Tržič – ‘a crowdless paradise’

As our thoughts are slowly beginning to turn to planning holidays, this year – more than ever – it makes sense to choose a destination for your holiday that is ‘far from the madding crowd’.

Slovenia, fortunately, has plenty such destinations (my tip is to be sure to avoid the overcrowded places during the height of summer – Bled, in particular, as well as to some extent Piran, the Postojna caves, Ljubljana…). Radol’ca, where I live and about which I wrote last week, is one such uncrowded place, while Tržič, which is just a stone’s throw away, is another.

So, this time I’ve put together plenty of reasons why you should consider visiting Tržič, whether for a few hours, a day or two, or even as somewhere to base yourself for your entire stay in Slovenia.

Tržič is located in the Gorenjska (alpine) region of Slovenia and is separated from Austria by the Karavanke mountains, hence it’s a hiker’s paradise.

It would be hard to single out any one hike, but among my favourites are Kriška gora and Tolsti vrh

The Born Trail from Ljubelj to Preval, which is especially interesting, but don’t forget a torch…

Košutica, also known as Ljubeljska Baba,…

…and Šija, which lies beneath the ridge of Slovenia’s longest mountain.

On a side note, the equally relevant, the Slovenian tourist board has also stepped up its activities to promote the country as one with responsible travel standards under the label GREEN & SAFE and Tržič is one of the Slovenia GREEN destinations.

If you are looking for somewhere to stay, why not choose a stay at the Šlibar organic farm or glamping at Glamping Mountain Fairytale – both ideal places for some r&r – though there are numerous other choices of accommodation, too.

The Gorenjska plaža (Gorenjska beach) swimming pool is the ideal place to cool off during the heat of the summer, while the Trziška bistrica stream and the area’s waterfalls are other places to ‘chill’!

With all those mountains, mountain pastures and forests, there’s also plenty of cycling to be done – particularly for fans of mountain biking – while the Dovžan gorge is an adventure as well as a(nother) ideal place to cool off in the heat of summer.

There’s something for history buffs and culture vultures too, including the Mauthausen concentration camp, Tržič museum, and the St. Anne mine.

The Tržič tourist information centre, located in the old town centre, is a good place to start (planning) your trip. You can contact the centre by email, by phone, or in person.

So, I hope I’ve provided you with some (more) food for thought and help in planning your holiday this year. Talking of food…don’t forget to try some of the local Tržič specialities too!

© Adele in Slovenia

Taste Taste Radol’ca…at Home!

A follower of my blog in Canada recently wrote to me asking if I could write a post about Slovenian recipes, so how could I refuse to comply! So, Mary in Canada, this one is for you!

Since all the restaurants, bars, cafes etc. are (still) closed – it’s been like this here since the end of October last year – we (both the owners of such establishments and the public at large) have had to get used to cooking more at home whilst also taking advantage of the take-away food on offer at selected places. Many of the Taste Radol’ca restaurants have been offering take-away food and, in fact, it has actually been to my advantage in some respect that chefs have had more time to ‘play’ in their kitchens, and Aleš Tavčar, head chef and owner of Gostišče Draga in the Draga valley in Begunje na Gorenjskem, finally found time to make me a glut of gluten-free štruklji to go in my freezer.

And since štruklji really are something unbeknown to most of the world, they were the first thing that sprung to mind when deciding which Slovenian recipe to first write about.

Štruklji at Gostišče Draga

The recipe and photos shown below are for gluten-free štruklji, which, due to gluten being what provides the ‘elastic’ in dough mixes, are slightly different to ‘regular’ štruklji. Therefore, I should stress that ‘normal’ flour will provide you with a better result and your štruklji will look and taste somewhat better too, so unless you have to avoid gluten (coeliac disease in my case, though others have an intolerance and/or choose not to eat it for other reasons) you can use the same quantity of regular flour. These days I’m just happy to be able to eat them, even if they aren’t exactly as I remember them in my pre-coeliac days.

The full recipe with quantities is at the end of this post.

First gather the ingredients for the dough – flour, salt, egg, vinegar, water, oil.

Combine them well but don’t overwork the dough.

Shape the dough into a round loaf shape.

Next, make the filling using curd cheese, eggs, sour cream and salt.

Mash (or mince) the curd cheese well, add the eggs and sour cream then season with salt.

Roll out the dough – after watching the ‘pro’, I was allowed to help with this part!

Spread a generous amount of the filling mix over the dough.

Next its time to roll the štruklji then lift them gently onto lightly oiled foil or a non-stick cloth before steaming or cooking into salted simmering water.

This is the basic, traditional way of cooking and serving štruklji, but these days, in terms of how you choose to eat them and what kind of fillings/flavours you add, the sky’s the limit. You can eat them as a main course, a side dish or even chocolate štruklji for dessert. I’ve yet to find a flavour I don’t like!

At Gostišče Draga you can try a savoury version with a mushroom sauce…

May be an image of food

…or, my preferred option, topped with cranberry sauce for a savoury/sweet taste.

Until the restaurant is able to reopen – and in fact also thereafter too as they have proved to be such a success – you can buy some of Gostišče Draga’s dishes and home produce from the family farm in jars. The range include goulash, jota, bograč and various pickled vegetables. Aleš and Tina have certainly not been resting on their laurels during this long lockdown – all credit to them. The jars can be bought direct at the restaurant (at weekends), at the Lesce farmers market (Friday afternoons/Saturday mornings), from the vending machine outside Gostilna Kunstelj, and at various local shops as well as further afield.

No photo description available.

Recipe

Dough:

370g flour (gluten-free or regular)

pinch of salt

One egg

10g vinegar

300g water

90g oil

Filling:

1kg curd cheese

6 eggs

200g sour cream

Salt

Method:

Make the dough by mixing together the flour, eggs, water, vinegar and oil then shape into a round loaf.

Make the filling by mashing/mincing the curd cheese then add the eggs and sour cream and season with salt.

Roll out the dough – it should be very thin – ???? then spread over the filling. Roll the štruklji into a Swiss roll shape then lift gently onto lightly oiled foil or a non-stick cloth and roll to fully encase the štruklji. Steam for 45 minutes or cook into salted simmering water for 30 minutes.

And that’s it – simple when you know how!

Let me know how you get on!

© Adele in Slovenia

A Taste Radol’ca Culinary Challenge!

Life in Slovenia is almost back to normal – tourist attractions, hotels, restaurants, campsites, etc. are open, and there are even tourists to be seen here and there! That said, there has been a spike in new cases in the past week, so we aren’t out of the woods yet, and caution is still the name of the game.

As a result of COVID-19, now, more than ever, it is important to support local businesses and to look after our health – of which eating a healthy, balanced diet plays an important part. So, it seemed an appropriate time to set Taste Radol’ca restaurants a culinary challenge!

The background to my ‘challenge’ is the situation I find myself in these days since being diagnosed with coeliac disease, which is that going out to eat leads to feelings of: (1) anxiety, (2) apprehension, (3) embarrassment and (4) envy. The first two are due to never being able to be 100% sure that when I order gluten-free food it will really be gluten-free and prepared in a ‘safe’ way, the third is due to having to ask the waiting staff and/or chefs so many questions, and the fourth because invariably I can only ever order one or two things from the menu, which most often aren’t the things I would have previously chosen to eat, and I then end up feeling envious looking at fellow diners tucking into their tasty-looking meals.

Thus I decide it was high-time to be brave and embrace the great, local cuisine and to put my faith in the Taste Radol’ca chefs! I contacted 4 restaurants and asked them to prepare a selection of dishes – meat-based, vegan, and vegetarian – all of which needed to be gluten-free. I should add that I’m neither a vegan or a vegetarian, however, I know that these days an increasing number of people are turning to vegan lifestyles, and there are also those with coeliac disease who choose to additionally be vegan, which must be doubly difficult.

So, below you can see the tasty delights I devoured, beginning at Gostišče Draga in the Draga valley in Begunje na Gorenjskem.

I used to particularly enjoy the various sweet and savoury štruklji at this restaurant, and up until now, I hadn’t found anywhere that offers gluten-free štruklji. I had kind of resigned myself to never being able to eat one of my favourite Slovenian foods again, well, unless I made them myself – and that isn’t about to happen!

So, I was more than over the moon to discover that owner and head chef Ales Tavčar finally lived up to his promise and prepared gluten-free štruklji for me! And, even better, they were such as success they will be featuring on the menu sometime in the near future.

Struklji can be eaten both as a savoury dish, for example with a mushroom sauce…

…or sweet, for example with cranberry sauce. I think my face tells the picture of how delighted I was, and, trust me, they tasted as good as they look!

Vegans are catered for too with dishes such as buckwheat with apple and almonds, which is also gluten-free.

Next up was Gostišče Tulipan in Lesce. Regular readers might recall that I held my celebration there on the occasion of gaining Slovenian citizenship last year. And at that time too it came up trumps with a gluten-free buffet for all my guests. You can read about my celebration here – https://adeleinslovenia.com/2019/10/14/when-adele-in-slovenia-became-adele-is-a-slovene/

So, my visit was with less trepidation in the knowledge that they know their stuff in terms of gluten-free food and preparation.

This time I enjoyed risotto with prawns and truffles – gluten-free and also suitable for pescatarians…

…rump steak with roasted vegetables and potatoes – all naturally gluten-free…

…and rice noodles with homemade wild garlic pesto – vegan and gluten-free.

And all enjoyed on the terrace with a great view!

Next was the turn of Restavracija Center in Lesce, which is a new, and very welcome, addition to the Taste Radol’ca ‘family’.

Since being diagnosed with coeliac disease this place has become my ‘go-to’ restaurant, notably for their amazing gluten-free pizzas, which actually look, and taste, like pizzas – something that can’t be said for many a gluten-free pizza! The dough is made separately and the pizzas are cooked in special baking trays to avoid any cross-contamination. Eating here is the one time I don’t feel so hard done-by!

And this pizza ticks the vegetarian box too, though there are plenty of meat pizzas, too!

For meat eaters, a great gluten-free choice is the beef tagliata, potatoes, rocket and parmesan…

…while vegans can enjoy a seasonal risotto – this one with asparagus was by far the best risotto I’ve ever eaten and from now on will be my second choice in the event that they have run out of gluten-free pizzas, which does happen at times, so it’s always best to call ahead to check to avoid disappointment.

And I ended at Gostilna Kunstelj, which ranks among one of Slovenia’s most well-known traditional restaurants. Even the former Yugoslavian president Tito used to visit!

In fine weather the fantastic view makes the food taste even better!

Since Gostilna Kunstelj’s whole ethos is based on using local and seasonal produce, there is certainly no lack of choice for vegetarians and vegans, and many of the dishes are either naturally gluten-free or can be adapted to be so.

A big hit with me, and a revelation too, was the buckwheat with vegetables and pumpkin seed tempeh. Full of colour and flavour, indeed!

There are numerous salads on the menu, which use produce from the restaurant’s own garden.

Gostilna Kunstelj also has renovated guest rooms, all of which come with stunning views too!

Fortunately, Taste Radol’ca’s talented chefs came up trumps and I’m delighted that now I know I have a slightly wider choice of dishes when I go out to eat, though, of course, the worry is, and will be, ever-present, as even the tiniest grain of gluten sets off an autoimmune reaction. But one needs to also remember that there are people far worse off in life!

© Adele in Slovenia

Ten Top Insider Radol’ca Tips!

Since I think I have a right these days to call myself a ‘Radolčanka’ (i.e. a Radovljica local), I thought I would share with you some of my top insider tips, some of which are more obvious than others!

So, in no particular order…

YOU WILL NEVER GO HUNGRY OR THIRSTY IN RADOVLJICA…at the last count – in my head that is so I could have forgotten the odd one – I totted up 23 bars, cafes and restaurants in Radovljica itself – not to mention the numerous others within the municipality. So, there’s no need to worry about going hungry or thirsty whilst visiting! And now there’s an exciting new ‘kid’ in town too – Linhart Hotel & Bistro – in Linhart Square, the heart of the old town. The hotel opened a couple of years ago but has just been taken over by the hugely successful and popular restaurant Vila Podvin, with head chef (and celebrity chef these days!) Uroš Štefelin at the helm. Expect bistro-style food – Uroš style!

Image may contain: table and indoor

THERE’S A VISIBLE TUNNEL... Okay, so it’s not an insider tip as such, but I’ve included it here since it’s easy to miss. The only preserved moat tunnel in Slovenia is found beneath Radovljica’s old town centre. It was renovated, and partly built-over, some years back, and is well-illuminated, meaning you can walk through it at any time as part of a visit to the old town centre. I’m rather lucky as I live just minutes from the old town and can therefore see it by day and by night, though the latter trumps it for me!

Radoljice1HDR

AND AN INVISIBLE/HIDDEN TUNNEL TOO…well, that is if legend is true! It is said that there is a tunnel that runs underground from the well in Linhart Square all the way to Lipnica Castle. To date no one has actually found it, but the legend lives on…!

AND EVEN A ‘SECRET’ CHAPEL…the Edith Stein Chapel is hidden away behind the vestry tower of Radovljica’s baroque St. Peter’s church in Linhart Square, and surprisingly few people even know it’s there. Edith Stein was a German-Jewish philosopher, born on 12 October 1891 to Jewish parents, who converted to Catholicism and became a Carmelite nun.

Also know as St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, she was canonised as a martyr and saint of the Catholic Church, and is one of six co-patron saints of Europe. Edith and her sister Rosa, who was also a convert and an extern sister, were sent to the Carmelite monastery in Echt in the Netherlands in 1938 for their safety, where, despite the Nazi invasion in 1940, they remained until they were arrested by the Nazis on 2 August 1942 and sent to the Auschwitz concentration camp, where they died in the gas chamber on 9 August 1942.

WE HAVE RATHER LOVELY CEMETRIES…bear with me on this one! I know it might sound odd but it’s true, Radovljica’s (and in fact in general throughout the country) two cemetries are so well kept. There is always an abundance of fresh flowers, plants and glowing candles, and a sense of peace prevails. You can admire both the cemetries as you pass on a walk towards the Sava river and the Fux footbridge.

RADOVLJICA REALLY IS A ‘SWEET’ TOWN…in so many ways! Not only is the town’s slogan ‘Honestly Sweet‘ but Radovljica is also the home of the biggest and best chocolate festival in Slovenia and a honey festival too. This year’s Radovljica Chocolate Festival – the 9th in a row – takes place from Friday 17th to Sunday 19th April.

WE LIKE TO STICK TOGETHERTaste Radol’ca is a great example of this. Rather than being in competition with each other, many of Radol’ca’s restaurants have joined forces and, in doing so, have realised and reaped the benefits of cooperation and collaboration. In doing so they are also supporting local farmers, beekeepers and producers of other goods, by including locally sourced ingredients on their menus. Each year there are an increasing number of events at which Taste Radol’ca restaurants are present, such as the Radovljica Chocolate Festival, summer Thursday concert evenings, the November Month of Local Cuisine, various Christmas and New Year events, and more.

WE LOVE OUR BEES…the Museum of Apiculture, the Beekeeping Education Centre of Gorenjska, the ‘Follow a Bee Through Radovljica‘ family adventure, an annual Honey Festival, and numerous beautifully painted apiaries where hardworking bees, and equally hardworking beekeepers, ensure that we have a plentiful supply of local honey.

IT LOOKS GREAT FROM ABOVE OR BELOW…Wherever you view Radovljica from – whether up high in the mountains or down beneaths its terraces – Radovljica’s old town centre with its prominent church is picture postcard stuff! So, whether you choose a stroll beside the Sava river on the Sava River Trail, or one of the marked hiking trails, such as to St. Peter’s church above Begunje, or even higher to the Roblek mountain hut or the peak of Begunščica, you are assured of a great view and a totally different perspective of the beauty of Radovljica and its surroundings.

SEEK OUT BUNKERS FROM THE RUPNIK LINE…the Rupnik Line is a system of fortifications that were built during the 1930’s by the Kingdom of Yugoslavia as a defence line on the border with the Kingdom of Italy. The strategically placed forts and bunkers were never actually used for military or defence purposes, but they at least brought residents a temporary solution to the unemployment and financial troubles which affected them due to the location of the Rapallo Border. In Radovljica there are bunkers on the Obla gorica hill, which is located behind the swimming pool, as well as on the grassy bank in the street Cankarjeva ulicacop. I recently read that, in fact, there are around 50 such bunkers located across the Jelovica plateau, Radovljica and Begunje na Gorenjskem, though, to date at least, I’ve only come across a handful. Hmm, an idea is brewing, how many (more) can I/you find?!

I hope this has given you plenty of ideas for exploring (more of) Radovljica and you’ll agree that’s there’s certainly more than meets the eye!

© Adele in Slovenia

 

Taste the Treasures of the Forest with Taste Radol’ca 2019!

Yes, it’s that time of the year again, the tastiest time of the year in Radol’ca – the Taste Radol’ca Month of Local Cuisine!

Photo: Boris Pretnar, Source: http://www.radolca.si

As in the past, for the whole month of November you can visit any (or all!) of the nine participating Taste Radol’ca restaurants to try their special menus created using ingredients sourced and grown locally by local suppliers in the Radol’ca area.

The theme of the menus this year, of course in addition to local ingredients, is the forest, which offers an abundance of ingredients, some of them rather unusual. The talented Taste Radol’ca chefs have been hard at work coming up with new flavour combinations using the wealth of ingredients readily available in the forest during autumn. You can try dishes such as rosehip soup, fillet of white fish with spruce tip salt, venison occo bucco with juniper berry sauce, forest honey and spruce tip ice-cream…

Image may contain: 1 person, sitting, food and indoor

Every year the opening Taste Radol’ca event is held at one of the participating restaurants, and this year it was the turn of Gostišče Draga in the Draga valley in Begunje na Gorenjskem to host the event. It began with a market featuring local and guest suppliers and the chance to try their products…

…as well as the chance to meet the chefs and taste some of their creations.

And of course there was plenty of entertainment too!

The evening continued (or rather is continuing as I write!) late into the night with the opening dinner where diners were treated to a five-course feast.

Photo: Boris Pretnar, Source: http://www.radolca.si

Photo: Boris Pretnar, Source: http://www.radolca.si

There are two changes to the line-up of restaurants this year, with Jostov hram and Restavracija Lambergh exiting the fold, while Restavracija Center and Restavracija Tabor have joined the happy Taste Radol’ca family!

The other significant addition this year is supplier open days. On Fridays, Saturday and Sundays during the month of November you can visit some of the suppliers in the Radol’ca area where you will have an opportunity to meet the producers and taste their products.

Local Taste Radol’ca November menus will be available from 26th October to 30th November at a price of €19 for (a minimum of) three courses. So, don’t miss the ‘tastiest’ month of the Radol’ca year and the chance to treat your taste buds and support local suppliers too! And, in addition to treating yourself, you can now also treat your friends/loved ones by buying them a Taste Radol’ca gift voucher.

© Adele in Slovenia

When Adele in Slovenia Became Adele ‘Is’ a Slovene!

After a process that took almost 10 months and was, at times, exasperating to say the least, I finally became a citizen of the Republic of Slovenia on Tuesday 10th September 2019!

After such a lengthy and laborious process, which began with me passing the Slovenian language exam and was thereafter followed by a period of gathering documents, more documents and more documents, the actual official awarding of the citizenship was a simple and quick affair; just a case of reading the official oath, signing a few documents and that was that!

And since it’s said that every Slovene must make it to the summit of Triglav once in their life, four days later I did just that!

Since it’s not every day that one becomes a Slovene, I decided a good old knees-up was in order and invited those who have been, or rather are, an important part of my life here. After pondering where to hold it, I decided on Gostišče Tulipan in Lesce, as it is known for its great traditional Slovenian food, friendly service, spacious rooms and pleasant ambience.

We had the area downstairs to ourselves and it definitely turned out to be the right choice as the organisation and service was exemplary and I was also delighted that I was able to enjoy a great meal in great company without having to worry about being ‘glutened’ as I had agreed the whole menu in advance and given strict instructions re gluten contamination.

So, I’d like to extend a huge thanks to the whole team at Gostišče Tulipan for their efforts and also thanks to all those who came and made it such a great evening.

And Gostišče Tulipan even took care of a (gluten-free) ‘Slovenka sem’ (I’m a Slovene) cake too, which we managed to polish off pretty quickly!

As befits such a gathering, I donned a Slovenian national costume to (re)read the oath, accompanied by the Slovenian national anthem…

Becoming a Slovene wasn’t easy, as with so many things in life, but I’m proud to be able to say I am and wouldn’t have it any other way!

© Adele in Slovenia

 

 

 

Gourmet Fare at Gostilna pri Bajdu and Merriment in Medieval Žiganja vas

Last weekend in Tržič was a busy one, with, among others, a medieval day in the village of Žiganja vas, and Tržič Trail Days – a weekend of guided mountain bike rides. It was a toss up between the two, but I opted to first visit the former – perhaps I have a secret penchant for medieval torture, or perhaps because it meant there was then time to go on to a nearby inn I had heard good things about!

Though only small, the village of Žiganja vas has a number of interesting attractions; the village church, the Three Bells Trail (which I wrote about in a previous blog post here), and the giant village linden tree, which is so huge – and partly hollow – that you can actually go inside it.

The recently renovated St. Ulrich’s church stands in the centre of the village. The first written mention of the church dates back to 1327; its present day appearance dates largely from extensive rebuilding work in 1693, as well as recent renovations to both the exterior and interior.

The medieval day featured plenty for visitors to see and do; guided tours of the renovated church, archery, the chance to dress up in medieval costume, theatrical and musical performances, and more.

It was very well attended and its nice to see such events in small villages; it helps to bring the community closer as well as attracting visitors from further afield. Next year Tržič will be celebrating a special anniversary and many more such events are planned, so, keep your eyes peeled for more!

From Žiganja vas we drove the short distance to the village of Senično and the Gostilna pri Bajdu inn. Since being diagnosed with coeliac disease going to restaurants isn’t the experience it used to be, and in fact can be quite stressful never knowing exactly how a dish has been prepared and if it could have been ‘contaminated’ during preparation. I had been told that they do things “somewhat differently” at Gostilna pri Bajdu, so I decided it was time to boldly go and check it out for myself!

The family-run inn dates back to 1871, as is attested to by the year above the main entrance. It originally served as a stopping point for wagon drivers on long journeys, where their horses could rest for a while and the drivers could get some sustenance. The inn has remained in the hands of the same family since its establishment and throughout the years has become increasingly popular for its excellent home-cooked food, service and hospitality.

It is now being run by the fourth generation of the family, Jani Ribnikar, who, time permitting, is more than happy to take time to talk about the history of the inn and to recommend which of its many dishes to try.

The bar area is reminiscent of an English pub, complete with various humorous pub-like signs too!

And almost every detail in the restaurant has a story behind it, from the pictures and wood carvings to the trophies and other quaint touches.

The huge pork and veal shanks are also a favourite among diners – though do call to order in advance to avoid disappointment!

When Jani said we wouldn’t leave hungry, he wasn’t wrong! We were first treated to pumpkin soup and beef soup.

Followed by two huge platters – one meat-based, the other with vegetables and side dishes made from buckwheat flour, which I can eat, yippee! The  meat-based platter was packed with pork ribs, roast pork and venison – that latter is a popular choice, and at Gostilna pri Bajdu where they serve game with prunes rather than the usual cranberries, thus giving a nod to the tradition of plum-growing in the area.

With so much choice it was hard to know where to start – but we managed…and found room for dessert too!

It’s satisfying to know that not only are you eating a meal made with from scratch and with passion, but also you are eating in a restaurant full of pride and tradition. From the outside Gostilna pri Bajdu is nothing to look at, and it would be easy to pass by the inn without even noticing it, however, now I have discovered it, I shan’t be in any hurry to pass by without stopping, and, if/when you are in the area, recommend that you drop in too! Dober tek!

© Adele in Slovenia

Kunstelj Inn – A True and Tasty Tale of Tradition!

Kunstelj Inn in Radovljica is a family-run restaurant with rooms that has a long tradition and a great reputation. It is also one of the participating Taste Radol’ca restaurants, takes part in other culinary events such as Slovenian Restaurant Week and is featured in the Gault&Millau restaurant guide.

Five year’s ago, Maja Buden (nee Štiherle), daughter of Toni and granddaughter of Tone and the fourth generation to head up the family business, took over as manager of the inn. To mark this anniversary, as well as a certain ‘big’ birthday with a zero at the end, she threw a celebratory gathering last Friday! Happy Birthday and congratulations Maja!

And, of course, a Slovenian celebration wouldn’t be complete without accordion music and traditional entertainment!

Having recently translated a special edition newsletter to mark this special anniversary, I was keen to be able to share with readers of my blog some of the highlights and photographs of the inn’s long and fascinating history, and, fortunately, Maja gave me the nod to do so!

Kunstelj Inn was opened by Franc Kunstelj in 1873 and some years later handed it over to his son Rudolf. Rudolf was very ambitious and had a vision and belief that the small family inn could become the heart and soul of social life in Radovljica.

The Rudolf Kunstelj Inn in 1906. Photo: 110 years of the Radovljica Tourist Association

He set to work building a large lounge with a stage for celebrations, a wine cellar, a freezer and a veranda with views of the Julian Alps. The renovations placed Kunstelj Inn on the map of the most popular local restaurants in Slovenia.

Grandmother Jerica later took over the running of the inn. She had a reputation as a fearless woman who always knew exactly what she wanted and was not afraid to tell people to their face what was on her mind! She survived two wars, became a widow at a very young age, raised two sons, and took over and managed Kunstelj Inn all by herself.

Many of the dishes Jerica introduced onto the inn’s menu can still be found today, albeit with a modern ‘Maja twist’, as well as other traditional Slovenian food, including blood sausages, Carniolan sausage with sauerkraut or turnip, buckwheat polenta, homemade štruklji and more.

Meanwhile, grandmother Maria left home at the age of 14 to work at the Roblek dom mountain hut. Tone and the now legendary Slavko Avsenik – the founder of Slovenian folk music – used to visit the hut as rumour had it that there were a lot of pretty girls there! And it turned out to be true, since Tone and Maria met and later married, and Slavko Avsenik even played at their wedding!

Grandmother Maria (second from left) doing washing at the Roblek dom mountain hut

A particularly amusing tale is that of Grandad Tone and his golf ‘caddy’ Grol. Tone didn’t start to play golf until he was 62, when, due to his weak heart he gave up hunting as well as skiing and golf became a form of relaxation and enjoyment.

As the doctors had instilled in him that he must strictly avoid all forms of exertion, for some time Tone thought about how he could lighten the load of carrying his heavy golf clubs from one hole to the next and he hit on the idea that his faithful companion Grol could help!

Uncle Ivan made Grol a special trolley for transporting Tone’s golf clubs, and Grol adapted really well to his role as ‘caddy’.

Maja’s father Toni regularly went on exchange to Switzerland to “learn from the best”. It was there that he learnt skills from one of the most well known Swiss patisserie chefs, Hans van den Klinkenberg, in Hotel Eden in Lugano. Toni brought all the tricks and secrets he learnt from the patisserie chef to Kunstelj Inn’s kitchen, which led to Kunstelj’s strudels, pies, ice-cream and other cakes soon gaining a reputation as the best desserts in Gorenjska.

Like her father, Maja also has a passion for desserts and, also like her father, she went to Austria to learn her patisserie skills. Her role model, who she met on one of her culinary travels, is Lea Linser; at that time Lea was running an acclaimed restaurant in Luxembourg and was the first ‘tv chef’ on German television. To this day Maja turns to Lea’s cookery books for inspiration for her signature desserts.

Some year’s back Maja created the first Kunstelj ‘grizike’ (cake pops), which later became – and still are – one of the star attractions of the Radovljica Chocolate Festival!

You can also visit during the time of Slovenian Restaurant Week, which takes place twice per year for 10 days in autumn and spring, when you can take advantage of a 3-course menu for just 19 euros per person, the next edition will take place from 11th – 20th October (note: the website is currently only available in English, but menus will soon also be available in English and by next year the entire website too – working on that one too!).

Kunstelj Inn is also part of Taste Radol’ca and for the whole month of November all nine participating Taste Radol’ca restaurants offer special menus based on local ingredients also for a set price of 19 euros  per person.

So, now you know (some of) Kunstelj Inn’s history, why not visit to find out (and taste!) more!

© Adele in Slovenia

Visit Tržič and Košuta – A Hike Along the Ridge of Slovenia’s Longest Mountain

At 10 kilometres long, the Košuta ridge, part of the Karavanke range situated above Tržič, is Slovenia’s longest mountain.

Its numerous peaks and mountain pastures make it a paradise both for hikers and mountain bikers. And you certainly won’t go hungry whilst on, or beneath, Košuta, as there are several mountain huts and dairy farms on the mountain pastures.

This blog post is day two of the 2-day hike I did on the ridge, with an overnight stay at the Taborniški dom na Šiji (the Šija Scouts’ Hut) – read about the hike up to the hut, the great food and the friendly hosts here. After breakfast, we took one final look back at the hut where we had spent such a pleasant night, then set off to conquer two of the peaks along the ridge.

From the Šija mountain pasture we walked to the Pungrat mountain pasture.

We passed by the dairy farm on the Pungrat mountain pasture (Planšarija planina Pungrat) – no need for sustenance just yet after having only just set off!

From the dairy farm a path leads up towards the Škrbina saddle. As you gain height, the views just get better; first back down towards the mountain pastures below and the mountains in the distance.

Then, on reaching the saddle, the views – in all directions – are magnificent and accompany you all the way along the ridge.

You can choose the path to the east towards Košutnikov turn or to the west towards Kladivo. We chose the latter, not least because my previous attempt to reach the peak didn’t exactly go to plan!

Regular readers might recall a blog I wrote some years back, titled ‘Kindness in the Karavanke‘ about my attempt to reach Kladivo, which, that time, ended up with me in tears and some friendly strangers being very kind! This time, however, I conquered it with relative ease and, in doing so, realised that last time I was literally a few metres from the top before I bottled it, and also discovered that the path down the other side is much easier, so I could have managed it, but that’s hindsight for you!

And the views are, well, you can see for yourself below, but they are even better when you earn them by hiking up and seeing and experiencing them for yourself!

After descending from Kladivo, we carried on along the wonderful ridge walk to Kofce gora and then on to Veliki vrh (literally ‘Big peak’).

Is it a bird, is it a plane…?

From Veliki vrh we descended to the Dom na Kofcah mountain hut which, at the time of writing is in the running for the title of ‘Best Slovenian Mountain Hut 2019‘.

The hut is famous for its excellent štruklji in a myriad of flavours. For me a visit is now a bittersweet experience and (almost) brings tears to my eyes when I see and smell the excellent štruklji as, sadly, there are no gluten-free ones to be had so my once favourite Slovenian food is now off limits for me – a travesty indeed! But for those who are lucky enough to be able to eat ‘normally’, do try the štruklji, I’m sure you won’t be disappointed, and maybe you will spare a thought for me whilst doing so!

This is just one of the many great hiking routes in the Tržič area, where you are spoilt for choice. See the Visit Tržič website, and you can also click on the ‘Visit Tržič’ tab above to see all the other blog posts I have written about what to see and do in the area.

© Adele in Slovenia

 

Hike Tržič: Košutica (Ljubeljska Baba) – 2 Countries, 1 Great Hike!

Despite being here over 12 years, I still get a kick out of being able to cover two countries in one hike, and the hike from Podljubelj in Tržič to Košutica (also known locally as ‘Ljubeljska Baba’) – part of the Karavanke mountain range – is up there among my favourites, not least because it makes a fab circular hike!

There are various ways of reaching the peak of Košutica; I like to begin from the monument next to the road and opposite the Mauthausen concentration camp in the St. Ana valley, which is located on the road from Tržič towards the Ljubelj pass to Austria.

The Hunters’ path (Lovska pot) winds its way up through the forest towards the Korošica mountain pasture. It is sparsely marked but well trodden, so orientation shouldn’t prove too much of a problem, well, unless the valley is shrouded in cloud as it was last Sunday morning!

Shortly before reaching the mountain pasture, the path to the peak of Košutica veers off to the left up to a junction of paths and the border with Austria, from where you turn left to take the path up to the peak of Košutica (1968m), marked here as ‘Baba’.

Although I try to pick perfect sunny days for my hikes – both for my enjoyment and in order to get good pictures for my blog – the weather doesn’t always play ball, and despite waiting around 20 minutes at the top, sheltering from the wind in the vain hope that the cloud might lift revealing the magnificent scenery below, it didn’t – well not at least until we had descended from the peak!

At least I had a flask of tea to warm me up!

The fog didn’t deter this pair, who obviously know where to find food!. They were so tame it was amazing, almost eating out of our hands!

And then, of course, the inevitable happened. As we began to descend the fog lifted, as did our spirits, the wind died down and the sun began to break through.

We could even finally see the cows that we had previously only been able to hear – these ones are Austrian (can you tell?!), since they are on the Austrian side of the border!

The donkeys we met on the way down, however, were most definitely Slovenian!

From the junction of paths, you can either return the same way, walk down to the mountain hut on the Korošica mountain pasture, and/or follow the path adjacent to the fence that forms a border between Slovenia and Austria – we opted for the latter two, i.e. first down to the hut for some sustenance, then back up to the junction and into Austria.

The hut is only open during the grazing season – usually mid-June to mid-September. It offers typical Slovenian mountain food, such as Carniolan sausages, buckwheat with pork crackling, sour milk, and, if you arrive early enough (we clearly didn’t – not that I would have been able to indulge anyway, sadly), freshly-baked strudel and potica.

Feeling fortified, we walked back up to the junction of paths, then followed the path along the border, from where there are wonderful views back towards Košutica – now looking magnificent in the sun!

The path continues along pastures before descending to an iron ladder. I wouldn’t advise this route when it is, or has recently been, wet, as in places it is rather steep, muddy and slippery when wet.

After a while the path eventually descends to reach a forest road (in Austria!), where we turned left and walked slightly uphill for around 5 minutes before reaching the Ljubelj pass – the oldest road pass in Europe – and returned back into Slovenia.

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!

You can visit the Koča na Ljubelju mountain hut (1369m) for (more) refreshments, if required, before making the cca. 45 min walk back down to the start.

And that rounds off another great hike in the Karavanke mountains in Tržič! Click here to find out more about what you can see and do in the area.

© Adele in Slovenia