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

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

 

 

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

 

(Re)Discover Tržič with Adele in Slovenia!

So, the new year is here and with it, in addition to my regular blogs about Radovljica and Žirovnica, this year I will be exploring another destination for you ; this time I’m turning my attention to Tržič – the dragon’s town!

I’m already quite familiar with the Tržič area, as I LOVE hiking its many fantastic trails, and I’m so excited to now have the chance to delve even deeper into the wealth of natural and historical attractions in the area and to share them with you.

Whilst Tržič might not be an obvious choice for many, the town and its surroundings has a fascinating past and is worth adding to your list of places to visit whilst in Slovenia. Since I know that also a significant percentage of readers of my blog are locals, I hope that, through my blog posts, you too will take the time to (re)discover Tržič; yes, its heyday has been and gone, but it still has a wealth of sights and attractions to offer to each and everyone who takes time to discover it.

The obvious place to start is in the historic old town centre.

At the entrance to the old town centre you can see the last remaining original ‘firbec okenwindow – a window for the inquisitive, or rather, putting it less politely, the nosy!

The bottom of the window protrudes, thus allowing those looking from the window to be able to look directly out and down at those below them – though I can be seen here doing the exact opposite!

Just opposite the window you will find footprints affixed to the ground, which you can follow around the town on the Traces of Industry Trail, which leads to the main sights of interest in and around the old town.

In addition to the window, you can see Kurnik House – the birthplace of the poet Vojteh Kurnik; one of the rooms is devoted to his life and work. The building is an exceptional example of Tržič’s architectural heritage.

And the Germovka forge – the best preserved of its kind in the area.

Although If I’m honest I wasn’t really expecting much of the Tržič Museum, it actually turned out to be the highlight of my recent visit to the old town. Hence, I stand corrected since, following a complete renovation of its museum collections, it is now well up there with some of the best museums in the country. I came away enthusiastically singing its praises to anyone who cares to listen locally and now to you, dear readers, too!

The museum is housed in Pollak’s Mansion (Pollakova kajža), which dates from 1811.

So, it was time to put my best foot forward and discover the inside!

The museum’s numerous collections take you through Tržič’s historic industries including shoemaking, leather, crafts, trade, winter sports, local history, and art.

I particularly liked the fact that so many of the exhibits are interactive, thus making a visit far more interesting and enjoyable, whilst also helping to keep any little ones you have in tow entertained.

The building is also home to the newly-renovated Slovenian Skiing Museum with it’s new ‘Let’s Ski’ exhibition.

So, I hope you will join me in discovering more of Tržič’s history and the area’s myriad hiking and cycling trails, culture, legends, traditional food and more – it promises to be a revelation and adventure for us all!

© Adele in Slovenia

 

Rainy Day Activities in Bohinj

First, let’s get something straight, Bohinj Lake and the surrounding areas are always beautiful, whatever the weather! Try as they might, even on a dull and seemingly dismal day, the lake and surrounding mountains of the Julian Alps fail to look anything but beautiful and still have a certain charm. The way the light penetrates through the clouds casts shadows and reveals a different perspective, making it seem almost even more majestic and magnificent.

However, of course there are those wash out days when it rains, rains, and rains some more for good measure, which can be frustrating when you want to get out there exploring all that natural beauties in the area.

So, in this blog, I have provided a few ideas of what to see and do on rainy (or even snowy!) days in the Bohinj area, since, as we all know, the weather is the one thing that none of us have any control over, so we just have to make the best of it!

A great place to while away some time is the Triglav National Park Information Centre in Stara Fužina.

Downstairs you can pick up brochures, leaflets and get other information about Bohinj Lake and Triglav National Park. On a fine day the views from the panoramic windows upstairs are breathtaking…

… and, as you can see, they’re not bad on a partially cloudy day too!

You can just chill out on the comfy chairs…

… or challenge yourself by trying out the various experiments.

You may have noticed that Slovenia certainly has no shortage of churches – 800+ in fact! And whilst it looks like a fairly ordinary church from the outside, the interior of the Church of St. John the Baptist in Ribčev Laz is among the most ornate.

The walls and ceilings of the Gothic presbytery feature exquisite 15th and 16th century frescoes.

Climb the steep stairs up to the bell tower for fantastic views and yet another entirely different perspective of Bohinj Lake.

If you yearn for a bit of culture, then there are three museums in the local area. The Tomaž Godec Museum in Bohinjska Bistrica is housed in a reconstructed tannery. The museum is named after its former owner, a Partisan who, in addition to being a top sportsman and mountaineer, played a role in the formation of the former Yugoslav Communist Party.

The Oplen House Museum (Oplenova hiša) in the village of Studor, which is known for its toplar hayracks, offers visitors an insight into life in Bohinj in the past.

It features an original black smoke kitchen, as well as numerous other original tools, equipment and household objects.

The Alpine Dairy Farming Museum, housed in a former dairy in Stara Fužina, offers an insight into life in the past for herdsmen who lived and worked on Bohinj’s numerous mountain pastures.

Photo: Mitja Sodja Photography

If you’d like to have a splash, but on your own terms, then the Bohinj Water Park in Bohinjska Bistrica is the place to head!  It features a recreational pool, a children’s pool, a jacuzzi and sauna, as well as a wellness centre for those seeking a little R&R.

Photo: Bohinj Aquapark

And of course, food is always the answer, regardless of the question or the weather, so be sure to check out the From Bohinj  range of foods and products, which makes ideal gifts for you or your loved ones back home.

Photo: Mitja Sodja Photography

So, don’t let the rain stop you, embrace it and just get out there and see a different side of Bohinj! Visit the official Bohinj website here for more information about the above and even more ideas for what to see and do in Bohinj and Triglav National Park.

© Adele in Slovenia

 

 

A Spectrum of Sports and Culture Beneath Stol!

Stol, the highest mountain in the Karavanke range, which presides majestically over the Žirovnica area, together with the villages that lie beneath it, offer a whole spectrum of sporting activities with something for everyone – from challenging hikes to summits and family-friendly meanders along the many mountain pastures, to horse riding, cycling, running and even an adrenaline-filled zipline over the Sava Dolinka river.

Zipline Dolinka is a new, exciting way to get some adrenaline whilst marvelling at the stunning scenery around and below you. Its 5 cables offer a total of 2,371 metres of descent over the Sava Dolinka river.

For those who prefer to have both feet on solid ground, the Žirovnica area offers walks and hikes for all the family.

For example, if you looking for a more level walk, you could drive the 5km mountain road up to the Valvasorjev dom mountain hut and then set off on foot, first passing the Žirovniška planina mountain pasture and then on to one of my favourite spots – the Zabreška planina mountain pasture.

Though not an official mountain hut, in fine weather at weekends you may be able to get refreshments at the pasture hut, where you can take a seat on the wonderful, unique wooden furniture and soak up the views!

Kids – big and small – will love it too!

You can even continue further to the Doslovška planina mountain pasture and towards the Dom pri Izviru Završnice mountain hut, which I wrote about in a previous blog here.

Those wanting more challenging hikes are well catered for too, with trails to the summit of Stol itself, as well as, among others, to the Valvasorjev dom mountain hut and the Ajdna Archaelogical Site. Find more information here about this and other hikes in the Žirovnica area.

For those that like running, why not take part in the popular ‘Run Under the Free Sun‘ (Tek pod svobodnim soncem) on Saturday 1st September. The 10.7km route, which begins at 10am, leads past the important sights along the Path of Cultural Heritage. There are also shorter 200m, 400m, 600m and 900m routes, beginning at 9am, for children. Hurry with your registrations by 28th August. Find more here about this event and running in the Žirovnica area.

Cyclists are also well catered for in the Žirovnica area. From short, easy rides on the flat Imperial Road, and along the Path of Cultural Heritage, to longer, more challenging rides in the Završnica valley and onwards to the numerous mountain pastures beneath Stol. More information and route descriptions can be found here.

So, as you can see, there really is something for everyone and lovers of sports, culture and, not forgetting, beekeeping, should make a beeline for Žirovnica! There’s a fair chance you will find me there on my bike or on foot too!

© Adele in Slovenia

The Forgotten Village on Ajdna – A Fascinating Archeological Site and a Great Hike Too!

Ajdna is the name of a tooth-shaped peak that lies beneath Mt. Stol, the highest mountain in the Karavanke range. A hike to Ajdna is fascinating, interesting and, if you take the steep way up, also a little challenging – but don’t worry, there’s an easier route up there as well!

The site was first discovered by the field archaeologist Andrej Valič, who climbed to Ajdna with hunters in the 1970s. He identified the remains of an ancient village and archaeological excavations began in 1977. What they uncovered was, or rather is, truly fascinating. Below is an artist’s impression of the village on Ajdna.

Ajdna provided locals with an excellent refuge from the troubles taking place down below in the valley, though one can only imagine what conditions must have been like that led people to flee to somewhere so inaccessible and, particularly in winter one would imagine, inhospitable. Mind you, they certainly found a place of peace and with stunning views!

Ajdna was settled during the crisis times of the collapse of the Western-Roman Empire in 476 AD. Extensive, expensive and exceptionally complex conservation work was carried out and today there are well-preserved buildings and remains of buildings that are thought to date back to the late Antiquity, though some evidence shows that it may even have been inhabited far earlier.

It is estimated that Ajdna was destroyed at the end of the 6th or beginning of the 7th century. The desecration of the church points to the destruction most likely being the result of it being pillaged and set alight by attackers of other religions.

There are several ways to reach Ajdna, depending on which direction you are coming from and also depending on how far you want to walk. I took the path that leads from the reservoir in the Završnica valley. It first follows the path towards the Valvasor mountain hut, where, about 15 minutes before reaching the hut, you turn left onto a gravel road. From here its along the road for approximately 15-20 minutes until the junction with the turn off marked for Ajdna. The path at first goes downhill, through the forest, until reaching the base of the peak. From here there is a choice of the harder, climbing path (15 mins) or the easier path (20 mins). It is well marked throughout.

I chose the harder path up and the easier path down. The path up, though not technically difficult, does require sturdy footwear, a steady hand, concentration and no fear of heights as it leads directly up the rock face – but it is well-equipped with steel cable and rungs. For those not so keen on such ascents, or those with small children, take the slightly longer and easier path to the right. Whichever way you reach Ajdna, you will be richly rewarded for your efforts!

All the information boards at Ajdna are in both Slovenian and English (I should know, I translated them as part of the exhibition catalogue!), so you can read more about the finds and the history of the site.

In addition, to complement a visit to Ajdna, you can visit the Ajdna Museum Room in Čop’s Birth House (Čopova hisa) in Žirovnica, where you can learn more about the site and see exhibits of the many fascinating finds including tools, earthenware, jewellery and weapons.

The house is also the seat of Tourism Žirovnica, thus you can also find out more about what to see and do in the area and/or click here for more information.

© Adele in Slovenia