Visit Žirovnica: Autumn Hikes in the Karavanke Mountains

Providing the weather is good, autumn is one of the best times of the year for hiking in Slovenia; the weather is (usually) more stable i.e. there aren’t (usually!) late afternoon thunderstorms like in summer, and the trails are far less crowded than during the peak summer months. On the downside, the days are getting shorter and some of the mountain huts are already closed, with others only open at weekends, but provided you set off in good time and with proper equipment and a well-stocked rucksack, the hiking world – well Slovenia’s little part of it – is your oyster!

The Karavanke mountains above the Žirovnica area are a great destination for hiking year-round.

I have already written numerous blogs about my various hikes in the area, so this blog is a kind of ‘one-stop-shop’ where I have gathered together all, well far from all in truth, my hikes and blogs in the area, as well as a bonus one too!

The hikes listed below are all included in the leaflet ‘Žirovnica Green Energy – Hiking and Mountain Bike Trails in the Municipality of Žirovnica‘.

Valvasorjev dom (Valvasor mountain hut) is the three-times winner of the title ‘Best Mountain Hut in Slovenia’. It can be reached in around an hour from the reservoir in the Završnica valley.

Rezultat iskanja slik za valvasorjev dom

Photo: Planinska Zveza Slovenije

There are numerous onward trails from the hut, including to Stol, the highest peak in the Karavanke mountains.

Ajdna is the name of the tooth-shaped peak beneath Mount Stol and is home to a fascinating archaelogical site. It 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.

You can also find out more about Ajdna by visiting the Ajdna Museum Room in Čopova hisa (Čop’s House).

The numerous mountain pastures beneath Mt. Stol are ideal for those seeking easier, more level walks, and/or mountain bike enthusiasts.

The Žirovniška planina mountain pasture and the Zabreška planina mountain pasture are up there among my favourites!

I like to visit the Dom pri izviru Završnice (hut at the source of the Završnica stream) as part of a hike to Srednji vrh.

Starting from the Završnica valley, the trail passes the hut up to the Šija saddle, from where there is no lack of choice where to go next!

Stol is the highest mountain in the Karavanke range. As the Karavanke mountains form a natural border between Slovenian and Austria, you are spoilt for choice with fabulous views in all directions.

The word ‘stol’ means ‘chair’, hence once you are at the top, you are literally taking a seat atop the Karavanke!

The Turkish Cave (Turška jama) is located at an altitude of 835m above the Završnica valley. The name of the cave derives from when, many centuries ago, women and children retreated to the cave to seek refuge from Turkish invaders.

The cave has two entrances, is 18 metres long and 2 metres deep.

I have already written two blogs about Tito’s Village, offering two alternative ways to reach it. The first describes the route from the Završnica valley or, for a more adventurous approach, take the path along the ridge to Mali vrh and onwards to Tito’s village.

The camp provided partisans with shelter from the German occupiers. The camp was in existence from 21 November 1944 – 31 January 1945, which, though only 2 months, was considered long for those times.

And finally, the Hudič babo pere waterfall – the ‘bonus’ walk I mentioned earlier!

One does, however, need a sense of adventure to find this waterfall, not to mention good footwear! I visited in late summer, when water levels were low, but imagine that during autumn the flow of water is somewhat more impressive. You can reach it on foot from the Završnica valley. After around cca. 200 metres from the reservoir, just before a wooden fenced ‘bridge’, take the (unmarked) path to the left. It first crosses a stream over a wooden boardwalk then leads up steeply into the forest where the path almost disappears. Just keep following the water for a further cca.20 mins to reach the top – but please do so with extreme caution!

So, as you can see, there’s no shortage of choice. The hardest thing, as always, is deciding where to go first. Happy Hiking in Žirovnica!

© Adele in Slovenia

 

A Jaunt Through Jezersko!

I have already written several blogs about Jezersko, mainly about what a wonderful destination it is for hiking in the Kamnik-Savinja Alps. However, the valley itself also has plenty else to offer, including easy walks, a beautiful lake, a mineral water spring, a waterfall, museums, monuments and other historic buildings.

So, join me on a jaunt through Jezersko, and this time no hiking boots required!

If you plan to walk the valley in its entirety, a good place to start – and to park – is at, or near, the Jezersko Tourist Information Centre. From there, pass a monument, cross the road and then cross the bridge.

Turn left after crossing the bridge to join the path alongside the Jezernica stream.

It’s not long until the valley begins to open up to reveal magnificent views of the surrounding peaks of the Kamnik-Savinja Alps.

Follow the path for around 25 minutes to reach the beautiful Planšar Lake (Planšarsko jezero).

You can take a refreshments break at the Gostišče ob Planšarskem jezeru restaurant, which is known for its traditional food and especially desserts such as kremšnita (cream slice).

Then walk around the lakeshore – in either direction – to join the Ravenska kočna theme path. The path branches off the tarmac road to the right at the junction seen in the photo below. It is well marked and easy to follow.

After about 20 minutes walking on the gradually rising gravel path, you reach a clearing and a pasture, from where there are magnificent views.

You can continue to the head of the valley, which takes another cca. 30 minutes and is worth it for the views alone. Or, if you would like to continue exploring Jezersko, on returning, instead of walking back towards the lake, follow the tarmac road towards Jenks barracks (Jenkova kasarna).

Along the way you can stop for a rest and a read at one of the free book stops!

The building dates from the 15th century when it was used as a boarding house for merchants travelling from Tržič (in Slovenia) to Eisenkappel (in Austria) and onward.

During Slovenia’s short battle for independence, the barracks, which nowadays contain an ethnographical museum collection, once housed a secret stash of weapons. The plaque on the outside of the house – as seen below – is a thanks for brave actions on the independence of Slovenia.

Should you want to visit the museum, contact the Jezersko Tourist Information Centre which can make the necessary arrangements.

After passing the barracks, continue slightly upwards until you meet the main road that leads upwards towards the border with Austria – the Pavlič pass (Pavličevo sedlo). Turn left and walk back towards Jezersko towards St. Andrew’s church (sv. Andrej).

On reaching the church, at the junction you can either turn off the main road to return towards the Planšar lake or make a(nother) side trip to visit a mineral spring and waterfall. If you choose the latter, follow the main road past the church for around 5 minutes before turning right at the sign below.

The water that springs from the Jezerska slatina mineral water spring is known to contain magnesium content of all mineral waters in Slovenia. It is said to be beneficial for a range of ailments and diseases, particularly cardiovascular-related.

I must admit I was surprised to discover that it actually has a very pleasant taste and is lightly carbonated; some such natural mineral waters I have tried elsewhere have a somewhat metallic or bitter taste, but this one doesn’t, though one should be careful not too drink too much. The information board behind the spring gives more information and advice about how much can be drunk.

You can continue past the spring to reach the Ank waterfalls (Ankova slapova). To reach the falls, walk past the Ank homestead (Ankova domačija) and follow the signs upwards into the forest.

There are two small waterfalls that, one after another, drop 7 metres.

So, that wraps up my jaunt through Jezersko. I hope you will follow in my footsteps and visit, whether for a short jaunt, a longer hike, or an even longer stay!

© Adele in Slovenia

 

 

 

By Bike to Žirovnica and the Završnica Valley

The Završnica valley, located in Žirovnica, is crammed full of interesting natural sights and attractions. It is best explored on foot or by bike, so join me on my bike to discover (just) some of the highlights!

It is a pleasant ride from Radovljica, where I live, along quiet, mainly traffic-free roads through Lesce and Hraše, where you can join the Imperial Road. In the past, the road, which is mostly untarmacked, was used by carriages for the transport of various goods. Today it makes a great traffic-free cycle route between Begunje na Gorenjskem and the villages under Mount Stol – the highest peak in the Karavanke mountains – that form the municipality of Žirovnica.

Along the way, and/or by making short detours, you can stop to see the many sights, particularly cultural, among them the Alley of Famous Men, and the birth houses – now museums – of famous men hailing from Žirovnica,

Those interested in beekeeping should make a beeline for Anton Janša’s apiary and Bee Paradise.

On reaching Žirovnica itself you can continue through Moste and then slightly uphill towards the Završnica valley and reservoir, where you can just ‘chill’, or continue further along the valley to the Zavrh bar and the Završnica Recreation Park, or even further if you want in the direction of Tito’s Village; for the last part, however, you will have dismount your bike and set off on foot.

Can you spot me?!

This is just one of the many options for cycling in the Žirovnica area; there’s something for everyone, from short, easy rides suitable for families to longer, more challenging mountain bike trails – such as the Predigra adrenaline ascent.

The 2 kilometre-long descent is rated as ‘very demanding’ and is therefore only suitable for experienced mountain bike riders with suitable equipment. It is therefore recommend that you book a guide to take you on the descent, and who can also guide you along the numerous mountain pastures beneath Mount Stol or to other parts of the Završnica valley. Contact the Žirovnica Cycling Club (KK Žirovnica) for more information: kkzavrsnica@gmail.com, +386 (0)41 474 984.

Photo: KK Završnica

Watch the video below to find out more about cycling in Žirovnica and/or click here for more information.

© Adele in Slovenia

Jezersko – Scenic, Tranquil and a True Hiker’s Paradise!

Achingly beautiful and tranquil, Jezersko boasts a wide range of challenging hiking trails as well as easier walks, scattered farms and homesteads, picture-perfect scenery, and no traffic jams. tourist traps or crowds. Add into the mix friendly locals, traditional food and more, and Jezersko is the place to be!

Jezersko really is a hiker’s paradise and a haven of peace for those looking for a total escape from the day-to-day, whether you visit for an active break or just for some much-needed rest and relaxation.

The village lies at an altitude of 906 metres above sea-level at the foot of the Kamnik-Savinja Alps and the Karavanke range and is Slovenia’s first, and indeed only, true mountaineering village. It is one of the villages included in the Bergsteiger Dorfer Association of Mountain Villages, which is no mean feat when you consider that all the other villages are in well-known mountainous areas, such as Bavaria and Tyrol.

The Jezersko Mountain Trail is ideal for those seeking some challenging hikes. You can walk the entire trail, staying at mountain huts along the way, or choose sections for shorter hut-to-hut routes or just pick and choose day hikes – the choice is yours!

For my recent hike I decided to choose a circular route (yes, you know me and my penchant for circular hikes!) which first leads to the Ceška koča mountain hut (1,543m), then onward to the Kranjska koča na Ledinah hut (1,700m).

The trail, or rather many trails, begin at the car park at the end of the Ravenska kočna valley, where there are information boards about the valley and the various trails and attractions.

There are a choice of trails that lead up to the Ceska koca hut, including a via ferata trail for those looking for extra adventure. I chose the trail that leads off to the right of the car park, first for around 5 minutes on the flat before leading up steeply through the forest to the Stularjeva planina mountain pasture.

Thereafter the trail continues up to the hut, with a few hurdles to encounter en-route, though nothing technically difficult. In total it takes cca. 1.5 hours.

In addition to its fantastic location, what makes the Češka koca mountain 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 appearance.

You are spoilt for choice with onward routes from the hut. Many of Jezersko’s mighty mountains such as Grintovec, Skuta and Kočna can be reached in 3-4 hours, or you can continue, as I did, towards the Kranjska koča na Ledinah hut, from where there are also numerous onward hikes.

There is a choice of 2 routes between the two huts, however, at the time of writing (July 2019) the ‘skozi Žrelo‘ trail, which is considered ‘very demanding’, is closed – not that I had intended to take it anyway! The alternative route first descends to join the ‘Slovenska pot‘ (The Slovene Trail). In places the path is narrow and there is a steep drop, but there is iron railing and foot rungs in the most exposed places.

After descending for cca.15 mins, the trail joins the ‘Slovenska pot’ and begins to ascend steeply. There is one section – quite a long one – where there are iron rails and rungs and therefore extreme caution is required, but, credit where its due, the trail is well maintained and secure.

Unlike the Ceška koca hut, it can’t be said that the Kranjska koča hut is anything to look at, and in fact due to its position its almost impossible to get a good photo of it as one can’t get far enough from the hut to capture it. It is, however, a good base for onward hikes and/or for having a breather before returning to the valley.

Almost all the onward trails from the Kranjska koča na Ledinah hut, such as those to Koroška Rinka and Kranjska Rinka are marked as ‘very demanding’ (zelo zahtevni poti), so are only suitable for those with significant mountaineering experience and proper equipment.

Not being one for such adventurous challenges, I descended back to the valley on the much easier Lovska pot (Hunters’ Trail), which makes for a perfect circular half-day hike. The path leads directly back down to the car park in around 1.5 hours.

There are also numerous easier hikes and other attractions and activities in the Jezersko area, so there’s something for everyone – more about which in another blog post soon! In the meantime, a great way to find out more about the village and immerse yourself in its local culture is to attend a performance of ‘The Stories of Jezersko‘ (Jezerske štorije), which takes place on Fridays during July and August at Jenk’s Barracks (Jenkova kasarna).

And another way to learn more about Jezersko is to taste some of its traditional cuisine. A good place to start is at the beautiful Planšar Lake (Planšarsko jezero), where on Saturdays at 5pm throughout the summer you can attend a demonstration of cooking the local dish ‘masunek’ over an open fire.

While I, in fact no one, can guarantee the weather – a glorious morning was forecast for the day of the hike described above, however, as is evident from the photos, the mountain tops were largely shrouded in cloud for much of the hike – in Jezersko you can, however, be assured of wonderful nature, peace, friendly locals and a break from the hustle of bustle of life. But don’t just take my word for it…!

© Adele in Slovenia

 

 

 

Visit Žirovnica – A Ridge Hike to Tito’s Village via Mali vrh

When choosing what to blog about, sometimes a look at my blog statistics can help to provide inspiration. So, having seen that there has been significant interest in the blog I wrote last year about Tito’s Village (Titova vas), I thought I would write another blog on the theme, though this time describing an alternative, more interesting/challenging, way of reaching it; a hike along the ridge from Mali vrh and onward to Tito’s Village.

Mali vrh can be reached by taking the aptly-named Sunny Path (Sonča pot) from Žirovnica to St. Lawrence’s church (sv. Lovrenc). You can join the path and reach the church from several places. I like to park in Žirovnica then take the path that leads towards the steps that go up towards the distinctive water surge tank. Don’t go up the steps but just to the right the path, though not marked, is easily visible as it traverses the grassy meadows above the villages of Žirovnica.

Follow the path towards the church and, just a hundred metres or so before reaching the church, you will see a sign pointing upwards to the left marked Brin vrh.

If you want to visit the church, do so first, then return to the sign and head up the steep path to reach Mali vrh. At the top there is a small rest area…

…complete with a visitors book…

and, somewhat bizarrely, a broom! I’m guessing it must be to brush the snow off the benches in winter!

From Mali vrh continue along the ridge before descending to a saddle where you can either descend steeply down to the Završnica reservoir and recreational park (this makes a great circular route if you walk back past the reservoir and continue on the path back to the water surge tank), or you continue towards Tito’s village, or even further!

In a couple of places there are iron pegs and rungs, but there’s nothing too scary – fortunately – and it adds to the adventure!

The path is very well marked throughout, and there are a couple of strategically placed benches where you can take a breather and soak up the views of the surrounding villages and countryside, as well as Lake Bled and the Julian Alps on one side…

…while on the other you can see the lush Završnica valley beneath Mt. Stol – the highest peak in the Karavanke mountain range.

The path continues it way along the ridge, with a few nooks and crannies to explore along the way!

On reaching the sign for Titova vas, you can follow the forest road down to visit the secret World War II partisan camp that was hidden deep in the forest in a remote, hidden and relatively inaccessible location beneath the peak of Smokuški vrh. The camp had its own newspaper, a choir, butchery and everything needed for everyday life at that time.

The camp provided partisans with shelter from the German occupiers. Considering its location, in close proximity to German strongholds in nearby Žirovnica, Bled, Koroška Bela, Javornik, Jesenice, Lesce, Radovljica, Brezje, Poljče and Begunje, the existence of the camp from 21 November 1944 – 31 January 1945 – though only 2 months – was considered long for those times.

You can either return along the outward route described in my previous blog about Tito’s Village, or return by the same route, or, at the junction of paths, take the wide stony path downwards to the right, which leads down to the village of Smokuč, from where you can either walk back to the start along the road, or, to avoid having to walk along the road, follow the signs for the Žirovnica Path of Cultural Heritage (Pot po kulturni dediščini).

If you want a great base for a hiking holiday in Slovenia, why not consider Žirovnica; there’s a wealth to see and do, it’s off the main tourist trail – and therefore you get a more genuine experience of Slovenia than one does in the main tourist towns – there are plenty of places to eat, and it’s great value too!

© Adele in Slovenia

Honey Radol’ca – Celebrating 60 Years of Radovljica’s Museum of Apiculture!

Last Saturday was a particularly ‘sweet’ day in Radovljica! The main event to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Museum of Apiculture, housed in the magnificent Radovljica Manor, took place, titled ‘Honey Radol’ca

Honey Radol’ca also featured market stalls with honey and honey products from various local beekeepers as well as the Slovenian Beekeepers’ Association, the Beekeeping Education Centre of Gorenjska, and the Radovljica Beekeepers’ Association.

Though it opened in 1959, the history of the Museum of Apiculture dates back substantially further. At a meeting in 1925, the then editor of the magazine Slovenski čebelar (Slovenian Beekeeper), August Bukovec, suggested the establishment of the museum and a year later the decision was finalised. The active gathering of beekeeping-related objects for the museum began, especially beehive frontal panels, as well as the search for suitable premises for the museum. The collection of objects gathered for the museum was first housed in two premises in Ljubljana, and later, in 1959, the museum moved to the Radovljica Manor, where it remains today.

Last Saturday, or rather Friday actually, marked the opening of a new exhibition dedicated to 60 years of the Museum of Apiculture. In pictures and words, 60 highlights of the museum are presented in the exhibition, which is on view until September, and in a special publication titled ’60 Highlights of the Museum of Apiculture, Radovljica’.

In addition to this new, temporary exhibition, the museum’s permanent collection includes a wide range of hives and beekeeping tools, as well as unusual figural hives.

The museum’s extensive collection of painted beehive frontal panels, including the oldest known in the world, is a particular highlight. Each one tells its own unique folk tale.

You can get up close to the Carniolan grey bee – Slovenia’s indigenous breed of bee – or rather a lot of them, at the observation hive, which is installed annually in the museum during the warmer months.

You can also take a seat and watch a video about beekeeping in Slovenia – the English version of which is narrated by yours truly!

The Museum of Apiculture is just one of the museums and galleries under the umbrella of Radovljica Municipal Museums, the others are: the Iron Forging Museum in Kropa, the Museum of Hostages in Begunje, the Šivec House Gallery in Radovljica, and the Radovljica Municipal Museum.

But don’t worry, even though ‘Honey Radol’ca’ has been and gone, you can visit the museum throughout the year, and there’s still plenty of honey- and beekeeping-related experiences to be(e!) had in Radovljica and the surroundings, including the new family experience ‘Follow a ‘bee’ through Radovljica‘.

The Museum of Apiculture is open throughout the year, except on Mondays; opening hours varying according to the month. Find more information about all of Radovljica’s museums, opening times and admission fees here and here.

© Adele in Slovenia

 

A New Addition to the Old Town – The Pharmacy and Alchemy Museum, Radovljica!

Last Friday I attended the opening of a brand new museum in Linhart Square – the Pharmacy and Alchemy Museum – which is a great addition to Radovljica’s already charming old town centre.

I saw the sign being hung for the museum some time ago, and I have to admit thinking to myself at the time that it doesn’t exactly sound that riveting, however, I stand corrected! Having seen it for myself, the Pharmacy and Alchemy museum is actually fascinating. Its location in a beautifully restored bourgeois house in the old town adds to the experience, and I left on a high and looking forward to being able to share the news of this new museum with you – readers of my blog!

Radovljica’s mayor officially opened the museum, then we – the gathered crowd – had the chance to be the first to be ‘let loose’ inside the museum!

The exhibits in the museum have been collected over a 40-year period by its owner, who, together with his daughter, has now gathered the objects in one place and opened this intriguing museum. On entering it is like taking a step back in time, while at the same time the beautifully arranged exhibits have been thoughtfully presented in a timeless and appealing way.

The collection of Spanish and Italian alborel (decorated ceramic pots for storing medicine) is particularly extensive. The exhibits include a collection of mortars, the oldest of which dates from the 12th century, and 30 pharmaceutical books, one of which dates from the 15th century. The museum also features some objects from ancient and Asian medicine and an ethnological collection of folk medicine on Slovenian territory.

The museum shop is a great place to pick up some gifts to take home for friends and/or family, or even to treat yourself!

The shop is equipped like an old pharmacy and sells natural cosmetics, souvenirs with mythological themes, honey, herbs, essential oils, and a range of teas.

The museum and museum shop are open daily from 10am – 6pm. Entrance fees apply.

This bring the tally of museums in Radovljica’s old town to three, or four if we include the Šivec House Gallery, which falls under the banner of Radovljica Municipal Museums – not bad for such a small place, hey! In addition to this newly-opened museum, you can visit the Museum of Apiculture, which is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year, the Municipal Museum, and, as mentioned above, the Šivec House Gallery.

Come rain or shine, there’s always something to see and do in Radol’ca!

© Adele in Slovenia