Slovenia’s Historic Towns and Cities

Statistics show that the large majority of people who visit Slovenia tend to do so for just a few days, either as just a mini-break or as part of a longer trip taking in some of the neighbouring countries. And for those limited in time, the focus is usually on the ‘usual’ tourist hot-spots i.e. Bled Lake, Ljubljana, Postojna Caves, Piran... However, in visiting just these, admittedly marvellous, places, you miss – in my opinion – a large swathe of the country and the chance to see the ‘real’ Slovenia.

Granted, I might be a bit biased since I’m fortunate to live in Radovljica, which has one of Slovenia’s best-preserved medieval old town centres and is a member of the Association of Historical Towns and Cities of Slovenia, but since Slovenia is a perfectly compact country, it is very easy to get around and make detours to other places of interest. So, sure, go to the usual tourist hotspots to tick them off the list, but do take time to see more of Slovenia’s countryside, culture and history too!

Looking over Radovljica and beyond to the Karavanke mountains

For example, if you are visiting Bled, then turn off the motorway (or get off the train or bus) just one stop early, and within minutes you will be in the historic old town centre of Radovljica where you can see, amongst others, the frescoed townhouses, the Baroque St. Peter’s Church, and the Šivec House Gallery.

Vidic House, just one of the frescoed buildings in the old town

The Radovljica Mansion is home to the Museum of Apiculture, the Municipal Museum, and a music school. During daylight hours the building is always open and visitors are welcome to go in and look at the photographic exhibitions in the entrance foyer.

The Radovljica Mansion

Don’t miss a visit to Lectar Inn where you can try traditional Slovenian food and downstairs visit the workshop with it’s 250-year tradition of making red-iced and decorated gingerbread hearts.

The Lectar gingerbread workshop

Radovljica also offers a wealth of great places to stroll, hike, cycle, do water sports, or partake in other active or less active pursuits. Or you can just sit on one of the benches at the viewing area and and soak up the views of the Julian Alps, the Jelovica Plateau and the Sava River.

Looking back at the old town with majestic Mr. Stol in the background

And be sure to come hungry as you won’t want to miss the chance to taste some of the delicious locally-produced food at the 13 restaurants that collaborate in the Taste Radol’ca project.

In addition to Radovljica , there are a further 13 towns and cities included in the Association of Historical Towns and Cities of Slovenia – Idrija, Kamnik, Koper, Kostanjevica na Krki, Kranj, Metlika, Novo Mesto, Piran, Ptuj, Slovenske Konjice, Škofja Loka, Tržič and Žužemberk.

More information about Radovljica can be found here – http://www.radolca.si/en/radovljica-area/ and more about the association here – http://www.zgodovinska-mesta.si/eng/index.php

© Adele in Slovenia

 

Beguiling Begunje na Gorenjskem

I’m fortunate to live just a few kilometres from the village of Begunje na Gorenjskem, which is packed full of natural and cultural sights of interest. I spend quite a lot of time there, too, whether hiking, cycling or eating great Taste Radol’ca food. So, in this blog I’ve focused on some of the highlights of beguiling Begunje.

Fans of popular folk music won’t want to miss a visit to the Avsenik family homestead, where the legendary forefathers of Slovene folk music, Slavko and Vilko Avsenik were born. Though, sadly, Slavko passed away in 2015, the family’s music very much lives on.

You can visit the gallery and museum, and/or attend one of the frequent music evenings and other events. More information here – http://www.radolca.si/en/avsenik-gallery-museum/

The Katzenstein Mansion in the heart of the village has had a long and interesting past. Built in the 14th century, its current Renaissance and Baroque appearance is a result of renovations in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. 1n 1875 the mansion was sold to Austro-Hungarian judicial authorities and a prison, holding 300 female prisoners, was established. During the German occupation, it became a Gestapo prison and political prisoners were incarcerated in the mansion; after the war it again reprised its role as an all-female prison.

The Museum of Hostages (Muzej Talcev) has been housed in the building at the north-western end of the residential wing since 1961. Inside, on the walls of the former prison cells, you can see written records left by the prisoners and announcements by the occupiers concerning executions. This one says ‘Molimo za mir’ (We pray for peace). Sobering stuff, indeed.

The park in the ground of the mansion is a lovely place for a stroll. It contains a pavilion and the Chapel of St. Joseph, designed by the most famous Slovenian architect, Jože Plečnik, and is also home to a small cemetery where 457 hostages and 18 World War II combatants are laid to rest. The bronze statues of a hostage and a prisoner, as well as the karst marble sculpture of a female hostage are the work of the sculptor, Boris Kalin.

Also in the heart of the village, near the entrance to the hospital and park, is the Gostilna Pr’ Tavčar restaurant, one of the 13 Taste Radol’ca restaurants. In the relatively short time it has been open it has become a firm favourite among locals.

At the end of the village you reach the Draga valley and the imposing ruins of  Kamen Castle, built in the 12th century by the Counts of Ortenburg. More information here – http://www.radolca.si/en/kamen-castle/

Photo: M Kambic

The short drive to the end of the valley brings you to Gostišče Draga, another of the participating Taste Radol’ca restaurants, where specialities include venison goulash, fresh trout, homemade sweet and savoury štruklji, and more. Situated in the shade of the forest beside a stream, it is particularly popular with those seeking refreshment and sustenance after expending their energy in the surrounds.

The Draga valley is a gateway for numerous hiking trails in the Karavanke mountains including, amongst others, to Begunščica, the ever-popular Roblekov dom mountain hut, and the Preval mountain hut.

As you can see, despite it’s modest size, Begunje packs in a lot, so be sure to include a visit on your trip to the Radovljica area.

© Adele in Slovenia

 

A Feast of Flavourful Fondues at Vila Podvin

Thanks to the ever-creative team at Vila Podvin in Mošnje, now there’s no need to go all the way to the Swiss Alps to enjoy a cheese fondue! Though only recently revived, the tradition of fondues in Podvin actually dates back quite some way.

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Prior to World War II, the French Duke of Polignac lived in Podvin Castle and, according to locals, the castle’s residents used to enjoy fondues on cold winter evenings, made with cheese that they brought with them from France. Vila Podvin decided to revive the tradition this winter, initially just for the month of February, but it’s been such a hit, that you will now be able to enjoy a fondue up until the end of April!

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When creating and testing fondue recipes, Uroš Štefelin, co-owner of Vila Podvin and one of Slovenia’s top chefs, was keen to ensure that rather than using imported cheese, he uses the excellent-quality cheese that is produced here in Slovenia. And he knew just where to turn – the  award-winning Pustotnik dairy from Gorenja vas – with whom he set about blending a mixture of their cheeses to create the perfect fondue.

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You can also try and buy Pustotnik cheese at the monthly Vila Podvin Local Market, which takes place on the first Saturday morning of each month. Read more here – https://adeleinslovenia.com/2016/09/05/shop-locally-at-radovljicas-farmers-and-craft-markets/

Vila podvin trznica

Each cheese fondue comes with a whole host of tasty and unusual bite-size delights to dip into the gooey cheese!

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For a change from dining alone (sigh!), I invited fellow blogger Peter, who writes a blog in German about Slovenia, to join me for dinner – especially since the fondues are designed for two. Of course, fondues are not restricted to just cheese, oh no, lucky for me Vila Podvin does a chocolate fondue too, using 60% dark chocolate and with a range of wonderfully sinful things to dip, including chocolate brownies, fresh and dried fruit, macarons …

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Another important feature of the fondues, as well as other dishes, is the recent link-up with attendees of the Radovljica Centre for Work, Training and Care (CUDV). Working together they have created unique pieces of ceramicware on which to serve up the restaurant’s tasty and creative dishes. The range of products is collectively made and sold under the name BISER, meaning ‘pearl’, and they really do make original gifts or additions to your own kitchenware.

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Find out more about Vila Podvin here – http://www.vilapodvin.si/EN/ and about Taste Radol’ca here – http://www.radolca.si/en/taste-radolca/

© Adele in Slovenia

Celebrating 10 Years in Slovenia in a WILDART Style!

Yesterday marked exactly 10 years to the day since I moved to Slovenia!

On the one hand I can say that the time has flown by, though, on the other, when I look back over the past 10 years I’ve packed so much in and am proud of all that I’ve achieved. Yes, there are still, and probably will always be, a few challenges of living alone in a foreign country, but the pluses far outweigh the minuses. So I decided a celebration was in order, and arranged a get-together with some of those who I’ve met along the way and have been, and I hope will continue to be, an important part of Adele in Slovenia!

I must first thank Staša and Jože from Jansa Apartments in Radovljica, for allowing me to use their breakfast room to hold my celebration, and even gave me this heart-shaped cake too. I can thoroughly recommend their apartments and hospitality if you are considering visiting Radovljica and looking for self-catering apartments. And I’m not just saying that, I have first-hand experience of the excellently-equipped apartments, since my parents stay there every time they visit Slovenia, which, as you might imagine, is quite often!  http://apartmaji-jansa.net/

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I must also thank Mišo (ably assisted by Erik!) from Joštov Hram restaurant in Podnart, one of the participating Taste Radol’ca restaurants. Mišo is the go-to man for catering around here! Regular readers will recall that I also turned to him for my father’s surprise 70th birthday last year. They provide excellent home-cooked food for all kinds of private events, parties, weddings, celebrations etc.

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Guests were welcomed with the (almost!) obligatory Slovenian blueberry schnapps and warm home-made pogača bread topped with minced bacon and onion, then later we tucked into bograč, cold deli platters and for dessert, one of my favourites, šmorn, with Miso’s extra little touch – a trio of sauces.

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After my short speech – yes, in Slovene – we watched a short slide show of just a few of my favourite adventures from the last 10 years. Thanks Dad!

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Then it was time for the ‘surprise’ and the highlight of the evening, a performance by the winners of the 2016 Slovenia’s Got Talent. These two young lads, Timotej Willewaldt and Lenart Prek – both aged 14 and collectively WILDART, have exceptional talent and surely a very bright future ahead of them.

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You can see their amazing performance here.

Another one of the many highlights of the evening for me was being presented with a special gift from the Mayor of Radovljica in recognition of my efforts in promoting Radovljica through my blog. I was truly honoured.

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Thanks also to my neighbour and photographer Tomaž Sedej for all the photos. On this occasion I decided it would be nice for me to be able to enjoy socialising without having to worry about taking photos too, so I turned to Tomaž, safe in the knowledge that he would do a good job. His website sums it up – ‘Photography has a powerful message. It ensures that we remember the stories and the people that would otherwise be forgotten.’ Find out more here – http://www.sedejtomaz.com/

And thanks to all of those of you that came for being part of my celebration and for the wonderful array of thoughtful and imaginative gifts. Too numerous are they to show them all, but here are a few! 10 cheers for Adele says Anja!

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According to Tanja I’m now a ‘čista prava Radolčanka’!

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Jure and Denis – thanks for coming so far to be here and, amazingly, on time!!!!!!

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A book and CD of Slovene songs which I now have a duty to learn according to Marcela from Vila Podvin!

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Flowers and gifts galore! It was all a bit overwhelming.

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And these two came all the way from the UK, well, they do have a house here too, so not exactly, but ….!

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Thank you to everyone for making it such a memorable evening and here’s to many, many more years of Adele in Slovenia!

© Adele in Slovenia

Genuine warmth, hospitality and Slovenian food at Globočnik

On a cold winter’s evening, I recently paid a(nother) visit to the Globočnik Excursion Farm (Izletniška kmetija Globočnik), where there is always a guaranteed warm welcome together with genuine hospitality and traditional Slovenian food – I just love this place!

Situated in the tiny hamlet of Globoko, next to the Sava river, this centuries-old farmhouse is extra cosy during the winter thanks to the log fire and wood-burning stove. The house dates back to 1628 and contains an original black-kitchen.

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The house really has a unique ambience and you feel right at home from the minute you step inside, much in part to the owner Cene – a larger-than-life character with a wealth of tales to tell – ably assisted by his wife, Nika.

On the day I visited, they were holding their annual demonstration and tasting of ‘koline‘ – the traditional preparation of various sausages from the winter pig slaughter. As you can see from the photo below, at Globočnik, it is still done the traditional way.

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A lot of muscle is required, though, so it’s ‘all hands on deck!’

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On this annual traditional day, one of the farm’s neighbours, who is known as a ‘star bread baker’ also comes to join in to ensure there is delicious just-baked bread to accompany the meat feast! With that many years experience of bread baking under her belt, you just know it’s going to be great bread!

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Made in the traditional way and using original equipment together with lots of TLC!

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And the results speak for themselves!

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As was the rest of the food, which sure hits the spot on a chilly winter’s night!

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I could still just about do up my jeans after the feast! And yes, that is flour all over my jumper, nothing like getting stuck in!

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The atmosphere was made even warmer thanks to zither and accordion music.

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And beautiful singing which soon had people up on their feet!

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For the past 2 years, Globočnik has also been one of the participating Taste Radol’ca restaurants, where the focus is on locally produced ingredients.

Dishes available include cold-cut platters and various soups to start; main courses such as grilled sausages, black-pudding, roast pork, stewed beef or roast duck, goulash, tripe, and various stews; a wide selection of side dishes such as steamed sauerkraut, roast potatoes, turnips, buckwheat with mushrooms, cheese štruklji; and desserts such as apple strudel and stuffed apples with walnuts and honey.

Note – The Globočnik Excursion Farm is only at weekends (or at other times upon prior arrangement) and reservations are essential. Unfortunately, however, the website is in Slovene only, and somewhat outdated – top marks for food and hospitality but technology really isn’t their thing, though we forgive them – so the best bet is to call 040 736 930 and if you need any help or more information, you can always turn to me and I’ll endeavour to help.

© Adele in Slovenia

Eat, Drink and Be Merry in Festive Radovljica!

Word is rapidly spreading about how beautiful the Christmas decorations are this year in Linhart Square – the heart of the old town of Radovljica. If you haven’t visited yet, be sure to do so and find out why it’s the talk of the town, and further afield too!

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Photo: Miran Kambič (www.slovenia.info)

Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays are the best time to visit when there is a small Advent Market as well as live entertainment for all the family. The Advent Market is also open on Christmas Day and Boxing Day (26th December), and on both days there are street performances at 5pm. For the full programme, click here – http://www.radolca.si/en/what-to-do/events-1/festive-december-in-linhart-square/83/395/

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Photo: Miran Kambič (www.slovenia.info)

And while you are here, why not take some time to Taste Radol’ca too!

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Kunstelj Inn’s famous cake pops with a Christmas twist!

Since it can be a little bit of a faff, or at least I think so, trying to find out which restaurants are/aren’t open and when during the festive season, I decided to take it upon myself to do the hard work and compile all the information in one place i.e. here! So below is a full list – or rather of those that responded to my request for information. Note: restaurants are open as usual in the period between Christmas and New Year, unless otherwise stated below.

Gostilna Avguštin – 24.12: 9am-6pm, 25.12: Closed, 31.12: 9am-6pm, 1.1: 12noon-8pm

Gostilna Kunstelj – 24.12: 12noon-3pm, 25.12: 12noon-10pm, 30.12 open as usual + 6pm-8pm Cocktail Party, 31.12: 12noon-5pm + 7pm-10pm New Year’s Dinner (reservations required)

Gostišče Draga – 24.12: 11am-3pm, 25.12: 10am-6pm, 26.12: 10am-6pm, 27.12: Closed, 28/29.12: 11am-9pm, 30.12: 11am-10pm, 31.12: 10am-3pm, 1.1: 10am-6pm

Gostišče Tulipan – 24.12+25.12: Closed, 31.12: Open + New Year’s Dinner (reservations required)

Lectar Inn – Open daily throughout the year from 9am – 10pm

Vila Podvin* – 24.12: 12noon-5pm, 25.12: 12noon-5pm, 31.12 Open + New Year’s Dinner (reservations required), 1.1: 12noon-5pm

Joštov Hram – 24.12: 9am-5pm, 25/26.12: Closed, 27-30.12: 9am-10pm, 31.12: 9am-5pm, 1/2.1: Closed

* If you haven’t the time, or the will, to rustle up a gourmet home-cooked Christmas lunch, this year Vila Podvin is offering a fully-prepared takeaway version of their Christmas lunch. You could even pretend you made it yourself! More information and the full menu can be found on the Vila Podvin Facebook page (see the post, in both Slovene and English, dated 6th December).

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So, armed with information about what events are taking place, as well as information about restaurant opening times, there are now no excuses not to visit Radovljica this festive season! What are you waiting for?!

© Adele in Slovenia

 

 

Taste Radol’ca 2016 – The Final Party but Far From the End!

In one way I was pleased to see the back of November – 22 days of rain, with the odd bit of snow thrown in for good measure – but the end of November also brought the end of the month-long Taste Radol’ca 2016, which isn’t so much sad as time for a celebration of all the hard work put in by the chefs during the past month and the even harder work put in by the diners – including me – having the tough job of trying out all the menus! If nothing else, my waistline will be pleased it has come to an end, though, with the festive season all but here, there’s still plenty of gluttony to come, no doubt!

Each year different restaurants host the opening and closing events and this year the Taste Radol’ca Final Party took place at Draga Inn in Begunje na Gorenjskem. We began outside with hot punch, much needed on a chilly December evening, and food to keep us warm provided by Gostilna Tavčar and the Globočnik Excursion Farm.

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In contrast to the opening event, which is a somewhat more formal sit-down multi-course meal that showcases the talented chefs, the final party is more a relaxed, social, let-your-hair down party and a chance to hobnob with the chefs. Thanks Uroš (Vila Podvin) and Mišo (Joštov Hram) for helping keep me warm!

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The chefs from the 13 participating restaurants once again did a magnificent job, each preparing a small dish for us to try.

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Bite-size dishes, each of them delicious, and all made using local ingredients. Too numerous were the dishes to show them all, but here are a few photos to drool over! Gostilna Tulipan dished up smoked pork neck with curd cheese on a bed of barley.

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The ever-popular Joštov Hram mini-burgers were a big hit!

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I found my place next to the log-burner to keep warm and enjoy mine!

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Jože and chef Aleš from Lectar Inn had a great system going providing us with their homemade štruklji.

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And of course the desserts didn’t disappoint either. Chestnut cake prepared by Gostilna Avguštin.

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And a delicious creation by Maja at Kunstelj Inn – a winning combination of a gingerbread base with a caramelised walnut, apple and meringue topping.

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But, it’s far from the end of the Taste Radol’ca story. In addition to their regular menus, all participating restaurants also offer Taste Radol’ca dishes, prepared using local ingredients, throughout the year. You can identify these dishes on menus by the small coloured bee next to the name of the dish.

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So, what are you waiting for, you can now Taste Radol’ca all year-round!

© Adele in Slovenia