Srednji Vrh: Seeking the Sun and a Stream in the Karavanke!

This ‘summer’ – not that it can really be called that thus far – hasn’t been kind to us outdoor types. This time last year we were basking in 35 degrees, whilst a week ago we had temperatures half that, and since the start of June there have only been a couple of days when there hasn’t been rain somewhere in Slovenia.

Thus, trying to find days with clear blue skies for hiking and getting some good snaps for my blog have been few and far between. Fed up with waiting, I just went anyway, and, though not as gloriously sunny as I would have liked, I managed to get in a good hike in the Karavanke mountains to Srednji vrh and the Dom pri izviru Završnice (mountain hut at the source of the Završnica stream) – and even stayed dry too!

Despite the less sunny photos, I hope you, nonetheless, enjoy this glimpse into just one of the many fantastic hikes in the Karavanke mountains in the Žirovnica area. Join me on my trip to see the source of the Završnica stream and Srednji vrh!

I started my hike from the Završnica valley. How far you go by car is a matter of choice – some choose to drive as far as possible along the valley, whilst I prefer to leave the car and set off on foot along the gravel road. You will want to stop and admire the reservoir (seen below on a sunnier day!), but if you have transport, then do continue along the valley further before parking, as its a long walk from here.

From here the road gets much rougher and it’s best to set off on foot. The area, with its many mountain pastures, is also popular for mountain biking.

The road rises gradually to reach the Tinčkova koca hut, which isn’t actually an official mountain hut, rather a private hut, but somehow the name has stuck!

The Dom pri izviru Završnice hut. which was recently renovated and has new beds and furniture, is situated at an altitude of 1425m above the Smokuč mountain pasture (Smokuška planina) and on the backside of the Zelenica ski piste (sadly, no longer operational).

The hut is open from 1st June to 1st October, and at other times at weekends, weather permitting, and by prior arrangement for groups. From the hut there are numerous options for continuing to explore the peaks of the Karavanke including Vrtača, Begunščica and Stol.

I always find the springs of rivers and streams fascinating. Where on earth does all the water come from? At the source of the Završnica stream, there is barely a trickle of water to be seen – and that despite the abundance of snow and rain this year – yet just a little further down the valley, it turns into a gushing stream.

The beauty of hiking in the Karavanke, particularly in the ‘summer’ (ahem!), is the lack of crowds. I hiked for close to 5 hours and only met around a dozen people in that time – bliss for those who really want to get away from it all.

As I like to make my hikes circular, where possible, I continued from the hut up the ski slope before turning left and heading on the slopes beneath Vrtača. In this area there is a lot of loose rock and scree, so you need to keep your wits about you. As you get higher, you are rewarded with a glimpse of Lake Bled in the distance.

Where the path branches off right to ascend the summit of Vrtača, I took the left fork marked for Stol. On reaching a junction I then descend to the Šija saddle, from where there is certainly no lack of choice of where to go next!

I chose the path to Srednji vrh (1796m), which is just a further 15 minute climb from the saddle. At the top there is a visitors’ book, a solitary bench and fab views!

I then descended back down towards the hut, which is less than half-an-hour from the Šija saddle before returning on the same road.

Click here for more information and this and other hikes in the Žirovnica area.

© Adele in Slovenia

Visit ‘Shakespeare’s House’ in Slovenia!

Ok, yes, guilty as charged of using an attention grabbing headline! Of course you can’t visit the actual Shakespeare’s House in Slovenia, you can, however, visit the house of Slovenia’s equivalent!

And what better way to do it than in style on a horse and cart ride along the Žirovnica Path of Cultural Heritage.

Despite only living to the tender age of 49, the legacy of France Prešeren (1800-1849), Slovenia’s most famous poet, remains as strong today as ever. In fact, Prešeren was, or rather is, so important to Slovenian culture, that a national holiday is dedicated to him annually on 8th February – Prešeren’s Day. 

The Path of Cultural Heritage takes in Prešeren’s birth house, as well as the birth houses of his friends – the linguist and literary historian Matija Čop in Žirovnica, the writer Fran Saleški Finžgar in Doslovče, and the writer and priest Janez Jalen in Rodine.

Čop’s House (Čopova hiša) is also the home of the Žirovnica Institute for Tourism and Culture, where you can pick up leaflets and find out more about the area.

The path runs through the hamlets that make up the Municipality of Žirovnica, with the Karavanke mountains as a back drop, an abundance of lush green scenery to admire, a number of restaurants serving traditional Slovenian food.

Whilst in the area you can also visit Janša’s Memorial Apiary, as well as the recently-opened Bee Paradise – the brainchild of the president of Slovenia’s Beekeeping Association. Read more here https://adeleinslovenia.com/2018/05/06/cebelji-raj-a-real-bee-paradise/

To mark the recent World Bee Day a memorial plaque was erected in front of the Jansa’s memorial apiary. Read more about the first World Bee Day celebrations here – https://adeleinslovenia.com/2018/05/21/zirovnica-the-place-to-bee-to-celebrate-world-bee-day/

All the houses offer a unique insight into life in bygone days and you can see exhibits including an original black kitchen, and other items typical of the era.

Whilst you can visit the house at other times, independently or as part of a guided tour, a unique way to do so is by taking a ride on a traditionallojtrnik‘ – a traditional horse and cart – which runs every fourth Saturday in the month from March to October.

The ride departs from the car park in Vrba, which is also the location of Prešeren’s birth house, at 10am, 11am and 12noon. Upon purchase of a ticket for at least one of the birth houses, rides are FREE. The next opportunity will be on 23rd June.

And here’s my tip: sweet talk Janez and he might even let you ride up front!

Click here for more information about this and other natural and cultural attractions in the Žirovnica area.

© Adele in Slovenia

 

 

 

Gostilna Knafel: Dine with the stars…in Žirovnica!

Through the years, the Žirovnica area has been home to numerous of Slovenia’s most well known talents. Of this, the most well known are the ‘famous five’ – Anton Janša, France Prešeren, Fran Saleški Finžgar, Janez Jalen and Matija Čop.

You can ‘meet’ these five by visiting their birth houses and also see bust statues of them outside the Žirovnica primary school at the Alley of Famous Men, which is part of the Žirovnica Path of Cultural Heritage.

The Karavanke mountains form a backdrop to the villages and hamlets that form the Municipality of Žirovnica, and, on one of the first truly warm and sunny spring days this year, yesterday it was at last, after the long, bleak winter, time to get out exploring again- hooray!

 

Then it was time to ‘dine with the stars‘ at the Gostilna Knafel restaurant, which is in close proximity to the Alley of Famous Men, where you can enjoy a hearty meal in the company of Žirovnica’s famous men! Depending where you choose to sit in the restaurant, you can ‘dine’ with one of them, or rather in the knowledge they are watching over you as you eat!

France Prešeren (1800-1849), Slovenia’s most famous poet.

And read some of their words of wisdom…

Anton Janša – Slovenia’s greatest beekeeper and the pioneer of modern apiculture.

Not far from Gostilna Knafel you can also visit Anton Jansa’s apiary, which was reconstructed in 2017.

There’s a kid’s corner, where Fran Saležki Finžgar keeps a watchful eye!

The team at Gostilna Knafel strive to offer traditional Slovenian dishes such as buckwheat krapi (similar to ravioli) filled with curd cheese topped with pork crackling,

Take a peek into the kitchen and you can even see krapi being freshly made! The before…

And the after…

One of my favourite Slovenian foods is štruklji, so I was spoilt for choice with homemade savoury štruklji (a light dough filled and rolled like a swiss roll) with a porcini mushroom sauce.

As well as sweet buckwheat štruklji with curd cheese, honey and walnuts.

There is also a full a-la-carte menu, daily malice (light lunches from Mon-Fri), and pizzas – something for every taste!

The Visit Žirovnica website has more information about Gostilna Knafel and the other food and beverage outlets in the Žirovnica area, which I am looking forward to getting more acquainted with – and tasting too, of course!

© Adele in Slovenia

Winter Activities in the Završnica Valley

Winter has now really shown its teeth and the recent couple of heavy snowfalls rapidly brought an end to the unusually mild and green January. So, those that love winter, and with it winters sports, are now in their element enjoying all manners of snow-based activities.

As there is also plenty of snow this year in the valley, not just in the mountains, you don’t have to go far from home (or from your holiday home!) to find cross-country skiing trails, sledging tracks and winter walking and hiking trails – all of this, and more, can be found in the Završnica Recreation Park in the Završnica valley.

For lovers of sledging the 5km road that begins near the reservoir in the valley and leads to the Valvasorjev dom mountain hut is a paradise, and this year almost the entire length of the road has been prepared as a sledging track. Of course, you do first have to drag your sledge uphill…

There is also a small sledging track and a 1.5km circular cross-country ski trail opposite the Zavrh bar just a few hundred metres further along the valley from the reservoir. Here you don’t have to drag your sledge too far to enjoy the rewards!

So you can have multiple attempts – however you choose to get down!

If you prefer your winter sports on ‘two legs’, then you can hike the cca. 1 hour path up to the Valvasorjev dom mountain hut – twice the winner of the title of Slovenia’s Best Mountain Hut – where you can be sure of a warm welcome and delicious home-cooked food; soups, stews, strudel etc.

I would, however, advise having a pair of lightweight crampons in your rucksack for the descent, as the lower parts of the path can tend to get very icy at this time of year.

Or you could opt for a shorter, easier walk around the reservoir and along the trim trail to the Zavrh bar.

Once you reach the Zavrh bar, you can cross the bridge, turn left and continue on the right side of the stream, or turn left to follow the trim trail back to the reservoir.

So, don’t delay, get out there and enjoy it today – while the snow lasts!

Click here to find out more about the Završnica Recreation Park (in Slovene only) or here for the Visit Žirovnica website where you can find more information about all the other facilities and attractions in the Žirovnica area.

© Adele in Slovenia

 

 

 

Experience Prešeren’s Day Along the Žirovnica Path of Cultural Heritage

Despite only living to the tender age of 49, the legacy of France Prešeren (1800-1849), Slovenia’s most famous poet, remains as strong today as ever. In fact, Prešeren was, or rather is, so important to Slovenian culture, that a national holiday is dedicated to him annually on 8th FebruaryPrešeren’s Day. 

Find out more about the life and times of Prešeren, as well as that of some of Slovenia’s other great literary writers, along the Walk along the Žirovnica Path of Cultural Heritage.

Although you can visit the attractions along the path year-round, it is a particularly special experience to do so on Prešeren’s Day, when you can join hundreds of others visitors, locals and those from further afield, to walk the path, find out more about life in Prešeren’s time, and feel a part of Slovenia’s cultural heritage.

The 10km circular path leads through the villages beneath Mt. Stol – the highest peak in the Karavanke range – taking in Prešeren’s birth house in the village of Vrba, where there is a car park and information board about the path.

Opposite the car park there is a bust statue of the great man.

In addition to visiting Prešeren’s birth house, you can continue to the birth houses of Prešeren’s friend, the linguist and literary historian Matija Čop in Žirovnica, the writer Fran Saleški Finžgar in Doslovče, and the writer and priest Janez Jalen in Rodine. All the houses offer a unique insight into life in bygone days and you can see exhibits including an original black kitchen.

For many a particular highlight is a visit to the apiary of Slovenia’s greatest beekeeper and the pioneer of modern apiculture, Anton Janša (1734-1773)in Breznica. It’s easy to find, just follow the brown signs marked with a bee!

The apiary was carefully reconstructed in 2017 and this year will be the focal point of this year’s first ever World Bee Day, which will take place in Breznica on 20th May.

At the time of writing, there’s no snow here in the valley, but that could, of course, change by 8th February! Either way, there’s never a shortage of people joining the walk on 8th February, and there is also a rich accompanying programme on the day for all – regardless of whether you take part in the organised walk or not. It includes free entrance to all the birth houses, stalls along the way offering local food and drink, a honey market in Vrba and small farmer’s market in Rodine, entrance to exhibitions, and more! Find the full programme here (in Slovene only) – http://visitzirovnica.si/pohod-po-poti-kulturne-dediscine-zirovnica-8-februar/

But don’t worry – if you can’t make it on 8th February, you can visit the birth houses and walk, all or some of, the trail independently or, to get the most out of it, on a guided tour. The best time to do so is every fourth Saturday in the month from March to October when guided visits to all four houses are available between 10am and 5pm. For a really special experience on this day you can visit the houses by taking a ride on a traditional horse and cart which begins at the car park in Vrba at set times.

The Visit Zirovnica website has more information about this and all the other attractions in the area.

Come and find out more about why France Prešeren is Slovenia’s equivalent to Shakespeare!

© Adele in Slovenia

Visit Žirovnica: The Sunny Path to St. Lawrence

Welcome to my first blog of 2018 and my first one about a new destination that I will be highlighting this year – Žirovnica! The area has a wealth of natural and cultural attractions, about which I will be endeavouring to write as much as possible in my regular blog posts.

Though not so well known among visitors to Slovenia, pretty much every Slovene knows, and has visited, Žirovnica; specifically to Vrba, to visit the birth house of one of Slovenia’s most famous men and greatest poet, France Prešeren (1800-1849).

At this time of year, when the days are short and sunlight is at a premium, I like to take a walk on 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.

As the name suggests, on a sunny day the path is bathed in sunlight throughout the day and also offers fantastic views over the wide Radovljica plains and towards the high mountains of the Julian Alps.

You pass a small shrine then continue on the slightly undulating terrain.

On reaching a small wooden cabin a flight of steps lead up towards St. Lawrence’s church which is nestled into the slopes above the hamlet of Zabreznica.

Although usually locked, you can take a peek into the church through the windows of the main entrance door, and with a bit of nifty camera/phone angling, get a great view of the church’s ornate interior which is adorned by the Stations of the Cross.

Other than its particularly unique and serene location and wonderful panoramic views, 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.

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.

There are plenty of well-positioned benches for soaking up the rays and enjoying the view!

Even on a slightly hazy winter’s day, the views are pretty good, I’m sure you’ll agree!

You can choose to return along the sunny path, or take the path that descends steeply and directly down from the church through the forest. On reaching the bottom you can walk back through the hamlets of Breznica and Zabreznica to return to the start.

Find out more about the Sunny Path and other similar walking and hiking paths in the Zirovnica area here – http://visitzirovnica.si/en/

© Adele in Slovenia

 

 

 

Roblekov dom – Slovenia’s Best Mountain Hut 2017

The Roblekov dom mountain hut on Mt. Begunščica in the Karavanke mountains has just been announced as the winner of the title ‘Best Mountain Hut 2017’.

Photo: Jani Kolman

The competition was contested by 72 out of the 181 mountain huts (including bivouacs and shelters) in Slovenia, and of the 70,000+ votes cast by the public, Roblekov dom was this year’s clear winner.

There are numerous reasons why Roblekov dom is such a well-known and popular destination for hikers from all over Slovenia – not least due to the popular song, which surely almost every Slovene knows by heart, ‘Na Roblek bom odsel’ (I’m going to Roblek), written and performed by the legend of Slovenian folk music, Slavko Avsenik. Watch and listen here!

These days the song is still performed by the hugely popular Avsenik Ensemble, from Begunje na Gorenjskem.

The Roblekov dom hut has long been a popular destination and now, with the new caretaker managers – Zdenka and Rok Podpečan, who took over the running of the hut last year and assure visitors a warm welcome regardless of the weather – the hut has now become even more popular and they have added a few of their own new touches, too!

For many, myself included, the fact that you can’t reach the hut by car is a major plus i.e. you have to hike up to earn your view and/or tasty treat, making it all the more rewarding, not to mention peaceful and pollution-free.

Roblekov dom is accessible year-round, and is actually probably even more popular during winter than in summer. I love hiking up there in winter to enjoy some winter sun, often finding myself above the cloud that is lingering above the valley.

Even when there is A LOT of snow, you might find me (somewhere!) up there!

Even though I don’t like snow, I will make an exception to visit Roblek dom on a sunny winter’s day!

The hut can be a destination by itself, just sit and soak up the views whilst enjoying some tasty mountain food, or as part of a hike to the top of Mt. Begunščica, which you can read more about in this blog post from earlier this year here – https://adeleinslovenia.com/2017/06/18/the-karavanke-mountains-majestic-mt-begunscica/

The most usual place to begin a hike to Roblekov dom is from the Draga valley, which is reached through the village of Begunje na Gorenjskem, and is home to the impressive ruins of the mighty Kamen Castle. You can either take the direct route up or take the Shepherd’s Trail to Preval then the path ‘čez Roža’ to reach the hut. Note, however, that during winter, when there is snow and/or ice, it isn’t advisable to attempt the Shepherd’s Trail. More about the Shepherd’s Trail can be found here – http://www.radolca.si/en/shepherds-trail-begunje/

Photo: Miran Kambić

Roblekov dom is open year-round; daily during the summer months and at weekends only throughout the remainder of the year, as well as on public holidays.

So, don’t delay, visit today, and find out for yourself why Roblekov dom has been voted Slovenia’s best mountain hut!

© Adele in Slovenia