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

Visit Tržič and Košuta – A Hike Along the Ridge of Slovenia’s Longest Mountain

At 10 kilometres long, the Košuta ridge, part of the Karavanke range situated above Tržič, is Slovenia’s longest mountain.

Its numerous peaks and mountain pastures make it a paradise both for hikers and mountain bikers. And you certainly won’t go hungry whilst on, or beneath, Košuta, as there are several mountain huts and dairy farms on the mountain pastures.

This blog post is day two of the 2-day hike I did on the ridge, with an overnight stay at the Taborniški dom na Šiji (the Šija Scouts’ Hut) – read about the hike up to the hut, the great food and the friendly hosts here. After breakfast, we took one final look back at the hut where we had spent such a pleasant night, then set off to conquer two of the peaks along the ridge.

From the Šija mountain pasture we walked to the Pungrat mountain pasture.

We passed by the dairy farm on the Pungrat mountain pasture (Planšarija planina Pungrat) – no need for sustenance just yet after having only just set off!

From the dairy farm a path leads up towards the Škrbina saddle. As you gain height, the views just get better; first back down towards the mountain pastures below and the mountains in the distance.

Then, on reaching the saddle, the views – in all directions – are magnificent and accompany you all the way along the ridge.

You can choose the path to the east towards Košutnikov turn or to the west towards Kladivo. We chose the latter, not least because my previous attempt to reach the peak didn’t exactly go to plan!

Regular readers might recall a blog I wrote some years back, titled ‘Kindness in the Karavanke‘ about my attempt to reach Kladivo, which, that time, ended up with me in tears and some friendly strangers being very kind! This time, however, I conquered it with relative ease and, in doing so, realised that last time I was literally a few metres from the top before I bottled it, and also discovered that the path down the other side is much easier, so I could have managed it, but that’s hindsight for you!

And the views are, well, you can see for yourself below, but they are even better when you earn them by hiking up and seeing and experiencing them for yourself!

After descending from Kladivo, we carried on along the wonderful ridge walk to Kofce gora and then on to Veliki vrh (literally ‘Big peak’).

Is it a bird, is it a plane…?

From Veliki vrh we descended to the Dom na Kofcah mountain hut which, at the time of writing is in the running for the title of ‘Best Slovenian Mountain Hut 2019‘.

The hut is famous for its excellent štruklji in a myriad of flavours. For me a visit is now a bittersweet experience and (almost) brings tears to my eyes when I see and smell the excellent štruklji as, sadly, there are no gluten-free ones to be had so my once favourite Slovenian food is now off limits for me – a travesty indeed! But for those who are lucky enough to be able to eat ‘normally’, do try the štruklji, I’m sure you won’t be disappointed, and maybe you will spare a thought for me whilst doing so!

This is just one of the many great hiking routes in the Tržič area, where you are spoilt for choice. See the Visit Tržič website, and you can also click on the ‘Visit Tržič’ tab above to see all the other blog posts I have written about what to see and do in the area.

© Adele in Slovenia

 

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