Made in Radovljica: What to Buy, Try and … Enjoy!

With the focus these days ever-more on locally grown and produced products and foods, here are some ideas for what is available in the Radovljica area – genuinely local products that you can buy and try for yourself or purchase as ideal gifts for friends and loved ones.

Being the home of the Museum of Apiculture and the Radovljica Chocolate Festival, the Radol’ca area is synonymous with beekeeping and all things sweet.

If I want to take a small gift when visiting friends or loved ones, particularly those with a sweet tooth, I like to take Čokobelica chocolates. These bee-shaped chocolates are made exclusively for, and in, Radovljica and available at Radovljica Tourist Information Centre. The chocolates have typical, traditional Slovenian fillings such as walnut potica, tarragon potica, and poppy seed. Tried and tested – delicious!

For honey and all-things honey-related visit the Beekeeping Education Centre of Gorenjska in Lesce, where, in addition to the well-stocked Bee Shop where you can buy a wide selection of honey, honey products and beekeeping equipment, you can also see the centre’s beehive with its colourful hand-painted frontal panels.

In summer you can admire the beehive from the small terrace of the centre’s coffee shop. It could perhaps be said, however, that some of the clientele are a bit odd!

The heart of Radovlijca’s old town centre is Linhart Square (Linhartov trg), named after the famous Slovenian playwright and historian Anton Tomaz Linhart (1756-1795). At Lectar Inn you can try Linhart’s cake (Linhartov cukr). The idea for the cake came about during conversations held in Lectar Inn between its proprietor, Jože, and locals who recalled how in days gone by in Linhart’s era, local school children used to come to Lectar for cake.

And so the idea to try to recreate and revive this tradition was born and Jože and his team at the Lectar Inn set about trialling and testing recipes, based upon traditional recipes, until they were satisfied with the result. It contains only natural ingredients, – a light sponge base topped with a moist apple layer, using organic locally grown apples, and finished with a light cream icing and silhouette of Linhart.

Magušar’s House (Magušarjeva hiša) in the heart of Radovljica’s old town has an arcaded gothic courtyard and pottery workshop where you can buy Magušar bowls and other pottery items made by the owners, Oli and Urban Magušar. Occasional exhibitions, workshops and other events are also held in the house.

They are also currently working on producing a catalogue of Slovenian clay, and, as you can see below – Urban in his ‘Aladdin’s cave – they have already gathered quite a selection!

Photo: Jošt Gantar for Visit Radol’ca

Kropa is the cradle of Slovenian iron forging. It experienced its biggest boom in nail-making in the 18th and the beginning of the 19th century, when the ironworks in Kropa and Kamna Gorica together employed more than 2,000 people. The end of the 19th century brought the end of the 500-year operation of the ironworks in these villages, due to the lack of domestic iron ore and unprofitability.

The area’s iron-forging tradition is still alive, albeit on a more boutique scale, and hand-forged wrought iron furnishings and fittings are still made and can be bought either ready-made or made-to-order at the headquarters of UKO. Upon prior arrangement, a demonstration of hand forging of nails can be seen in the Vigenjc Vice Nail Forge, and there is a wide range of exhibits at the Iron Forging Museum, which also has a small gift shop, and is open year-round.

If its skis and other outdoor equipment and clothing that you are after, then you should visit the Elan factory and showroom in Begunje na Gorenjskem.

So, there’s no excuse to leave Radovljica empty handed or with an empty belly, either!

Click here for more ideas and to find out more about ‘Made in Radol’ca‘.

© 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

A Taste Radol’ca Family Surprise!

Months of planning and more than a few sleepless nights finally came to fruition last week when I managed to pull off the desired surprise for my father’s 70th birthday.

Despite factors conspiring against me, i.e. a 5 hour delay thanks to an emergency chute being “accidentally deployed” on the Adria flight from Gatwick prior to take-off, and downpours so torrential that even Noah would likely have thrown in the towel, I managed to pull off the not-insignificant feat of surprising my father and getting all my immediate family together in one place for the first time in almost 5 years.

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I therefore have a few people to thank for helping me to make it happen, not least the teams at 2 of the Taste Radol’ca restaurants.

The first ‘thanks’ goes to Graeme from Four Seasons Travel, who played his part in getting my brother, sister-in-law, niece and nephew to the right place at the right time. Once they had been ‘deposited’ into the wine cellar at Grajska Gostilnica, and I received the ‘mission complete’ message, we (my parents and I) headed there to the ‘opening of the wine cellar’, or at least that is what dad believed. Until… SURPRISE! And a big sigh of relief from me that we had all managed to be in the right place at the right time. We soon indulged in our first family dinner together for many years!

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I’ve eaten at Grajska Gostilnica on numerous occasions, however, I had never before been into the wine cellar. Wow, its huge, and a fantastic space. It’s such a shame to see such a vast and special space so underutilised so I now have my thinking cap on as to how to right this. In the meantime, if you are planning any special events, I can highly recommend it as a venue. Thanks to owner Borut and the team for helping with this part of the plan!

Day 2 began with an early start and a full day out (for them, not me!) visiting Postojna Caves, Predjama Castle and the Lipica Stud Farm. I, meanwhile, was hard at work, both working and also preparing for the next part of the surprise –  putting up decorations, rushing back and forth to the shops getting cakes, wine etc. and meeting the caterers booked for the birthday dinner.

Mišo from Joštov Hram in Podnart, another of the Taste Radol’ca restaurants, prepared a wonderful barbecue with enough delicious food to feed half the town (which I was delighted about, since I just love having leftovers for the next day – saves having to cook!). Having someone come to you to cook can’t be beaten for a relaxed family get-together.

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We started with 2 original-flavoured ‘pogaca‘, a special round-shaped bread, here topped with cheese and poppy seeds, the other with onion and pancetta.

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Next came an excellent risotto, by which time we were almost full to bursting but still had the main course to come! Main course consisted of an excellent selection of grilled meats and fish, salads and typical accompaniments.

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Somehow we even found room to indulge in traditional homemade walnut potica – thanks Anja!

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Mišo took care of everything, bringing all the equipment, crockery, cutlery etc., leaving us free to talk, eat, and play. So, all in all we had a blast and here’s Dad trying out a hoverboard on his 70th birthday proving that age need not be a barrier!

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Whilst here the family also, amongst other outings, visited Ljubljana, took a ride on the Radol’ca Hop-On Hop-Off tourist bus (Tuesdays and Thursdays until the end of August – http://www.radolca.si/en/hop-on-hop-off-radolca/, visited the Medieval Market in Radovljica, and, for the icing on the cake as a special treat for his birthday, I bought my parents a stay at Chateau Lambergh in Dvorska Vas for the final 2 nights of their stay.

Photo: Primoz Černe

You can see a whole gallery of photos of the Medieval Day, courtesy of Primož Černe, here – https://goo.gl/photos/xq4vCFgVeP4vQbmy7

Now life returns to ‘normal’ and, as ever, it was sad to see them go, but here’s hoping it won’t take 5 years for us all to be together again in the same place. Come back soon! xxx

© Adele in Slovenia

 

 

 

 

 

Easter in Slovenia – My Potica Journey!

It’s not even Easter yet and I’ve already eaten half my body weight in potica – all in the name of research for this blog!

It’s not hard to find potica in Slovenia, far from it, it’s abundantly available, particularly during Easter, Christmas and New Year holidays. I have often read that there are over 80 different types of potica in Slovenia, yet in most shops and bakeries there are only the usual staple varieties, such as; walnut – by far the most commonly found; poppy seedtarragonpork crackling; dried fruitpotratna –  as seen below – a layered ‘luxury’ potica, made with curd cheese, walnuts and layers of light and dark sponge.

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So, where then are the other 70+ varieties I asked myself? Therefore, for this blog I set myself the challenge of seeking out some of the other, more unusual types of potica. In the process I have crossed waters and worked my way through an awful lot of potica, so, I hope you enjoy reading about potica in Slovenia as much as I have enjoyed eating it!

I must confess that sometimes I find potica can be rather uninspiring, dry, and, well, a bit underwhelming. For me the ratio of dough to filling is the key factor. According to potica experts, the ideal ratio is 1:1 – for example, if the dough is 1cm thick, then the filling should also be 1cm. In reality, especially when it comes to mass produced potica, this seems to be far from the case, hence it definitely pays to seek out handmade potica, and it also pays to pay! Though these days you can find potica in pretty much every supermarket throughout the land, and it can often be found on special offer, these shop-bought varieties, though cheap, are often disappointing. Homemade versions are almost always the best – almost everyone in Slovenia seems to have a grandmother who makes ‘the best’ potica, or I recommend also trying some of the ones below!

First I contacted Iva Gruden from Ljubljananjamhttp://www.ljubljananjam.si/ who knows pretty much everything there is to know about the food scene in Ljubljana. She suggested I try the coffee shop and patisserie Čopomana in Ljubljana. Čopomana has many flavours of potica including several that I have never seen, let alone tried.

Čopomana bakes the usual favourite flavours and also an array of different and imaginative flavours. During Easter week they are readily available, whilst at other times throughout the year they are baked to order.

  • Almond and candied fruit

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  • Hazelnut with rum-soaked raisins

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  • Pumpkin seed, pistachio and cardamom

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  • Date, orange, almond and rose petal

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  • Coconut and milk chocolate

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  • Chestnut, fig and Tonka bean – unfortunately I failed to get a good snap of this one for some reason, though it was actually my favourite of the lot – too busy eating, perhaps!

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I’d like to say a very big ‘Thank You’ to the owner of Čopomana, Tanja Viler, for her extreme friendliness, inventiveness and willingness. My visit even inspired her to invented a new flavour of potica (the chestnut one!), and I must mention that my attention was also drawn by all the other delicious looking handmade cakes, jams and other goodies available. I think I will be visiting again soon! More information here – https://www.facebook.com/Čopomana-576820115783243/?fref=ts

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My search also led me to Bled island. As well as being home to the Church of the Mother of God, and a gallery, the island also has its own ‘potičnica‘. I’m going to let the photos tell the story, as there is SO much to tell!

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I journeyed to the island by private boat.

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I was warmly greeted by Romana Bohinc, who then proceeded, at lightning speed, to skilfully make and bake five different kinds of potica.

  • A chocolate-enriched dough filled with ground almonds and cranberries soaked in honey and lemon juice

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  • Blanched almond with white chocolate, cream and honey

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  • Toasted hazelnut, honey and dried fig – Romana told me about the island’s fig tree. The alpine climate in Gorenjska isn’t exactly conducive to growing figs, however, she explained to me that the island has its own kind of microclimate, which results in a healthy annual fig crop.

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  • Walnut, honey and rum-soaked raisins – a slight twist on the classic walnut potica

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  • Chive, rum-soaked raisins and cranberry – with a base layer of egg yolks, butter and sugar. I couldn’t quite get my head round chives being used in a sweet bake, as they have a very pungent flavour, but this one actually turned out to be my favourite of the lot. Do try it!

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I was also impressed by the ‘no waste’ policy, whereby the ends of the dough that are cut off before the potica goes into a mould, are baked into biscuits.

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By prior arrangement the potičnica offers workshops for groups, whereby each person can make their own potica, have a guided tour of the island, a tasting session, and some potica to take home. This sounds like a fantastic idea to me and I hope that, rather than just being a spectator, I too will be able to participate myself sometime soon. More information here – http://www.blejskiotok.si/poticnica

I also happened upon one more variety of potica, cream potica, made at Trojane – home of the original Trojane doughnut! One perhaps wouldn’t associate Trojane with potica, but they have their own in-house bakery and patisserie and also pride themselves on their homemade local food. Whilst traditional walnut potica is available all year-round at Trojane, cream potica is only available at Easter and Christmas. The filling comprises a mixture including breadcrumbs, curd cheese and cream.

Trojane smetanova potica

Perhaps potica purists will baulk at some of the flavours shown above, preaching that they don’t consistute ‘real’ potica, but, as I see it, as long as the original shape and methods are retained, then there are no limits to the possibilities – all it takes is a little imagination, as I discovered on my potica journey.

Easter in Slovenia is celebrated in a number of ways. It begins on Palm Sunday when people can be seen flocking to churches around the country carrying bundles of branches and leaves, called ‘butare‘ which are then blessed as part of a custom thought to date back as far as the 9th century.

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On Easter Saturday people take baskets of food, covered with embroidered cloths, to church to be blessed. However, this food cannot be eaten until Easter Sunday. Then, after a period of abstinence (by some), with a fast beginning on Ash Wednesday, food becomes a big deal as tables in homes around the country can be found bursting under the weight of, of course, potica, as well as baked ham, horseradish, eggs and other delicacies!

However and wherever you choose to celebrate Easter, may it be filled with colour, joy, and, of course, potica! I reckon I might manage another slice, or two!

© AdeleinSlovenia 2016