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

 

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