Hike Tržič: Košutica (Ljubeljska Baba) – 2 Countries, 1 Great Hike!

Despite being here over 12 years, I still get a kick out of being able to cover two countries in one hike, and the hike from Podljubelj in Tržič to Košutica (also known locally as ‘Ljubeljska Baba’) – part of the Karavanke mountain range – is up there among my favourites, not least because it makes a fab circular hike!

There are various ways of reaching the peak of Košutica; I like to begin from the monument next to the road and opposite the Mauthausen concentration camp in the St. Ana valley, which is located on the road from Tržič towards the Ljubelj pass to Austria.

The Hunters’ path (Lovska pot) winds its way up through the forest towards the Korošica mountain pasture. It is sparsely marked but well trodden, so orientation shouldn’t prove too much of a problem, well, unless the valley is shrouded in cloud as it was last Sunday morning!

Shortly before reaching the mountain pasture, the path to the peak of Košutica veers off to the left up to a junction of paths and the border with Austria, from where you turn left to take the path up to the peak of Košutica (1968m), marked here as ‘Baba’.

Although I try to pick perfect sunny days for my hikes – both for my enjoyment and in order to get good pictures for my blog – the weather doesn’t always play ball, and despite waiting around 20 minutes at the top, sheltering from the wind in the vain hope that the cloud might lift revealing the magnificent scenery below, it didn’t – well not at least until we had descended from the peak!

At least I had a flask of tea to warm me up!

The fog didn’t deter this pair, who obviously know where to find food!. They were so tame it was amazing, almost eating out of our hands!

And then, of course, the inevitable happened. As we began to descend the fog lifted, as did our spirits, the wind died down and the sun began to break through.

We could even finally see the cows that we had previously only been able to hear – these ones are Austrian (can you tell?!), since they are on the Austrian side of the border!

The donkeys we met on the way down, however, were most definitely Slovenian!

From the junction of paths, you can either return the same way, walk down to the mountain hut on the Korošica mountain pasture, and/or follow the path adjacent to the fence that forms a border between Slovenia and Austria – we opted for the latter two, i.e. first down to the hut for some sustenance, then back up to the junction and into Austria.

The hut is only open during the grazing season – usually mid-June to mid-September. It offers typical Slovenian mountain food, such as Carniolan sausages, buckwheat with pork crackling, sour milk, and, if you arrive early enough (we clearly didn’t – not that I would have been able to indulge anyway, sadly), freshly-baked strudel and potica.

Feeling fortified, we walked back up to the junction of paths, then followed the path along the border, from where there are wonderful views back towards Košutica – now looking magnificent in the sun!

The path continues along pastures before descending to an iron ladder. I wouldn’t advise this route when it is, or has recently been, wet, as in places it is rather steep, muddy and slippery when wet.

After a while the path eventually descends to reach a forest road (in Austria!), where we turned left and walked slightly uphill for around 5 minutes before reaching the Ljubelj pass – the oldest road pass in Europe – and returned back into Slovenia.

Prior to the building of the Ljubelj tunnel, the steep pass, which reaches 1,369 metres above sea-level, was the main transport route from Slovenia to Klagenfurt in Austria. Since the building of the Karavanke tunnel in 1991, however, the Ljubelj tunnel is far less frequented, while the Ljubelj pass today is a favourite year-round destination for hikers and in winter it turns into a sledger’s paradise!

You can visit the Koča na Ljubelju mountain hut (1369m) for (more) refreshments, if required, before making the cca. 45 min walk back down to the start.

And that rounds off another great hike in the Karavanke mountains in Tržič! Click here to find out more about what you can see and do in the area.

© Adele in Slovenia

 

By Bike to Žirovnica and the Završnica Valley

The Završnica valley, located in Žirovnica, is crammed full of interesting natural sights and attractions. It is best explored on foot or by bike, so join me on my bike to discover (just) some of the highlights!

It is a pleasant ride from Radovljica, where I live, along quiet, mainly traffic-free roads through Lesce and Hraše, where you can join the Imperial Road. In the past, the road, which is mostly untarmacked, was used by carriages for the transport of various goods. Today it makes a great traffic-free cycle route between Begunje na Gorenjskem and the villages under Mount Stol – the highest peak in the Karavanke mountains – that form the municipality of Žirovnica.

Along the way, and/or by making short detours, you can stop to see the many sights, particularly cultural, among them the Alley of Famous Men, and the birth houses – now museums – of famous men hailing from Žirovnica,

Those interested in beekeeping should make a beeline for Anton Janša’s apiary and Bee Paradise.

On reaching Žirovnica itself you can continue through Moste and then slightly uphill towards the Završnica valley and reservoir, where you can just ‘chill’, or continue further along the valley to the Zavrh bar and the Završnica Recreation Park, or even further if you want in the direction of Tito’s Village; for the last part, however, you will have dismount your bike and set off on foot.

Can you spot me?!

This is just one of the many options for cycling in the Žirovnica area; there’s something for everyone, from short, easy rides suitable for families to longer, more challenging mountain bike trails – such as the Predigra adrenaline ascent.

The 2 kilometre-long descent is rated as ‘very demanding’ and is therefore only suitable for experienced mountain bike riders with suitable equipment. It is therefore recommend that you book a guide to take you on the descent, and who can also guide you along the numerous mountain pastures beneath Mount Stol or to other parts of the Završnica valley. Contact the Žirovnica Cycling Club (KK Žirovnica) for more information: kkzavrsnica@gmail.com, +386 (0)41 474 984.

Photo: KK Završnica

Watch the video below to find out more about cycling in Žirovnica and/or click here for more information.

© Adele in Slovenia

By Bike to Begunje and Bees!

Not only is cycling good for you and for the environment, it’s also a wonderful way to explore an area, and the Radol’ca area is no exception. In fact, I find it the best way to get around and much prefer two wheels to four! There’s no need to worry about where to park, you are out in the fresh air, and you can see so much more than you do in a car and can stop at your leisure.

So, join me on a bike ride to, and through, Begunje na Gorenjskem to discover some of the sights of the Radol’ca countryside!

I have listed the places below in order so as to suggest a circular ride, however, you can of course pick and choose what to see and do, and the list is by no means exhaustive. Starting from Radovljica head past the Spar supermarket, pass under the motorway then continue to the village of Nova vas.

On reaching the t-junction in Zapuže, turn left then shortly afterwards turn right (there is a bar on the corner) towards Zgoša. On reaching the junction, as seen below, turn left towards Begunje.

After a few minutes you will reach the Elan factory, shop and Alpine Skiing Museum, more here – https://adeleinslovenia.com/2019/01/27/test-your-skiing-skills-at-the-elan-alpine-skiing-museum/

Continue towards the village of Begunje, the birthplace of Slavko Avsenik, who, together with his brother Vilko Avsenik, were the founders of Slovenian folk music. You can also visit the Avsenik Museum.

Opposite the Avsenik Museum is the Begunje Tourist Information Centre, where you can pick up more information about the area.

Continue through the village towards the Draga Valley, stopping first to admire and explore the ruins of Kamen Castle (grad Kamen).

Shortly after leaving the castle, there is a small cemetery that contains graves of hostages from the time when Begunje fell under German rule during World War II. You can also make a side trip to visit the Museum of Hostages, housed in Katzenstein Manor.

Now its just a few minutes more to reach the head of the Draga valley and the Gostišče Draga restaurant, which situated next to a stream and makes an ideal place to cool down, rest and/or enjoy some sustenance in the form of a drink, ice-cream, something sweet or some hearty traditional Slovenian food.

You can even stay overnight in one of the newly-renovated rooms and continue your cycling trip the next day! Or stay longer and enjoy the tranquility of the valley, which is also a great place for hiking in the Karavanke mountains.

On the way back, instead of returning the same way, after leaving the valley, you can turn left at the junction just after passing a sawmill. You could also make a detour to visit the Robačnekov mill. It is officially open on Tuesdays and Fridays from 9am-12noon, however, outside of these times if the owner is home, ask nicely and she will be happy to show you round!

Those interested in beekeeping, and even those who think they might not be interested but will likely discover that actually they are(!), can visit Luznar Beekeeping (Čebelarstvo Luznar).

Upon prior arrangement, you can call in to visit Erik at home, where you can purchase his award-winning honey and other honey products, and/or you could arrange to meet him in the Draga valley, where you can get up close to one of his many hives and his amazing new ‘book’ hive, which allows a fascinating, close up, and unique view of Slovenia’s indigenous Carniolan grey bees hard at work. Email cebelarstvo.luznar@gmail.com or call 040 321 556.

Photo: Erik Luznar

Photo: Erik Luznar

You can also visit Begunje and the Draga valley – as well as Erik and his bees(!) – on the Hop-On Hop-On tourist bus, which runs every summer throughout July and August. It’s a great way to discover the villages and countryside of the Radol’ca area. In addition to the ride, there are guided tours and walks as well as other attractions to see and visit at each destination.

Click here for more information about cycling in the Radol’ca area.

© Adele in Slovenia

 

Visit Žirovnica and Dine Hunter-Style at Lovski dom!

Lovski dom (Hunters’ Lodge) in the Završnica valley has long been a favourite place to dine among locals from the Žirovnica area as well as those from further afield. It has a reputation for its great wild game dishes, among others, as one would expect from a Hunters’ Lodge!

The restaurant was originally established by hunters, hence the name, and has now been under the same ownership for 27 years. Its winning recipe for success is a combination of great, traditional Slovenian food, hearty portions, friendly service and reasonable prices.

In fine weather you can sit outside and enjoy the views of both the surroundings and the restaurant’s own menagerie of animals, including Mici the bear.

…while during the colder months you can join the array of animal indoors – not live ones though!

Mici, originally from Kočevje, has been at ‘home’ at Lovski dom for 16 years now, and seemed more than happy to show off her climbing skills to get a treat of oranges and apples. The merits of keeping a bear in captivity are for some, obviously, questionable, however owner Ingrid explained to me that Mici has been in captivity all her life and would likely be unable to survive now in the wild.

Now, on to the food! Being somewhat limited in what I can order these days, I was unable to indulge, as I would have liked, in the huge meaty platters laden with Wiener schnitzel and other such traditional delights for which Lovski dom is known, including venison goulash, river trout and homemade štruklji.

Fortunately, however, I was able to indulge – and did – in the delicious and humungous pork ribs, the mixed grill, buckwheat with crackling, sauteed potatoes and salad, so, for a change, I didn’t feel short changed by being unable to eat anything containing gluten.

Reservations are recommended at weekends. Call 041 945 347 or email okrepcevalnica.stol@gmail.com

There is plenty to see and do in the vicinity of Lovski dom to build up an appetite for your hearty meal. You can hike in the Karavanke mountains, for example to Stol – the highest mountain in the Karavanke range – and/or visit the Valvasorjev dom mountain hut, which is the three-time winner of the title of Slovenia’s Best Mountain Hut (2014, 2016, 2018).

For a less strenuous option, you can visit the Turkish Cave or just take a leisurely stroll around the Završnica reservoir and recreation park – the choice is yours!

Find out more about what to see, do, and taste in Žirovnica here.

© 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

Taborniški dom na Šiji – Homely Hospitality and Hiking at the Scouts’ Hut on Šija

Unlike the majority of Slovenia’s mountain huts, the Taborniški dom na Šiji mountain hut (translation: the Šija Scouts Hut) is privately run, and the difference is obvious from the moment you arrive.

The hut lies at an altitude of 1,528 metres under the ridge of Slovenia’s longest mountain. There are numerous mountain pastures beneath the Košuta ridge, where cattle graze in summer, and the Šija hut makes a great place to base yourself for a couple of days to hike the pastures or along the ridge. The hut is also ideal for small groups, clubs, school outings, etc.

Owners Simona and Miha pride themselves on the homely atmosphere and home-cooked traditional food. So, I went to check it out for myself and within minutes of arriving, we were chatting like long-lost friends!

And I soon made friends with Jerry the dog too!

The Šija mountain pasture can be reached from several directions; the easiest and most direct of which is from the village of Jelendol, from where you can either set off on foot (cca. 2 hours) or, if you don’t mind getting a dusty car (I do mind, hence I walked!), then you can take the mountain road.

Whether on foot or by car, continue on the mountain road to the sign as seen in the photo below, from where it takes approx. 45 minutes to reach the hut on foot.

The čez frata (translation: through a clearing) path leads up to reach the Ilovica mountain pasture from where its just a 5 minute walk to reach the Taborniški dom.

Note: the path is well marked, however, when you reach the gate at the top of the pasture there isn’t a sign and it’s not immediately obvious whether to turn left or right; turn right and you reach the hut in around 5 minutes.

After a good old chinwag, I was shown to my room for the night. The hut has 4 bedrooms with a total of 34 beds, and a separate 6-bedded room. It has an indoor toilet (always a bonus when staying in the mountains!) and electricity.

I left it to my hosts to choose what to serve for dinner – albeit with strict instructions that it had to be gluten-free. And they didn’t disappoint with jota (a thick cabbage, potato and Carniolan sausage soup) and bržola, a traditional Tržič lamb stew, which these days is getting harder to find, hence Miha and Simona are keen to try to preserve its presence in the Tržič area.

But the best was still to come. The house special dessert – buckwheat omelette with forest fruits – which was seriously scrummy and, even better, is naturally gluten-free too! Well worth the hike! The only problem is I want another one, or two…!

I was fortunate that the weather was glorious, both on the evening that I arrived and the next morning. What a view to wake up to!

And not a bad view for breakfast either!

Speaking of breakfast, you can opt for a more simple continental-style breakfast, or opt to try some traditional specialities such as masunek (a mixture of flour, eggs, salt, butter) and/or buckwheat žganci (buckwheat flour cooked to a porridge-like consistency topped with pork crackling), all served with a mug of kislo mleko (sour milk).

You can visit the Taborniški dom website here (currently in Slovene only, but expect an English version soon), and the Facebook page here.

There are numerous onward hikes from the Šija mountain pasture, either along the mountain pastures or traversing the peaks of Slovenia’s longest mountain. It was sad to bid farewell so soon, but I was equally looking forward to day two of my adventure. Keep reading and following my blog to find out about my ridge hike – more coming soon!

© Adele in Slovenia

The Born Trail from Ljubelj to Preval – Don’t Forget a Torch!

The Born Trail (Bornova pot) leads from the top of the Ljubelj pass along an easy, scenic, though in places narrow, path, which includes a section through the Born tunnel. The trail leads mostly through forest (and the tunnel, of course!), so is ideal in summer when the sun is scorching as it remains pleasantly cool.

The trail is named after Baron Karl Born (1876-1957), a politician and entrepreneur and owner of large amounts of forest in the Jelendol area of Tržič. The 3,600 hectares of forest he once owned represented a third of the forest in today’s municipality of Tržič. Born’s influence on the area and its infrastructure at that time was far-reaching; he installed and built numerous facilities in the municipality including an electric sawmill in Jelendol, which used electricity from his own small hydroelectric plant, a facility for producing staves for barrels, and even a 5.5 kilometre railway line.

The trail begins at the large (free) car park at the foot of the Zelenica ski piste, where there is an information board and map about ‘Adventures in Tržič‘. The path begins by crossing an area of boulders before entering the forest.

In a couple of places the path is quite narrow and exposed, however, it is not in any way or anywhere difficult. It takes a little over an hour from the car park at Ljubelj to reach the Koča na Prevalu mountain hut and pasture.

To go through the tunnel you will need a torch, or at least the torch on your mobile phone! It’s freeeeezing in the tunnel, though on a hot summer’s day its bearable for the short length of time it takes to walk through it!

About halfway along the trail, shortly after leaving the tunnel – as well as in one place in the middle of the tunnel – there are wonderful views of St. Ana valley towards Tržič and the surrounding hills and mountains.

The trail leads to the Preval mountain pasture at an altitude of 1,311 metres, where you can stop for a rest and refreshments at the Koča na Prevalu mountain hut.

From the pasture you can also choose to extend your hike, either up the (very!) steep trail that leads directly up to the peak of Begunjščica, or follow the forest road towards the Planinca mountain hut and pasture where you can either branch off to the right after cca. 10 mins to take the ‘čez Roza‘ trail to the Roblek mountain hut (Roblekov dom), or continue on the road which descends to reach the Planinca mountain pasture and hut.

Ljubelj is a great starting point for hikes in the Karavanke mountains year-round, while in winter it becomes a ‘hub’ for ski touring and sledding.

Whilst in the area you can also visit the Mauthausen concentration camp, and, if you are hungry after all that hiking and/or exploring, then Gostišče Karavla is the place to go! You can read more about both these places in my recent blog post here.

© Adele in Slovenia