opening dinner was held at Gostišče Tulipan in Lesce. Tickets sold out in record time thus, alas, for the first time since it’s inception I wasn’t present at the opening dinner, however I did pop to the pre-event market to try out some of the finger food!

This is now the 5th year of Taste Radol’ca and, as per the previous years, for the whole month of November all the participating restaurants will be offering set menus for a fixed price of 17 euros per person.

The ethos of Taste Radol’ca is locally produced products – products direct from local farmers, fruit growers, fish farms, bakers etc., thus with neglible food miles and every food item is traceable – as well as co-operation among restaurateurs = strength in numbers!

Photo: Boris Pretnar

This year there are 9 restaurants participating in Taste Radol’ca: Vila Podvin in Mošnje, Gostilna Avguštin, Gostilna Lectar and Gostilna Kunstelj in Radovljica, Gostišče Tulipan in Lesce, Gostilna Draga and Gostilna Tavčar in Begunje, Joštov Hram in Podnart, and Hotel and Chateau Lambergh in Dvorska vas.

Photo: Boris Pretnar

Although there are less restaurants taking part this year (there were 13 last year), the focus has shifted somewhat from quantity to quality. To this end, two of Slovenia’s best-known restaurant critics, Violeta and Uroš Mencinger, were invited to visit (unannounced) and evaluate each restaurant. The aim of this was to ensure that restaurants bearing the Taste Radol’ca name are upholding standards worthy of the name.

“It’s not all that simple to eat that much in all twelve restaurants. But it was good and therefore enjoyable! Radol’ca already has the most beautiful square in Slovenia, now it is well on the way to becoming a renowned and desirable culinary destination known for its variety – from top restaurants for the discerning and curious, to local, family, and traditional Slovenian restaurants for those who love eating and lovers of fine food.” said the Mencingers at the end of their evaluation of Taste Radol’ca restaurants.

I had a sneak peek of rehearsals for the evening’s sketch performance – proof that Taste Radol’ca’s talents don’t only lie in the kitchen!

Throughout the whole month there are also accompanying events taking place, such as free entrance to the Lectar Inn Museum and Workshop.

The new Taste Radol’ca brochure is now available, where you can find a brief description of each restaurant and a recipe, as well as details about Taste Radol’ca Tours, which are ideal for you if you are limited on time and/or can’t decide which of the restaurants to choose from. For more information about Taste Radol’ca Tours click the tab at the top of this page.

Find out more about Taste Radol’ca (in English) and see this year’s menus here (menus only in Slovene) – http://www.radolca.si/en/taste-radolca/

As ever, the hardest part will be deciding which of the delicious-sounding menus to try first, but I’m up for the challenge!

© Adele in Slovenia

A Taste of the Pivka Lakes

The Taste of Pivka Lakes festival last Sunday was definitely among the best food events I have been to since moving to Slovenia! Not only due to the food – though that was delicious, believe me – but mainly because of the atmosphere and good spirit of the event.

Many of the villages that fall within the boundary of the Pivka Lakes Nature Park, a Natura 2000 area in Slovenia’s Green Karst area, come together on an annual basis to showcase their local specialities, some of which even vary quite substantially from village-to-village.

What I particularly liked about the Taste of Pivka Lakes festival is, unlike the majority of foodie events, there was no element of profit-making, no competitiveness, no-one trying to sell or promote their goods; it is just a case of good old-fashioned co-operation, goodwill and home-cooking by people from all walks or life regardless of their status and without any hint of greed or gluttony from either those participating or those attending – a rarity indeed! Whilst all the stalls had a makeshift box for voluntary donations, these were gratefully received but certainly not a necessity.

Those taking part included residents from local villages – Suhorje, Kal, Narin, Palčje, Šempeter na Pivki, Stara Sušica, Selce, Klenik, Trnje, Juršče, Zagorje, Drskovče – as well as the Pivka Tourist Association and the Pivka Park of Military History.

There was all manner of delicious, local, sweet, savoury, hot and cold dishes and delicacies to try; can you imagine what a tough job I had trying to do justice to it all – all in the name of research, of course!

Nettle burek, various kinds of štruklji, biscuits, numerous flavours of potica, strudel, pancakes, flancati, hearty cauldron-cooked soups, stews, goulash, locally produced cheese, etc. – all served with a hefty side order of goodwill!

A brass band from Pivka’s twin town of Durach in Bavaria, provided the entertainment and joined in the fun, too!

The Pivka Lakes themselves comprise 17 intermittent karst lakes which, during and after heavy precipitation, mysteriously fill with water; at other times the water simply vanishes to leave flower-covered meadows.

The largest of the lakes, when it is a lake, that is, is Palčje Lake (Palško jezero).

Photo: Zelenikras.si

The area is known for its biodiversity, with hundreds of species of plants, insects and butterflies, and the territory is also known for its bear, wolf and lynx. More about the lakes can be found here – https://www.naravniparkislovenije.si/en/nature-parks/the-seasonal-lakes-of-pivka-nature-park

You can read more in this blog from last year about my visit to the 2nd biggest lakePetelinsko jezero – and the new Eco-Museum of the Pivka Seasonal Lakeshttps://adeleinslovenia.com/2016/05/05/pivka-pause-ponder-play/

Find out more about what to see, do, and taste in the Green Karst area here – http://zelenikras.si/en/

© Adele in Slovenia

A Sweet Weekend in Store – Mošnje Days, a Roman Feast and the Festival of Honey

Next weekend promises to be a ‘sweet’ one in the Radovljica area – in more ways than one – since there are two events taking place, both of which promise to be tasty!

In fact, the first event – Mošnje Days – begins on Friday 22nd September. This year marks the 10th hosting of Mošnje Days and it promises to be bigger and better. This year it is particularly dedicated to Roman times, due to the Mošnje Villa Rustica archeological site – the remains of a villa dating from the 1st century which were discovered in 2006 during works to extend the Gorenjska motorway.

On both Friday and Saturday you can take a free guided tour of the Mošnje Ethnological Museum where you can see some of the artefacts found at the site including ceramicware, keys and jewellery whilst at on Friday at 6pm in the Mošnje Cultural Centre (Kulturni dom) you can see an exhibition of products from a 3-day mosaic workshop, which is also taking place as part of this year’s event, and watch a performance by pupils from the Mošnje primary school.

You can read more about the Mošnje Archeological Trail here – http://www.radolca.si/en/mosnje-archaeological-trail/

On Saturday 23rd from 1pm you can try Roman food as well as traditional Slovene dishes – there’s always something bubbling in the cauldron! – browse and buy local handicrafts, be entertained by live music from the PROJEKT ensemble, and there will be workshops for children.

Did you know that the Romans were very advanced in the field of cuisine? Why not treat yourself to the Roman-based menu available all weekend at Vila Podvin in Mošnje – one of Slovenia’s top restaurants – where head chef and co-owner Uroš Štefelin specialises in a modern take on traditional Slovenian food with a focus on local ingredients, and where you can always find something innovative to tantalise your taste buds! You can find more details about the Roman weekend menu, price and booking details here – http://goo.gl/u9m7xt

Meanwhile, at the Beekeeping Education Centre of Gorenjska in Lesce, this year’s Festival of Honey and Day of Honey in Cuisine takes place on Saturday 23rd September from 10am.

Come and find out more about Slovenian honey, taste honey and honey products, sample honey beer and honey cocktails, treat yourself or buy some gifts for friends and family, and take a tour of the centre and the apitherapy beehive.

The festival programme is below (in Slovenian only) and more about the centre can be found (in Slovenian, English and other languages) on the website – http://www.cricg.si/

From 22nd-24th September you can enjoy special honey-themed menus at selected Taste Radol’ca restaurantsGostilna Lectar, Lambergh Chateau & Hotel, Gostilna Kunstelj, Gostišče Draga, and Gostišče Tulipan, with 3-course menus costing just 15 euros per person (except Kunstelj Inn – 25 euros).

Pork fillet in honey-pepper sauce at Gostišče Draga

I’m looking forward to the ‘sweet’ weekend ahead. Do come and join the fun, too!

© 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

 

 

The Škofja Loka Hills and Caves: Lubnik and the Kevderc Cave

Lubnik (1025m) stands prominently above the town of Škofja Loka and is a favourite, and very accessible, hiking destination.

There are a number of paths to the top. You can start directly from the old town centre and take the marked path via Loka Castle and Gabrovo, from where it takes about 2 hours to reach the Dom na Lubniku mountain hut or, for a shorter hike, drive up the windy road to the village of Breznica pod Lubnikom, from where it takes just 40 minutes to reach the top and where the views are already inspiring.

As regular readers of my blog will know, I have a penchant for taking the longest possible hiking routes to reach my destination, and much prefer to walk or cycle rather than drive – anywhere and everywhere! However, I had an ulterior motive, or rather two, for choosing the shorter route in this case, namely to visit the Okrepčevalnica Malina snack bar and to find out more about the nearby Kevderc cave.

Whichever path you choose to Lubnik, you will find that they are all very well-marked with the usual red circle with a white inner painted on trees, rocks etc., so orientation isn’t a problem. The path is almost entirely through the forest, so even on the hottest of days it is pleasantly cool.

On a clear day, from the hut there are far-reaching views of the Karavanke mountains, the Kamnik-Savinja Alps and the surrounding Škofja Loka hills.

Dom na Lubniku is open year-round; during winter on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays; from the end of April to the end of October daily except Mondays.

Also in the vicinity of the path to Lubnik is the fascinating Kevderc cave. Though nowhere near as well-known as Slovenia’s main tourist caves (Postojna, Škocjan, the Križna cave…), those who take time to visit the Kevderc cave will be captured by its beauty, perhaps even more so as it is so pristine, mysterious, and less-trodden.

Photo: Simon Primožič

From the entrance to the cave it is just a few metres to the first large hall which passers-by are free to access, providing you have sturdy footwear and a headlamp.

Photo: Simon Primožič

Some sections of the cave, however, can only be explored by experienced cavers.

Photo: Simon Primožič

During periods of heavy rainfall, all the water from the surface runs into the cave, creating a unique fairytale-like scene.

Photo: Simon Primožič

If you would like to explore the cave further, for safety reasons it is recommended that you contact the Škofja Loka Association for Exploring the Underworld (Društvo za raziskovanje podzemlja Škofja Loka) to arrange a guided tour. Just a few metres away is the Lubnik cave, which can mostly be explored without a torch as natural light floods into its interior. For more information contact DRP Škofja Loka: +386 51 244 244, info@drp-drustvo.si.

After your hike and/or exploration of the cave, or for those cycling past on the Škofja Loka Cycle Route, I recommend stopping at the Malina snack bar (tel: 041 809 900), which is just metres from the path to Lubnik in Breznica pod Lubnikom, where you can enjoy refreshments with a view!

Traditional Gorenjska snacks, soups and stews are always available, and, upon prior arrangement, for special occasions you can enjoy a real feast!

In fine weather the view from the terrace is a winner, but, whatever the weather, you can be sure of a friendly welcome!

As my visit coincided with a group celebration, I had a chance to see how the food is cooked outdoors over hot coals.

So, as you can see, on this occasion letting the car take the strain was worth it, but you can also see more of this area by bike as it is part of the Škofja Loka Cycle Route. More information can be found on the Visit Škofja Loka website here – http://www.visitskofjaloka.si/en/

© Adele in Slovenia

Highlights of the Škofja Loka Historial 2017

The annual Škofja Loka Historial (Festival of History) took place last weekend in the well-preserved medieval old town and its surroundings.

I attended the festival and managed to dodge (most of !) the afternoon showers which are so often a feature at this time of year. And the spirits of all the dancers, actors, stallholders, and other performers and guests weren’t dampened either!

Below you can see some of the highlights of the festival, as well as see more of this charming town on the Sora river which should be on your list of places to visit whilst in Slovenia.

The fair and the majority of events took place in the main town square (Mestni trg) where visitors  had a chance to try some typical dishes from the area, part of the Taste of the Škofja Loka Countryside project (Okusi loškega podeželja).

One of the foods most synonymous with this area is Visoška pečenka – roast pork from nearby Visoko, studded with carrots, lemon, parsley garlic and laurel.

On the main stage there were performances from, amongst others, the Lonca Dance Society performing historic dances.

A display of flag throwing and sword play was performed by the Taboršti Kupci historic group from the twin town of Tabor in Southern Bohemia.

They certainly weren’t just play fighting! It was pretty brutal, raw fighting which, in addition to swordplay, seemed to involve a lot of bashing each other over the head with (real!) hammers!

In Rotovž, the former town hall building and one of the most prominent buildings in the square with its baroque frescoes and three-storey gothic arcaded courtyard, the main event took place at intervals throughout the day. The drama ‘The Devil’s Footbridge’ (Hudičev brv) tells the story of the devil, the Puštal frogmen and a stone bridge.

From the main square, I headed down through the narrow streets and alleys to the other main town square, Lower Square (Spodnji trg) where there were also various workshops and performances.

Next it was up to Loka Castle and the 16th century Škopar’s House (Škoparjeva hisa) where I had a chance to sample Loška medla, cooked in the original black kitchen; a simple peasant-style dish made of cooked millet which, according to some sources, originates from the Škofja Loka area.

Outside the house there were workshops and puppet shows for children, as well as weaving workshops. Unfortunately I haven’t got so much as a creative bone in my body when it comes to such things, but I’m always willing to give them a try! Weaving on a loom and using a weaving board; the latter, as I discovered, also requires a fair bit of patience!

Even when there aren’t any particular events happening in the town itself, there’s no shortage of things to see and do in and around it, as well as further afield in the Selca and Poljana valleys, about which I’ve already written quite a bit this year, but I’m certainly not finished yet!

And there’s no need to wait until next year’s Historial if you’d like to try your hand at some traditional handicrafts as this can be done all-year round at the DUO Arts and Crafts Centre (more here https://adeleinslovenia.com/2017/01/13/loka-honey-breads-and-handicrafts-at-the-duo-arts-crafts-centre/); you could also take a guided tour of the town to find out more about its history and listen to some of the many local legends, try some of the suggested experiences, or explore the pristine countryside on foot or by bike. More about all this can be found on the Visit Škofja Loka website – http://www.visitskofjaloka.si/en/

© Adele in Slovenia