Visit Tržič: MINFOS and the St. Anne Mine

The Tržič area is known to be one of the most fascinating areas of Slovenia in geological terms.

MINFOS is an annual 2-day exhibition of minerals and fossils, which, together with the Dolina Exhibition and Education Centre* and some fascinating geological trails, showcases the area’s rich geological treasures. The exhibition is held in the Tržič Olympians Arena (the red-roofed building just out of sight to the left of building in the foreground below) in the heart of the picturesque old town.

The event unites visitors and exhibitors from far and wide, from those with a specific interest in minerals and fossils wanting to enrich their knowledge by viewing specialised exhibits, talking to experts, and/or attending creative and educational workshops, to those who just want to take a look and/or maybe treat themselves or their loved ones to some new jewellery or other gifts.

There is a fascinating array of exhibits of almost every shape, colour and size imaginable…

…and you wouldn’t believe how heavy some of them are, despite the relatively small size!

Although this year’s MINFOS took place last weekend – hence its too late to visit this year – you can instead visit the Dolina Exhibition and Education Centre in the hamlet of Dolina located along the valley of the Dovžan gorge** (Dovžanova soteska), just over 3 kilometres northeast of Tržič.

At the centre you can find out more about the picturesque valley that was carved out by the Tržič Bistrica river which laid bare the most complete sequence of rocks from the younger Paleozoic period, ranging in age from 300 to 260 million years.

As part of MINFOS, visitors are offered guided tours of the Dovžan gorge and the St. Anne mine (Šentanski rudnik) I chose to visit the latter. Guided tours can also be arranged at other times via the Tržič Tourist Information Centre.

Whilst in the past Idrija was the hub of Slovenia’s mercury mining industry, a number of miners from Idrija also came to work at the mine at Podljubelj. Regular production of cinnabar began at the mine in 1975 but ceased just a quarter of a century later in 1902 due to the low amount of mercury in the ore. A total of about 110,000 tonnes of ore and almost 300 tonnes of mercury were obtained from the mine.

Our incredibly knowledgeable guide, Luka, enlightened us about the history of the mine. At the end of the 19th century, 75 miners worked at the mine, of which 24 were women. But I won’t divulge all the details and spoil the surprise, instead why not take a tour and see it for yourself!

The tour begins by passing the entrance to the 450 metre-long Avgust mine, which served as a service route.

The Friderik mine was the main export tunnel for tailings.

The Anton mine, which was the most rich in ore and was thus also the most mined, is the only part that is open for visitors on the tour. Before entering we donned hard hats and were given torches, then we were off…into the unknown!

Luka told us many more fascinating facts, demonstrated the depth of the deepest shaft – approx. 35 metres, and pointed out the traces of cinnabar that can still be seen on the walls of the mine as well as beneath foot.

It is a bit nippy in there, so be sure to wrap up well – regardless of the weather outdoors – but it’s certainly worth it for a glimpse into part of Tržič’s history.

© Adele in Slovenia

* In fine weather the Dolina Exhibition and Education Centre is open from May until the end of October at weekends and on public holidays from 11am to 6pm, and at other times by prior arrangement.

** Due to extensive flooding in April this year, part of the path through the Dovžan gorge is closed, but rest assured, once it is open again I will be blogging about that too!

Discovering the Taste(s) of Žirovnica – Gostišče Osvald

Regular readers of my blog will know that I have written numerous posts about the fantastic hiking opportunities the Žirovnica area offers, among them an ascent of Stol, the highest mountain in the Karavanke range. And now, since all hungry hikers (as well as cyclists and those pursuing other active pursuits) need plenty of sustenance and a ‘reward’ for their efforts, I have now set about delving more deeply into what is on offer at Žirovnica’s restaurants and inns – all in the name of research, of course!

So, let’s begin with a popular and traditional Slovenian restaurant – Gostišče Osvald, which is located on the main road through Žirovnica in the hamlet of Selo pri Žirovnici and is the oldest restaurant in the area.

One of my desires when writing such blogs is to try and uncover and share with readers any particular dishes that are a real speciality of a particular restaurant or area. Hence I left it to owner Anže to dish me up his specialties!

I hit gold with this giant buckwheat ‘krap’! ‘Krapi’ are usually smaller, individual dumplings, filled with curd cheese. This giant one, however, has a small amount of yeast mixed into the buckwheat dough to allow it to rise, is filled with a mixture of curd cheese and millet, and topped with pork crackling – ingenious and delicious!

Another speciality of the Žirovnica area is buckwheat with porcini mushrooms. It’s not dissimilar to a mushroom risotto, albeit it with grains of buckwheat instead of rice, with onion, herbs and sour cream to finish. It can be a hearty and filling dish on its own or a side dish.

Served together with a roast, I left fit to burst!

Anže then showed me around the other parts of the deceptively large building, which features two additional rooms for functions.

The restaurant was built in the mid-19th century. In bygone days there was a barn next door for the horses of horsemen who stopped in Selo pri Žirovnici on their onward travels and stayed in rooms above the barn.

Today you too can stay there – though above the restaurant rather than in the barn! – in the recently refurbished attic rooms, which are simple but make a bargain place to stay and ideal base for exploring the area.

Gostišče Osvald is in close proximity to Čopova hisa (Čop’s House), the birth house of Matija Čop, the first Slovenian philologist, literary historian and librarian, one of the greatest European scholars of his time and a good friend and mentor of France Prešeren.

His birth house is now also home to the Žirovnica Tourist Information Centre as well as the Ajdna Museum Room, featuring an exhibition of artefacts found during archeological excavations at Ajdna. Read more about hiking to Ajdna in one of my previous blog posts.

Also close by is the Avenue of Famous Men, located in front of the primary school in Žirovnica, and part of the Žirovnica Path of Cultural Heritage. You can take a horse and cart ride along the path every fourth Saturday in the month from March to October.

The ‘avenue’ features bust statues of five of the most famous and influential men from the Žirovnica area –Anton Janša, France Prešeren, Fran Saleški Finžgar, Janez Jalen and Matija Čop.

Click here for more information about what to see and do in Žirovnica and here for more about what, and where, to taste Žirovnica, and keep an eye out for more ‘tasty’ blogs to come too!

© Adele in Slovenia

Lovely Little Ljubno and the Brezje Pilgrimage Trail

The village of Ljubno might be small but its numerous beautifully frescoed houses and ‘miraculous’ church are a real feast for the eyes!

When driving along the Gorenjska motorway from east to west, just before reaching the Ljubno tunnel, to the left you can see the village and its closely-packed houses. However, its not until you get up close and take a walk among the houses, that you get a true sense of this small village.

Ljubno was once a centre of pottery in the Gorensjka region. Today you can find out more about the tradition and see examples of Ljubno pottery at the Manufaktura pottery shop and workshop in Radovljica’s old town centrehttps://adeleinslovenia.com/2019/01/05/manufaktura-a-new-year-and-a-new-addition-to-radovljicas-linhart-square/.

There is an interesting story of how Ljubno was transformed into an important pilgrimage place in the 17th century. During renovation of Ljubno’s village church – the Church of Mary Help of Christians, also known as the Church of the ‘Stricken’ Mary – a builder struck the statue of Mary and blood poured out of the ‘wound’ and wouldn’t stop. The story quickly became known throughout the land and attracted ever more pilgrims. Today it is not as popular as nearby Brezje, however, when in the area, it is still worth a visit.

A visit to Ljubno can be an extension of a walk along the Brezje Pilgrimage Trail (Božja pot), which today runs along the once most commonly used pilgrimage trail from Otoče to the Basilica of Mary Help of Christians in Brezje. There is an information board (in Slovene) about the trail adjacent to the church.

The path in Otoče begins at the railway station, hence making it ideal for those reliant on public transport.

Immediately on leaving the station you will find the first information board about the trail (in Slovene).

First walk along the village road to the junction with the main road and turn left. After just a few metres you can choose to follow the marked path to make a detour to Ljubno, or take the direct route to Brezje. If you opt for the latter, which is cca. 5kms one-way, continue along the verge of the road for a further cca. 5 mins until you reach the shrine of St. John of Nepomuk (kapelica sv. Janeza Nepomuka).

After crossing the bridge over a stream take the wooden steps to the right of another shrine that lead up steeply on a forest path.

On emerging from the forest head towards the underpass under the motorway. Shortly thereafter you will see the sign for the village of Brezje. Follow the road up a short incline into the village and then just ‘follow your nose’ to the basilica, you can’t exactly miss it!

In 1988 the then Church of St. Vitus was elevated to the status of minor basilica by Pope John Paul II, who also visited in 1996. The basilica has become a popular pilgrimage destination to where people flock from all over Slovenia and further afield, too, particularly on Assumption Day, which is celebrated on 15th August and is a public holiday in Slovenia.

Whilst there you can also visit the Nativity Museum, which is located just behind the basilica and contains almost 400 nativity scenes from all over the world. Read more in a previous post here – https://adeleinslovenia.com/2017/12/10/feel-the-festive-spirit-at-the-nativity-museum-at-slovenias-national-shrine-in-brezje/

Opposite the basilica there is a small park where you can sit in peace and admire the basilica, read the information boards about Brezje’s history, and soak up the views of the surrounding countryside and mountains.

You don’t need to be a pilgrim, or even to be particularly religious, to enjoy a walk along the trail; it’s just one of the many attractions in the Radol’ca area. Click here to see even more, oh and by the way, if you happen to be in the area in April, or are planning a visit and are pondering when to come, don’t miss the Radovljica Chocolate Festival from 12th-14th April, about which I will, of course, be writing (and eating!) more soon!

© Adele in Slovenia

Test Your Skiing Skills at the Elan Alpine Skiing Museum!

The Radol’ca area is synonymous with Elan – the world-famous producer of skis, and now you can find out more about the company’s history and innovative products whilst enjoying some interactive fun at the new Elan Alpine Skiing Museum.

The museum is located at the company’s production unit in Begunje na Gorenjskem, just a short distance from Radovljica. It was opened in 2018 by the legendary Swedish skier Ingemar Stenmark, who competed using Elan skis throughout his entire career. The first pair of skis on which Stenmark competed in World Cup races is among the museum’s exhibits.

Elan was established in 1945 upon the initiative of the ski jumper and ski maker Rudi Finžgar (1920-1955) who in 1941, despite being young and inexperienced, became the first Slovenian ski jumper to jump over 100 metres. The company quickly became known for its innovative and trend-setting designs.

The museum showcases Elan’s 70-year history and its sources of inspiration for the future,

There are also exhibits showing some of the achievements of the company’s other divisions, including boats, aeroplanes, sports equipment and wind turbines.

The exhibits are spread over two floors in the small museum. Upstairs you can get a glimpse into a workshop…

…test your balance on skis and a snowboard – not as easy as it looks…

…and there is a chance to test your skills and get interactive on the ski simulator. Needless to say, I didn’t score top marks but it was fun having a go nonetheless and a pretty good workout too!

The museum is open Tuesdays – Saturdays from 10am-6pm and offers a great experience for all the family, even for non-skiers like me!

Adjoining the museum is the Elan Sports Shop, which is crammed with sports apparel, both Elan’s own-brand products and other brand names, which you can access from outside or alternatively once you make it past the finish line!

Whilst in the area you can also visit the many other numerous attractions and sights of interest in the village of Begunje na Gorenjskem and its surroundings, among them Kamen Castle, the Avsenik Museum, Katzenstein Mansion and the Museum of Hostages and two Taste Radol’ca restaurantsGostišče Draga and Gostilna Pr’Tavčar. If you want to get active then you can take a walk on the St. Peter’s Trail, the Begunje Village Trail or visit the Draga Valley from where you can set off on hikes in the Karavanke mountains.

© Adele in Slovenia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

© Adele in Slovenia

 

Manufaktura: A New Year and a New Addition to Radovljica’s Linhart Square

Linhart Square is the compact, quaint heart of Radovljica’s historic old town. As of today, in addition to the numerous frescoed bourgeois houses, the gothic St. Peter’s church, and the magnificent Radovljica Mansion, the square has become even richer for the opening of the new Manufaktura ceramics shop and workshop.

As well as being a very welcome addition to the old town, Manufaktura has an important story of heritage; the building was originally bought by the Magušar family’s great grandfather 150 years ago, and the ceramics and owners of Keramika, Oli and Urban Magušar, assisted by their son Jeron, have now repurchased, renovated and brought it back to life.

Oli talked me through the photos of their ancestors; a wonderful tale and a wonderful addition to Linhart Square.

Personally I’m delighted to see such an opening, since many of Slovenia’s historic old town centres have fallen victim of the large, out-of-town, generic shopping centres, which are dominated by the same chain stores wherever you go. Slovenia already has the highest number of shops per head in Europe (if not further afield too!), yet more ghastly shopping centres are still springing up at a rate of knots and, unfortunately, Radovljica is not immune to this either, with a new shopping centre currently being developed at the entrance to the town.

I’m so anti these kinds of developments, especially when there are already way too many shops for the population of 2 million; shopping seems to have become a national obsession, sadly. Hence, shops such as Manufaktura really do play an important part in maintaining Slovenia’s heritage and traditions, and we must support them by buying locally to ensure they can be sustained. And judging from the crowds at today’s opening, it seems I’m not alone in my delight and enthusiasm!

The building features an area where traditional Magušar bowls and other handmade ceramics and accessories can be bought, including the new range of mini replicas of the houses in Radovljica’s old town centre, which adorned the Christmas tree this year in Radovljica Mansion and which make great souvenirs.

Part of the room has been allocated to enable visitors to watch the ceramists at work.

The other room, with its beautiful tiled floor, has a display of 150 different kinds of clay and their properties, various implements, and there are plans for a museum too.

Manufaktura is open on Mondays-Fridays from 10am-1pm and 2pm-4pm, on Wednesdays until 7pm, as well as on the first Saturday of the month. A website is coming but for now, should you want further information, you can contact them through the Glinca Facebook page or, of course, drop into the shop itself!

Among the other main highlights of Radovljica’s old town centre is the Lectar Honeybread Museum and Workshop, which is located in the cellar of Gostilna Lectar, a family-run restaurant and guest house with a tradition dating back to 1766.

The Šivec House Gallery, which is the place to be for all art lovers. One part of the gallery is dedicated to a permanent exhibition of original illustrations, whilst the other hosts monthly exhibitions by fine Slovenian and foreign artists, and upstairs there is a room used for civil wedding ceremonies. The building itself it also notable for its exterior fresco and the unusual layout and architecture of its preserved interior.

Photo: Miran Kambič

And the Museum of Apiculture, housed in the Radovljica Mansion, houses Slovenia’s largest collection of painted beehives front panels, including the oldest known in the world. Each of the painted panels tells a folk story.

So, take time for a linger through Linhart Square, admire the magnificent buildings, and treat yourself or your loved ones to some handmade Slovenian products and/or souvenirs, all in the knowledge that you are helping to support local heritage and traditions and, maybe, hopefully, together we can help to keep those chain stores away from our precious historic towns!

© Adele in Slovenia

 

(Re)Discover Tržič with Adele in Slovenia!

So, the new year is here and with it, in addition to my regular blogs about Radovljica and Žirovnica, this year I will be exploring another destination for you ; this time I’m turning my attention to Tržič – the dragon’s town!

I’m already quite familiar with the Tržič area, as I LOVE hiking its many fantastic trails, and I’m so excited to now have the chance to delve even deeper into the wealth of natural and historical attractions in the area and to share them with you.

Whilst Tržič might not be an obvious choice for many, the town and its surroundings has a fascinating past and is worth adding to your list of places to visit whilst in Slovenia. Since I know that also a significant percentage of readers of my blog are locals, I hope that, through my blog posts, you too will take the time to (re)discover Tržič; yes, its heyday has been and gone, but it still has a wealth of sights and attractions to offer to each and everyone who takes time to discover it.

The obvious place to start is in the historic old town centre.

At the entrance to the old town centre you can see the last remaining original ‘firbec okenwindow – a window for the inquisitive, or rather, putting it less politely, the nosy!

The bottom of the window protrudes, thus allowing those looking from the window to be able to look directly out and down at those below them – though I can be seen here doing the exact opposite!

Just opposite the window you will find footprints affixed to the ground, which you can follow around the town on the Traces of Industry Trail, which leads to the main sights of interest in and around the old town.

In addition to the window, you can see Kurnik House – the birthplace of the poet Vojteh Kurnik; one of the rooms is devoted to his life and work. The building is an exceptional example of Tržič’s architectural heritage.

And the Germovka forge – the best preserved of its kind in the area.

Although If I’m honest I wasn’t really expecting much of the Tržič Museum, it actually turned out to be the highlight of my recent visit to the old town. Hence, I stand corrected since, following a complete renovation of its museum collections, it is now well up there with some of the best museums in the country. I came away enthusiastically singing its praises to anyone who cares to listen locally and now to you, dear readers, too!

The museum is housed in Pollak’s Mansion (Pollakova kajža), which dates from 1811.

So, it was time to put my best foot forward and discover the inside!

The museum’s numerous collections take you through Tržič’s historic industries including shoemaking, leather, crafts, trade, winter sports, local history, and art.

I particularly liked the fact that so many of the exhibits are interactive, thus making a visit far more interesting and enjoyable, whilst also helping to keep any little ones you have in tow entertained.

The building is also home to the newly-renovated Slovenian Skiing Museum with it’s new ‘Let’s Ski’ exhibition.

So, I hope you will join me in discovering more of Tržič’s history and the area’s myriad hiking and cycling trails, culture, legends, traditional food and more – it promises to be a revelation and adventure for us all!

© Adele in Slovenia

 

Rainy Day Activities in Bohinj

First, let’s get something straight, Bohinj Lake and the surrounding areas are always beautiful, whatever the weather! Try as they might, even on a dull and seemingly dismal day, the lake and surrounding mountains of the Julian Alps fail to look anything but beautiful and still have a certain charm. The way the light penetrates through the clouds casts shadows and reveals a different perspective, making it seem almost even more majestic and magnificent.

However, of course there are those wash out days when it rains, rains, and rains some more for good measure, which can be frustrating when you want to get out there exploring all that natural beauties in the area.

So, in this blog, I have provided a few ideas of what to see and do on rainy (or even snowy!) days in the Bohinj area, since, as we all know, the weather is the one thing that none of us have any control over, so we just have to make the best of it!

A great place to while away some time is the Triglav National Park Information Centre in Stara Fužina.

Downstairs you can pick up brochures, leaflets and get other information about Bohinj Lake and Triglav National Park. On a fine day the views from the panoramic windows upstairs are breathtaking…

… and, as you can see, they’re not bad on a partially cloudy day too!

You can just chill out on the comfy chairs…

… or challenge yourself by trying out the various experiments.

You may have noticed that Slovenia certainly has no shortage of churches – 800+ in fact! And whilst it looks like a fairly ordinary church from the outside, the interior of the Church of St. John the Baptist in Ribčev Laz is among the most ornate.

The walls and ceilings of the Gothic presbytery feature exquisite 15th and 16th century frescoes.

Climb the steep stairs up to the bell tower for fantastic views and yet another entirely different perspective of Bohinj Lake.

If you yearn for a bit of culture, then there are three museums in the local area. The Tomaž Godec Museum in Bohinjska Bistrica is housed in a reconstructed tannery. The museum is named after its former owner, a Partisan who, in addition to being a top sportsman and mountaineer, played a role in the formation of the former Yugoslav Communist Party.

The Oplen House Museum (Oplenova hiša) in the village of Studor, which is known for its toplar hayracks, offers visitors an insight into life in Bohinj in the past.

It features an original black smoke kitchen, as well as numerous other original tools, equipment and household objects.

The Alpine Dairy Farming Museum, housed in a former dairy in Stara Fužina, offers an insight into life in the past for herdsmen who lived and worked on Bohinj’s numerous mountain pastures.

Photo: Mitja Sodja Photography

If you’d like to have a splash, but on your own terms, then the Bohinj Water Park in Bohinjska Bistrica is the place to head!  It features a recreational pool, a children’s pool, a jacuzzi and sauna, as well as a wellness centre for those seeking a little R&R.

Photo: Bohinj Aquapark

And of course, food is always the answer, regardless of the question or the weather, so be sure to check out the From Bohinj  range of foods and products, which makes ideal gifts for you or your loved ones back home.

Photo: Mitja Sodja Photography

So, don’t let the rain stop you, embrace it and just get out there and see a different side of Bohinj! Visit the official Bohinj website here for more information about the above and even more ideas for what to see and do in Bohinj and Triglav National Park.

© Adele in Slovenia