Visit Tržič – Jelendol and the Stegovnik Waterfall

Jelendol is a small village located at the far end of the Dovžan gorge in Tržič. Although it takes a bit of an effort to reach the village, and even more so to reach the Stegovnik waterfall, you will be rewarded by seeing this unique village and impressive waterfall away from the madding crowd! It is also the start point for numerous hikes in the Karavanke mountains – with so much choice, it’s hard to know which way to turn!

It’s hard to imagine what it must have been like for residents of the villages following the devastating floods of autumn 2018, which destroyed much of the gorge, the road, and caused significant damage to many of the houses closest to the river. At that time, the only way into or out of the gorge for the residents of Dolina and Jelendol was on foot to the start of the gorge from where they were picked up by minibus and taken to school, work, etc.

Now, the road through the valley has been repaired and numerous improvements have been made to the surrounding infrastructure too, so, provided you have a car, access is easy and, by combining a visit to Jelendol and the Stegovnik waterfall with a visit to the Dovžan gorge, which I blogged about recently, you can make a day of it. Read more here – https://adeleinslovenia.com/2020/06/24/visit-trzic-escape-the-heat-and-have-an-adventure-in-the-dovzan-gorge/

Jelendol is inextricably linked with Baron Karel Born (1876-1957), a politician and entrepreneur, who owned as much as a third of all the forest in Jelendol and the surroundings of Tržič.

Born set up an electric saw in Jelendol that used electricity from a domestic small hydroelectric plant. He built a plant to make staves for barrels, then in 1903 he built a 5.5km long railway line, and a main loading station in Medvodje. Horses were used to transport wood from Košuta and Stegovnik, and the wood was then transported by rail to the sawmill in the then Puterhof (renamed Jelendol in 1955). The line crossed the Tržiška Bistrica river several times, which required the construction of ten small wooden bridges. During the war, the sawmill and other buildings were razed to the ground twice by partisans, and the locomotive was even mined.

Nowadays there are still plenty of reminders of Born’s influence on the village; at the crossroads of the road towards Medvodje (to the right) and the road to the left (towards the fire station and onward on the forest road) there are information boards featuring information about Born and his contribution to the economic development of Jelendol (alas, only in Slovene)…

…while just a short walk leads to the Born family tomb, to where, in August 2008, Karel Born’s remains were transferred from the Vienna cemetery.

Having visited the tomb and had a wander round the village, you can continue your way by taking the right fork in the road towards Medvodje. Follow the dirt road for quite some time (I suggest by car or by bike – on foot would be a long slog!) until you reach a parking area near the ruins of a former barracks, where there is a sign to the waterfall. This is also the start point for hikes towards the mountain pastures beneath Košuta.

From here set off on foot for cca. 15 mins to reach the Stegovnik waterfall, which is formed from the Stegovnik brook.

Though the waterfall only drops around 15 metres, it is still quite impressive, and lovely and cool in the heat of the summer too!

During summer you can also visit Tržič every Friday on the Hop-On Hop-Off tourist bus, which includes free guided tours of the Dovzan gorge and Tržič old town centre.

© Adele in Slovenia

A Taste Radol’ca Culinary Challenge!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And all enjoyed on the terrace with a great view!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Adele in Slovenia

52 Shades of Radovljica – Part 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!

Begunje na Gorenjskem – one of the bigger villages in the municipality, with plenty to see and do! The birthplace of Slovenian national folk music, home to the Avsenik Museum, the Elan Alpine Skiing Museum, the Draga valley, Kamen Castle, and more.

Brda – a small hamlet at the start of the Lipnica valley near Lancovo.

Brezje – this village, though small, is considered Slovenia’s national pilgrimage site and is home to the Basilica of Mary Help of Christians as well as the Nativity Museum.

Brezovica – a hamlet in the Lipnica valley near Kropa.

Češnjica pri Kropi – follow the windy road up to this sunny settlement for wonderful views of the Karavanke mountains.

Črnivec – a small village near Brezje with a pizza place and a restaurant.

Dobravica –  a small hamlet near Češnjica pri Kropi.

Dobro Polje – another small hamlet, this one is near Brezje.

Dvorska vas – a small settlement near Begunje, home to the Lambergh Chateau and Hotel.

Globoko – a small settlement, which is home to the Barbaner Lipizzaner stud farm and the Globočnik homestead, which is about as traditional and homely as it gets!

Gorica, just a handful of houses but also a great mini golf course!

Hlebce and Hraše – two small settlements between Lesce and Begunje that I often confuse as they are located parallel to each other and both start with the letter ‘H’!

Kamna Gorica – sometimes also referred to as Slovenia’s ‘Little Venice’ due to its numerous water channels, the village is also home to the Sextons’ Museum House and the Church of the Holy Trinity, from where there are great views of the surrounding hills and mountains.

Kropa – the cradle of Slovenian iron forging. Home to the Iron Forging Museum, two churches, the Vigenjc vice forge, and numerous water sources that served the needs of the forges in their heyday.

Lancovo – home to the confluence of the Sava Dolinka and Sava Bohinjka rivers.

Lesce – plenty of restaurants, a sports airfield, the Church of the Assumption of Mary and the Beekeeping Education Centre of Gorenjska.

Lipnica – the lush Lipnica valley winds its way from Radovljica towards Podnart. Great cycling territory, either on the flat through the valley or by mountain bike on the forested Jelovica plateau.

Ljubno – known for its numerous frescoes packed into one small village, as well as the Church of Mary Help of Christians.

Mišače – I often pass through this peaceful hamlet when cycling through the Lipnica valley and back towards Radovljica via Globoko. In recent times a new ECO river camp has sprung up.

Mlaka – to be honest I’m not sure! I know of one area called Mlaka beneath the old town of Radovljica and a small hamlet beneath Mt. Dobrca, but not sure which one this is!

Mošnje – home to the fine dining restaurant Vila Podvin as well as the Mosnje Ethnological Museum, the Villa Rustica Archeological Trail and one of the oldest churches in Slovenia.

Nova vas pri Lescah – a small hamlet between Radovljica and Begunje.

Noše – a small hamlet near Brezje.

Otoče – a small village with a railway station on the main line between Ljubljana and Jesenice.

Ovsiše – located on sunny plains above the Lipnica valley and home to the Porta organic farm.

So, as you can see, there’s far more to Radol’ca than just Radovljica – and that’s just the first half! My work here is not yet complete! Until next time…

© Adele in Slovenia

Reasons to Be Cheerful in Radol’ca!

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

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

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

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

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

Photo: ©AdeleinSlovenia

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

©AdeleinSlovenia

Photo: ©AdeleinSlovenia

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

Photo: ©AdeleinSlovenia

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

Photo: ©AdeleinSlovenia

And all that without leaving the confines of Radovljica!

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

@Adele in Slovenia

Hike and Dine on Dobrča!

The ‘green’ and relatively dry winter continues (though as I write, snow is forecast this Wednesday – yikes!), so, even if the weather is slightly cloudy as it was for our hike, you can enjoy a great hike to Dobrča to enjoy the views, the spring (in winter!) flowers, and the great food at the mountain hut!

I was surprised when I first discovered that Dobrča is actually part of the Kamnik-Savinja Alps, not the Karavanke mountains as its position leads one to believe. Dobrča stands in a prominent position between Begunje na Gorenjskem and Tržič and can be reached on marked paths from numerous directions, among them those from Slatna (from the Begunje side), and Brezje pri Tržiču, Hudi Graben, and Srednja vas (from the Tržič side).

We were accompanied by spring flowers most of the way, which, in winter really bring a smile to the face!

Depending on which path you take, it takes around 1.5-2.5 hours to hike up steeply through the forest to reach the Koča na Dobrči mountain hut (1,478m).

However, my advice is not to stop there (yet!) but rather to continue to the top (look for the signs that say ‘Vrh’), which takes around 30 minutes from the hut.

However, at the top itself, 1,634m, the views are fairly obscured, so, don’t stop there either (yet!)… having made it that far you simply must continue another 5 minutes or so to the Šentanski vrh viewpoint…

…where you are richly rewarded (even on a slightly cloudy day!) with views to the east of Tržič and the surrounding settlements, as well as the surrounding peaks of Storžič, Kriška gora, and the longest mountain in Slovenia, Košuta, in the background!

Then, having built up an appetite and as a ‘reward’ for your efforts, head (back) to the mountain hut for some sustenance! There’s plenty on offer including various soups, stews and sausages and, for the sweeth-toothed, štruklji, pancakes and strudel.

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From the hut there are views of the snow-capped Julian Alps to the west, and towards the Ljubljana basin and, on a clear day, beyond, to the east.

This is just one of many great mountain hikes in the Tržič area, many of which I have already blogged about and some that I still have in store for this year!

© Adele in Slovenia

Ten Top Insider Radol’ca Tips!

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

So, in no particular order…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Adele in Slovenia

 

Winter Hiking Above Tržič – Kriška gora and Tolsti vrh

Okay, so I know the title of the blog is ‘Winter Hiking Above Tržič…..’, but, as you will see from the pictures below, the weather – thank goodness! – is anything but wintry right now – and long may it continue I say!

We’ve had almost a month with no rain or snow, brilliant blue skies and sunshine – of course, it can’t last indefinitely, but while it does one has to make the most of it! So yesterday, despite waking up to fog in the valley, we headed out for our first winter hike this year in the Tržič area, this time we chose Kriška gora and Tolsti vrh. In places it looked, and felt, more like autumn!

As regular readers will know, I have a penchant for circular hikes, and this is a great one! You can begin the hike from Tržič itself (cca. 2.5 hours to reach the hut), from Zgornje Vetrno, or, as we did, drive up to the village of Gozd, where we parked in the small parking area on the left-hand side of the road, from where we set off on the steeper of the two paths (shown below as strma pot) that leads to the Koča na Kriški gori mountain hut. Should you wish to do the hike in the opposite direction you can drive further up the road to reach the Zavetišče v Gozdu and then set off from there on foot.

It’s such an amazing feeling when you get up above the fog and see the first glimpse of blue sky followed by the ‘sea’ of fog below!

After about 1hr and 15mins of climbing up steeply – very – through the forest, you reach the Koča na Kriski gori mountain hut (1,471m).

You can take a breather here and soak up the views, and/or head inside for some typical Slovenian mountain food.

Slovenia’s highest mountain, Mt Triglav (2,864m), looks particularly majestic on days like these.

Since there is still snow and ice in many places above around 1,500 metres (and over 3 metres of snow in the high mountains) of course, at this time of year one should always have a pair of crampons with them, which, had we done the hike in the opposite direction, would certainly have been needed in a few places today. The patches of ice and snow served as a reminder that it actually is mid-January!

From here you can either pass the hut then take the path that leads at first in an easterly direction before winding its way down through the forest, or, for a longer walk continue along the ridge for another cca. 1hr 15mins to reach the peak of Tolsti vrh (1,715m).

At the top there is a small fenced area where you can take a breather, soak up the views, and sign the record book. In the background you can see Mt. Storžič, which is on my list of peaks to conquer this year, so, more about that to come in the course of this year!

From Tolsti vrh you can take the path that leads directly downwards – steeply at first before levelling out. It takes around 1hr 30 mins to reach the Zavetišče v Gozdu, which is a kind of (non-mountainous!) mountain hut that is open at weekends.

If you need some sustenance after your hike, you could visit Gostilna Pri Bajdu in Senično near Golnik, which you can read about in a previous blog here, or visit one of the other places to eat in the Tržič area.

So, this was a good start to my hikes and adventures in the Tržič area for 2020. Here’s to many more and, in the meantime, check out the Visit Tržič website to find out more!

© Adele in Slovenia

 

Autumn Hiking at the ‘Top’ of Radol’ca – Mount Begunščica!

At a height of 2,060 metres, Begunščica is the highest point of the Radol’ca area. It rises above the village of Begunje na Gorenjskem and can be reached from several directions; from Radovljica the Draga valley is the most convenient start point. From the parking area at the head of the valley, there is a choice of two trails to reach Veliki vrh (literally ‘big peak’) – the highest point of Begunščica.

The slightly longer but easier of the two routes leads first on the forest road then through the forest road to the Roblekov dom mountain hut and from there onwards to the peak. Nowhere is it overly steep.

The other trail, and the one I will describe below, is my preferred choice – especially since it makes the perfect circular route – but in places is most definitely steep! It leads first along the Shepherds’ Trail to the Preval mountain hut and mountain pasture, and from there onwards and upwards towards the top, followed by the less steep trail down to the Roblekov dom hut and back to the Draga valley – and all without a single retraced step!

I have already previously blogged about the Shepherds’ Trail, so won’t go into too much detail here, other than to say that, should you decide to follow it as per the details in my previous blog, you should only do so up until the point where you reach the Preval mountain hut and pasture; from there on the trail to Begunščica leads off in a different direction.

From the mountain pasture take the path that leads directly upwards across a steep grassy slope before entering the forest.

It can seem like a bit of a slog at times, but once you gain some height and in places emerge from the forest, you can forget the more ‘sloggy’ parts and begin enjoying the views!

Once you emerge from the forest there are a couple of metres of scrambling here and there but nothing too demanding.

Once the ground begins to level out you turn left and start heading towards the highest point of Begunščica, but it’s still around half-an-hour to get there yet, even though the sign says 20 minutes!

Then a short section of the walk leads along a ridge – don’t look down if you have a fear of heights!

The views, however, divert your attention and make it all worthwhile!

Until the end of the grazing season you will be ‘greeted’ near the top by a flock of sheep. And even when they have been transported back down to the valley, you will certainly know they have been there!

At the top there is an orientation table and a visitors’ book and you can rest for a while before beginning the descent.

To make an entirely circular route, descend from Veliki vrh towards the west. It takes around an hour to reach the ever-popular Roblekov dom mountain hut, where you can get some sustenance and enjoy more of the stunning views before returning back to the Draga valley – a further cca. 1.5 hours.

Since October is a great month for hiking and enjoying the fruits of the forest, Tourism Radol’ca has launched a prize game entitled ‘The Wealth of the Forest with Taste Radol’ca‘. To enter all you have to do is head off into the forest and share your experience to be in with the chance to win a Taste Radol’ca meal for 2!

More about hiking in Radol’ca can be found here.

© Adele in Slovenia

Visit Žirovnica: Autumn Hikes in the Karavanke Mountains

Providing the weather is good, autumn is one of the best times of the year for hiking in Slovenia; the weather is (usually) more stable i.e. there aren’t (usually!) late afternoon thunderstorms like in summer, and the trails are far less crowded than during the peak summer months. On the downside, the days are getting shorter and some of the mountain huts are already closed, with others only open at weekends, but provided you set off in good time and with proper equipment and a well-stocked rucksack, the hiking world – well Slovenia’s little part of it – is your oyster!

The Karavanke mountains above the Žirovnica area are a great destination for hiking year-round.

I have already written numerous blogs about my various hikes in the area, so this blog is a kind of ‘one-stop-shop’ where I have gathered together all, well far from all in truth, my hikes and blogs in the area, as well as a bonus one too!

The hikes listed below are all included in the leaflet ‘Žirovnica Green Energy – Hiking and Mountain Bike Trails in the Municipality of Žirovnica‘.

Valvasorjev dom (Valvasor mountain hut) is the three-times winner of the title ‘Best Mountain Hut in Slovenia’. It can be reached in around an hour from the reservoir in the Završnica valley.

Rezultat iskanja slik za valvasorjev dom

Photo: Planinska Zveza Slovenije

There are numerous onward trails from the hut, including to Stol, the highest peak in the Karavanke mountains.

Ajdna is the name of the tooth-shaped peak beneath Mount Stol and is home to a fascinating archaelogical site. It was settled during the crisis times of the collapse of the Western-Roman Empire in 476 AD. Extensive, expensive and exceptionally complex conservation work was carried out and today there are well-preserved buildings and remains of buildings that are thought to date back to the late Antiquity, though some evidence shows that it may even have been inhabited far earlier.

You can also find out more about Ajdna by visiting the Ajdna Museum Room in Čopova hisa (Čop’s House).

The numerous mountain pastures beneath Mt. Stol are ideal for those seeking easier, more level walks, and/or mountain bike enthusiasts.

The Žirovniška planina mountain pasture and the Zabreška planina mountain pasture are up there among my favourites!

I like to visit the Dom pri izviru Završnice (hut at the source of the Završnica stream) as part of a hike to Srednji vrh.

Starting from the Završnica valley, the trail passes the hut up to the Šija saddle, from where there is no lack of choice where to go next!

Stol is the highest mountain in the Karavanke range. As the Karavanke mountains form a natural border between Slovenian and Austria, you are spoilt for choice with fabulous views in all directions.

The word ‘stol’ means ‘chair’, hence once you are at the top, you are literally taking a seat atop the Karavanke!

The Turkish Cave (Turška jama) is located at an altitude of 835m above the Završnica valley. The name of the cave derives from when, many centuries ago, women and children retreated to the cave to seek refuge from Turkish invaders.

The cave has two entrances, is 18 metres long and 2 metres deep.

I have already written two blogs about Tito’s Village, offering two alternative ways to reach it. The first describes the route from the Završnica valley or, for a more adventurous approach, take the path along the ridge to Mali vrh and onwards to Tito’s village.

The camp provided partisans with shelter from the German occupiers. The camp was in existence from 21 November 1944 – 31 January 1945, which, though only 2 months, was considered long for those times.

And finally, the Hudič babo pere waterfall – the ‘bonus’ walk I mentioned earlier!

One does, however, need a sense of adventure to find this waterfall, not to mention good footwear! I visited in late summer, when water levels were low, but imagine that during autumn the flow of water is somewhat more impressive. You can reach it on foot from the Završnica valley. After around cca. 200 metres from the reservoir, just before a wooden fenced ‘bridge’, take the (unmarked) path to the left. It first crosses a stream over a wooden boardwalk then leads up steeply into the forest where the path almost disappears. Just keep following the water for a further cca.20 mins to reach the top – but please do so with extreme caution!

So, as you can see, there’s no shortage of choice. The hardest thing, as always, is deciding where to go first. Happy Hiking in Žirovnica!

© 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