Autumn Hiking at the ‘Top’ of Radol’ca – Mount Begunščica!

At a height of 2,060 metres, Begunščica is the highest point of the Radol’ca area. It rises above the village of Begunje na Gorenjskem and can be reached from several directions; from Radovljica the Draga valley is the most convenient start point. From the parking area at the head of the valley, there is a choice of two trails to reach Veliki vrh (literally ‘big peak’) – the highest point of Begunščica.

The slightly longer but easier of the two routes leads first on the forest road then through the forest road to the Roblekov dom mountain hut and from there onwards to the peak. Nowhere is it overly steep.

The other trail, and the one I will describe below, is my preferred choice – especially since it makes the perfect circular route – but in places is most definitely steep! It leads first along the Shepherds’ Trail to the Preval mountain hut and mountain pasture, and from there onwards and upwards towards the top, followed by the less steep trail down to the Roblekov dom hut and back to the Draga valley – and all without a single retraced step!

I have already previously blogged about the Shepherds’ Trail, so won’t go into too much detail here, other than to say that, should you decide to follow it as per the details in my previous blog, you should only do so up until the point where you reach the Preval mountain hut and pasture; from there on the trail to Begunščica leads off in a different direction.

From the mountain pasture take the path that leads directly upwards across a steep grassy slope before entering the forest.

It can seem like a bit of a slog at times, but once you gain some height and in places emerge from the forest, you can forget the more ‘sloggy’ parts and begin enjoying the views!

Once you emerge from the forest there are a couple of metres of scrambling here and there but nothing too demanding.

Once the ground begins to level out you turn left and start heading towards the highest point of Begunščica, but it’s still around half-an-hour to get there yet, even though the sign says 20 minutes!

Then a short section of the walk leads along a ridge – don’t look down if you have a fear of heights!

The views, however, divert your attention and make it all worthwhile!

Until the end of the grazing season you will be ‘greeted’ near the top by a flock of sheep. And even when they have been transported back down to the valley, you will certainly know they have been there!

At the top there is an orientation table and a visitors’ book and you can rest for a while before beginning the descent.

To make an entirely circular route, descend from Veliki vrh towards the west. It takes around an hour to reach the ever-popular Roblekov dom mountain hut, where you can get some sustenance and enjoy more of the stunning views before returning back to the Draga valley – a further cca. 1.5 hours.

Since October is a great month for hiking and enjoying the fruits of the forest, Tourism Radol’ca has launched a prize game entitled ‘The Wealth of the Forest with Taste Radol’ca‘. To enter all you have to do is head off into the forest and share your experience to be in with the chance to win a Taste Radol’ca meal for 2!

More about hiking in Radol’ca can be found here.

© Adele in Slovenia

Kunstelj Inn – A True and Tasty Tale of Tradition!

Kunstelj Inn in Radovljica is a family-run restaurant with rooms that has a long tradition and a great reputation. It is also one of the participating Taste Radol’ca restaurants, takes part in other culinary events such as Slovenian Restaurant Week and is featured in the Gault&Millau restaurant guide.

Five year’s ago, Maja Buden (nee Štiherle), daughter of Toni and granddaughter of Tone and the fourth generation to head up the family business, took over as manager of the inn. To mark this anniversary, as well as a certain ‘big’ birthday with a zero at the end, she threw a celebratory gathering last Friday! Happy Birthday and congratulations Maja!

And, of course, a Slovenian celebration wouldn’t be complete without accordion music and traditional entertainment!

Having recently translated a special edition newsletter to mark this special anniversary, I was keen to be able to share with readers of my blog some of the highlights and photographs of the inn’s long and fascinating history, and, fortunately, Maja gave me the nod to do so!

Kunstelj Inn was opened by Franc Kunstelj in 1873 and some years later handed it over to his son Rudolf. Rudolf was very ambitious and had a vision and belief that the small family inn could become the heart and soul of social life in Radovljica.

The Rudolf Kunstelj Inn in 1906. Photo: 110 years of the Radovljica Tourist Association

He set to work building a large lounge with a stage for celebrations, a wine cellar, a freezer and a veranda with views of the Julian Alps. The renovations placed Kunstelj Inn on the map of the most popular local restaurants in Slovenia.

Grandmother Jerica later took over the running of the inn. She had a reputation as a fearless woman who always knew exactly what she wanted and was not afraid to tell people to their face what was on her mind! She survived two wars, became a widow at a very young age, raised two sons, and took over and managed Kunstelj Inn all by herself.

Many of the dishes Jerica introduced onto the inn’s menu can still be found today, albeit with a modern ‘Maja twist’, as well as other traditional Slovenian food, including blood sausages, Carniolan sausage with sauerkraut or turnip, buckwheat polenta, homemade štruklji and more.

Meanwhile, grandmother Maria left home at the age of 14 to work at the Roblek dom mountain hut. Tone and the now legendary Slavko Avsenik – the founder of Slovenian folk music – used to visit the hut as rumour had it that there were a lot of pretty girls there! And it turned out to be true, since Tone and Maria met and later married, and Slavko Avsenik even played at their wedding!

Grandmother Maria (second from left) doing washing at the Roblek dom mountain hut

A particularly amusing tale is that of Grandad Tone and his golf ‘caddy’ Grol. Tone didn’t start to play golf until he was 62, when, due to his weak heart he gave up hunting as well as skiing and golf became a form of relaxation and enjoyment.

As the doctors had instilled in him that he must strictly avoid all forms of exertion, for some time Tone thought about how he could lighten the load of carrying his heavy golf clubs from one hole to the next and he hit on the idea that his faithful companion Grol could help!

Uncle Ivan made Grol a special trolley for transporting Tone’s golf clubs, and Grol adapted really well to his role as ‘caddy’.

Maja’s father Toni regularly went on exchange to Switzerland to “learn from the best”. It was there that he learnt skills from one of the most well known Swiss patisserie chefs, Hans van den Klinkenberg, in Hotel Eden in Lugano. Toni brought all the tricks and secrets he learnt from the patisserie chef to Kunstelj Inn’s kitchen, which led to Kunstelj’s strudels, pies, ice-cream and other cakes soon gaining a reputation as the best desserts in Gorenjska.

Like her father, Maja also has a passion for desserts and, also like her father, she went to Austria to learn her patisserie skills. Her role model, who she met on one of her culinary travels, is Lea Linser; at that time Lea was running an acclaimed restaurant in Luxembourg and was the first ‘tv chef’ on German television. To this day Maja turns to Lea’s cookery books for inspiration for her signature desserts.

Some year’s back Maja created the first Kunstelj ‘grizike’ (cake pops), which later became – and still are – one of the star attractions of the Radovljica Chocolate Festival!

You can also visit during the time of Slovenian Restaurant Week, which takes place twice per year for 10 days in autumn and spring, when you can take advantage of a 3-course menu for just 19 euros per person, the next edition will take place from 11th – 20th October (note: the website is currently only available in English, but menus will soon also be available in English and by next year the entire website too – working on that one too!).

Kunstelj Inn is also part of Taste Radol’ca and for the whole month of November all nine participating Taste Radol’ca restaurants offer special menus based on local ingredients also for a set price of 19 euros  per person.

So, now you know (some of) Kunstelj Inn’s history, why not visit to find out (and taste!) more!

© 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

 

The Begunje Lambergh Trail – Explore Kamen Castle, Archeological Sites and Caves in the Draga Valley

The Lambergh Trail (Lambergova pot) begins at the Krpin recreation area in Begunje na Gorenjskem. It leads through the forest past the ruins of Kamen Castle, passing two small archeological sites, and ending in the lush Draga valley at the Gostišče Draga restaurant, where you can enjoy a drink, snack or slap-up meal to gather your strength for the return journey, or you could even continue further on one of the trails that lead into the Karavanke mountains.

It takes around an hour to walk the almost 8km path (one-way), though if you stop to explore the castle, which is a must(!), then you should allow more time. The terrain is undulating, so good footwear is required. There are information boards along the way where you can find out more.

The Njivice archeological site dates back to the Old Iron Age.

There are vast caves to explore, too, some of which make you feel rather small!

Halfway along the trail you emerge briefly from the forest and are greeted by wonderful views over the upper part of the village.

You then reach the mighty and impressive ruins of Kamen Castle.

The castle was once home to the Counts of Lambergh – hence the name of the trail. It has preserved Gothic and Renaissance entrances and the partial restoration works that were recently carried out have made the castle more accessible.

Kamen Castle was built in the 12th century by the Counts of Ortenburg; later it was owned by the Counts of Celje, and from 1436 the Counts of Lambergh. The counts abandoned the castle in the 18th century when they moved to the more comfortable Katzenstein Mansion in the centre of the village.

The path ends at the Gostišče Draga restaurant at the head of the Draga valley. The restaurant, a member of Taste Radol’ca, is renowned for its game, fresh river trout, and numerous other traditional Slovene dishes.

The štruklji alone, both the sweet and savoury versions, are definitely worth the walk!

You can either return the same way following the signs back to the Krpin recreation centre, or alternatively you could first walk along the valley road beside the stream back to the castle, where you can rejoin the path back to the start.

You could also take time to explore Begunje itself; the Begunje Village Trail is just one of the many theme trails in the Radol’ca area. Click here for more.

© Adele in Slovenia

Radol’ca: Find Your Inspiration – I Found Mine!

This new promotional video for Radol’ca has just been released. Watching it makes me so proud to be able to call Radovljica my home. Oh, and by the way, just to make it clear, as I know it can be somewhat confusing, Radovljica is the name of the town; Radol’ca is the marketing name for the destination which includes Radovljica and the surrounding villages, such as Begunje na Gorenjskem, Kropa, Brezje, Kamna Gorica, and the smaller settlements in-between.

So, as another year of my life in Radovljica draws to a close, here’s a look back at just some of my personal highlights of 2017, which I hope will also provide inspiration for you to visit, or re-visit, the area next year!

In winter 2017 I celebrated an amazing 10 years in Slovenia – gosh how time flies! Here I am celebrating with the very talented duo WildArt. More here – https://adeleinslovenia.com/2017/02/12/celebrating-10-years-in-slovenia-in-a-wildart-style/

On the occasion, I was particularly proud to receive an award from the mayor of Radovljica for my contribution to tourism.

Spring is chocolate time in Radovljica – time for the Radovljica Chocolate Festival, the biggest of its kind in Slovenia. Note the date for the next festival in your diaries now: 20th – 22nd April 2018!

In spring I also, for the first time, tried parkour archery in the Draga valley with Robert (Robi) Levstek, and discovered what fun it is. More here – https://adeleinslovenia.com/2017/04/10/archery-adventures-and-delicious-draga-delights/

In summer I tried out the new Adventure Mini Golf Panorama in Gorica, near Radovljica. I was might impressed by its wonderful panoramic, shady location and well-arranged, modern course. More here – https://adeleinslovenia.com/2017/07/30/adventure-mini-golf-panorama-the-name-says-it-all/

The Grabnarca Waterside Trail is also a great place to seek some ‘cool’ during summer. Read more about this path’s many bridges here – https://adeleinslovenia.com/2017/08/28/the-grabnarca-waterside-nature-trail/

Late autumn was time for very tasty, very tempting, and very popular Taste Radol’ca!

And that brings us to winter, which started earlier this year (boohoo!) and, to me at least, already seems too long! But it does have its pluses, too, such as the joyous festive atmosphere on the occasion of the switching of of the Christmas lights in Linhart Square – the heart of Radovljica’s old town. Here you can check out the whole Festive December in Linhart Square programme.

And I even really enjoyed my somewhat snowy visit to Brezje’s Nativity Museum – despite my dislike of the white stuff! Find out more about Slovenia’s national sanctuary, the Basilica of Mary Help of Christians, and my visit to the museum – https://adeleinslovenia.com/2017/12/10/feel-the-festive-spirit-at-the-nativity-museum-at-slovenias-national-shrine-in-brezje/

And that brings me to the end of another Radovljica year, though, of course, it’s not the end of the journey! I hope you will continue to be inspired by my Adele in Slovenia blog posts, will continue to read, and you, too, might ‘Find your Inspiration’ in Radovljica!

A very Merry Christmas to you all!

© Adele in Slovenia

 

 

Adventure Mini Golf Panorama – The Name Says It All!

Now I know why the new mini golf course in Gorica, near Radovljica is named Adventure Mini Golf Panorama. Wow, it offers a panorama in the truest sense of the word, and with a heat wave forecast this week, its the ideal place to escape the heat, too.

I run through the village of Gorica regularly and had seen the signs for the new mini golf course, but, if I’m honest, I thought it would probably be nothing that special. Well, I couldn’t have been more wrong – this place really is rather special!

Whether you are a fan of mini golf or not, you simply must visit; be it to play a round or two or just to sit on the terrace with a drink and savour the stunning panoramic views of the Julian Alps and the Jelovica plateau.

The 12-hole mini golf course has been thoughtfully arranged using superior-quality materials and is set in the cool of the forest.

Photos alone don’t do it justice, particularly as it was slightly overcast on the day of my visit. So, just go and check it out, I believe you won’t be disappointed and you’ll hopefully come away as enthusiastic as I was!

The forest setting provides the perfect respite from the heat and the whole ambience makes you instantly feel relaxed and at ease.

The course is suitable for all ages and abilities – from the littlest to the largest – as long as you can hold a club you can play!

Owner Andreja and her husband are there with a warm welcome and don’t take much persuading to join in a round or two!

The first round per visit costs 5 euros for adults, 4 euros for children, each round thereafter during the same visit costs 2 euros for adults, 1.50 euros for children.

During summer the course is open from 10am – 9pm and you can check the latest opening hours on the website here – http://adventureminigolf.si

© Adele in Slovenia

 

 

Festival-Full Radovljica: Come and Celebrate the Earth!

Whilst the Chocolate Festival is by far the biggest annual event in Radovljica – as well as being the biggest festival of its kind in Slovenia – it certainly isn’t the only festival in Radovljica’s annual event calendar. There are plenty more festivals, as well as other events, to look forward to throughout the course of the year, and it’s less than 2 weeks until the next one!

The Festival of the Strength of the Earth will make its premiere on Saturday 27th May. In previous years it was named the Ceramics Festival, however, this year the festival’s content has been widened to include and celebrate other gifts from the earth; clay, herbs, seeds.

The main festival will take place in Linhart Square in the heart of Radovljica’s historic old town, where there will be market stalls laden with seeds, herbs, teas, ceramic products and natural cosmetics.

Some events will also take place in the biodynamic garden ‘Nature Teaches Us’ at the Radovljica primary school (Osnovna sola A. T. Linharta – next to the Spar supermarket).

Throughout the day there will also be workshops for adults and children, good music, and hearty ‘one-pot’ food, based on the festival theme.

You can get the latest information on the festival Facebook page here – https://www.facebook.com/events/1674599819503638/

Historically, pottery has always been one of the oldest and most widespread crafts in Slovenia; the earliest records of the craft date back to 1340. The village of Ljubno – part of the Municipality of Radovljica – used to be one of the strongholds of pottery in the Gorenjska region. Althought the pottery trade in Ljubno died out after World War I, you can still find examples of Ljubno potteryware and find out more at a soon-to-be-opened exhibition at Magušar’s House (Magušarjeva hiša) in Radovljica titled ‘Pottery in Slovenia’.

The house has an arcaded gothic courtyard and pottery workshop, where you can buy Magušar bowls and other pottery items, and hosts occasional exhibitions, workshops and other events.

But wait, that’s certainly not the end of Festival-Full Radovljica! This year there’s still the Festival of Early Music, the Iron Forging Festival, the Midsummer’s Eve Festival, and more!

Find more information at the Visit Radol’ca website here – http://www.radolca.si/en/events/

© Adele in Slovenia