The Poignant Past + Delicious Present in Tržič: Mauthausen and Gostišče Karavla

The tranquil St. Ana valley is squeezed between the Karavanke mountains along the road leading from Tržič to the Ljubelj pass. The valley was named after St. Anne’s church, which can be seen nestled beneath the mountains shortly before reaching the top of the windy road.

The valley has a particularly poignant past, as it was the location of a former World War II Mauthausen concentration camp, also known as the Ljubelj Labour Camp, the remains of which can still be seen today at the preserved and protected cultural site. It was the only World War II camp of its kind in Slovenia.

The concentration camp, which was a branch of the Mauthausen Nazi camp, was established during the time of the construction of the Ljubelj tunnel on the strategically important road between the then Nazi Germany and the southern occupied territories.

Today the remains have been arranged into a memorial park.

Though its not the usual type of tourist attraction, those interested in history, as well as anyone with a sense of respect for the past – myself included – can’t fail to be moved and feel somewhat poignant when strolling through the camp mindful of the dreadful atrocities that took place there.

The first 330 political internees were brought to the camp on 3rd June 1943, and the camp closed on 7th May 1945. There was a maximum of 1,300 internees, the majority were French, whilst there were also Poles, Yugoslavs, Italians, Czechs, Jews, Norwegians, Belgians, and Greeks, among others, the majority of which met their death while interned at the camp.

Click here to take a virtual walk through the camp.

On the opposite side of the road there is a monument with commemorative plaques giving more information (in various languages, though not in English).

From the Mathausen camp you can see a building on the opposite side of the road almost hidden in the forest. This is Gostišče Karavla (formerly known as Gostišče Koren), which I must admit to having overlooked on previous visits to the area.

However, following my recent visit I can attest that a meal here is a ‘must’ – thanks to both the fantastic food and the exceptionally friendly team – and I highly recommend rewarding yourself after a sightseeing visit to the area, or after a hike, bike ride or, in winter, a ski tour, or just ‘because you’re worth it!’

The menu is varied, with a focus on game and Angus steaks, though there are also plenty of other traditional Slovenian dishes and numerous options for vegetarians too.

As the focus is on game, I just had to try the wild boar with cranberries, which is served with homemade curd cheese štruklji, and the black Angus steak was cooked to perfection and ‘melt-in-the-mouth’ delicious!

And although, for a change(!) it was ‘dinner-a-deux’…

…the dessert – the house speciality buckwheat sponge with hot cranberries and cream – was mine, all mine!

Click here to find out more about all this and all the other attractions in the Trzic area, and here to read my previous post about hiking and other activities at Zelenica and Ljubelj.

© Adele in Slovenia

Test Your Skiing Skills at the Elan Alpine Skiing Museum!

The Radol’ca area is synonymous with Elan – the world-famous producer of skis, and now you can find out more about the company’s history and innovative products whilst enjoying some interactive fun at the new Elan Alpine Skiing Museum.

The museum is located at the company’s production unit in Begunje na Gorenjskem, just a short distance from Radovljica. It was opened in 2018 by the legendary Swedish skier Ingemar Stenmark, who competed using Elan skis throughout his entire career. The first pair of skis on which Stenmark competed in World Cup races is among the museum’s exhibits.

Elan was established in 1945 upon the initiative of the ski jumper and ski maker Rudi Finžgar (1920-1955) who in 1941, despite being young and inexperienced, became the first Slovenian ski jumper to jump over 100 metres. The company quickly became known for its innovative and trend-setting designs.

The museum showcases Elan’s 70-year history and its sources of inspiration for the future,

There are also exhibits showing some of the achievements of the company’s other divisions, including boats, aeroplanes, sports equipment and wind turbines.

The exhibits are spread over two floors in the small museum. Upstairs you can get a glimpse into a workshop…

…test your balance on skis and a snowboard – not as easy as it looks…

…and there is a chance to test your skills and get interactive on the ski simulator. Needless to say, I didn’t score top marks but it was fun having a go nonetheless and a pretty good workout too!

The museum is open Tuesdays – Saturdays from 10am-6pm and offers a great experience for all the family, even for non-skiers like me!

Adjoining the museum is the Elan Sports Shop, which is crammed with sports apparel, both Elan’s own-brand products and other brand names, which you can access from outside or alternatively once you make it past the finish line!

Whilst in the area you can also visit the many other numerous attractions and sights of interest in the village of Begunje na Gorenjskem and its surroundings, among them Kamen Castle, the Avsenik Museum, Katzenstein Mansion and the Museum of Hostages and two Taste Radol’ca restaurantsGostišče Draga and Gostilna Pr’Tavčar. If you want to get active then you can take a walk on the St. Peter’s Trail, the Begunje Village Trail or visit the Draga Valley from where you can set off on hikes in the Karavanke mountains.

© Adele in Slovenia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

© Adele in Slovenia

 

A World of Winter Sports in Tržič: Ljubelj and Zelenica

The for many (not me, I hasten to add!) long-awaited first significant snow of the year arrived last Friday and, following a cloudy day on Saturday, Sunday’s sunshine and gorgeous blue skies saw almost half, if not more, of Slovenia heading out to pursue their beloved winter sports!

Among the most popular destinations in the Gorenjska region for sledging and other winter sports is Ljubelj, from where you there is a choice of going to either Zelenica or the old Ljubelj pass, or, like me, why not visit both in one day!

The Ljubelj pass is the oldest road pass in Europe. Prior to the building of the Ljubelj tunnel, the steep pass, which reaches 1,369 metres above sea-level, was the main transport route from Slovenia to Klagenfurt in Austria. Since the building of the Karavanke tunnel in 1991, however, the Ljubelj tunnel is far less frequented, while the Ljubelj pass today is a favourite year-round destination for hikers and in winter it turns into a sledger’s paradise!

It takes about 45 minutes to walk up to the top where the border is marked by two stone obelisks.

Having walked up in beautiful blue skies, a wave of fog suddenly swept in when I reached the top. Luckily, its pretty quick to get back down by sledge!

The Koča na Ljubelju mountain hut is located just metres from the border.

Photo: Visit Tržič

The Ljubelj pass road has long-since been closed to traffic other than for one day every year in September when the Hrast Memorial takes place. The event sees hundreds of motorbikes, motorbikes with sidecars, and old-timer cars competing up the 33% gradient.

Photo: Visit Tržič

But Ljubelj isn’t just a winter destination, there are plenty of hiking trails to explore during summer too, on both the Slovenian and Austrian side. However, many of these routes are not suitable for hiking during winter, so be sure to check the conditions, plan carefully and have the correct equipment – which, it goes without saying, applies to all such winter sports.

The Slovenian hiking routes are marked by red signs and the trails marked by red circles with a white inner, whereas the Austrian routes are marked by yellow signs and the trails along the border by green circles with a white inner.

From the large car park just in front of the Ljubelj tunnel the trail to the Ljubelj pass goes to the right, whilst to the left is Zelenica.

Despite no longer being an ‘active’ ski piste, Zelenica was very much ‘alive’ on Sunday with hikers, ski tourers, snowboarders, a mountain rescue team practicing winter mountaineering skills, sledgers, and I even saw one guy carrying a bike on his shoulder up the snow-covered ski piste!

For many the target destination, year-round, is the Dom na Zelenici mountain hut (1,536m) whilst others continue onward to the surrounding peaks such as Triangel (1,704m), Begunščica (2,060m), Vrtača (2,181m) and Na Možeh (1,784m). The hut is open daily in the summer (1.6 – 30.9) and during the rest of the year at weekends and public holidays (1.10-31.5).

In addition to being a ‘regular’ mountain hut offering warm food and drinks for visitors, the hut is also a Mountaineering Education Centre and hosts numerous events, courses, lectures etc. It has 50 beds and can be hired for group events, training sessions etc.

I will be writing plenty more about hiking in Tržič over the course of the year, and Ljubelj, when it isn’t snow-covered, is among the destinations I plan to visit as part of some longer tours to the surrounding mountains. So, keep reading and, in the meantime, you can find more ideas and inspiration on the Visit Trzic website. Happy sledging (or skiing, hiking…)!

© Adele in Slovenia

 

Christmas, New Year & Winter Sports in Bohinj

The festive season is upon us and where better to spend it than in beautiful Bohinj, where there will be numerous events and activities going on over the Christmas and New Year period as well as countless opportunities to enjoy some winter sports. So, in this blog I have gathered details of some of the main events and added a few suggestions of my own for how to spend Christmas and New Year in Bohinj.

It remains to be seen whether or not it will be a white Christmas this year. Last year we had early snow, whereas the two previous years there was no significant snowfall until after the New Year. However the early snowfall this year on 20th November has meant that, at the time of writing, preparations are underway for opening at many of Slovenia’s ski resorts.

If you want your fill of winter sports, then you are spoilt for choice in the Bohinj area and Triglav National Park, from skiing and cross-country skiing to hiking, snowshoeing, sledging and ice-skating.

Time for a cuppa to warm up after snowshoeing – at the mountain den on Pokljuka! Photo: Adele in Slovenia

For a unique experience, why not try snowshoeing on the Pokljuka plateau

Me snowshoeing at the Planina Konščica mountain pasture on Pokljuka! Photo: Adele in Slovenia

…or fans of downhill skiing can choose from two easily accessible ski resorts – Vogel and Soriška planina.

The Vogel ski resort is reached by cable car from Ukanc and is up there among Slovenia’s most popular ski resorts. Over an area of 78 hectares it boasts natural snow, 22 kilometres of ski pistes, 8 ski lifts, a children’s ski park and lift, a snow park, a hotel, restaurants, a ski school and equipment rental, sledging tracks, and more.

The Vogel ski resort. Photo: http://www.vogel.si

The Soriška planina ski resort can be reached from Bohinjska Bistrica as well as from Škofja Loka via Železniki and from Most na Soči via Baška Grapa. Over an area of 25 hectares, facilities consist of 8 kilometres of ski pistes, a two-person chairlift, 3 drag lifts, a children’s drag lift, a snow park, a sledging trackcross-country ski trails and a restaurant.

The Soriška planina ski resort. Photo: Adele in Slovenia

I don’t ski, and have no desire to either(!), hence you won’t see any photos of me swishing stylishly (ahem!) down ski pistes, but that doesn’t stop me visiting them!

At the top of the Soriška planina ski resort (without skis!). Photo: Adele in Slovenia

If there is sufficient snow in the valley, there are ample opportunities for cross-country skiing in the Upper and Lower Bohinj Valleys, where there are over 70 kilometres of tracks.

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Cross-country skiing in the Upper Bohinj Valley, Photo: Mitja Sodja

Otherwise, there are a number of smaller ski pistes, which are particularly suitable for beginners and families, such as Senožeta and the Pokljuka family ski centre.

The Pokljuka plateau has more than 30 kilometres of excellent cross-country ski tracks, many of which start at the Triglav Pokljuka sports and biathlon centre at Rudno polje, where from 3rd-9th December this year the BMW IBU Biathlon World Cup will take place.

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The Rudno Polje Biathlon Centre, photo: Gorje Tourist Assocation – http://www.vintgar.si

And there are tracks at the beautiful Zajovrnik mountain highland.

Cross-country skiing on the Planina Zajavornik mountain highland, yes, it is me! Photo: Adele in Slovenia

You might even run into some of Slovenia’s military, who have a base on Pokljuka, honing their skiing skills!

Photo: Adele in Slovenia

Pokljuka is also an excellent place for some winter hiking. Among my favourite destinations for winter hikes are Mrežce

Winter hiking on Mrežce on Pokljuka. Photo: Adele in Slovenia

…and Debela peč. Both of which can be reached from the Blejska koča mountain hut.

Winter hiking to Debela peč on Pokljuka. Photo: Adele in Slovenia

If you are unfamiliar with the terrain, however, do be sure to only hike on trodden paths and/or with a guide or local, and ensure you have good quality and sufficient winter equipment.

Nearly at the top! Photo: Adele in Slovenia

If live music and a good old boogie is your thing, then you can take your pick from numerous concerts.

Modrijani, Čuki and Ribič Pepe will be playing live on the 29th December at Camp Danica in Bohinjska Bistrica.

And the following day, at the same location, there will be a concert by Mambo Kings.

On New Year’s Eve you can take your pick of either New Year’s Eve outdoors in Stara Fužina, with entertainment from 9pm, or New Year’s Eve with the Avsenik Ensemble in Ribčev Laz, also from 9pm.

Elsewhere, in Bohinjska Bistrica during winter there is an ice rink next to the Mercator centre, on 1st December the Christmas lights will be officially switched-on in the village of Srednja vas, and kids won’t want to miss a visit to Santa’s Land.

So, enough to be getting on with then in addition, of course, to eating, drinking and being merry during the festive season.

© Adele in Slovenia

 

Jezersko: Slovenia’s First Mountaineering Village

The village of Jezersko lies at an altitude of 906 metres above sea-level at the foot of the Kamnik-Savinja Alps and the Karavanke range. It is Slovenia’s first, and it could be said ‘best’, true mountaineering village.

As befits somewhere with such pristine nature, it is spotlessly clean, all the hiking trails and attractions are very well marked, and a sense of peace and tranquility reigns over the entire valley.

What you won’t find in Jezersko are hordes of tourists, tacky souvenir shops, and over-priced eateries etc., instead you will find scattered homesteads and farms, a handful of eateries serving local food, friendly locals and ‘to-die-for’ views as far as the eye can see.

What I personally find so appealing about Jezersko, apart from the peace and great hiking, is that although the area, understandably, has a vision in terms of tourism, that vision is exactly what it should be i.e. to remain true to what it is, to avoid mass tourism, to attract the type of people who appreciate Jezersko for its pure simplicity. And that, in my book, is something to be applauded, and is in pleasant contrast to many of today’s tourist traps.

Further proof that Jezersko is a great mountaineering village, is its entry this year into the Bergsteiger Dorfer Association of Mountain Villages. With the exception of Jezersko, all the other villages are in well-known mountainous areas, such as Bavaria and Tyrol.

If walking and hiking is your thing, then in Jezersko there is something to suit all levels; 2 mountain huts, 20kms of easy trails, 10kms of challenging trails; 15kms of very demanding trails, and 1 secured climbing trail.

For an easy walk and a good way of getting acquainted with the area, I recommend a walk along the 8km Ravenska kočna Theme Trail.

It begins at the stunningly beautiful Planšar Lake (Planšarsko jezero)…

…and continues across meadows with magnificent views of the north faces of the Kamnik-Savinja Alps.

Having such excellent natural conditions for alpine sports, Jezersko is home to some of Slovenia’s mountaineering legends. Among them Davo Karničar (seen below), who in 2000 became the first person to ski from the peak of Mt Everest to the base camp, and then, over the next six years to 2006, went on to ski from the highest peaks in all the continents, making him a true legend in the world of alpinism.

As of this year, the entire Jezersko Mountain Trail is now available in English (translated by me!). The trail can be walked in sections or in its entirety. Many of the hikes involve some difficult sections, so if you love challenging hikes, then this is for you, but you can also pick and choose some of the easier trails, too. It includes all the greats such as Grintovec, Skuta, Jezerska kočna, Goli vrh, Velika Baba, Storžič, the Frischaufov dom hut, Kranjska and Koroška rinka, and more.

One of the most popular places for many hikers, either as a destination in itself or as a base for more demanding onward tours, is the Češka koca mountain hut (1543m). In addition to its fantastic location, what makes this hut unique is that it was built in 1900 by the Prague-based Czech branch of the Slovene Mountaineering Association, after which the hut was named. It has been renovated many times over the years but has retained its original style.

Jezersko is also popular in winter, when cross-country , ski touring and sledging are the activities of choice.

Photo: TIC Jezersko

So, this has just been a brief overview of Jezersko, I will be writing more in due course as one blog certainly doesn’t do it justice, but I hope it has at least whetted your appetites!

If you love hiking and appreciate nature at it’s best, when considering your (next) trip to Slovenia, consider Jezersko!

© Adele in Slovenia

Festive (and Boozy!) Škofja Loka in the Snow!

Winter arrived this year before winter even began – the official start of winter, that is! For many (myself not included, I hasten to add!), this adds to the festive atmosphere at this time of year, and Škofja Loka, with its quaint medieval old town centre, is no exception.

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Photo: Simon Primožič

On Saturday 2nd December the first of this year’s ‘Loka in the Snow‘ festive events will take place from 9am – 1pm in the old town centre. The event is a combination of the 20th Meeting of VintersSt. Nicholas’ Fair (Miklavžev LUFt), and ‘Windows of Imagination‘ (Izložbe Domišljije), all of which provide a great opportunity to try, and to buy, some unique gifts for friends, loved ones, and, of course, yourself!

Take a walk through the town to see the shop ‘Windows of Imagination’, a group sales exhibition of local arts and crafts.

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There will be around 80 stalls where you will have the chance to meet vintners from around Slovenia and taste their wines, and the sommelier Gašper Čarman will be on hand to provide advice!

To ensure you have something to ‘soak up’ the wine, chefs from the ‘Open Kitchen‘ will be cooking up dishes, and to add to the pleasant atmosphere there will be live music and entertainment.

And don’t miss a visit to, or at least a stroll up to, the imposing Loka Castle.

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Photo: Sašo Kočevar

And, since we are talking about snow, it’s been an early start to the skiing season this year with many of the country’s ski resorts open or about to open, and both of Škofja Loka’s 2 ski resorts will be open soon!

The Stari vrh ski centre, which I visited earlier this year (https://adeleinslovenia.com/2017/02/01/sunny-skiing-stunning-views-and-romance-on-stari-vrh/) in located in the middle of the Selca and Poljane valleys, just a ten minute drive from Škofja Loka. Its proximity to Ljubljana makes it a popular destination; in winter for skiing, snowboarding and other winter sports, and in summer for hiking and cycling.

Stari Vrh offers 10kms of slopes (1km difficult, 5kms medium, 4kms easy), together with a snowboard park, night skiing, a toboggan run and a children’s snow playground.

Alas, I’m not, and will never be, a skier, but that doesn’t mean I can’t visit to watch others and enjoy the views!

The Soriska planina ski centre is located on the edge of the Julian Alps and can be reached from several directions; from Škofja Loka via Železniki, from Bohinjska Bistrica; or from Most na Soči via Baška Grapa. You can read more about the ski centre and the nearby village of Sorica, which is well worth a detour, in a previous blog from earlier this year here (https://adeleinslovenia.com/2017/02/20/sorica-super-skiing-and-slovenias-most-beautiful-mountain-village/).

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Facilities at the Soriška planina ski resort consist of a two-person chairlift, 3 drag lifts, a children’s drag lift, a snow park, a sledging trackcross-country ski trails and a restaurant.

For more information about Škofja Loka’s ski resorts and other winter sports venues, click here for the Visit Škofja Loka website.

Highlights of the other events taking place in Škofja Loka during the festive season include:

  • A Christmas Carol Concert on 14.12 at 7.30pm in the Sokolški dom
  • A(nother) Christmas LUFt market on 22nd December from 5pm-10pm with a visit by Father Christmas and performances by the Ana Mraz international street theatre,
  • A concert by Help! – A Beatles Tribute Band on 29th December at 9pm in the square beneath the castle
  • New Year’s Eve celebrations from 9pm with the group Joške vn in the square beneath the castle and the old town centre

© Adele in Slovenia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sorica: Super Skiing and Slovenia’s Most Beautiful Mountain Village

The well-kept village of Sorica is considered to be one of most beautiful mountain villages in Slovenia. As the tourism writer Rudolf Badjura wrote ‘It would be necessary to travel some distance around the world to see such a beautiful village.’ And even though it didn’t look its best on a slightly overcast February afternoon when I visited, when nature’s hues are still somewhat subdued after the winter slumber, one can easily imagine how glorious it must be here in the warmer months when nature is at its vibrant best.

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Sorica is known as Grohar’s village (Groharjeva vas) as it is the birthplace of one of Slovenia’s most esteemed impressionist painters, Ivan Grohar (1867-1911).

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The best way to get acquainted with the village is by walking the theme path ‘Path through Sorica’, which begins in the centre of the village between the Gostilna Macesen restaurant with rooms and Grohar’s House (Groharjeva hiša) – Ivan Grohar’s birth house.

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With views like this, it’s easy to see where Grohar got his inspiration! The 18th century Baroque parish church of St. Nicholas contains a ceiling fresco of ‘The Last Supper’ by another of Slovenia’s esteemed painters, Janez Šubic from Poljane.

Tone Logonder, the sculptor of the statue of Ivan Grohar which was placed here in 1981, received the Gorenjska Prešeren Award for his work.

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Rather than just being a museum, locals wanted Grohar’s House to once again come to life and a winning formula was found in making it into a kind of one-stop cultural centre which has become particularly popular for school field trips, and visits for private groups can also be arranged. The ground floor features a gallery.

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On the first floor you can indulge your creative side and take part in a workshop in the music room.

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And then head up to the upper floor to the artists’ workshop to have a go at creating one of your own pictures to rival that of Grohar!

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You can choose to just soak up the views of the village and its surroundings, set off on one of the many paths in the hills and mountains or, for those with a thirst for more active pursuits, head up to Soriška planina where in winter you can ski and in summer there are numerous scenic and interesting hiking trails.

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Soriska planina can be reached from several directions; from Škofja Loka via Železniki, from Bohinjska Bistrica or from Most na Soči via Baška Grapa.

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Facilities at the Soriška planina ski resort consist of a two-person chairlift, 3 drag lifts, a children’s drag lift, a snow park, a sledging track, cross-country ski trails and a restaurant.

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I had previously hiked in this area in the summer, but prior to last week had never seen it in its winter glory. Even for non-skiers like me, there’s still snowy fun to be had! Here I am at the highest point of the ski resort looking back down over the village of Sorica.

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One of the most interesting features of this area are the numerous bunkers, barracks and other fortifications remaining from the time of the Rapallo Border – a former border that existed during both world wars between Yugoslavia and Italy.

Below you can see the bunker on Lajnar, and you can also continue to others including on Možic, Slatnik and Dravh.

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Find out more about the Soriška planina ski resort here – http://www.soriska-planina.si/en/hiking/ and more about other theme paths and trails along the Rapallo Border here – http://www.visitskofjaloka.si/en/experiences/theme-paths/rappalo-border

© Adele in Slovenia