When Adele in Slovenia Became Adele ‘Is’ a Slovene!

After a process that took almost 10 months and was, at times, exasperating to say the least, I finally became a citizen of the Republic of Slovenia on Tuesday 10th September 2019!

After such a lengthy and laborious process, which began with me passing the Slovenian language exam and was thereafter followed by a period of gathering documents, more documents and more documents, the actual official awarding of the citizenship was a simple and quick affair; just a case of reading the official oath, signing a few documents and that was that!

And since it’s said that every Slovene must make it to the summit of Triglav once in their life, four days later I did just that!

Since it’s not every day that one becomes a Slovene, I decided a good old knees-up was in order and invited those who have been, or rather are, an important part of my life here. After pondering where to hold it, I decided on Gostišče Tulipan in Lesce, as it is known for its great traditional Slovenian food, friendly service, spacious rooms and pleasant ambience.

We had the area downstairs to ourselves and it definitely turned out to be the right choice as the organisation and service was exemplary and I was also delighted that I was able to enjoy a great meal in great company without having to worry about being ‘glutened’ as I had agreed the whole menu in advance and given strict instructions re gluten contamination.

So, I’d like to extend a huge thanks to the whole team at Gostišče Tulipan for their efforts and also thanks to all those who came and made it such a great evening.

And Gostišče Tulipan even took care of a (gluten-free) ‘Slovenka sem’ (I’m a Slovene) cake too, which we managed to polish off pretty quickly!

As befits such a gathering, I donned a Slovenian national costume to (re)read the oath, accompanied by the Slovenian national anthem…

Becoming a Slovene wasn’t easy, as with so many things in life, but I’m proud to be able to say I am and wouldn’t have it any other way!

© Adele in Slovenia

 

 

 

Kunstelj Inn – A True and Tasty Tale of Tradition!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Adele in Slovenia

Visit Žirovnica – A Ridge Hike to Tito’s Village via Mali vrh

When choosing what to blog about, sometimes a look at my blog statistics can help to provide inspiration. So, having seen that there has been significant interest in the blog I wrote last year about Tito’s Village (Titova vas), I thought I would write another blog on the theme, though this time describing an alternative, more interesting/challenging, way of reaching it; a hike along the ridge from Mali vrh and onward to Tito’s Village.

Mali vrh can be reached by taking the aptly-named Sunny Path (Sonča pot) from Žirovnica to St. Lawrence’s church (sv. Lovrenc). You can join the path and reach the church from several places. I like to park in Žirovnica then take the path that leads towards the steps that go up towards the distinctive water surge tank. Don’t go up the steps but just to the right the path, though not marked, is easily visible as it traverses the grassy meadows above the villages of Žirovnica.

Follow the path towards the church and, just a hundred metres or so before reaching the church, you will see a sign pointing upwards to the left marked Brin vrh.

If you want to visit the church, do so first, then return to the sign and head up the steep path to reach Mali vrh. At the top there is a small rest area…

…complete with a visitors book…

and, somewhat bizarrely, a broom! I’m guessing it must be to brush the snow off the benches in winter!

From Mali vrh continue along the ridge before descending to a saddle where you can either descend steeply down to the Završnica reservoir and recreational park (this makes a great circular route if you walk back past the reservoir and continue on the path back to the water surge tank), or you continue towards Tito’s village, or even further!

In a couple of places there are iron pegs and rungs, but there’s nothing too scary – fortunately – and it adds to the adventure!

The path is very well marked throughout, and there are a couple of strategically placed benches where you can take a breather and soak up the views of the surrounding villages and countryside, as well as Lake Bled and the Julian Alps on one side…

…while on the other you can see the lush Završnica valley beneath Mt. Stol – the highest peak in the Karavanke mountain range.

The path continues it way along the ridge, with a few nooks and crannies to explore along the way!

On reaching the sign for Titova vas, you can follow the forest road down to visit the secret World War II partisan camp that was hidden deep in the forest in a remote, hidden and relatively inaccessible location beneath the peak of Smokuški vrh. The camp had its own newspaper, a choir, butchery and everything needed for everyday life at that time.

The camp provided partisans with shelter from the German occupiers. Considering its location, in close proximity to German strongholds in nearby Žirovnica, Bled, Koroška Bela, Javornik, Jesenice, Lesce, Radovljica, Brezje, Poljče and Begunje, the existence of the camp from 21 November 1944 – 31 January 1945 – though only 2 months – was considered long for those times.

You can either return along the outward route described in my previous blog about Tito’s Village, or return by the same route, or, at the junction of paths, take the wide stony path downwards to the right, which leads down to the village of Smokuč, from where you can either walk back to the start along the road, or, to avoid having to walk along the road, follow the signs for the Žirovnica Path of Cultural Heritage (Pot po kulturni dediščini).

If you want a great base for a hiking holiday in Slovenia, why not consider Žirovnica; there’s a wealth to see and do, it’s off the main tourist trail – and therefore you get a more genuine experience of Slovenia than one does in the main tourist towns – there are plenty of places to eat, and it’s great value too!

© Adele in Slovenia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And the salads are pretty good too!

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

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

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

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

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

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

The path to the church is just one of the 16 trails included in the new map of hiking and mountain bike trails in the Žirovnica area, which you download here or pick up a copy (available in Slovene and English) at the Žirovnica Tourist Information Centre in Čop’s House (Čopova hiša).

© Adele in Slovenia

Discover Tržič and the Three Bells Trail

From time-to-time, when not dashing up and down hills and mountains, and especially at this time of year when many of the paths at higher altitudes are treacherous due to snow and, particularly, ice, I find that an easier, flatter walk such as the Three Bells Trail (in Slovene: Pot treh zvonov) is the perfect choice!

The mainly flat trail leads along quiet traffic-free country lanes and paths and through the Udin boršt woods and offers numerous beautiful viewpoints and places to rest and enjoy the sights and sounds of nature along the way.

Since the trail is circular, you can start anywhere really; I chose to begin in the village of Sebenje where there is an information board about the trail.

The trail is well marked throughout so once you find the first sign showing three green bells, you can just follow them and can’t really go wrong. However, if you want more information and like having a map in hand, then you can pick up a copy of the trail brochure at the Tržič Tourist Information Centre or download the brochure here.

Set off towards the newly renovated ski jump centre in Sebenje (in Slovene: skakalni center).

Then after a short while the tarmac road becomes a gravel path as you enter the Udin boršt woods where you will find the first of 2 trim trails along the way – ideal for a warm-up before heading onward!

After leaving the woods the trail leads in the direction of the village of Senično, from where there are wonderful views of Kriška gora (1471m), with its highest point Tolsti vrh (1715m), and neighbouring Storžič (2132m).

Before reaching the village, the trail turns right, passes a parachuting practice area, then leads to the hamlet of Novake.

Soon you reach one of the three small bells (the first, second or third depending on where you start the trail!).

Shortly after the trail re-enters the woods, where it leads gently uphill, before reaching the next bell and a pleasant rest area.

Shortly before exiting the woods you pass another trim trail – another chance for some extra fitness!

Then, you emerge into the village of Žiganja vas, whose inhabitants came up with the idea for the Three Bells Trail at the time when three bells where being replaced in the village church.

On a clear day, there are far-reaching views from one side of the Julian Alps, all the way to Triglav

…and on the other towards the Karavanke mountains that form a natural border between Slovenia and Austria.

In the centre of Žiganja vas, adjacent to St. Ulrich’s church, stands the giant village linden tree, which is so huge, and in places hollow, you can actually go inside it – and who could resist such an opportunity!

The trail then returns back to Sebenje completing the 9km-long circular route. Much of the route is also suitable for cycling (mountain or trekking bike). You should allow around 2 hours, more if you make frequent stops, and it is a truly pleasant way to while away a sunny winter’s afternoon!

You can find out more about the other walking and hiking trails in the Tržič area here, and, of course, stay tuned to my blog for more ideas and inspiration to come too!

© Adele in Slovenia

 

 

Christmas, New Year & Winter Sports in Bohinj

The festive season is upon us and where better to spend it than in beautiful Bohinj, where there will be numerous events and activities going on over the Christmas and New Year period as well as countless opportunities to enjoy some winter sports. So, in this blog I have gathered details of some of the main events and added a few suggestions of my own for how to spend Christmas and New Year in Bohinj.

It remains to be seen whether or not it will be a white Christmas this year. Last year we had early snow, whereas the two previous years there was no significant snowfall until after the New Year. However the early snowfall this year on 20th November has meant that, at the time of writing, preparations are underway for opening at many of Slovenia’s ski resorts.

If you want your fill of winter sports, then you are spoilt for choice in the Bohinj area and Triglav National Park, from skiing and cross-country skiing to hiking, snowshoeing, sledging and ice-skating.

Time for a cuppa to warm up after snowshoeing – at the mountain den on Pokljuka! Photo: Adele in Slovenia

For a unique experience, why not try snowshoeing on the Pokljuka plateau

Me snowshoeing at the Planina Konščica mountain pasture on Pokljuka! Photo: Adele in Slovenia

…or fans of downhill skiing can choose from two easily accessible ski resorts – Vogel and Soriška planina.

The Vogel ski resort is reached by cable car from Ukanc and is up there among Slovenia’s most popular ski resorts. Over an area of 78 hectares it boasts natural snow, 22 kilometres of ski pistes, 8 ski lifts, a children’s ski park and lift, a snow park, a hotel, restaurants, a ski school and equipment rental, sledging tracks, and more.

The Vogel ski resort. Photo: http://www.vogel.si

The Soriška planina ski resort can be reached from Bohinjska Bistrica as well as from Škofja Loka via Železniki and from Most na Soči via Baška Grapa. Over an area of 25 hectares, facilities consist of 8 kilometres of ski pistes, a two-person chairlift, 3 drag lifts, a children’s drag lift, a snow park, a sledging trackcross-country ski trails and a restaurant.

The Soriška planina ski resort. Photo: Adele in Slovenia

I don’t ski, and have no desire to either(!), hence you won’t see any photos of me swishing stylishly (ahem!) down ski pistes, but that doesn’t stop me visiting them!

At the top of the Soriška planina ski resort (without skis!). Photo: Adele in Slovenia

If there is sufficient snow in the valley, there are ample opportunities for cross-country skiing in the Upper and Lower Bohinj Valleys, where there are over 70 kilometres of tracks.

Rezultat iskanja slik

Cross-country skiing in the Upper Bohinj Valley, Photo: Mitja Sodja

Otherwise, there are a number of smaller ski pistes, which are particularly suitable for beginners and families, such as Senožeta and the Pokljuka family ski centre.

The Pokljuka plateau has more than 30 kilometres of excellent cross-country ski tracks, many of which start at the Triglav Pokljuka sports and biathlon centre at Rudno polje, where from 3rd-9th December this year the BMW IBU Biathlon World Cup will take place.

Povezana slika

The Rudno Polje Biathlon Centre, photo: Gorje Tourist Assocation – http://www.vintgar.si

And there are tracks at the beautiful Zajovrnik mountain highland.

Cross-country skiing on the Planina Zajavornik mountain highland, yes, it is me! Photo: Adele in Slovenia

You might even run into some of Slovenia’s military, who have a base on Pokljuka, honing their skiing skills!

Photo: Adele in Slovenia

Pokljuka is also an excellent place for some winter hiking. Among my favourite destinations for winter hikes are Mrežce

Winter hiking on Mrežce on Pokljuka. Photo: Adele in Slovenia

…and Debela peč. Both of which can be reached from the Blejska koča mountain hut.

Winter hiking to Debela peč on Pokljuka. Photo: Adele in Slovenia

If you are unfamiliar with the terrain, however, do be sure to only hike on trodden paths and/or with a guide or local, and ensure you have good quality and sufficient winter equipment.

Nearly at the top! Photo: Adele in Slovenia

If live music and a good old boogie is your thing, then you can take your pick from numerous concerts.

Modrijani, Čuki and Ribič Pepe will be playing live on the 29th December at Camp Danica in Bohinjska Bistrica.

And the following day, at the same location, there will be a concert by Mambo Kings.

On New Year’s Eve you can take your pick of either New Year’s Eve outdoors in Stara Fužina, with entertainment from 9pm, or New Year’s Eve with the Avsenik Ensemble in Ribčev Laz, also from 9pm.

Elsewhere, in Bohinjska Bistrica during winter there is an ice rink next to the Mercator centre, on 1st December the Christmas lights will be officially switched-on in the village of Srednja vas, and kids won’t want to miss a visit to Santa’s Land.

So, enough to be getting on with then in addition, of course, to eating, drinking and being merry during the festive season.

© 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