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

 

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

 

Summer 2019 in Radol’ca – So Much to See and Do!

Hooray, summer, my favourite time of the year, is here. And I’m lucky enough to get to spend it in my favourite place too – Radol’ca!

There are plenty of events, concerts and other events throughout this summer in Radol’ca, and, of course, no shortage of great places to hike, cycle, eat, relax, soak up the views and more!

So, here’s a run down of (just) some of the main events in Radol’ca this summer.

THURSDAY EVENINGS IN THE SQUARE

Live music and street food cooked up by Taste Radol’ca restaurants. The first concert kicks off at 8pm this Thursday 4th July, and thereafter for the following five Thursdays. Come on down to Linhart Square – the heart of Radovljica’s historic old town centre – to listen to music by: 4th July ‘Elevators‘; 11th July ‘Like the Rolling Stones‘; 18th July ‘Fadeouts‘; 25th July ‘Okustični‘, 1st August ‘Mrfy‘; 8th August ‘Maya Keuc/Amaya‘.

Thursday Evenings in the Square, photo: http://www.radolca.si

THE KROPA IRON FORGING FESTIVAL

This Saturday 6th July be sure to visit the village of Kropa to find out more about the cradle of Slovenia’s iron forging industry.

Kropa Iron Forging Museum

Kropa sits nestled into the far eastern edge of the Jelovica plateau and is crammed with interesting sights and preserved technical heritage and architecture.

There are demonstrations of hand forging of nails in the Vigenjc Vice Foundry, a small local craft market, old-time bikes, open days at the Iron Forging Museum and the Fovšaritnica Museum House, as well as at the headquarters of the company UKO Kropa, which specialises in all manner of wrought iron furnishings and fittings and is keeping the village’s iron-forging tradition alive.

MEETING OF THE TOWNS ALONG THE PATH OF VENUS AND MEDIEVAL MARKET

Sunday 28th July from 10am – 7pm: a medieval fair featuring dance and street shows and stalls laden with local crafts – ideal for buying gifts/souvenirs for friends and family (or treat yourself!) – which is also the opening event of the Radovljica Festival. It takes place in Linhart Square in the heart of Radovljica’s old town centre

Photo: Primož Černe

THE RADOVLJICA FESTIVAL

The popular festival of early music has been held in summer in Radovljica for 35 years. It boasts a diverse programme of classical concerts and workshops featuring musicians from far and wide. The festival takes place in the Radovljica Manor and St. Peter’s church.

The Radovljca Festival, Photo: http://www.radolca.si

Click here for the full festival programme.

AVSENIK FESTIVAL

A three-day festival of Slovenian national folk music at its ‘home’in Begunje na Gorenjskem – the birthplace of the Avsenik brothers – an unmissable event for lovers of this genre of music.

Slavko Avsenik (1929-2015), Photo: http://www.radolca.si

HOP-ON HOP-OFF BUS

The tourist Hop-On Hop-Off bus runs 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.

Pay just once and you can ride all day! Tickets cost €8 for adults, and children under the age of 10 can ride free of charge.

On Tuesdays you can travel on the Charming Towns and Villages route, which runs between Bled, Radovljica and Kropa.

Radovljica’s old town centre, photo: http://www.radolca.si

On Wednesdays you can ride on the Bee Our Guest route, where you will visit Kralov med Beekeeping, the Anton Janša Memorial Apiary, the Lesce Beekeeping Centre and the Apicultural Museum in Radovljica.

Anton Janša’s apiary in Breznica

Thursday’s route is Tales from the Countryside, which includes visits to France Prešeren’s birth house in Vrba, Begunje na Gorenjskem, Mošnje, Brezje and Radovljica.

Vrba, home to a monument to, and birth house of, France Prešeren

And on Friday’s you can journey along the Panoramic Road to Tržič, which includes a visit to Kamen Castle, Tržič and the Dovžan Gorge.

The old town centre of Tržič

So, as you can see, there’s plenty going on, and these are only the main events, there are numerous others too. And I haven’t even space to write about all the fab hiking and cycling trails, restaurants, and other cultural and natural attractions to visit. Oh well, you can always read back over the hundreds of blog posts I have written extolling the virtues of Radol’ca in the past, and/or continue to follow my blog to read about more adventures in the future!

© Adele in Slovenia

 

 

 

 

Honey Radol’ca – Celebrating 60 Years of Radovljica’s Museum of Apiculture!

Last Saturday was a particularly ‘sweet’ day in Radovljica! The main event to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Museum of Apiculture, housed in the magnificent Radovljica Manor, took place, titled ‘Honey Radol’ca

Honey Radol’ca also featured market stalls with honey and honey products from various local beekeepers as well as the Slovenian Beekeepers’ Association, the Beekeeping Education Centre of Gorenjska, and the Radovljica Beekeepers’ Association.

Though it opened in 1959, the history of the Museum of Apiculture dates back substantially further. At a meeting in 1925, the then editor of the magazine Slovenski čebelar (Slovenian Beekeeper), August Bukovec, suggested the establishment of the museum and a year later the decision was finalised. The active gathering of beekeeping-related objects for the museum began, especially beehive frontal panels, as well as the search for suitable premises for the museum. The collection of objects gathered for the museum was first housed in two premises in Ljubljana, and later, in 1959, the museum moved to the Radovljica Manor, where it remains today.

Last Saturday, or rather Friday actually, marked the opening of a new exhibition dedicated to 60 years of the Museum of Apiculture. In pictures and words, 60 highlights of the museum are presented in the exhibition, which is on view until September, and in a special publication titled ’60 Highlights of the Museum of Apiculture, Radovljica’.

In addition to this new, temporary exhibition, the museum’s permanent collection includes a wide range of hives and beekeeping tools, as well as unusual figural hives.

The museum’s extensive collection of painted beehive frontal panels, including the oldest known in the world, is a particular highlight. Each one tells its own unique folk tale.

You can get up close to the Carniolan grey bee – Slovenia’s indigenous breed of bee – or rather a lot of them, at the observation hive, which is installed annually in the museum during the warmer months.

You can also take a seat and watch a video about beekeeping in Slovenia – the English version of which is narrated by yours truly!

The Museum of Apiculture is just one of the museums and galleries under the umbrella of Radovljica Municipal Museums, the others are: the Iron Forging Museum in Kropa, the Museum of Hostages in Begunje, the Šivec House Gallery in Radovljica, and the Radovljica Municipal Museum.

But don’t worry, even though ‘Honey Radol’ca’ has been and gone, you can visit the museum throughout the year, and there’s still plenty of honey- and beekeeping-related experiences to be(e!) had in Radovljica and the surroundings, including the new family experience ‘Follow a ‘bee’ through Radovljica‘.

The Museum of Apiculture is open throughout the year, except on Mondays; opening hours varying according to the month. Find more information about all of Radovljica’s museums, opening times and admission fees here and here.

© Adele in Slovenia

 

A New Addition to the Old Town – The Pharmacy and Alchemy Museum, Radovljica!

Last Friday I attended the opening of a brand new museum in Linhart Square – the Pharmacy and Alchemy Museum – which is a great addition to Radovljica’s already charming old town centre.

I saw the sign being hung for the museum some time ago, and I have to admit thinking to myself at the time that it doesn’t exactly sound that riveting, however, I stand corrected! Having seen it for myself, the Pharmacy and Alchemy museum is actually fascinating. Its location in a beautifully restored bourgeois house in the old town adds to the experience, and I left on a high and looking forward to being able to share the news of this new museum with you – readers of my blog!

Radovljica’s mayor officially opened the museum, then we – the gathered crowd – had the chance to be the first to be ‘let loose’ inside the museum!

The exhibits in the museum have been collected over a 40-year period by its owner, who, together with his daughter, has now gathered the objects in one place and opened this intriguing museum. On entering it is like taking a step back in time, while at the same time the beautifully arranged exhibits have been thoughtfully presented in a timeless and appealing way.

The collection of Spanish and Italian alborel (decorated ceramic pots for storing medicine) is particularly extensive. The exhibits include a collection of mortars, the oldest of which dates from the 12th century, and 30 pharmaceutical books, one of which dates from the 15th century. The museum also features some objects from ancient and Asian medicine and an ethnological collection of folk medicine on Slovenian territory.

The museum shop is a great place to pick up some gifts to take home for friends and/or family, or even to treat yourself!

The shop is equipped like an old pharmacy and sells natural cosmetics, souvenirs with mythological themes, honey, herbs, essential oils, and a range of teas.

The museum and museum shop are open daily from 10am – 6pm. Entrance fees apply.

This bring the tally of museums in Radovljica’s old town to three, or four if we include the Šivec House Gallery, which falls under the banner of Radovljica Municipal Museums – not bad for such a small place, hey! In addition to this newly-opened museum, you can visit the Museum of Apiculture, which is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year, the Municipal Museum, and, as mentioned above, the Šivec House Gallery.

Come rain or shine, there’s always something to see and do in Radol’ca!

© Adele in Slovenia

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