The Path to Pustal – Combs, Frogs and the Devil’s Footbridge!

The Puštal area of Škofja Loka is just a stone’s throw from the historic, medieval old town centre and the imposing, hilltop Loka Castle.

Puštal is largely a residential area that has had an interesting history and offers numerous sights of interest. Join me here on a stroll along the Path to Puštal to see some of the highlights and find out more about combs, frogs and the Devil’s footbridge!

The path starts at the far end of Town Square (Mestni trg). From here cross the road to the area of the town known as Karlovec. Continue along Kopališka ulica where, at number 8, you can see Firbar’s House (Firbarjeva hiša), formerly home to Jurij Pokorn, a painter and an ex-mayor of the town. If you look at the left, upper part of the house, you can see the rather unusual ‘rake’ which was used for drying coloured flax linen.

Continuing along the street you can see the birthhouse of Fran Jesenko, a famous botanist and geneticist, and also one of the founders of Triglav National Park.

At the intersection of the streets Kopališka ulica in Fužinska ulica stands a shrine known locally as ‘Lepo znamenje’ (The Beautiful Shrine).

Photo: Marko Plesko

From here it is just a short walk, following the path markers on the ground, to the Devil’s footbridge (Hudičev brv). This footbridge over the Sora river has to be one of the most scenic places in the whole town, and in summer it is an open-air, natural area for a quick refreshing dip!

Legend has it that the footbridge got its name after reputed visitations from the devil. When locals built shrines on both sides of the bridge, they drove the devil away for some time. However, his visitations then began in the middle of the bridge, until they finally managed to drive him away under the Šturm rock by building a shrine in the middle of the footbridge dedicated to St. John Nepomuk – the patron saint of bridges.

Cross the bridge then continue on the right bank of the Sora river towards the 16th century Nace’s House (Nacetova hiša). This preserved townhouse was thoroughly renovated in 1755 and is the only house in Škofja Loka whose appearance has not significantly changed since the mid-18th century and is considered the best-preserved rural building in the Škofja Loka area and the Ljubljana hinterland.

Upon prior arrangement it is possible to view the house and its objects and equipment, which bear witness to the life of many generations and, despite being museum objects, are still usable today. You can read more about this and other historic houses and museums in the Škofja Loka area here – http://www.visitskofjaloka.si/en/experiences/cultural-sights-of-interest/historic-houses-and-museum-collections

Next you will walk past Puštal Castle (Puštalski grad). The castle was first mentioned in the 13th century but its present-day appearance dates from the 16th century. The Chapel of St. Cross in the castle contains a fresco of ‘The Descent from the Cross’, painted by Guilio Quaglio in 1706, and is considered one of the most valuable works of art in the town. Today the castle houses a music school.

So, where do combs and frogs come into the equation in connection with Puštal? Well, in bygone days, many of the residents of Puštal made their living through non-agricultural activities, of which comb-making was one of the most widespread, and one of the most unusual was by catching and selling frogs, which were in abundance in Puštal at that time. Fascinating stuff, hey!

Another highlight, and a spectacular end to the Path to Puštal, is the hill Hribec and the Church of the Holy Cross. The path leads uphill past the 18th century chapels of the Stations of the Cross. Not only is it a scenic walk up to the church, but the view over Škofja Loka and the castle is really quite special, as I discovered earlier this year when I took a guided cycled around the area as part of my discovery of the Loka Cycle Route – read more here – https://adeleinslovenia.com/2017/06/11/active-and-historic-loka-the-skofja-loka-cycle-trail/

You can pick up a brochure about the Path to Puštal at the Škofja Loka Tourist Information Centre and/or find more information about this and other theme paths in the area here – http://www.visitskofjaloka.si/en/experiences/theme-paths

© Adele in Slovenia

 

Fit and Fun in Radovljica!

For many people, no doubt the thought of exercising on holiday couldn’t be further from their minds; then there are those of us for whom being active is a way of life, and whether at home or away, we like to find ways of ensuring we stay fit and healthy whilst also having fun!

So for those of you who fit into that bracket – myself included – Radovljica is the perfect destination!

As is widely known and acknowledged, the key to keeping fit is to find an activity, or activities, that are enjoyable, so taking part doesn’t feel like a chore and we are more likely to stick with it.

With the beautiful backdrop of the Karavanke mountains and the Jelovica plateau, as well as the Sava river and the Draga and Lipnica valleys, there are myriad outdoor sports and activities right on the doorstep or within close proximity of Radovljica, so here are some ideas:

HIKING – the Jelovica Plateau, the Karavanke range, or the nearby Julian Alps

WALKING and/or RUNNING – from short strolls or runs on theme paths such as the Sava River Trail, to long cross-country rambles and runs

CYCLING – of all types, mountain biking, road biking, endless possibilities

FISHING on the Sava river

HORSE RIDING or horse and carriage rides – get to know Lipizzaner horses at the Barbana stud farm in Globoko, or go riding at the Mošnje Horse Centre – just two among the places offering horse riding in the area. More here – http://www.radolca.si/en/in-the-company-of-horses/

WATER SPORTS – rafting, kayaking, canoeing

Other adrenalin-fuelled activities –  paintball, zip line, zorbing, caving, climbing

ARCHERY – on the parcour course in the tranquil Draga valley. Find out more here – https://adeleinslovenia.com/2017/04/10/archery-adventures-and-delicious-draga-delights/

SWIMMING at the Olympic size swimming pool in Radovljica – open-air in the summer, covered in the winter; or at the Kropa outdoor pool

PARACHUTING and PANORAMIC FLIGHTS over the Julian Alps from Lesce Sports Airfield

Find out more about sport, recreation and fun in the area here and I wish you fit and fun adventures in Radovljica! – http://www.radolca.si/en/sport-recreation-and-fun/

© Adele in Slovenia

Wonderful Weddings and Award-Winning Cheeses in the Poljane Valley

The Poljane Valley is known for its unspoilt nature and is synonymous with one of Slovenia’s most renowned writers – Ivan Tavčar (1851-1923).

Tavčar Manor in Visoko is where the writer found inspiration for many of his best works. The manor dates from the 14th century and was originally used by the Lords of Loka as a hunting manor. Later it passed into the hands of the Kalan family before being bought by Tavčar in 1893 when he returned to his homeland.

Legend has it that he found an iron chest in the attic of the manor that contained notes about the Kalan family. Tavčar used these notes, together with his rich imagination, to write his famous Visoko Chronicle (Visoško kroniko).

Today the manor’s gorgeous, romantic, country setting makes it a very popular venue for weddings as well as a hosts of other events, festivals, family days, concerts etc. Weddings are held in the wedding hall which is adorned with ceiling and wall paintings.

Photo: Izidor Jesenko

The Master of Ceremonies, dressed as Ivan Tavčar, conducts the ceremony, adding to the special charm of a wedding at Tavčar Manor.

Photo: Izidor Jesenko

Inside there is an exhibition dedicated to Tavčar which includes an authentic, and still working, black kitchen.

Whilst visiting the manor you can’t help but notice the beautiful, prominent hilltop St. Volbenk’s pilgrimage church with its two bell towers in the settlement of Log just minutes from Tavčar Manor. The church was built in the second half of the 17th century and its baroque altars and altar pictures are especially valuable – the work of the Šubic family of painters from Poljane.

You can walk – as I did – or drive up to the church from where you can look down over Tavčar Manor and the Poljane Sora river.

And whilst at the manor enjoy the view back up towards the church!

Just a few kilometres further along the valley you reach the family-run, award-winning Pustotnik dairy.

The dairy is a real family affair with all four children involved in the business.

The dairy cows have their own ‘creche’ and ‘maternity unit’. What a cute little new-born calf!

Friendlier cows you couldn’t wish to meet! Content cows!

Pustotnik produces cheeses using cow’s, goat’s and sheep’s milk and offers over 70 different products. As someone who loves strong cheese – the stronger the better – the aged gauda really hit the spot for me and I took some home too!

In November 2016 the Pustotnik Dairy won silver at the 2016-2017 World Cheese Awards for its Kozovč cheese – made with a mixture of goat’s and sheep’s milk.

Individuals can visit the cheese-making boutique with no prior reservations required. However, for groups, guided tours and other special arrangements, such as cheese-making workshops, then do be sure to call or email ahead to avoid disappointment as this place is popular!

You can also find Pustotnik cheeses, yoghurts and other products on sale at farmers markets in the Gorenjska region as well as in Ljubljana and further afield. You can find more information about the Pustotnik Dairy here – http://www.kmetijapustotnik.si/

For more information about weddings at Tavčar Manor and what else to see and do in the Poljane Valley see the Visit Škofja Loka website here – http://www.visitskofjaloka.si/en/weddings/weddings-in-visoko

© 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

 

Like Beekeeping? Love Radovljica!

Those interested in beekeeping should definitely make a beeline for Radovljica!

The Radovljica area has a wealth of beekeeping-related sights of interest, all within close proximity, thus making it ideal place to visit for beekeepers or those with an interest in beekeeping.

One such example is the group of 38 beekeepers from Estonia who I helped with their plans to visit Radovljica.

Whilst the main purpose of their trip was beekeeping-related activities, they also managed to find time to do some sightseeing in Ljubljana, took a traditional pletna boat to the island on Lake Bled, and visited Vintgar Gorge.

The main beekeeping day began with a visit to Kralov med in the hamlet of Selo near Bled, where owner Blaž Ambrožič told them everything, and more, that they could possibly want to know about beekeeping in Slovenia. I wrote more extensively about my visit to Kralov med in a previous blog, also about World Bee Day, which you can read here – https://adeleinslovenia.com/2016/05/17/world-bee-day-the-anton-jansa-honey-route/

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The undoubted highlight, whether a beekeeper or not, is the chance to see and experience up close the hive found on a nearby tree trunk and transported to its current home. The fact you can get so close is testament to the calm nature of Slovenia’s Carniolan grey bee.

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Next the group came to Radovljica, beginning at the Tourist Information Centre where they tasted local honey and chocolate, and had the chance to buy some gifts to take home. They even brought us some of their own Estonian honey, which, as you can see, the staff enjoyed tasting!

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We then took a stroll through the medieval old town to see the main sights of interest – the Šivec House Gallery, the Radovljica Mansion, St. Peter’s Church, and the other wonderful frescoed buildings.

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Then it was on to the viewpoint for wonderful views of the Julian Alps, the Jelovica plateau and the Sava river.

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The next stop was to Lectar Inn to watch the process of making and decorating the traditional ‘lectar’ gingerbread’ hearts, made with honey, of course!

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And a chance to buy souvenirs and/or gifts for loved ones.

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Having seen Radovljica, it was then time to Taste Radol’ca, with a traditional Slovene lunch, also at Lectar Inn, one of the participating Taste Radol’ca restaurants. During lunch, the owner Jože entertained us with a few of his favourite songs played on the harmonica – never something to be missed!

The final stop in Radovljica was to the Museum of Apiculture, housed in the Radovljica Mansion, where visitors can learn all about the history of beekeeping in Slovenia, watch a video (narrated in English by me!), and in summer watch the bees hard work diligently in the hive.

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The group’s very last stop on the jam-packed, or should I say honey-packed, day, was to the Gorenjska Beekeeping Development and Education Centre in Lesce. You can read more about the centre and its wide-ranging activities here – http://www.radolca.si/en/gorenjska-region-beekeeping-development-and-education-centre/

So, as you can see, the Radovljica area really is a beekeeper’s paradise!

If you’d like any more information about Slovenian beekeeping, or are interested in taking a tour of the town and/or visiting some of the above-mentioned sights, feel free to get in touch or contact Tourism Radol’ca – http://www.radolca.si/en/

© Adele in Slovenia

Taste Radol’ca 2016: Gostilna Avguštin, Great Food & To Die For Views Too!

It was absolutely delighted when I found out that Gostilna Avguštin was under new management and had joined Taste Radol’ca, since I had long wondered why this traditional restaurant, located in the heart of the historic old town of Radovljica, and with to die for views, did not take part in any of the town’s events and festivals. Thank goodness, then, that 2 young enterprising brothers, who previously worked at the restaurant as waiters, have taken over its running, and with it brought a fresh new approach to customer service and upgraded the menu of traditional food.

In fine weather the views from the terrace of Gostilna Avguštin are magnificent; Slovenia’s highest mountain, Mt. Triglav, can be seen in the background with the snow-capped Julian Alps and the Pokljuka plateau in the foreground, and the Jelovica plateau and the Sava river dominating the immediate view.

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Gostilna Avguštin was somewhere I often used to frequent in the first few years after I moved here. However, it then went through a bit of a – let’s just say – ‘wobbly’ stage, whereby sometimes it was fantastic, other times far less so, and I then began to go elsewhere. So, it’s really fantastic news that it is back to its best – well actually, even better – and that there is now another restaurant serving delicious Slovenian food right on my doorstep – now you won’t be able to keep me away!

So, on to the food! I tried out the Taste Radol’ca menu, of which there is a choice of 2, which is excellent value at just 16 euros for 3 courses, and all ingredients are from the local area.

To start I had pumpkin soup, which just happens to be my favourite type of soup on the planet, so it certainly hit the spot! The added pumpkin-seed oil, pumpkin seeds and homemade onion bread were the icing on the cake (icing on the soup?)!

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The main course consists of a hearty plate of pork fillet stuffed with prunes, buckwheat struklji and bacon-wrapped vegetables. It really was delicious and beautifully presented too.

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I always like to have a peek into the kitchens of the Taste Radol’ca restaurants where possible, to see the master chefs at work! So, I snuck in to watch dessert being prepared – chestnut cake.

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So, if it’s been a while since you last visited, or indeed you have never visited, do hot foot it down to Gostilna Avguštin soon!

© Adele in Slovenia

It’s Wine Time – the Vinarium Tower and the Lendave Gorice Hills!

St. Martin’s Day is celebrated every November in Slovenia in a big way! Throughout the country, whether in a wine-growing region or not, you will find wine-related events taking place, and, even if like me you aren’t a big wine drinker, soaking up the atmosphere and savouring the excellent accompanying homemade food makes a visit to one of the ‘Martinovanje‘ events a must!

One such wine-growing area is Lendava, in the far northeast of Slovenia, which is a melting-pot of culture and cuisine, with influences from its neighbours – Hungary and Croatia.

The town’s star attraction is undoubtedly the Vinarium Tower, which opened in 2015 and has rapidly become a favourite destination for visitors from far and wide. The 53.5m-high tower offers superlative panoramic views over the Lendavske gorice hills and further to the Mura river and the lowlands of neighbouring Hungary, Croatia and Austria. There is a lift which rapidly takes visitors up to the observation deck on the upper level, or, those up for it, can tackle the 240 stairs instead! Information about opening hours and ticket prices can be found here – http://www.vinarium-lendava.si/

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As one would expect from being up so high, the views extend as far as the eye can see. The Lendave gorice hills are prime wine-growing territory, and it would be rude not to try a drop or two of the local wine after your visit! On the drive between the town up towards the Vinarium Tower, there are numerous small domestic wine producers, where you can stop and sample and, of course, buy some to take home – at prices that you will love!

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In front of the Vinarium tower, there are a handful of food and drink outlets, where you can enjoy, amongst others, a white wine spritzer – the most typical refreshing drink in this area – and local food such as bograč and langaš.

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Lendava is synonymous with bograč, which is a dish fairly similar to goulash, however, the secret is in the 4 different kinds of meat and a few other key ingredients (each cook, of course, has their own secret formula!). Langaš is a potato-based dough, deep fried and topped with lashings of garlic and oil – healthy it’s not, but then you only live once!. My visit to the area coincided with the annual Bogračfest – a festival and competition in cooking bograč.

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The centre of Lendava itself has a pleasant relaxed air to it; a mixture of pavement cafes, the imposing St. Catherine’s Church and Lendava Castle perched on a small hill overlooking the town. The castle’s baroque appearance dates from the 18th century, though it was first mentioned in records dating as far back as 1192. Today it houses archaeological, historical and ethnologic collections as well as a gallery.

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The Cultural Centre, which comprises a theatre and concert hall, is a magnificent eye-catching building. It was actually designed by one of Hungary’s most famous architects, Imre Makovecz. In this part of the country, you will notice all public signs in both Slovene and Hungarian languages, and there are strong ties between the minorities of both nations living in harmony on either side of the border.

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If, like me, you like cycling, then the area is perfect and you can even visit 3 countries in one ride. Not wishing to be greedy (Ok, time was also an issue, as Bogračfest was calling!), I ‘just’ visited 2 countries on my 3-hour, cca. 60km bike ride.

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After crossing the border into Croatia, I, or rather ‘we’ cycled alongside the Mura river, which forms a natural border between the two countries.

I was lucky enough to have a cycle pal for this ride, in the form of Paul, a fellow Brit who lives not far from Lendava who knows the cycle routes in this area like the back of his hand. I admire Paul hugely, and he and I share the same virtues, struggles, joy and passion for living in Slovenia. He has painstaking, and single-handedly, renovated an old mill – Slomškov Mlin in Razkrižje (more about that when its time for the official opening!) – and also runs a cycle tour company offering guided or self-guided tours and the chance to hire bikes and e-bikes. Find out more about Simply Cycling Slovenia here – http://design-it.si/cycling/

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After having a guided tour of the mill, we stopped at a pleasant picnic area near one of the few remaining famous floating mills which are found on both sides of the Mura river.

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This mill, called ‘The Island of Love’, is located on the Slovene side of the Mura river.

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The centrally-located Lendava Thermal Spa is an ideal place to base yourself for exploring the area, with its indoor and outdoor thermal pools, saunas, energy park, traditional cuisine, and full range of treatments, many of them based on its unique paraffin water known for its healing and rejuvenating properties. Find out more here – http://goo.gl/GRXeZz

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Enjoy celebrating St. Martin’s Day – wherever you are and however you choose to celebrate it – no excuses needed!

© Adele in Slovenia