The Radovljica Chocolate Festival 2017 – Hot Off the (Chocolate) Press!

So, it’s that time again. Chocolate Time! It’s hard to believe that this year marks the 6th year-in-a-row of the Radovljica Chocolate Festival and, of course, I’ve been to every one!

Last year the festival attracted around 55,000 visitors, and this year those numbers could even be exceeded, which is quite astounding for a festival which began as a humble one-day event back in 2012 and has since grown to become one of Slovenia’s main foodie events.

This year the festival is on for 3 days, beginning today on Friday 21st April at 3pm, and continuing on Saturday from 9am to 8pm and on Sunday from 9am to 7pm, so there’s still plenty of time!

In addition to the regular sales and tastings of chocolate, this year there are some new highlights and treats to look forward to.

This evening there is a premiere 6-course dinner at Vila Podvin, prepared by 3 of Slovenia’s top chefs and in collaboration with 20chocolate.

In the Chocolate Beauty Marquee the Roz’ca massage salon is offering chocolate hand massages using their own handmade cocoa butter cream using all natural ingredients. I couldn’t stop sniffing my hands, it really does smell good enough to eat! Those who have a hand massage during the festival are also entered into a prize draw to win a full body massage (the non-chocolate version!). More information here http://masaza-rozca.si/ and here https://www.facebook.com/Masaže-Rožca-Simona-Šlegel-sp-278814295512819/?fref=ts

A chocolate roulette, bet with chocolate and win chocolate – that’s got to be worth a flutter!

Chocolate sculptures

Meta Solar painting using chocolate, so original and resourceful and what an eye for detail! https://metasolar.si/tag/radovljica/

New to the festival this year is Čokoladni Hram which produces some unusual flavours of chocolate using speciality Slovenian ingredients, among them zaseka (minced lard), mohant (a very smelly cheese), and tarragon. Go on, be daring and give them a try, you’ll be pleasantly surprised!

As well as new, intriguing flavours of chocolate infused with tea at the Čajna Soba Tea Room. among them chocolate with black masala chai, honeybush caramel tea chocolate, dark chocolate with earl grey green tea…

In addition to chocolate, there’s plenty to see and do for all the family, including archery for children with Robert Levstek https://adeleinslovenia.com/2017/04/10/archery-adventures-and-delicious-draga-delights/

Children’s cookery workshops and dance classes.

Stilt walkers entertaining the crowds.

On Saturday at 2pm students from the Maribor Design School will be putting on a Chocolate Fashion Show, and on Sunday at 12 noon Gorenjka’s giant 95kg chocolate bar will be smashed and shared among the crowd.

Other highlights of the packed entertainment programme include culinary workshops with contestants on this year’s Slovenian Masterchefjugglers, magicians and other street entertainment, free concerts, a canine corner, chocolates and chocolate products for everyone, including for allergy suffers, organic chocolate, raw chocolate, chocolate scooter races – all this and much more! See the full programme herehttp://www.festival-cokolade.si/program-2017/

Congratulations to Tourism Radol’ca for another fantastic job organising the festival. The weather, for now at least, couldn’t be more perfect for such an event so, don’t miss out, there’s enough chocolate for everyone – even after I’ve had my fill!

© Adele in Slovenia

 

Archery Adventures and Delicious Draga Delights!

The beautiful Draga valley in Begunje in Gorenjskem – home to the ruins of Kamen Castle, the Gostišče Draga restaurant and the start point for numerous hikes in the Karavanke mountains – has just got even better thanks to the new improved 28-target archery range.

Having never so much as held a bow and arrow, I was keen to try it out for myself and, I must say, I’m hooked already and can’t wait to try it again!

If you have your own equipment, you can just turn up and pay in the Gostišče Draga restaurant and then head off on your own, of course taking care to follow the numbered markers in the correct direction.

If you, like me, are a total novice or a relative newcomer to archery, or you skills are a bit rusty, then I suggest contacting the ‘go-to’ man for archery around here, Robert (Robi) Levstek.

We started with a brief safety introduction and a few warm-up shots as Robi demonstrated and talked me through the technique.

I know you probably won’t believe me, since I barely believed it myself, but this was one of my first shots – totally a case of beginner’s luck, though, as it didn’t continue in that vein!

Robi made all of the animal targets and also makes all his own bows and arrows, something he is deservedly proud of.

The archery course is also ideal for families with children, and Robi teaches children from age 3+. It’s also extremely good value, considering it provides several hours of entertainment, at just 10 euros for adults and 8 euros for children.

Sensible footwear is a must, as is comfortable clothing, but other than that all you need is a sense of adventure and good spirits!

It’s great fun making your way around the course through the forest, crossing the stream and trying to spot the life-like animals. Those with a competitive nature, and even those without, will love it. For those who want to get competitive, you can tot-up points, join the club and/or compete in the regular Parkur tournaments, whilst for others it can merely be a fun day out surrounded by the wonderful nature of the Draga valley.

The archery range is open year-round and even in winter, provided the snow cover is not too deep, you can spot the animal targets!

And no visit to the Draga valley is complete without a meal at the Gostišče Draga restaurant. Known for its fresh trout, venison, and other traditional Slovenian dishes, of late the restaurant has also become a mecca for lovers of all kinds of štruklji – sweet and savoury. Unable to decide on which to try this time, I went for the triple whammy and tried 3 different versions – buckwheat with wild garlic, classic curd cheese, and blueberry – all of which were so delicious I took some home for the next day (or two) too!

 

 

You can contact Robi and/or find out more information via the Facebook pages Parkur Draga https://www.facebook.com/parkurdraga/ and Lokostrelstvo Robert Levstek https://www.facebook.com/Lokostrelstvo-Robert-Levstek-sp-679804982054234/

Enquiries and reservations for the archery range can also be made at the Gostišče Draga restaurant – http://www.gostisce-draga.si/

But watch out, you might, like me, get hooked – on both the archery and the štruklji!

© Adele in Slovenia

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

 

Delightful Dražgoše: The Home of Dražgoše Honey Breads and Serious Sunshine!

The village of Dražgoše is nestled into the southern slopes of the Jelovica plateau, perched at an altitude of 832m above sea-level, above the Selca valley and the town of Železniki. Thanks to its favourable location, Dražgoše is renowned as being one of the sunniest villages around and proudly goes under the slogan ‘Pri nas sonce je doma’ (Here is where the sun is at home).

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Dražgoše is most known for 2 things – its intricate hand-crafted honey breads and the Battle of Dražgoše. A good place to start a visit and learn more is at the recently reopened Brunarica Dražgoše snack bar.

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In addition to hot and cold drinks and snacks, you can pop upstairs to the small museum for a brief introduction to the history of the village and the tradition of making honey breads.

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There are 2 types of honey breads made in the Škofja Loka regionLoka honey breads (which regular readers will recall I recently made at the DUO Centre in Škofja Loka, read more here – https://adeleinslovenia.com/2017/01/13/loka-honey-breads-and-handicrafts-at-the-duo-arts-crafts-centre/) and Dražgoše honey breads. The key difference between the two is that Loka honey breads are made using a hand-carved mould, whereas Dražgoše honey breads are made entirely by hand.

I visited Breda Tolar and Alenka Lotrič who are masters in the art of making Dražgoše honey breads and are continuing their grandmother’s tradition.

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The dough is made using flour, honey, cinnamon and cloves. The honey is warmed through before mixing to allow the dough to be pliable for rolling and shaping.  Some of the designs are highly intricate and labour-intensive – real works of art. Dražgoše honey breads are edible, though in cases such as this one below, it would be such a shame to do so!

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Whilst I haven’t been blessed with any form of artistic talent whatsoever, these two ‘pros’ made it look easy. Just look closely at their versions compared to mine!

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After the intricate patterns are finished, the breads are baked in the oven then glazed with (more!) honey for a shiny finish. All couples getting married at Loka Castle (read more here – https://adeleinslovenia.com/2017/01/01/a-spotlight-on-skofja-loka/) receive a honey bread as a wedding gift. You can be sure that it will look better than my finished effort, though its not too bad for a novice I suppose, and I sure had fun making it, which is what counts!

The monument to the Battle of Dražgoše commemorates the World War II battle between Slovenian Partisans and Nazi armed forces, which ended with brutal reprisals by the German forces – executions, looting and torching of buildings – and the destruction of the village. The village was entirely rebuilt after the war. The monument with an ossuary was erected in 1976.

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The painting is by the renowned painter Ive Šubic from nearby Hotavlja who participated in the battle as a Partisan, later returning to depict it in art.

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Though the old village church was destroyed in the battle, the Škofja Loka Museum Association was able to move the partly-preserved altars to where they stand today in the chapel of Loka Castle, whilst the original church organs are now in the church in Železniki. In the village you can still see the remains of the church which have been well-preserved and where there is a memorial park.

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Dražgoše is also an idyllic area for hiking and cycling, albeit, flat it isn’t! In summer I’ve been known to cycle up from home in Radovljica first to Kropa, up to Jamnik and then on to Dražgoše. On this occasion (below), I was feeling particularly energetic and continued down into the Selca valley to Škofja Loka then via Kranj back to Radovljica. It was a long tiring tour but one that I must do again some time!

You can also hike up above the village to the hilltop of Dražgoška gora, visit one of a number of caves (accompanied by a guide), talke a walk along all, or part of, the Spominska pot (the Memorial Path) – a 3-3.5 hour-long route beginning at the Brunarica snack bar.

For more information about any of the above, and/or to arrange a honey bread workshop, contact Visit Škofja Lokahttp://www.visitskofjaloka.si/en/

© Adele in Slovenia

Spring in Radovljica Means Chocolate!

Yes, finally, after the coldest winter for over 30 years, spring is finally springing here in the Radovljica plains. And spring in Radovljica has come to mean chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate, due to the now annual Radovljica Chocolate Festival – this year taking place from Friday 21st – Sunday 23 April. How lucky I am that it takes place in my home town!

Though summer will always be my favourite season, spring isn’t far behind as it’s a time of blooming flowers, Easter, new-born lambs, longer days, warmer temperatures and, in case I haven’t already mentioned it, chocolate!

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Photo: Adele in Slovenia

To whet you appetite, and in case you missed it, here’s a recap of some of last year’s festival fun!

Guinness record was broken for the world’s largest chocolate bar by area. The chocolate bar was made by the Cukrček chocolatier and measured over 140 square metres, smashing the previous record of 102 square metres. It took over 300 hours to piece together the 28,000 pieces of chocolate.

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There was also a record number of chocolatiers and visitors to last year’s festival, and I have a feeling that this year, the 6th Radovljica Chocolate Festival, could be even bigger and better.

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Photo: Aleš Košir

For the first time last year visitors were able to travel to/from the festival by vintage steam train from Ljubljana.

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Photo: Adele in Slovenia

The packed programme also includes chocolate-related entertainment for all the family.

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Photo: Aleš Košir

What will this year’s festival bring? Well, the 2017 festival programme is still being prepared, but it will be available soon so keep your eye out on the festival website for updates – http://www.festival-cokolade.si/festival-2017/ as well as on the Visit Radol’ca Facebook pagehttps://www.facebook.com/RadolcaHonestlySweet/

© 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/

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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