A Taste Radol’ca Culinary Challenge!

Life in Slovenia is almost back to normal – tourist attractions, hotels, restaurants, campsites, etc. are open, and there are even tourists to be seen here and there! That said, there has been a spike in new cases in the past week, so we aren’t out of the woods yet, and caution is still the name of the game.

As a result of COVID-19, now, more than ever, it is important to support local businesses and to look after our health – of which eating a healthy, balanced diet plays an important part. So, it seemed an appropriate time to set Taste Radol’ca restaurants a culinary challenge!

The background to my ‘challenge’ is the situation I find myself in these days since being diagnosed with coeliac disease, which is that going out to eat leads to feelings of: (1) anxiety, (2) apprehension, (3) embarrassment and (4) envy. The first two are due to never being able to be 100% sure that when I order gluten-free food it will really be gluten-free and prepared in a ‘safe’ way, the third is due to having to ask the waiting staff and/or chefs so many questions, and the fourth because invariably I can only ever order one or two things from the menu, which most often aren’t the things I would have previously chosen to eat, and I then end up feeling envious looking at fellow diners tucking into their tasty-looking meals.

Thus I decide it was high-time to be brave and embrace the great, local cuisine and to put my faith in the Taste Radol’ca chefs! I contacted 4 restaurants and asked them to prepare a selection of dishes – meat-based, vegan, and vegetarian – all of which needed to be gluten-free. I should add that I’m neither a vegan or a vegetarian, however, I know that these days an increasing number of people are turning to vegan lifestyles, and there are also those with coeliac disease who choose to additionally be vegan, which must be doubly difficult.

So, below you can see the tasty delights I devoured, beginning at Gostišče Draga in the Draga valley in Begunje na Gorenjskem.

I used to particularly enjoy the various sweet and savoury štruklji at this restaurant, and up until now, I hadn’t found anywhere that offers gluten-free štruklji. I had kind of resigned myself to never being able to eat one of my favourite Slovenian foods again, well, unless I made them myself – and that isn’t about to happen!

So, I was more than over the moon to discover that owner and head chef Ales Tavčar finally lived up to his promise and prepared gluten-free štruklji for me! And, even better, they were such as success they will be featuring on the menu sometime in the near future.

Struklji can be eaten both as a savoury dish, for example with a mushroom sauce…

…or sweet, for example with cranberry sauce. I think my face tells the picture of how delighted I was, and, trust me, they tasted as good as they look!

Vegans are catered for too with dishes such as buckwheat with apple and almonds, which is also gluten-free.

Next up was Gostišče Tulipan in Lesce. Regular readers might recall that I held my celebration there on the occasion of gaining Slovenian citizenship last year. And at that time too it came up trumps with a gluten-free buffet for all my guests. You can read about my celebration here – https://adeleinslovenia.com/2019/10/14/when-adele-in-slovenia-became-adele-is-a-slovene/

So, my visit was with less trepidation in the knowledge that they know their stuff in terms of gluten-free food and preparation.

This time I enjoyed risotto with prawns and truffles – gluten-free and also suitable for pescatarians…

…rump steak with roasted vegetables and potatoes – all naturally gluten-free…

…and rice noodles with homemade wild garlic pesto – vegan and gluten-free.

And all enjoyed on the terrace with a great view!

Next was the turn of Restavracija Center in Lesce, which is a new, and very welcome, addition to the Taste Radol’ca ‘family’.

Since being diagnosed with coeliac disease this place has become my ‘go-to’ restaurant, notably for their amazing gluten-free pizzas, which actually look, and taste, like pizzas – something that can’t be said for many a gluten-free pizza! The dough is made separately and the pizzas are cooked in special baking trays to avoid any cross-contamination. Eating here is the one time I don’t feel so hard done-by!

And this pizza ticks the vegetarian box too, though there are plenty of meat pizzas, too!

For meat eaters, a great gluten-free choice is the beef tagliata, potatoes, rocket and parmesan…

…while vegans can enjoy a seasonal risotto – this one with asparagus was by far the best risotto I’ve ever eaten and from now on will be my second choice in the event that they have run out of gluten-free pizzas, which does happen at times, so it’s always best to call ahead to check to avoid disappointment.

And I ended at Gostilna Kunstelj, which ranks among one of Slovenia’s most well-known traditional restaurants. Even the former Yugoslavian president Tito used to visit!

In fine weather the fantastic view makes the food taste even better!

Since Gostilna Kunstelj’s whole ethos is based on using local and seasonal produce, there is certainly no lack of choice for vegetarians and vegans, and many of the dishes are either naturally gluten-free or can be adapted to be so.

A big hit with me, and a revelation too, was the buckwheat with vegetables and pumpkin seed tempeh. Full of colour and flavour, indeed!

There are numerous salads on the menu, which use produce from the restaurant’s own garden.

Gostilna Kunstelj also has renovated guest rooms, all of which come with stunning views too!

Fortunately, Taste Radol’ca’s talented chefs came up trumps and I’m delighted that now I know I have a slightly wider choice of dishes when I go out to eat, though, of course, the worry is, and will be, ever-present, as even the tiniest grain of gluten sets off an autoimmune reaction. But one needs to also remember that there are people far worse off in life!

© Adele in Slovenia

52 Shades of Radovljica – The Sequel!

Well, it’s not exactly ‘a sequel’, more ‘part two’, but it has more of a ring to it!

But first, since some of you have been asking, here’s an update of what is happening in Slovenia in terms of the COVID-19 situation. On Friday 15th May the government officially declared an end to the COVID-19 virus in Slovenia – making it the first country in Europe to do so. It isn’t, however, an end to some of the measures in place, i.e. masks still have to be worn in public places, only hotels with up to 30 rooms are open, distancing measures are in place on public transport, etc., and younger children returned to school/nursery as of 18th May. The borders with neighbouring countries have also reopened, however, at the moment only for citizens/permanent residents and those with written proof of their reason for coming into the country – but the situation is changing rapidly, so do check before making any plans!

So, back to Radol’ca, and carrying on from part one of ‘52 Shades of Radovljica‘, below you can find out more about the remaining 26 towns, villages and hamlets in the municipality of Radovljica.

Peračica – home to the Peračica waterfalls, which you can see on a walk along the Brezje Path of Peace.

Podnart – a village beside the Sava river with a railway station on the main line between Ljubljana and Jesenice. It is also home to the restaurant Joštov hram, which is particularly known for its excellent grilled meat.

Poljče – a small settlement of houses and farmhouses lining the road between Begunje na Gorenjskem and Rodine.

Poljšica pri Podnartu – a small settlement beside the Sava river near Ovsiše.

Posavec – a settlement next to the Sava river near Podnart.

Praproše – a handful of houses near Ljubno.

Prezrenje – a small settlement tucked away up a hill between Podnart one one side and the Lipnica valley on the other.

Radovljica – the main town and administrative centre of the municipality. The beautifully preserved old town centre is the star attraction.

Ravnica – A few scattered houses near the Fux footbridge.

Photo: Adele in Slovenia

Rovte – a small settlement in a sunny location above the Lipnica valley.

Slatna – a small hamlet beneath Mt. Dobrča and one of the starting points for the hike to the Koča na Dobrči mountain hut (1,478m) and onward to its peak.

Spodnja Dobrava – three settlements – Spodnja (Lower) Srednja (Middle), Zgornja (Upper) – that lie 500 metres above sea-level on a sunny plateau above the Lipnica valley.

Spodnja Lipnica – together with Zgornja Lipica, these two hamlets occupy an idyllic position in the lush Lipnica valley. From here you can easily reach the ruins of Lipnica Castle and the Grabnarca Waterside Nature Trail on foot.

Spodnji Otok – Spodnji (Lower) and Zgornji (Upper) Otok mainly comprise traditional Slovenian alpine farmhouses. The former is set back slightly from the road, whilst the houses of the latter line the main road towards Begunje na Gorenjskem. Spodjni Otok is particularly known for its church – Church of St. John the Baptist – which chimes noon at 11am! An interesting legend has it that when Turkish invaders were approaching the village, their horses were attacked by hornets and they fled. Since this happened at exactly 11am, the church still today chimes noon an hour early.

Srednja Dobrava – see Spodnja Dobrava. The village is also home to the Church of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.

Srednja vas – A small hamlet of houses lining the road beneath Mount Dobrča.

Studenčice – a small hamlet near Lesce, home to a garden centre and St. Florian’s church, which features one of the earliest wall paintings in Slovenia dating from the early 14th century.

Vošče – a small settlement above Lancovo that features on a walk along the Grabnarca Waterside Nature Trail.

Vrbnje – home to the Dolenc farm and farm shop, a favourite among locals for its milk and home-produced cheese and yoghurt.

Zadnja vas – the final hamlet – as the name suggests – translation: last village – beneath Mt. Dobrča before reaching the municipality of Tržič. It is home to St. Lucy’s church, which in the past people with eye problems flocked to, since its patron saint is the patron saint of vision.

Zaloše – a hamlet near Podnart with houses lining the road beside the Sava river.

Zapuže – a small settlement between Radovljica and Begunje na Gorenjskem.

Zgornja Dobrava – see Spodnja Dobrava.

Zgornja Lipnica – see Spodnja Lipica.

Zgornji Otok – see Spodnji Otok.

Zgoša – home to the family-run Resman bakery. Prior to being diagnosed with coeliac disease, I used to love their homemade bread. Highly recommend for those of you luckily enough to still be able to eat it!

So, that concludes ’52 Shades of Radovljica’. I hope it has been as enlightening for you as it has for me!

© Adele in Slovenia

Reasons to Be Cheerful in Radol’ca!

Okay, I admit it, at times I’ve been finding it a bit hard to remain optimistic of late, more so since new rules came into force last Sunday at midnight, which stipulate that we aren’t allowed out of our municipality and have to wear masks to go into food shops, banks, and the post office. On the flip side, however, at this time I am certainly grateful that, if I am forced to be confined to one municipality, it is Radovljica!

In these testing times, when we are surrounded by so much doom and gloom, it is important to find some reasons to be cheerful and rays of hope. And, fortunately, here in Radovljica we don’t have to look too far to find them.

During this period when we are all doing our best to avoid each other(!), it’s the perfect opportunity to take stock and appreciate what we have got rather than what we haven’t. And the main reason to be cheerful, particularly for me, is that Radovljica has so many natural assets and hidden beauty spots, that there’s actually no need to go too far from home.

In the past week, in addition to working, we have managed to:

Hike to the Roblekov dom mountain hut where, following last Monday’s snowfall, it still looked pretty wintry as of the middle of last week…

Photo: ©AdeleinSlovenia

Walk in the Draga valley in Begunje na Gorenjskem – where there really are more animals (albeit not real!) than people at this time. Of course, once things are back to normal, you simply must try the parkour archery course for real, i.e. with a bow and arrow, rather than just being a spectator! You can read more about the course in a previous blog here)…

©AdeleinSlovenia

Photo: ©AdeleinSlovenia

Strolled over the Fuxova brv footbridge and walked among the wild garlic on the Lipnica Castle Trail towards Lipnica Castle

Photo: ©AdeleinSlovenia

…and hiked from Kamna Gorica up to the Vodiška planina mountain pasture above Kropa.

Photo: ©AdeleinSlovenia

And all that without leaving the confines of Radovljica!

In fact, having read this, you might even decide to spend the majority of your next holiday here in Radovljica. I mean, do you really need to go elsewhere?!

@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

 

 

Ten Top Insider Radol’ca Tips!

Since I think I have a right these days to call myself a ‘Radolčanka’ (i.e. a Radovljica local), I thought I would share with you some of my top insider tips, some of which are more obvious than others!

So, in no particular order…

YOU WILL NEVER GO HUNGRY OR THIRSTY IN RADOVLJICA…at the last count – in my head that is so I could have forgotten the odd one – I totted up 23 bars, cafes and restaurants in Radovljica itself – not to mention the numerous others within the municipality. So, there’s no need to worry about going hungry or thirsty whilst visiting! And now there’s an exciting new ‘kid’ in town too – Linhart Hotel & Bistro – in Linhart Square, the heart of the old town. The hotel opened a couple of years ago but has just been taken over by the hugely successful and popular restaurant Vila Podvin, with head chef (and celebrity chef these days!) Uroš Štefelin at the helm. Expect bistro-style food – Uroš style!

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THERE’S A VISIBLE TUNNEL... Okay, so it’s not an insider tip as such, but I’ve included it here since it’s easy to miss. The only preserved moat tunnel in Slovenia is found beneath Radovljica’s old town centre. It was renovated, and partly built-over, some years back, and is well-illuminated, meaning you can walk through it at any time as part of a visit to the old town centre. I’m rather lucky as I live just minutes from the old town and can therefore see it by day and by night, though the latter trumps it for me!

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AND AN INVISIBLE/HIDDEN TUNNEL TOO…well, that is if legend is true! It is said that there is a tunnel that runs underground from the well in Linhart Square all the way to Lipnica Castle. To date no one has actually found it, but the legend lives on…!

AND EVEN A ‘SECRET’ CHAPEL…the Edith Stein Chapel is hidden away behind the vestry tower of Radovljica’s baroque St. Peter’s church in Linhart Square, and surprisingly few people even know it’s there. Edith Stein was a German-Jewish philosopher, born on 12 October 1891 to Jewish parents, who converted to Catholicism and became a Carmelite nun.

Also know as St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, she was canonised as a martyr and saint of the Catholic Church, and is one of six co-patron saints of Europe. Edith and her sister Rosa, who was also a convert and an extern sister, were sent to the Carmelite monastery in Echt in the Netherlands in 1938 for their safety, where, despite the Nazi invasion in 1940, they remained until they were arrested by the Nazis on 2 August 1942 and sent to the Auschwitz concentration camp, where they died in the gas chamber on 9 August 1942.

WE HAVE RATHER LOVELY CEMETRIES…bear with me on this one! I know it might sound odd but it’s true, Radovljica’s (and in fact in general throughout the country) two cemetries are so well kept. There is always an abundance of fresh flowers, plants and glowing candles, and a sense of peace prevails. You can admire both the cemetries as you pass on a walk towards the Sava river and the Fux footbridge.

RADOVLJICA REALLY IS A ‘SWEET’ TOWN…in so many ways! Not only is the town’s slogan ‘Honestly Sweet‘ but Radovljica is also the home of the biggest and best chocolate festival in Slovenia and a honey festival too. This year’s Radovljica Chocolate Festival – the 9th in a row – takes place from Friday 17th to Sunday 19th April.

WE LIKE TO STICK TOGETHERTaste Radol’ca is a great example of this. Rather than being in competition with each other, many of Radol’ca’s restaurants have joined forces and, in doing so, have realised and reaped the benefits of cooperation and collaboration. In doing so they are also supporting local farmers, beekeepers and producers of other goods, by including locally sourced ingredients on their menus. Each year there are an increasing number of events at which Taste Radol’ca restaurants are present, such as the Radovljica Chocolate Festival, summer Thursday concert evenings, the November Month of Local Cuisine, various Christmas and New Year events, and more.

WE LOVE OUR BEES…the Museum of Apiculture, the Beekeeping Education Centre of Gorenjska, the ‘Follow a Bee Through Radovljica‘ family adventure, an annual Honey Festival, and numerous beautifully painted apiaries where hardworking bees, and equally hardworking beekeepers, ensure that we have a plentiful supply of local honey.

IT LOOKS GREAT FROM ABOVE OR BELOW…Wherever you view Radovljica from – whether up high in the mountains or down beneaths its terraces – Radovljica’s old town centre with its prominent church is picture postcard stuff! So, whether you choose a stroll beside the Sava river on the Sava River Trail, or one of the marked hiking trails, such as to St. Peter’s church above Begunje, or even higher to the Roblek mountain hut or the peak of Begunščica, you are assured of a great view and a totally different perspective of the beauty of Radovljica and its surroundings.

SEEK OUT BUNKERS FROM THE RUPNIK LINE…the Rupnik Line is a system of fortifications that were built during the 1930’s by the Kingdom of Yugoslavia as a defence line on the border with the Kingdom of Italy. The strategically placed forts and bunkers were never actually used for military or defence purposes, but they at least brought residents a temporary solution to the unemployment and financial troubles which affected them due to the location of the Rapallo Border. In Radovljica there are bunkers on the Obla gorica hill, which is located behind the swimming pool, as well as on the grassy bank in the street Cankarjeva ulicacop. I recently read that, in fact, there are around 50 such bunkers located across the Jelovica plateau, Radovljica and Begunje na Gorenjskem, though, to date at least, I’ve only come across a handful. Hmm, an idea is brewing, how many (more) can I/you find?!

I hope this has given you plenty of ideas for exploring (more of) Radovljica and you’ll agree that’s there’s certainly more than meets the eye!

© Adele in Slovenia

 

The Magnificent Radovljica Manor – (even) More Than Meets the Eye!

The magnificent and imposing Radovljica Manor dominates Linhart Square – the heart of Radovljica’s historic old town.

The building houses numerous attractions and institutions, among them the Radovljica Music School, the Museum of Apiculture, the Municipal Museum, two small gallery areas, and the wonderful Baroque Hall.

Photo: Tourism Radol’ca

The Orthenburgs built a small castle in the 13th century on the site on today’s manor. The structure was rebuilt following an earthquake in 1511 by the building’s then-tenant Count Dietrichstein, and in the following century it was further expanded by the Counts of Thurn-Valsassina.

Immediately on entering the manor through the impressive, not to mention heavy, door you spot the beautiful grand central staircase, made out of green tuff, which hints at the grandeur of the building.

Before reaching the staircase you will notice a photographic exhibition on the right-side of the entrance hall. The exhibition changes every month so it’s always worth popping in for a look when passing!

Much of the space on the ground floor is today given over to the Radovljica Music School. But if you have a nose around, you will discover other hidden features, such as this sundial, which I discovered for the first time today, despite having lived here for almost 13 years!

Photo: Adele in Slovenia

Head up the magnificent stairs to visit the Museum of Apiculture and the adjoining Municipal Museum, while numerous concerts take place throughout the year in the Baroque Hall with its amazing acoustics.

The Museum of Apiculture is a hive of activity for beekeepers and bee enthusiasts! It houses a wide collection of bee hives and figural hives, beekeeping equipment and tools.

The museum’s extensive collection of painted beehive frontal panels, including the oldest known in the world, is a particular highlight. Each one tells its own unique folk tale.

The manor also plays host to some of Radovljica’s larger annual events, among them the Radovljica Chocolate Festival, which takes place both indoors and outdoors at various venues throughout the town, as well as the Radovljica Festival – a festival of early music.

A chocolate-themed fashion show in the Radovljica Manor!

Photo: Miha Horvat, 2014

The Radovljica Manor also makes a special venue for weddings and other ceremonies/celebrations.

Photo: Tourism Radol’ca

Photo: Tourism Radol’ca

Outside, to the right of the manor, there is a statue of the art historian and honorary citizen of Radovljica Cene Avguštin, and also a small exhibition titled ‘Radovljica, Our Old Town Through the Centuries’.

So, when visiting Radovljica, be sure to take time to discover the manor – both inside and out. And to end, one useful tip…there are toilets on the ground floor. Not an attraction in themselves but always good to know, wouldn’t you agree?!

© Adele in Slovenia

The Radovljica Beekeeping Adventure: Follow a ‘Bee’ Through Radovljica!

Honestly Sweet‘ was chosen as the slogan for the tourist destination of Radol’ca, which encompasses Radovljica itself (where I live!) and the other surrounding towns and villages in the municipality, due to the town’s long connection with all things ‘sweet’ i.e. beekeeping and chocolate.

And while this year’s Chocolate Festival has been and gone, Radovljica now features a brand new ‘sweet’ treat – the Radovljica Beekeeping Adventure.

The Radovljica tourist board came up with the idea for the Radovljica Beekeeping Adventure in order to consolidate the town’s position as the capital of Slovenian beekeeping as well as a desire to offer more activities for families. The idea for a bee-related adventure was an obvious choice and was inspired by the events last year to mark the first-ever World Bee Day.

The Beekeeping Adventure has been designed as a family adventure. It features four interactive points in the old town centre of Radovljica, the first of which is the apiary in the town park. 

The next is in front of St. Peter’s church

 

…and at the viewpoint at the end of the old town centre.

Despite living here 12 years, I can never tire of the view from Radovljica towards the Julian Alps and the Jelovica plateau, and even on a partly cloudy late May day – in a month where there have only been 2 days without rain so far – the views still blow me away, every time!

The adventure concludes with a visit to the Museum of Apiculture in the Radovljica Manor, where you can watch bees hard at work and find out plenty more about the history of Slovenian beekeeping, see an exhibition of the oldest painted beehive frontal panels, and learn even more about just how amazing bees really are!

The fun, creative and educational tasks have been devised to allow children to hone their manual skills and to learn about beekeeping, whilst seeking out the path with the help of a map helps develop outdoor orientation and spatial recognition skills.

As a reward for completing all the tasks, a ‘sweet’ treat awaits at the end – but I won’t spoil the surprise!

The Beekeeping Adventure costs €8 per family, which includes:

  • One copy of the booklet including a map, tasks and information about the life of bees
  • A family entrance ticket to the Museum of Apiculture (2 adults, up to 3 children)
  • A ‘sweet’ surprise
  • Supplement for additional booklets with tasks: €1 per booklet (up to 3 additional booklets are permitted per family upon purchase of a family package)

The booklet can be purchased at the following locations:

The Beekeeping Adventure is available from 24th May to 31st October 2019. Since the Museum of Apiculture is closed on Mondays, it is recommended that you visit from Tuesday to Sunday. The path itself is very short and flat, but together with solving the tasks and a visit to the museum, you should allow approximately 1.5-2 hours.

The Museum of Apiculture is celebrating it’s 60th anniversary this year, and, to mark the occasion, there will be a new comprehensive exhibition while the main anniversary event will take place on 15th June.

To end, on an entirely different theme, though one that many would also consider to be ‘sweet’, next Saturday a brand new festival is coming to Radovjlica – the Radovjlica Craft Beer Festival. Weather permitting the festival will kick off at 12 noon on Saturday 1st June and will feature a number of Slovenian craft breweries, live music, and food from Taste Radol’ca restaurants. A shuttle bus will also run every half hour from Bled.

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So, now there are even more reasons to come and visit the lovely town that I call ‘home’!

© Adele in Slovenia

Visit Tržič: MINFOS and the St. Anne Mine

The Tržič area is known to be one of the most fascinating areas of Slovenia in geological terms.

MINFOS is an annual 2-day exhibition of minerals and fossils, which, together with the Dolina Exhibition and Education Centre* and some fascinating geological trails, showcases the area’s rich geological treasures. The exhibition is held in the Tržič Olympians Arena (the red-roofed building just out of sight to the left of building in the foreground below) in the heart of the picturesque old town.

The event unites visitors and exhibitors from far and wide, from those with a specific interest in minerals and fossils wanting to enrich their knowledge by viewing specialised exhibits, talking to experts, and/or attending creative and educational workshops, to those who just want to take a look and/or maybe treat themselves or their loved ones to some new jewellery or other gifts.

There is a fascinating array of exhibits of almost every shape, colour and size imaginable…

…and you wouldn’t believe how heavy some of them are, despite the relatively small size!

Although this year’s MINFOS took place last weekend – hence its too late to visit this year – you can instead visit the Dolina Exhibition and Education Centre in the hamlet of Dolina located along the valley of the Dovžan gorge** (Dovžanova soteska), just over 3 kilometres northeast of Tržič.

At the centre you can find out more about the picturesque valley that was carved out by the Tržič Bistrica river which laid bare the most complete sequence of rocks from the younger Paleozoic period, ranging in age from 300 to 260 million years.

As part of MINFOS, visitors are offered guided tours of the Dovžan gorge and the St. Anne mine (Šentanski rudnik) I chose to visit the latter. Guided tours can also be arranged at other times via the Tržič Tourist Information Centre.

Whilst in the past Idrija was the hub of Slovenia’s mercury mining industry, a number of miners from Idrija also came to work at the mine at Podljubelj. Regular production of cinnabar began at the mine in 1975 but ceased just a quarter of a century later in 1902 due to the low amount of mercury in the ore. A total of about 110,000 tonnes of ore and almost 300 tonnes of mercury were obtained from the mine.

Our incredibly knowledgeable guide, Luka, enlightened us about the history of the mine. At the end of the 19th century, 75 miners worked at the mine, of which 24 were women. But I won’t divulge all the details and spoil the surprise, instead why not take a tour and see it for yourself!

The tour begins by passing the entrance to the 450 metre-long Avgust mine, which served as a service route.

The Friderik mine was the main export tunnel for tailings.

The Anton mine, which was the most rich in ore and was thus also the most mined, is the only part that is open for visitors on the tour. Before entering we donned hard hats and were given torches, then we were off…into the unknown!

Luka told us many more fascinating facts, demonstrated the depth of the deepest shaft – approx. 35 metres, and pointed out the traces of cinnabar that can still be seen on the walls of the mine as well as beneath foot.

It is a bit nippy in there, so be sure to wrap up well – regardless of the weather outdoors – but it’s certainly worth it for a glimpse into part of Tržič’s history.

© Adele in Slovenia

* In fine weather the Dolina Exhibition and Education Centre is open from May until the end of October at weekends and on public holidays from 11am to 6pm, and at other times by prior arrangement.

** Due to extensive flooding in April this year, part of the path through the Dovžan gorge is closed, but rest assured, once it is open again I will be blogging about that too!

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

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