Križna Gora above Škofja Loka – Hiking, Cycling, Great Views and Heavenly Food, Too!

Križna Gora is a hill that rises to 681m in close proximity to the centre of Škofja Loka and is a very popular hiking and cycling destination among locals and visitors to the area. It is also home to an excellent restaurantGostilna pri Boštjanu, which I can highly recommend from first-hand experience. Read on to find out more!

At the top of the hill stands the Church of the Holy Cross (Sv. Križ), built around 1500, and the area is also the site of a mass grave and an unmarked grave from World War II. The church contains well-preserved frescoes. At the time of my visit (late October 2017), access was limited as the church is currently undergoing restoration work to repair the roof that has been leaking water for the past few years. Should you wish to see the interior of the church, contact the Škofja Loka Tourist Information Centre.

To reach Križna Gora on foot the path begins opposite the Mercator supermarket in Podlubnik, near Trnje, where there is a parking area. From the car park cross the main road and continue ahead along the fairly narrow tarmac road through the village of Trnje. After a short distance take the right fork that leads slightly downhill where the tarmac ends and becomes a gravel track where there is a red sign showing 1 hour to Križna Gora. The path first crosses a field before reaching a fairly steep path up through the forest.

Hereafter, the path is well marked with the usual Slovenian system of signs – a red circle with a white inner – which are found in various places – on trees, rocks, and, as seen below, even on shrines.

After around 15 minutes of hiking, you emerge from the forest for a great view back over the town of Škofja Loka.

Then ahead in the distance you catch sight of the church and your destination – Križna Gora!

However, people don’t just flock to Križna Gora for recreation and the great views, oh no, they also know where to go for some of the tastiest local Škofja Loka food, and now I do too!

Gostilna pri Boštjanu is part of the project ‘Tastes of the Škofja Loka Countryside’ (Okusi loškega podeželja), the aim of which is to acquaint visitors with traditional foods and dishes from Škofja Loka and the surrounding valleys, and in doing so preserve them for generations to come. The focus is on homemade, local food with an emphasis on tradition and innovation – past and present.

There are wonderful views from the terrace of the restaurant – with something to keep the whole family amused! – whilst inside there are multiple dining areas to choose from including the conservatory for great views and the snug room with wood-burning stove.

On the recommendation of the owner, Boštjan, I plumped for the Tasting Menu which comprises a choice of two 5-course menus of homemade delights. Cold starters are pheasant pate with homemade bread – fresh from the clay oven, or venison carpaccio. For the hot starter I chose buckwheat ravioli with porcini mushrooms.

Garlic or beef soup was followed by roast pork or foal (can’t quite bring myself to eat the latter!), and the dessert – chocolate dream – was a triumph, and certainly something to dream about!

Gostilna pri Boštjanu is also particularly known for it’s St. Martin’s Day feast (Martinovanje). In November every year St. Martin’s Day, when grape juice matures into wine, is celebrated throughout Slovenia – even in non-wine growing areas (any excuse for a celebration!), with, of course, wine, and typical dishes such as roast goose or duck with red cabbage and mlinci (a kind of thin, shredded flatbread). Reservations, especially at weekends, are essential – this place is hugely popular, for good reason, too!

You can find more about Gostilna pri Boštjanu on the Facebook page here – https://www.facebook.com/Gostilna-pri-Boštjanu-138860049611989/ and find out more about Škofja Loka cuisine, traditions, hiking paths and more on the Visit Škofja Loka website here – http://www.visitskofjaloka.si/en/

© Adele in Slovenia

Zali Log and the Path to Suša: Miraculous Wonders and Water

It might be quite a way to go to reach the village of Zali Log in the Selca valley (though, of course, that’s relative depending on where you live or are coming from!), however, the scenery along the way, the picturesque village and its houses with their prominent blue-grey slate roofs, and the Path to Suša – leading to the Church of Our Lady of Loreto – are among the reasons it is worth making the effort.

The village of Zali Log lies at the foot of Ratitovec, the highest mountain in the Selca valley, and is the last village in the level plain of the valley. The appearance of the village as it is seen today has changed little from when it was established in the 19th century.

Interestingly, the name of the village doesn’t come from the word ‘Zali‘, meaning ‘beautiful‘, but rather from the word ‘Zli‘, meaning ‘ugly’ or ‘bad’. This most likely originates from the position of the village in the narrow upper-part of the valley, surrounded by steep banks and with little cultivable land and sunlight.

Zali Log is also known for its slate roof tiles. In the 18th century, a special hard blue-grey slate was found on the slopes of Bintek (1000 metres above sea-level). The production of tiles for covering roofs from this slate began and replaced straw and shingle roofs, first in Zali Log and later throughout the valley. The tiles from Zali Log slate were of very high quality and were able to withstand the weather conditions for generations.

The Path to Suša theme path begins at the parking area at the entrance to the village. Although there are a couple of other paths that lead to the same destination, I recommend beginning here as there is ample parking and an information board with leaflets and brochures about the path and other sights of interest in the valley.

The path is very well marked throughout – in places with theme path signs, and/or with yellow circles painted on trees, rocks etc.

It only takes around half-an-hour to reach the church and there’s plenty to see along the way!

You can also see one of the many preserved bunkers of the Rupnik line that are dotted around the area – more about which you can read in a previous blog post here – https://adeleinslovenia.com/2017/08/06/a-recce-of-the-rupnik-line/

The pleasant forest path leads over ‘Galetove lajte’ to the pilgrimage Church of Our Lady of Loreto in Suša, which was built in 1877 and is included in Ema’s Pilgrimage Route. According to tradition, the origins of the church are linked with miraculous events. Throughout the years, a lot of people have sought the help of Our Lady of Loreto in Suša and have had their wishes granted, as is witnessed by the many pictures of thanks that are hung in the church, and today the church is still a popular place for pilgrims and others to visit.

If you peer down over the forest at the back of the church you will see beneath it a chapel with the statue of the Virgin Mary. Within the chapel there is a rock under which a spring rises which, according to local tradition, has healing properties, as has been confirmed in numerous stories.

One such story goes that when a mother brought her blind daughter to the spring, after washing her eyes with the water from the spring, she was able to see. The speciality of the water is that it contains no bacteria, thus it can be stored for several months, or even longer, if stored in a clean air-tight container, and is still as fresh as the day it sprung!

Locals, and people from further afield, regularly come here to get water and to enjoy the peace and energy that is present. A local lady I met whilst there told me about one particular special stone which, apparently, if you stare at it, emits “special energy”. I can’t say I felt any different after staring at it, but who am I to question a theory that has stood the test of time!

Should you feel the need for some extra luck – and let’s face it, who among us doesn’t – you can ring the wishing bell!

 You can download the theme path brochure and find out more on the Visit Škofja Loka website here – http://www.visitskofjaloka.si/en/experiences/theme-paths/path-to-susa

© Adele in Slovenia

The Path Along the Rapallo Border

The Rapallo Border Theme Path has been designed to acquaint those who walk along all or part of it with the period between the 1st and 2nd World War and the effect the Rapallo border had on the towns and villages along its length. Armed with a copy of a leaflet giving details of the route and its history, I set off to explore!

The theme path begins at Žiri Museum – more about which, as well as the area itself, you can read in one of my blogs from earlier this year – https://adeleinslovenia.com/2017/04/17/discovering-the-most-ziri-things/

There is an information board opposite the museum. With your back to the board, head steeply – and I mean steeply! – uphill to Tabor and continue to follow the usual Slovenian hiking trail markers – a red circle with a white inner.

After just a few minutes you are already rewarded with a fantastic view over the town and valley.

The Rapallo Border was established as a result of the Treaty of Rapallo that was signed on 12th November 1920 in the Italian town of Rapallo. The treaty required a third of the territory of Slovenia to be handed over to Italy.

The effect on those living in the border areas was dramatic with neighbours, relatives and friends overnight becoming citizens of two separate kingdoms – the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (later the Kingdom of Yugoslavia), and the Kingdom of Italy.

The entire border was 244km in length and was divided in 70 sections. At the start of each section there was a main boundary stone, with smaller boundary stones in between.

The Rapallo Border Theme Path covers the area of five main boundary stones numbered from 35 – 39.  The path is rather, or very, sparsely marked in places, so do keep your eyes peeled for the red and white circles (on trees, stones, buildings, behind you, in front of you, etc.) as well as the odd yellow theme path sign. Alternatively, you could contact Visit Škofja Loka and arrange to arrange a guide, thus eliminating any such worries, and getting the added benefit of the chance to find out more interesting facts and figures from a local expert.

You could choose to walk its entire length (46km, 9-10 hours), or for a shorter, easier version, take the circular path from Žiri to Mrzli vrh and back, which is 13km and takes approximately 4 hours, with optional extensions to additional boundary stones.

Shortly after leaving Tabor and emerging from the forest you are rewarded with another great view.

If you’ve got kids in tow, or in fact even if not, trying to spot the border stones can be treated as something of a treasure hunt! No. 39 was easy to spot…

..whereas as first I walked straight past no. 38 as it is somewhat concealed by a tree and undergrowth!

If you choose to continue to Mrzli vrh, at the village of Breznica the path descends a little on the road, before continuing upwards, at first on the road then again leading into the forest, towards the peak of Mrzli vrh and the Koča na Mrzlem vrhu mountain hut. The hut is open on Friday, Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays.

From here you could opt to return by the same route, or alternatively take the circular route via Ledenica to return to Žiri; the latter, however, means quite a few kilometres, though a pleasant walk, back through the valley to return to the museum.

The views that accompany you along the ridge of Mrzli vrh aren’t half bad either!

There is also an alternative start for the route which begins in Sovodenj and leads to Mrzli vrh (14km, cca.4 hours – one way), or you could walk a shorter circular route from Sovodenj to Nova Oselica and back (6km, cca. 2 hours).

For more information, see the Visit Škofja Loka website or visit the Škofja Loka Tourist Information Centre to pick up a leaflet – http://www.visitskofjaloka.si/en/experiences/theme-paths/rappalo-border

© Adele in Slovenia

Šubic House – The Creative Centre of the Poljane Valley

Šubic House (Šubičeva hisa) in the Poljane Valley is the creative centre of the valley. Once home to two of Slovenia’s most renowned painters, Janez and Jurij Šubic, today the house operates as a cultural centre with a permanent museum collection, an exhibition space, gallery of caricatures, an information point for visitors to the valley, and an area for enjoying and sharing creativity!

As a young lad, Boris Oblak, formerly the manager and now a guide in Šubic House, used to walk past the house on a daily basis on his way to school and admire its carved wooden doors and wonder why such a magnificent house lay empty. It is for this reason that he now still has to pinch himself when he is the one who has access to that door on a daily basis, and his infectious passion for the house and its content is clear to see from the moment you cross the threshold.

This is no ‘ordinary’ museum, it’s a centre for all. The first thing you see on entering is the imposing memorial plaque dedicated to Janez and Jurij Šubic, which was erected in 1896 in the old Poljane church and later,  following World War 11, was lost during demolition of the church. Fortunately, just a couple of years ago it was re-discovered in one of the houses in the Poljane valley and now stands proudly in its rightful place.

A family tree on the wall helps visitors to better understand the history and importance of the family and their work. In brief: according to records, Pavel Šubic Sr. (1772–1847) was the first Šubic to start with woodcarving, creating works for churches in the Škofja Loka area, and, as was typical for artisan workshops of that time, he passed the ins and outs of the artistic processes to three of his sons, Štefan, Blaž and Janez (Sr.)

Štefan Šubic (1820 ­- 1884) was the most renowned among them, creating paintings, woodcarvings and frescos all around Slovenia. His workshop was the most important Slovenian artisan workshop of the 19th century.

The artistic tradition was passed on to all five of Štefan’s sons – Jurij (1855 – 1890) and Janez Šubic (1850 – 1889) being the most renowned among them. They both studied at academies abroad and, although they died relatively young, they remain among the most important Slovenian painters.

If you would like to find out more about the artists and see their works, the National Gallery of Slovenia in Ljubljana, has permanent exhibitions featuring paintings by Jure Šubic – http://www.ng-slo.si/en/permanent-collection/1870-1900/jurij-subic?tab=collections&authorId=500 and Janez Šubic – http://www.ng-slo.si/en/permanent-collection/1870-1900/janez-subic?tab=collections&authorId=495

Jurij Šubic – A Letter

Janez Šubic – Still Life with Pots

Upstairs in Šubic House, the museum area has been carefully and thoughtfully arranged. I particularly like the original use of the beautifully handwritten letters – over 1,000 of them exist in total – sent between the Šubic family telling of their life, work and relationships. The letters have been imaginatively placed on, and attached to, some of the museum exhibits. Find out more about Šubic House here – http://subicevahisa.com/

There is also an original black kitchen, complete with real smoked sausages hanging from above, and, if you are lucky, you can even try a slice!

Black kitchen in Šubic House – Photo: Klemen Razinger

Black kitchen in Šubic House – Photo: Klemen Razinger

I found it rather sad, and also poignant, to think that in the future, there will be no such lasting memories of people of the present and future generations, since these days, in this age of rapid social media, everything is so fleeting and the days of letter writing are all-but-gone.

Getting hands-on in the museum is encouraged -try wood carving, painting, join in a creative workshop or try your hand at drawing a caricature.

‘Before the Hunt’ by Jurij Šubic – I can’t take the credit for this one!

In addition to running the house, Boris is also an extremely talented artist himself, specialising in caricatures. A few of his works are exhibited in Šubic House but to see more of his amazing creations, see his website here – http://www.karikatureboris.com/en/  His drawings make great original gifts for various celebrations and occasions. Of course, he couldn’t help himself and he quickly got to work on a new caricature …

The result of which was …

One needs a sense of humour! Love the Slovenian flag, too!

From May to the end of October Šubic House is open on Tuesdays-Fridays from 10am-5pm and Saturdays 10am-1pm; winter opening times from November to the end of April are Tuesdays-Friday 10am-4pm and Saturdays 10am-1pm. For groups of 10 people or more, visits outside of these times can be arranged upon prior notice.

I recommend visiting Šubic House as part of a visit to the Poljane valley, where there’s plenty to see and do including the Pustotnik Dairy, walking the Rupnik Line theme path, hiking to Blegoš, a visit to Tavčar Manor or one of the many tourist farms. For more information about the valley see the Visit Škofja Loka website where you can also find links to my blogs on all the above topics – http://www.visitskofjaloka.si/en/

© Adele in Slovenia

The Path to Crngrob and the Pri Marku Tourist Farm

The Church of the Annunciation in Crngrob near Škofja Loka is among the most notable of Slovenia’s 800+ churches.

Photo: Jana Kuhar, Visit Škofja Loka

You can easily reach the church by car, however, if time permits I suggest setting off on foot or by bike from the centre of Škofja Loka along the Path to Crngrob theme path, where along the way you can see numerous shrines and admire the pleasant Škofja Loka countryside.

The 5km path starts at the information board opposite the bus station in front of the Nama department store. You can pick up a leaflet about the path from the Škofja Loka Tourist Information Centre or find more information about this and other theme paths in the area here – http://www.visitskofjaloka.si/en/experiences/theme-paths

The path, which is marked with a yellow circle with a white inner, is relatively level and mostly on quite country lanes.

You can also go by bike, as I did when exploring part of the Škofja Loka Cycle Route earlier this year. Read more in a previous blog here – https://adeleinslovenia.com/2017/06/11/active-and-historic-loka-the-skofja-loka-cycle-trail/

You first pass the shrine of Pieta, the work of the well-known Slovenian impressionist painter Ivan Grohar.

The Red Shrine, which was erected at the beginning of the 16th century as a reminder of the plague, is one of the oldest shrines in Slovenia.

A few minutes on you reach the village and church. Though from afar the outside of the church doesn’t look particularly remarkable, other than the fact it is a particularly large church for a village with just a handful of houses – the reason for this is that it was intended for pilgrims – as you get closer and glimpse the large fresco of St. Christopher on the exterior, and another of Holy Sunday in the shelter of the neo-gothic porch, you begin to get a sense this is no ordinary church.

Then you step inside and see the full beauty of the ornate interior, particularly the gold baroque altars and magnificent painted ceiling, you will soon realise why it is considered among the most valuable churches in the country.

It was originally built in the 13th century and extended over time with the bell tower dating from 1666 and the neo-gothic porch being added in 1858.

As befits something of such value, the church is kept locked, therefore to arrange to a guided tour of the interior you should contact Tourism Škofja Loka by email (info@skofja-loka.com) or by calling +00386 45 170 602 or +00386 41 424 776.

I recommended combining a visit to Crngrob with a stay or a visit to the Pri Marku tourist farm, which is situated just a few hundred metres from the church. The farm’s setting is idyllic, surrounded by rolling green hills, the church as a backdrop, and though only 5kms from Škofja Loka, it has a real air of being far from the hustle and bustle of life.

Pri Marku has 10 well-appointed rooms, or for a different experience you can also stay in the farm’s hayloft. All rooms come with a view!

You can get to know the farm’s animals – this one seemed very keen to get to know me!

Of course no Slovenian tourist farm is complete without delicious home-made, home-produced food and drink! Those staying at Pri Marku have half-board, but you can also drop by for a snack or a hearty lunch at weekends (prior booking essential) and try some other traditional Slovenian dishes and house specialities.

More information about the Pri Marku tourist farm can be found here – http://www.pri-marku-porenta.si/ANG/

© Adele in Slovenia

 

 

The Škofja Loka Hills and Caves: Lubnik and the Kevderc Cave

Lubnik (1025m) stands prominently above the town of Škofja Loka and is a favourite, and very accessible, hiking destination.

There are a number of paths to the top. You can start directly from the old town centre and take the marked path via Loka Castle and Gabrovo, from where it takes about 2 hours to reach the Dom na Lubniku mountain hut or, for a shorter hike, drive up the windy road to the village of Breznica pod Lubnikom, from where it takes just 40 minutes to reach the top and where the views are already inspiring.

As regular readers of my blog will know, I have a penchant for taking the longest possible hiking routes to reach my destination, and much prefer to walk or cycle rather than drive – anywhere and everywhere! However, I had an ulterior motive, or rather two, for choosing the shorter route in this case, namely to visit the Okrepčevalnica Malina snack bar and to find out more about the nearby Kevderc cave.

Whichever path you choose to Lubnik, you will find that they are all very well-marked with the usual red circle with a white inner painted on trees, rocks etc., so orientation isn’t a problem. The path is almost entirely through the forest, so even on the hottest of days it is pleasantly cool.

On a clear day, from the hut there are far-reaching views of the Karavanke mountains, the Kamnik-Savinja Alps and the surrounding Škofja Loka hills.

Dom na Lubniku is open year-round; during winter on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays; from the end of April to the end of October daily except Mondays.

Also in the vicinity of the path to Lubnik is the fascinating Kevderc cave. Though nowhere near as well-known as Slovenia’s main tourist caves (Postojna, Škocjan, the Križna cave…), those who take time to visit the Kevderc cave will be captured by its beauty, perhaps even more so as it is so pristine, mysterious, and less-trodden.

Photo: Simon Primožič

From the entrance to the cave it is just a few metres to the first large hall which passers-by are free to access, providing you have sturdy footwear and a headlamp.

Photo: Simon Primožič

Some sections of the cave, however, can only be explored by experienced cavers.

Photo: Simon Primožič

During periods of heavy rainfall, all the water from the surface runs into the cave, creating a unique fairytale-like scene.

Photo: Simon Primožič

If you would like to explore the cave further, for safety reasons it is recommended that you contact the Škofja Loka Association for Exploring the Underworld (Društvo za raziskovanje podzemlja Škofja Loka) to arrange a guided tour. Just a few metres away is the Lubnik cave, which can mostly be explored without a torch as natural light floods into its interior. For more information contact DRP Škofja Loka: +386 51 244 244, info@drp-drustvo.si.

After your hike and/or exploration of the cave, or for those cycling past on the Škofja Loka Cycle Route, I recommend stopping at the Malina snack bar (tel: 041 809 900), which is just metres from the path to Lubnik in Breznica pod Lubnikom, where you can enjoy refreshments with a view!

Traditional Gorenjska snacks, soups and stews are always available, and, upon prior arrangement, for special occasions you can enjoy a real feast!

In fine weather the view from the terrace is a winner, but, whatever the weather, you can be sure of a friendly welcome!

As my visit coincided with a group celebration, I had a chance to see how the food is cooked outdoors over hot coals.

So, as you can see, on this occasion letting the car take the strain was worth it, but you can also see more of this area by bike as it is part of the Škofja Loka Cycle Route. More information can be found on the Visit Škofja Loka website here – http://www.visitskofjaloka.si/en/

© Adele in Slovenia

A Recce of the Rupnik Line

Another day of exploring the scenic Poljane valley; this time walking along part of the former Rupnik Line – a system of fortifications that were built during the 1930’s by the Kingdom of Yugoslavia as a defence line on the border with the Kingdom of Italy.

It transpired that the strategically placed forts were never actually used for military or defence purposes, but the building of the fortifications at least brought residents a temporary solution to the unemployment and financial troubles which affected them due to the location of the Rapallo Border.

The Rupnik Line theme path begins at the cemetery in Gorenja vas where there is an information board showing the route.

The path is well marked; in places with green signs, such as seen below, in other places with yellow markings painted on trees.

There are actually two paths – a shorter 4.5km circular path and a longer non-circular path which is 6km one-way. However, due to the ever present damage in the forest due to the glaze ice in the winter of 2014 – the clear up job is still ongoing throughout many parts of the country – walking on the longer path is not currently advised.

For the first 2km both paths follow the same route, first uphill on an asphalt road, which later becomes an unmade road then into the forest where you soon reach the first bunker.

It takes a few minutes for your eyes to adjust to the darkness, but thereafter you can take a look inside. I clearly woke a bat from its slumber and not sure who was more startled, me or it!

Continue until you reach this sign, where you should take the shorter (krajša) path to the right.

The path continues past more bunkers, each with it’s own information board where you can learn more about the fortifications and take time to explore, but do exercise caution and have sensible, sturdy footwear.

You can enter some of the bunkers, whilst others are not so accessible.

Though not part of this theme path, one of the best-preserved and largest fortifications is the underground fortress on Goli vrh where there is a permanent exhibition of remains from the time of building. I shall be writing more about this in a future blog so watch this space! Find more information about the Rupnik Line theme path on the Visit Škofja Loka website here – http://www.visitskofjaloka.si/en/experiences/theme-paths/the-rupnik-line-construction

The annual Pisana Loka Festival (Colourful Loka) takes place this year in Škofja Loka from 25th August – 3rd September. The festival is a mixture of concerts, workshops and performances – many of which are FREE – that take place at various locations, including in the heart of the old town centre and at Loka Castle.

This year part of the festival will be dedicated to Latino Loka on 2nd September in the Town Square (Mestni trg), and promises to be sizzling!

More about the festival can be found here (in Slovene only) http://www.skofjaloka.si/objava/80730, whilst further details about all the events taking place this month in Škofja Loka, including in English about the Pisana Loka Festival, can be found in the latest events calendar here – http://www.visitskofjaloka.si/si/files/default/Newsletter/Avgust%202017/spletni%20KAM-1%20avgust.pdf

© Adele in Slovenia