Slovenian Beekeeping: Bee our Guest!

This week I’d like to bring you some exciting news about a great new initiative and book – both on the theme of beekeeping – something at which Slovenia excels. Despite not being a beekeeper myself, since living in Slovenia I have become acutely aware of the importance that bees play in the world and, I believe, it’s something that should be of great importance to us all. Read on…!

Photo: S Senica

The Radovljica area has long been known for its ‘sweet’ traditions, primarily beekeeping-related, as well as chocolate in recent years thanks to the very popular Radovljica Chocolate Festival! Radovljica’s old town is home to the Museum of Apiculture, whilst the Beekeeping Education Centre of Gorenjska is situated in nearby Lesce.

Now, a new initiative has been launched to unite and promote Slovenian beekeeping in the Upper Gorenjska regionBEE OUR GUEST!

Photo: S Senica

BEE OUR GUEST is a collaboration between the municipalities of Bohinj, Bled, Gorje, Žirovnica, Radovljica and Kranjska Gora, and its aim is to acquaint visitors with Slovenian beekeeping in the Upper Gorenjska region, as well as offer information, tours and packages that combine beekeeping with the region’s other numerous sights and attractions. Thus, Bee Our Guest offers something for all those who want to see and experience a different side of the area’s natural beauty – whether you are a beekeeping enthusiast or just a lover of nature and all things ‘sweet’!

The Museum of Apiculture is located in the magnificent Radovljica Mansion in the heart of Radovljica’s old town centre, where, amongst other exhibits, you can see a rich collection of hand-painted beehive front panels, including the oldest in the world; each of the panels tells its own story!

You can also observe the bees busy buzzing about their business in the observation hive! More information can be found here – http://www.radolca.si/en/radovljica-apiculture-museum/

You can pay a visit to Lectar Inn, where in the cellar you can visit the workshop and museum where they have been making traditional Lectar honeybreads for centuries. You can buy gifts and souvenirs for your loved ones or for special occasions or, upon prior arrangement, join in a workshop and have a go at making one yourself.

On the website (http://www.beeourguest.eu/) and Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/BeeOurGuest.Slovenia/) you can also keep up-to-date with all the latest developments regarding World Bee Day, which has now been officially declared as 20th May, the birth date of Anton Janša (1734-1773), considered Slovenia’s greatest beekeeper.

“Every third spoonful of food on Earth depends on bees or, more precisely, on pollination. The more the meadows are polluted and the more frequently they are mown, the smaller the number of bees. Do we even realise what that means for our future and for us?” This comes from the authors of the newly-published book No Bees, No Life, available in English and Slovene, and is something we should all most definitely be aware of.

Written by the President of Slovenia’s Beekeeping Association, Bostjan Noč, the head of the breeding programme for the Carniolan honey bee, at the Slovenian Beekeeping Association, Peter Kozmus, and author of many books in the fields of ethnology and apiculture, Karolina Vrtačnik, as well as 66 contributions from 32 countries, the book has been receiving wide acclaim. You can find out more and/or order a copy here – https://beebooks.si/en/

I’ll be bringing you plenty more on this subject, and exploring it in more depth in the not-too-distant future, but for now, I’m off for for some quiet contemplation – oh and a cup of tea with Slovenian honey!

© Adele in Slovenia

 

Christmas 2016 in Slovenia – Christmas Markets, Food and Traditions

In February next year I will have been living in Slovenia for 10 years – gosh how time flies! My first Christmas here in 2007 was a bit of a culture shock as, at that time, Christmas wasn’t, or at least to me didn’t seem to be, such a big deal – no roast turkey and all the trimmings, no crackers and wearing of silly paper hats (though some might say that’s a bonus!), no shops crammed with Christmas merchandise in September and blaring Christmas jingles for months on end, and just a few low-, or at least lower-key Christmas markets.

Well, things have definitely changed and Christmas is most definitely here in a big(ger) way! With an increasing number of people choosing Slovenia as a destination for a short-break over Christmas/New Year, this blog has a run down of just some of things you can see and do.

Christmas in Ljubljana, Photo: http://www.slovenia.info

As in many other countries in Europe, the evening of the 24th is when most families celebrate and get together for a special meal, to exchange gifts and/or attend midnight mass. It’s worth noting that many restaurants are closed on Christmas Eve, or close earlier than usual. Shops are usually open on the 24th but close a little earlier than usual. All shops are closed on the 25th and again this is a family day, often for some recreational activities perhaps skiing, hiking or visiting relatives. The 26th is also a public holiday, Independence and Unity Day, and therefore again many shops and business will be closed although these days most of the larger ones are open, at least for a few hours in the morning. No Boxing Day Sales – hooray!

Christmas markets take place in all the major cities – the largest being in Ljubljana, where there are numerous markets throughout the city, the main one being alongside the banks of the Ljubljanica river. The festivities kick-off on 25th November with the official switching on of the lights at 5.15pm. There are also numerous concerts and other events taking place throughout the festive period. More here – http://bit.ly/2eBfQhk

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Christmas in Ljubljana, Photo: http://www.slovenia.info

My home town of Radovljica, one of the three best-preserved historic towns in Slovenia, has a small Advent Market and also looks magical! More information here – http://tinyurl.com/zxczvsg

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The cute little Alpine Village in the ski resort of Kranjska Gora is a winter wonderland. More information here – http://tinyurl.com/jbntrpl

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Slovenia’s 2nd biggest city, Maribor, switches on its Christmas lights on Friday 25th November. The Christmas programme includes a Christmas market, St. Nicholas fair, Artmar fair, city ice-rink, concerts and parties. More information here – http://bit.ly/1I8qXL0

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Festivities in Bled begin on 2nd December. A Christmas market takes place on the promenade at the south end of Lake Bled. If there’s snow, the island looks even more fairy tale-like! More information here – http://bit.ly/2eDpZZj

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Bled Island, Photo: http://www.slovenia.info

There are also Christmas markets in Celje and Portorož, as well as smaller local ones in many other towns throughout the country, though these tend to only be open for a few days rather than for the entire advent period.

Throughout Slovenia you will find a host of other festive events and activities, where you can be a spectator or join in, including live nativities, outdoor ice-rinks, parades and concerts.

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Outdoor ice-rink in Maribor – Photo: Produkcija80

The last two years, Christmas has not been ‘white’. However, if it is a white Christmas, then there are a whole host of other possibilities, such as sledging, skiing, snow-shoeing, hiking etc. My parents often spend Christmas here and we have had some memorable Christmas Days, including this one below, spent hiking on the Pokljuka Plateau.

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And Christmas isn’t Christmas (and Easter not Easter!) without home-baked potica! You can read plenty more about my potica journey here – https://adeleinslovenia.com/2016/03/03/easter-in-slovenia-my-potica-journey/

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So, if you are considering Slovenia’s for a Christmas break, then rest assured, you will find plenty to see and do. You can also be safe in the knowledge that you won’t have to pull a cracker and wear a silly hat!

© Adele in Slovenia

Hiking the Alpe Adria Trail – Stage 23: Kranjska Gora to Trenta, Slovenia

The Alpe Adria Trail, which begins on Kaiser Franz Josefs Hohe in Austria and ends on the coast at Muggia in Italy, has 43 stages and a total length of 750kms. The trail is a collaboration between three countries – Austria, Slovenia, Italy and offers lovers of the great outdoors myriad possibilities for enjoying the stunning and ever-changing scenery along the way from the highest glaciers to sea-level.

It’s easy to pick and choose where to start and how far to walk, however, since the route is linear, be sure to have a plan how to get back if you need to do so! In terms of the trail in Slovenia, stage 22 runs from Austria into Slovenia, stages 23, 24 and 25 are entirely within Slovenia, and stage 27 begins in Slovenia ending in Italy.

Stage 23 of the trail officially starts in the centre of Kranjska Gora (810m), though I started my early morning hike from the stunning Lake Jasna, which sits at the foot of the Vršič Pass. It was very tempting to linger a while, however, I had a long hike ahead so headed onwards, and upwards.

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The mythical golden-horned mountain goat ‘zlatorog‘ is a landmark and obligatory photo spot!

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From the far-end of the lake the route then leads along the Krnica valley, beside the Pišnica river and makes a fairly level easy start to the day. Note: If you’re looking to escape the summer heat, this valley is the place to be. Whatever the time of year in the early morning it’s freeeeeezing!!! In winter, Krnica is a particularly popular place for sledging.

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The route then turns right, passes the Mali Tamar Memorial to those who have lost their lives in the mountains, crosses a bridge over the stream, and then the ascent to Vršič begins. It is well-marked throughout with Alpe Adria signs as well as the usual Slovene way-markers (a red circle with a white inner).

The Vršič Pass is the highest mountain pass in Slovenia. It was built in the early 19th century, originally for military purposes, and has a total of 50 hairpin bends. You can, of course, drive up instead of hiking, or even cycle – as many do, though note that the pass is usually closed throughout winter when there is heavy snowfall due to the danger of avalanches.

The trail goes largely through the forest, though in places it emerges – or if ‘it’ doesn’t then ‘you’ can – from the forest at sights of interest and to take in the views. The first such sight is the Russian Chapel, which was built in memory of the suffering of the thousands of Russian prisoners during construction of the road. Hundreds of prisoners and their guards – Russian and Austrian – lost their lives due to an enormous avalanche in winter 1916 – the exact number who died was never known.

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The route continues to the right of the chapel, again through the forest. I recommend a stop at bend 17 to see the somewhat eerie looking stones that have begun to ‘appear’ in recent years. I guess someone started the trend and others followed!

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The view from here isn’t half bad either!

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It’s now not far to reach the top, less than half-an-hour and I was already at 1611m at the top of the Vršič Pass.

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From the top it was easy to see where I was heading, down towards the Soča Valley and I could hardly wait to glimpse the always-stunning emerald-green Soča river.

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When leaving the top, look for this sign and walk down the road for approximately 500 metres.

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As tempting as it is to admire the views, be sure to keep your eyes to the ground here, as here the way-marker for the trail is only on the ground and could easily be missed.

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From here the trail re-enters the forest and leads on a pleasant gently-descending path, eventually emerging between stones walls into the parking area at the source of the Soča river, where there is a small hut offering refreshments. In places the trail is marked by the letters AAT – as shown below.

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If you choose to take a detour to see the source of the Soča river, it takes about 10-15 minutes to reach the first viewpoint – a relatively easy path, thereafter its a bit of a climb, assisted by iron pegs and rope, so not for the faint-hearted! Knowing I still had a way to go, I just went to the first viewpoint (well, that’s my excuse anyway!).

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From here it is downhill all the way. The Soča River Trail leads on traffic-free paths to Trenta, home to a Triglav National Park Information Centre, and where there is a mini-market, restaurant and a sprinkling of accommodation options.

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The total distance of this stage of the trail is 17.8km, of which the ascent is 962m and 1146m descent. It can easily be shortened as required – at least during the summer months when buses operate over the Vršič pass from Kranjska Gora to the Soča Valley. Out of peak season, however, you would need to ensure you have suitable onward, or return, transport.

In total the hike took less than 5 hours, including photo stops. If you take time to linger and savour the views, perhaps enjoy a meal at one of the several mountain huts en-route to, or at the top of, the Vršič pass, then it makes a very enjoyable full day trip. Highly recommended!

More information about the trail can be found here – http://alpe-adria-trail.com/en/ and more information about autumn hiking in Slovenia here – http://www.slovenia.info/en/Autumn-hiking-in-Slovenia.htm?aktivna_pohodniska_jesen_slovenija=0&lng=2

© Adele in Slovenia