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

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