As the title of this blog elicits, you are never far from a stunning view in Radovljica, and you don’t even need to don your hiking boots or work up a sweat to savour the views either!
There are numerous great vantage points in and around Radovljica, all of which are within a 10-15 minute walk of the old town. Let’s start with the closest and work our way backwards, i.e. away from Linhart Square – the heart of the historic old town centre.
The viewing platform at the end of the old town is a great way to get a ‘feel for the land’. You can see the Sava river, the Jelovica plateau, and the Julian Alps – with Slovenia’s highest mountain, Mt. Triglav.
From the old town walk to the car park that it just a few metres ahead and you will see another viewpoint with a bench and similar views to those from the old town.
Now ahead away from the old town towards the Radovljica swimming pool, which is currently under reconstruction. Behind the pool there is a small hill called Obla gorica. Walk up and along its length, where you can also try out the brand new trim trail. The views are somewhat obscured by trees, but where there is a gap in the trees, there are great views to be had.
There is a second, smaller and lower rise to the east, from where views open up of the Baroque St. Peter’s church in the old town.
The final stop is the small hill called Voljči hrib, from where there are magnificent panoramic views of the Karavanke mountains, the Radovljica Plains, over Radovljica itself, and the Julian Alps in the distance. There’s a bench at the top, too, where you can soak up the views.
By the way, I took these photos a couple of weeks ago (yes, it’s taken me that long to find time to get round to putting this blog together!) and as I write, it’s raining here in Radovljica. However, I can see the snow getting lower and lower, so the mountains are, yet again, snow-capped, and we might even wake up to snow on the ground in the morning, too – boo hoo!
The best and easiest way to navigate Radovljica is to first pay a visit to the Tourist Information Centre, which is located at the entrance to Linhart Square, where you can pick up a map and the staff will be happy to point you in the direction of the viewpoints mentioned in this blog, and, of course, provide any other information you need about the area.
Almost all the COVID-related measures have been dropped now (masks are still mandatory indoors), so this year you really can start planning your trip to Slovenia, which, of course, must include a visit to Radovljica!
At last, I’ve found time to sit down and write my first blog of the year 2022! It’s been a funny old winter so far. First a lot of early snow in December, followed by a very cold spell, then an unseasonably mild spell, followed by rain, a bit more snow and now another really cold spell, albeit now at least with beautiful blue skies and sunshine.
Although I’ve never been a fan of the cold and snow, I’m also not one to sit indoors, regardless of the weather (and my ongoing health woes). So, here are a few ideas for winter hikes in the Radol’ca, oh, and read on to find out about the ‘spikes’ (as mentioned in the title) too!
One of our favourite hikes at this time of the year is to Smokuški vrh above the village of Begunje na Gorenjskem. Since we like doing circular routes and prefer to leave the car in the garage, when we have time we often set off on foot from Radovljica to Begunje (cca. 50 minutes), where we take the path that begins near the post office and leads steeply up to St. Peter’s church (cca. 30mins).
From the church, we carry on up to Smokuški vrh on the ridge, which is a great vantage point.
We then walk along the ridge, with stunning views of the Julian Alps and Slovenia’s highest mountain – Triglav – before descending towards the village of Rodine and back through Hraše and Lesce to Radovljica.
Now onto the ‘spikes’ I mentioned above…As also mentioned above, it’s been a mixed bag this winter, which means that although some places at lower altitudes are now almost snow-free (up to around 800metres above sea-level), in the forest, particularly in areas that don’t get any/much sun and paths that are well used, the paths are really icy in places, hence ‘spikes’ i.e. mini crampons, are a ‘must’ in my rucksack wherever I go.
So, if you are planning any hikes in winter, I’d advise you bring (or buy while you are here) a pair of these mini crampons – you can pick them up for around €30, they are very lightweight and quick and easy to put on. Note, however, that these crampons are NOT suitable for more strenuous and higher mountain tours, for which semi-automatic crampons are a must at this time of the year.
And what’s more, the ones I’m ‘modelling’ below, are even made here in the municipality of Radovljica – at the Veriga factory in Lesce, where you can buy them direct of pick them up in sports shops.
My other favourite places to hike in the Radovljica area in winter include the Goška ravan mountain pasture and hut on the Jelovica plateau…
The Roblekov dom mountain hut, above the Draga valley on the slopes of Mt. Begunščica…
The Zijavka (505m) viewpoint above the village of Kamna Goricain the Lipnica valleyis an ideal destination for an easy family walk (and for any unfortunate souls like me who are plagued by balance, or similar, problems, and can’t hike up to lofty heights!).
If you are arriving by car, then park your car at, or near, the sports ground in Kamna Gorica, then cross the main road towards the shrine.
Then past some cute, friendly sheep – though I can’t guarantee they will be there (or that they will be so friendly!) at the time of your visit!
After cca. 150 metres you reach a junction of paths, where there is an information board showing the various onward routes.
For the best views, take the path to Zijalka, which leads up to the right through the forest. After just a few hundred metres you reach a junction of paths, where you can make a quick diversion to see an interesting rock formation (photo opportunity!), before returning to the junction and taking the path straight ahead.
Continue on the path, which gently ascends through the forest. You don’t really need hiking poles for this walk, as it’s easy and short, however, my current lack of balance (read my previous blog post here to find out more) means they are (almost literally!) a lifesaver for me right now.
After about 15 minutes you reach the Zijalka viewpoint, from where there are magnificent views over the village of Kamna Gorica with the Jelovica plateau in the background.
You can see the Church of the Holy Trinity, the Sextons’ Museum House (the building to the left of the church), the linden tree in the centre of the village, and the houses in this former iron forging village. And, after having seen them from above, why not head back down for a stroll through the village to check out what they look like up close!
To end, just a brief update on the COVID situation here. The tourist season is in full swing, with the majority of camps and other accommodation facilities in the area full, or almost full (mostly with people driving here from other parts of Europe). There are, however, still some restrictions in place, primarily the ‘tested/recovered/vaccinated’ requirement to enter Slovenia, and masks are still required in some enclosed places. Virus numbers are beginning to creep up again, however, so do ensure you check ahead of your visit if anything has changed.
Hooray, I am finally the bearer of some good news…it feels like a while since I’ve been able to say that!
Writing this feels a bit like groundhog day, as it was around this time last year that Slovenia began to exit its first lockdown and I published a similar blog on the subject. And here we are today, almost a year later and only now Radovljica, as well as the rest of Slovenia, is slowly beginning to re-open after three, seemingly endless, lockdowns.
Unfortunately, the vaccination programme is still going slowly – to date around one-fifth of the country’s 2 million residents has received at least one shot of a vaccine – but, notwithstanding, things are steadily moving in the right direction and finally, after 6 long months, the terraces of restaurants/bars etc. were able to re-open last week and as of yesterday (Monday 26 April) hotels and other accommodation facilities are able to open up to 30 rooms (regardless of the size of the property). Note, however, that a negative test or proof of vaccination is required to stay in an type of accommodation (camps included).
So, now you, well we if I include myself, can actually begin to start thinking about planning holidays, something that has seemed unthinkable for a long time now. And since most of us will no doubt – sensibly – prefer to avoid places overrun by mass tourism, it is destinations such as Radol’ca that come into their own with its boutique accommodation and numerous hiking trails and other off the beaten track attractions. So, here are a few ideas to help you in planning your visit to Radovljica – whether for a few hours, a few days, or even longer!
After record snowfall in some places, it’s still very much winter in Slovenia’s high mountains, fortunately here in Radol’ca there are plenty of hiking trails at lower altitudes. I’ve written about such trails on numerous occasions, so a quick search back through previous blog posts using key words will turn up plenty of info on hikes to, for example, Suharna, the Vodiška planina mountain hut, the Roblekov dom mountain hut, St. Peter’s church above Begunje na Gorenjskem, and more.
Of course, after all that fresh air and activity you will be in need of some sustenance, and you certainly won’t go hungry at Taste Radol’ca restaurants, the ethos of which is using seasonal, locally sourced, ingredients. At the time of writing, some of the restaurants have yet to re-open, since they are currently only allowed to serve customers outside on the terrace and for those with smaller terraces it is not worth their while re-opening. However, it is to be hoped that it won’t be too long until they are able to fully re-open. Radol’ca even has a Michelin-starred restaurant – Vila Podvin – as well as several other fine dining restaurants and numerous rural inns.
In terms of accommodation, there’s plenty to choose, from river-side camps to apartments, guest houses and other boutique accommodation.
In terms of events, it’s still a bit early to say what will and won’t take place this year. The Radovljica Chocolate Festival, which was cancelled last year and postponed this year, is provisionally scheduled to take place on 11th and 12th September this year, while the organisers are hoping that others events, such as the Craft Beer Festival and live music and food on Thursdays evenings in the square, will be able to go ahead in summer, in some form or another. But at the moment it’s a case of watch this space to see how things pan out.
Of course, all the above-mentioned are in the Radol’ca area itself, meaning there’s still a whole host of other places waiting to be explored in the surrounding areas; the Julian Alps and Triglav National Park are on the doorstep, Lake Bled and Lake Bohinj are close, Slovenia’s capital Ljubljana is just a cca. 40 minute drive, and even places such as the Postojna caves, the Soča valley, and Slovenia’s coast are all within a 1-2 hour drive – nothing is that far away in Slovenia!
So, I hope I have provided you with some food for thought and ideas to help your holiday planning and, as and when there is (even) more news about more things opening up, I’ll be in touch with more up-to-date info, or, in the meantime, do feel free to drop me a line if you need more info. Always happy to help, well, within reason that is!
So, in addition to the ongoing (and boy is it going on…) coronavirus situation, in this part of Slovenia we have already had the highest snowfall in 43 years – and winter is far from over. I, for one, hope it’s also the last time for the next 43 years!
Regular readers of my blog will know I’m not a fan of snow, so this is by far, already, the hardest winter for me since moving here in 2007, and with the restrictions in place due to ‘the’ virus, there’s nowhere to escape, and no way of escaping, snow, so one just has to put on a brave face and plenty of winter clothing and get out there and ’embrace’ it.
Yesterday was the first day for around a month that it was due to be sunny, albeit it bitterly cold, so it was finally time to head out for a long hike to get some photos for my blog. Due to the restrictions in place, as well as the snow, there’s not a huge choice of places to go where a) we are allowed to go, b) the risks of avalanche are minimal, c) there are no problems with parking and no crowds – the latter turned out to be a particularly good move as the headlines on the news on Saturday were about the major traffic problems in the most popular winter sports areas. Thus, the obvious choice for us was the Jelovica plateau, which is right on our doorstep and which we can reach on foot from home. In fact, we’ve grown to love the wide choice of routes on the plateau so much, they are now likely to become a staple among our local hikes, even when we are allowed to go further from home!
We started from home in Radovljicaat 8.30am, first down to Lancovo and then onwards towards the hamlet of Kolnica in Spodnja Lipnica.
From there we continued up to the Suharna viewpoint above the Lipnica valley. You can also read more here about my first hike to Suharna earlier in the year, which, believe me, was a lot easier than trudging through the snow now!
It usually takes around an hour to reach the viewpoint but you always need to allow about half as much time again when walking in snow, and even more if the snow is knee (or thigh!) deep.
After hiking up through the forest you reach a road (yes, that really is a road you can ‘see’ below!), where the ‘path’ to Suharna continues to the left. The path is well marked throughout, provided the signs are visible beneath the snow, that is!
From the viewpoint there are far-reaching views across the Radovljica plains, the Karavanke mountains, the Kamnik-Savinja Alps and towards the Ljubljana basin.
Just don’t get too close to the edge as there is a sheer drop beneath that snow behind me!
We decided not to take a seat on the bench – can’t think why! – and instead returned to the intersection of paths and began our way, slowly, towards the Vodiška planina mountain pasture.
There are numerous paths that lead to the mountain pasture. This one proved to be a good option as we met few people along the way and it allowed us to do an entirely circular hike. Fortunately someone – though it looked like only one person – had already hiked that way that morning, so the trudge through the snow was at least somewhat easier.
From Suharna it would usually take around 1.15 hours to reach the Partizanski dom mountain hut on Vodiška planina but, again, it took us quite a bit longer due to the snow and we finally reached the mountain hut at just after 12.30pm, thus four hours after leaving home.
A flask of tea is an essential in winter, and even more so now when the huts are closed.
From the hut there are numerous paths the lead down towards Kropa. We took the one that leads towards the Stočje – the lower part of Kropa – which brings you out near the swimming pool.
The mountain pasture is only 1,108m and there’s over a metre of snow, whereas in the higher mountains there is over 3 metres of snow this year already. So, if you do plan any winter hiking, please do ensure you only choose familiar and/or well-trodden paths that are low risk in terms of avalanches and, of course, you need the full gamut of winter gear including gaiters, crampons, an ice axe (if going higher) and not forgetting a flask of tea!
From there we returned along the pavement to Kamna Gorica and from there we took the path that leads over the Fuxova brv footbridge back to Radovljica. The total hiking time from door-to-door was around 7 hours, and two pleasantly tired hikers certainly enjoyed their (gluten free!) pizzas once home!
So, having done so well in the first round of COVID-19, unfortunately Slovenia is faring much less well second time around.
We are now back to a partial lockdown, and as of 19th October the Slovenian government officially (re)declared an epidemic and also introduced a curfew from 9pm to 6am. We are not allowed out of our region, bars and restaurants are closed, as are all non-essential shops (as of tomorrow), home schooling is in place for year 6 upwards, and masks must be worn outdoors too at all times, other than when doing individual sports such as cycling.
Hence, the best place to be by far – other than alone on your bike(!) – is in the forest and far from the madding crowd. So, that’s exactly where we headed last weekend; from Radovljica to Jamnik via Kamna Gorica, on foot all the way there and back!
There are several paths that lead up to Jamnik and its landmark church from Kropa, or you can drive (or cycle) up the windy road. If, however, you want to make a full day of it and you haven’t got transport, you could follow my lead and go the whole way on foot!
First head from the old town of Radovljica past the cemetery and down to the Sava river where you cross the Fux footbridge (Fuxova brv) and follow part of the Lipnica Castle Trail.
Instead of turning off the path towards Lipnica Castle, at the junction of paths with a shrine and an information board, as seen below, continue straight on towards Kamna Gorica.
Walk through the village then rejoin the road and walk on the pavement, with the stream to your left, until you reach a sign on the right, almost opposite the bus stop, for Vodiška planina (the Vodiška mountain pasture).
Walk up the tarmac road which soon becomes a forest trail. From here on the path is well marked with the usual red/white circles on trees.
Most of the trail runs through dense forest, so there isn’t much in the way of views, but when there is a gap between the trees it makes the effort worthwhile!
After around 1.5 hours of walking you reach the Vodiška planina mountain pasture and the Partisanski dom mountain hut (currently also shut due to the virus).
If you’d like a shorter version of this hike then you could now take one of the paths that lead directly down to Kropa. Should you wish to continue, then just keep following the signs to Jamnik.
And lookout for the viewpoint with a bench along the way!
…from there on its downhill all the way to Jamnik! We experienced almost four seasons in one day – sunny when we left Radovljica, a hailstorm on the way down towards Jamnik, then shrouded in fog when we got there. Oh well, you can’t have everything!
On a fine(r) day, it usually looks more like this and there are great panoramic views too!
The Juliana long-distance hiking trail covers a total of 270 kilometres in 16 stages, one of which runs through the Radol’ca area.
Though marketed as ‘new’, no new paths or infrastructure were actually built in putting together the trail, rather what it does it nicely link together existing trails and paths whilst taking in picturesque valleys, meadows, plateaus, towns and villages in and around the Julian Alps and provides information on where to stay and what to see and do along the way.
The trail hasn’t been designed for those seeking to bag summits, rather for those wishing to see and experience the beauty and diversity of Slovenia’s alpine landscape without having to be an experienced mountaineer. That doesn’t, however, mean that its to be taken lightly, as some sections of the trail involve some significant altitude gains (the highest point reaches 1,819 metres above sea-level), but it is not technically demanding.
You can choose to walk the entire trail, or just select the sections that are most appealing. Each section of the trail is numbered and is shown by yellow (occasionally also white) signs showing JA and a number – 4 in the case of the Begunje – Bled section of the trail.
The trail begins and ends in Kranjska Gora from where it leads to Mojstrana and Jesenice before reaching Begunje na Gorenjskem, which is the stage described here.
Despite the title, the hike to Suharna isn’t actually ‘new’ per se, it is, however, newly marked and thus easier to find and follow – so that makes it new(ish) in my book!
The path begins in the Kolnica area of Spodnja Lipnica in the Lipnica valley. If coming by car from Radovljica then you should turn right opposite the Krona bar on the road marked towards Talež and other points of the Jelovica plateau.
You could, of course – like me – get to the start by bike (the car in the photo isn’t mine!), I got there purely by pedal power!
The first few hundred metres can be a bit muddy following rain, but the path then leads up into the forest on a good track.
The rewards come early on this hike, as after just a short while you glimpse the first view back across the Lipnica valley and across the Radovljica plains.
After around 20 minutes you reach počivav – a shrine with a bench where you can take a breather.
The path is well marked throughout.
A further cca. 10 minutes brings you to an intersection of two paths – continue left for Suharna or upwards towards Razpok. For the best views choose Suharna; the path to Razpok, which I also decided to check out, leads to a small pasture with a few weekend homes, but the views are somewhat restricted.
After a mere hour you reach the Suharna viewpoint at 952 metres above sea-level, where you can linger and marvel at the stunning views earnt for such little effort!
So, now to the ‘old’ walk mentioned in the title! I have blogged about the Grabnarca Waterside Nature Trailin the past, but since it begins from the same start point as the hike to Suharna, I thought it deserves another mention.
The trail follows the Grabnarca and Lipnica streams, which in the past powered mills and sawmills in the valley, and also leads to the spring of the Lipnica stream. You can read more in my previous blog post here.
You could even make a day of it, pack a picnic, and do both walks in one!
The COVID-19 lockdown in Slovenia, which from 30th March meant that we were not allowed out of our municipalities, was finally lifted today, hooray! Of course, we aren’t out of the woods yet; strict social distancing measures are still in place, we still have to wear masks in enclosed places, there’s still no public transport, schools are still closed…but things are gradually beginning to open and get back to some degree of normality.
Other than a somewhat uncomfortable feeling of a loss of freedom, fortunately, it actually didn’t affect me too much since I work from home and the municipality of Radovljica has so much to offer in terms of the great outdoors. In addition to my usual local haunts, it was actually quite interesting working out and planning just where (and where not) I could hike and cycle. I was surprised to discover that the municipality of Radovljica comprises a whopping 52 towns, villages and hamlets!
This gave me an idea for a blog – well actually two – in which I will photograph and describe (in brief!) each – or most – of the 52. A task-and-a-half indeed! So, in alphabetical order, here is the first half!
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!
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!
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 TOGETHER…Taste 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.
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!