Discovering the Taste(s) of Žirovnica – Gostišče Osvald

Regular readers of my blog will know that I have written numerous posts about the fantastic hiking opportunities the Žirovnica area offers, among them an ascent of Stol, the highest mountain in the Karavanke range. And now, since all hungry hikers (as well as cyclists and those pursuing other active pursuits) need plenty of sustenance and a ‘reward’ for their efforts, I have now set about delving more deeply into what is on offer at Žirovnica’s restaurants and inns – all in the name of research, of course!

So, let’s begin with a popular and traditional Slovenian restaurant – Gostišče Osvald, which is located on the main road through Žirovnica in the hamlet of Selo pri Žirovnici and is the oldest restaurant in the area.

One of my desires when writing such blogs is to try and uncover and share with readers any particular dishes that are a real speciality of a particular restaurant or area. Hence I left it to owner Anže to dish me up his specialties!

I hit gold with this giant buckwheat ‘krap’! ‘Krapi’ are usually smaller, individual dumplings, filled with curd cheese. This giant one, however, has a small amount of yeast mixed into the buckwheat dough to allow it to rise, is filled with a mixture of curd cheese and millet, and topped with pork crackling – ingenious and delicious!

Another speciality of the Žirovnica area is buckwheat with porcini mushrooms. It’s not dissimilar to a mushroom risotto, albeit it with grains of buckwheat instead of rice, with onion, herbs and sour cream to finish. It can be a hearty and filling dish on its own or a side dish.

Served together with a roast, I left fit to burst!

Anže then showed me around the other parts of the deceptively large building, which features two additional rooms for functions.

The restaurant was built in the mid-19th century. In bygone days there was a barn next door for the horses of horsemen who stopped in Selo pri Žirovnici on their onward travels and stayed in rooms above the barn.

Today you too can stay there – though above the restaurant rather than in the barn! – in the recently refurbished attic rooms, which are simple but make a bargain place to stay and ideal base for exploring the area.

Gostišče Osvald is in close proximity to Čopova hisa (Čop’s House), the birth house of Matija Čop, the first Slovenian philologist, literary historian and librarian, one of the greatest European scholars of his time and a good friend and mentor of France Prešeren.

His birth house is now also home to the Žirovnica Tourist Information Centre as well as the Ajdna Museum Room, featuring an exhibition of artefacts found during archeological excavations at Ajdna. Read more about hiking to Ajdna in one of my previous blog posts.

Also close by is the Avenue of Famous Men, located in front of the primary school in Žirovnica, and part of the Žirovnica Path of Cultural Heritage. You can take a horse and cart ride along the path every fourth Saturday in the month from March to October.

The ‘avenue’ features bust statues of five of the most famous and influential men from the Žirovnica area –Anton Janša, France Prešeren, Fran Saleški Finžgar, Janez Jalen and Matija Čop.

Click here for more information about what to see and do in Žirovnica and here for more about what, and where, to taste Žirovnica, and keep an eye out for more ‘tasty’ blogs to come too!

© Adele in Slovenia

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

Lovely Little Ljubno and the Brezje Pilgrimage Trail

The village of Ljubno might be small but its numerous beautifully frescoed houses and ‘miraculous’ church are a real feast for the eyes!

When driving along the Gorenjska motorway from east to west, just before reaching the Ljubno tunnel, to the left you can see the village and its closely-packed houses. However, its not until you get up close and take a walk among the houses, that you get a true sense of this small village.

Ljubno was once a centre of pottery in the Gorensjka region. Today you can find out more about the tradition and see examples of Ljubno pottery at the Manufaktura pottery shop and workshop in Radovljica’s old town centrehttps://adeleinslovenia.com/2019/01/05/manufaktura-a-new-year-and-a-new-addition-to-radovljicas-linhart-square/.

There is an interesting story of how Ljubno was transformed into an important pilgrimage place in the 17th century. During renovation of Ljubno’s village church – the Church of Mary Help of Christians, also known as the Church of the ‘Stricken’ Mary – a builder struck the statue of Mary and blood poured out of the ‘wound’ and wouldn’t stop. The story quickly became known throughout the land and attracted ever more pilgrims. Today it is not as popular as nearby Brezje, however, when in the area, it is still worth a visit.

A visit to Ljubno can be an extension of a walk along the Brezje Pilgrimage Trail (Božja pot), which today runs along the once most commonly used pilgrimage trail from Otoče to the Basilica of Mary Help of Christians in Brezje. There is an information board (in Slovene) about the trail adjacent to the church.

The path in Otoče begins at the railway station, hence making it ideal for those reliant on public transport.

Immediately on leaving the station you will find the first information board about the trail (in Slovene).

First walk along the village road to the junction with the main road and turn left. After just a few metres you can choose to follow the marked path to make a detour to Ljubno, or take the direct route to Brezje. If you opt for the latter, which is cca. 5kms one-way, continue along the verge of the road for a further cca. 5 mins until you reach the shrine of St. John of Nepomuk (kapelica sv. Janeza Nepomuka).

After crossing the bridge over a stream take the wooden steps to the right of another shrine that lead up steeply on a forest path.

On emerging from the forest head towards the underpass under the motorway. Shortly thereafter you will see the sign for the village of Brezje. Follow the road up a short incline into the village and then just ‘follow your nose’ to the basilica, you can’t exactly miss it!

In 1988 the then Church of St. Vitus was elevated to the status of minor basilica by Pope John Paul II, who also visited in 1996. The basilica has become a popular pilgrimage destination to where people flock from all over Slovenia and further afield, too, particularly on Assumption Day, which is celebrated on 15th August and is a public holiday in Slovenia.

Whilst there you can also visit the Nativity Museum, which is located just behind the basilica and contains almost 400 nativity scenes from all over the world. Read more in a previous post here – https://adeleinslovenia.com/2017/12/10/feel-the-festive-spirit-at-the-nativity-museum-at-slovenias-national-shrine-in-brezje/

Opposite the basilica there is a small park where you can sit in peace and admire the basilica, read the information boards about Brezje’s history, and soak up the views of the surrounding countryside and mountains.

You don’t need to be a pilgrim, or even to be particularly religious, to enjoy a walk along the trail; it’s just one of the many attractions in the Radol’ca area. Click here to see even more, oh and by the way, if you happen to be in the area in April, or are planning a visit and are pondering when to come, don’t miss the Radovljica Chocolate Festival from 12th-14th April, about which I will, of course, be writing (and eating!) more soon!

© Adele in Slovenia

Discover Tržič and the Three Bells Trail

From time-to-time, when not dashing up and down hills and mountains, and especially at this time of year when many of the paths at higher altitudes are treacherous due to snow and, particularly, ice, I find that an easier, flatter walk such as the Three Bells Trail (in Slovene: Pot treh zvonov) is the perfect choice!

The mainly flat trail leads along quiet traffic-free country lanes and paths and through the Udin boršt woods and offers numerous beautiful viewpoints and places to rest and enjoy the sights and sounds of nature along the way.

Since the trail is circular, you can start anywhere really; I chose to begin in the village of Sebenje where there is an information board about the trail.

The trail is well marked throughout so once you find the first sign showing three green bells, you can just follow them and can’t really go wrong. However, if you want more information and like having a map in hand, then you can pick up a copy of the trail brochure at the Tržič Tourist Information Centre or download the brochure here.

Set off towards the newly renovated ski jump centre in Sebenje (in Slovene: skakalni center).

Then after a short while the tarmac road becomes a gravel path as you enter the Udin boršt woods where you will find the first of 2 trim trails along the way – ideal for a warm-up before heading onward!

After leaving the woods the trail leads in the direction of the village of Senično, from where there are wonderful views of Kriška gora (1471m), with its highest point Tolsti vrh (1715m), and neighbouring Storžič (2132m).

Before reaching the village, the trail turns right, passes a parachuting practice area, then leads to the hamlet of Novake.

Soon you reach one of the three small bells (the first, second or third depending on where you start the trail!).

Shortly after the trail re-enters the woods, where it leads gently uphill, before reaching the next bell and a pleasant rest area.

Shortly before exiting the woods you pass another trim trail – another chance for some extra fitness!

Then, you emerge into the village of Žiganja vas, whose inhabitants came up with the idea for the Three Bells Trail at the time when three bells where being replaced in the village church.

On a clear day, there are far-reaching views from one side of the Julian Alps, all the way to Triglav

…and on the other towards the Karavanke mountains that form a natural border between Slovenia and Austria.

In the centre of Žiganja vas, adjacent to St. Ulrich’s church, stands the giant village linden tree, which is so huge, and in places hollow, you can actually go inside it – and who could resist such an opportunity!

The trail then returns back to Sebenje completing the 9km-long circular route. Much of the route is also suitable for cycling (mountain or trekking bike). You should allow around 2 hours, more if you make frequent stops, and it is a truly pleasant way to while away a sunny winter’s afternoon!

You can find out more about the other walking and hiking trails in the Tržič area here, and, of course, stay tuned to my blog for more ideas and inspiration to come too!

© 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

 

Manufaktura: A New Year and a New Addition to Radovljica’s Linhart Square

Linhart Square is the compact, quaint heart of Radovljica’s historic old town. As of today, in addition to the numerous frescoed bourgeois houses, the gothic St. Peter’s church, and the magnificent Radovljica Mansion, the square has become even richer for the opening of the new Manufaktura ceramics shop and workshop.

As well as being a very welcome addition to the old town, Manufaktura has an important story of heritage; the building was originally bought by the Magušar family’s great grandfather 150 years ago, and the ceramics and owners of Keramika, Oli and Urban Magušar, assisted by their son Jeron, have now repurchased, renovated and brought it back to life.

Oli talked me through the photos of their ancestors; a wonderful tale and a wonderful addition to Linhart Square.

Personally I’m delighted to see such an opening, since many of Slovenia’s historic old town centres have fallen victim of the large, out-of-town, generic shopping centres, which are dominated by the same chain stores wherever you go. Slovenia already has the highest number of shops per head in Europe (if not further afield too!), yet more ghastly shopping centres are still springing up at a rate of knots and, unfortunately, Radovljica is not immune to this either, with a new shopping centre currently being developed at the entrance to the town.

I’m so anti these kinds of developments, especially when there are already way too many shops for the population of 2 million; shopping seems to have become a national obsession, sadly. Hence, shops such as Manufaktura really do play an important part in maintaining Slovenia’s heritage and traditions, and we must support them by buying locally to ensure they can be sustained. And judging from the crowds at today’s opening, it seems I’m not alone in my delight and enthusiasm!

The building features an area where traditional Magušar bowls and other handmade ceramics and accessories can be bought, including the new range of mini replicas of the houses in Radovljica’s old town centre, which adorned the Christmas tree this year in Radovljica Mansion and which make great souvenirs.

Part of the room has been allocated to enable visitors to watch the ceramists at work.

The other room, with its beautiful tiled floor, has a display of 150 different kinds of clay and their properties, various implements, and there are plans for a museum too.

Manufaktura is open on Mondays-Fridays from 10am-1pm and 2pm-4pm, on Wednesdays until 7pm, as well as on the first Saturday of the month. A website is coming but for now, should you want further information, you can contact them through the Glinca Facebook page or, of course, drop into the shop itself!

Among the other main highlights of Radovljica’s old town centre is the Lectar Honeybread Museum and Workshop, which is located in the cellar of Gostilna Lectar, a family-run restaurant and guest house with a tradition dating back to 1766.

The Šivec House Gallery, which is the place to be for all art lovers. One part of the gallery is dedicated to a permanent exhibition of original illustrations, whilst the other hosts monthly exhibitions by fine Slovenian and foreign artists, and upstairs there is a room used for civil wedding ceremonies. The building itself it also notable for its exterior fresco and the unusual layout and architecture of its preserved interior.

Photo: Miran Kambič

And the Museum of Apiculture, housed in the Radovljica Mansion, houses Slovenia’s largest collection of painted beehives front panels, including the oldest known in the world. Each of the painted panels tells a folk story.

So, take time for a linger through Linhart Square, admire the magnificent buildings, and treat yourself or your loved ones to some handmade Slovenian products and/or souvenirs, all in the knowledge that you are helping to support local heritage and traditions and, maybe, hopefully, together we can help to keep those chain stores away from our precious historic towns!

© Adele in Slovenia