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

 

 

Autumn Time is Tasty Time in Radol’ca – Taste Radol’ca!

Autumn, thus far, has been a very mixed bag! There have been some beautifully warm, sunny days, but also some bitingly cold, crisp mornings, with the first frost already on 25th September – the coldest September morning since 1977, whereas last year it was exactly a month later, on 25th October, when it was time to start scraping the ice of the car windscreen!

However, some things about autumn are stalwarts, among them the magnificent colours of nature and tasty food in Radol’ca!

Hiking in the Radol’ca area, and in particular in the Karavanke mountains, is wonderful in autumn, especially if you set off on one of those pleasantly warm days, as was the case on my hike last week to Begunščica (2,060m) from the Draga valley, when the views and visibility were quite astounding.

Even the sheep grazing just beneath the peak looked happy that the sky was so blue – and, trust me, no photo-shopping was required, it really was that blue!

And since all that hiking works up and appetite, on to the subject of food – my other great love!

Restaurant Week takes place bi-annually, in spring and in autumn, and makes dining at some of Slovenia’s finest restaurants accessible and affordable to all.

All restaurants that are part of Restaurant Week are assessed and have to meet strict criteria to be included, therefore, the fact that there are three Taste Radol’ca restaurantsVila Podvin, Gostilna Kunstelj, Lambergh Chateau and Hotel, included in the 19 restaurants in northern Slovenia, is a sure testament to the quality of Taste Radol’ca.

This year 100 restaurants are taking part in Spring Restaurant Week and from 12th – 21st October will offer fixed menus for just €18 per personReservations are essential, and many of the restaurants get booked up early, so don’t delay, book today!

In addition, the whole month of November is a celebration of the best of Taste Radol’ca, with all the nine participating Taste Radol’ca restaurants offering special fixed price menus for just €18.

 

This year’s opening event will take place on Friday 26th October at gostilna Joštov hram in Podnart. The evening will begin at 5pm with a farmers’ market, followed by the opening dinner at 7pm.

As in previous years, all the talented Taste Radol’ca chefs will combine their skills, experience and creativity to create a unique and memorable dinner. Reservations can be made from 8th October at the Radovljica Tourist Information Centre. The price of the opening dinner is €39.00 (drinks excluded).

The theme of this year’s Month of Cuisine is honey. Radovljica, as the beekeeping capital of Slovenia, and in the year when World Bee Day was first celebrated, will also end the year on a culinary-based bee theme.

 

I’m looking forward to seeing what inventive menus the chefs will be cooking up for us this year, and I might, just might, blog about it too!

© Adele in Slovenia

The Begunje Lambergh Trail – Explore Kamen Castle, Archeological Sites and Caves in the Draga Valley

The Lambergh Trail (Lambergova pot) begins at the Krpin recreation area in Begunje na Gorenjskem. It leads through the forest past the ruins of Kamen Castle, passing two small archeological sites, and ending in the lush Draga valley at the Gostišče Draga restaurant, where you can enjoy a drink, snack or slap-up meal to gather your strength for the return journey, or you could even continue further on one of the trails that lead into the Karavanke mountains.

It takes around an hour to walk the almost 8km path (one-way), though if you stop to explore the castle, which is a must(!), then you should allow more time. The terrain is undulating, so good footwear is required. There are information boards along the way where you can find out more.

The Njivice archeological site dates back to the Old Iron Age.

There are vast caves to explore, too, some of which make you feel rather small!

Halfway along the trail you emerge briefly from the forest and are greeted by wonderful views over the upper part of the village.

You then reach the mighty and impressive ruins of Kamen Castle.

The castle was once home to the Counts of Lambergh – hence the name of the trail. It has preserved Gothic and Renaissance entrances and the partial restoration works that were recently carried out have made the castle more accessible.

Kamen Castle was built in the 12th century by the Counts of Ortenburg; later it was owned by the Counts of Celje, and from 1436 the Counts of Lambergh. The counts abandoned the castle in the 18th century when they moved to the more comfortable Katzenstein Mansion in the centre of the village.

The path ends at the Gostišče Draga restaurant at the head of the Draga valley. The restaurant, a member of Taste Radol’ca, is renowned for its game, fresh river trout, and numerous other traditional Slovene dishes.

The štruklji alone, both the sweet and savoury versions, are definitely worth the walk!

You can either return the same way following the signs back to the Krpin recreation centre, or alternatively you could first walk along the valley road beside the stream back to the castle, where you can rejoin the path back to the start.

You could also take time to explore Begunje itself; the Begunje Village Trail is just one of the many theme trails in the Radol’ca area. Click here for more.

© Adele in Slovenia