Jezersko: Slovenia’s First Mountaineering Village

The village of Jezersko lies at an altitude of 906 metres above sea-level at the foot of the Kamnik-Savinja Alps and the Karavanke range. It is Slovenia’s first, and it could be said ‘best’, true mountaineering village.

As befits somewhere with such pristine nature, it is spotlessly clean, all the hiking trails and attractions are very well marked, and a sense of peace and tranquility reigns over the entire valley.

What you won’t find in Jezersko are hordes of tourists, tacky souvenir shops, and over-priced eateries etc., instead you will find scattered homesteads and farms, a handful of eateries serving local food, friendly locals and ‘to-die-for’ views as far as the eye can see.

What I personally find so appealing about Jezersko, apart from the peace and great hiking, is that although the area, understandably, has a vision in terms of tourism, that vision is exactly what it should be i.e. to remain true to what it is, to avoid mass tourism, to attract the type of people who appreciate Jezersko for its pure simplicity. And that, in my book, is something to be applauded, and is in pleasant contrast to many of today’s tourist traps.

Further proof that Jezersko is a great mountaineering village, is its entry this year into the Bergsteiger Dorfer Association of Mountain Villages. With the exception of Jezersko, all the other villages are in well-known mountainous areas, such as Bavaria and Tyrol.

If walking and hiking is your thing, then in Jezersko there is something to suit all levels; 2 mountain huts, 20kms of easy trails, 10kms of challenging trails; 15kms of very demanding trails, and 1 secured climbing trail.

For an easy walk and a good way of getting acquainted with the area, I recommend a walk along the 8km Ravenska kočna Theme Trail.

It begins at the stunningly beautiful Planšar Lake (Planšarsko jezero)…

…and continues across meadows with magnificent views of the north faces of the Kamnik-Savinja Alps.

Having such excellent natural conditions for alpine sports, Jezersko is home to some of Slovenia’s mountaineering legends. Among them Davo Karničar (seen below), who in 2000 became the first person to ski from the peak of Mt Everest to the base camp, and then, over the next six years to 2006, went on to ski from the highest peaks in all the continents, making him a true legend in the world of alpinism.

As of this year, the entire Jezersko Mountain Trail is now available in English (translated by me!). The trail can be walked in sections or in its entirety. Many of the hikes involve some difficult sections, so if you love challenging hikes, then this is for you, but you can also pick and choose some of the easier trails, too. It includes all the greats such as Grintovec, Skuta, Jezerska kočna, Goli vrh, Velika Baba, Storžič, the Frischaufov dom hut, Kranjska and Koroška rinka, and more.

One of the most popular places for many hikers, either as a destination in itself or as a base for more demanding onward tours, is the Češka koca mountain hut (1543m). In addition to its fantastic location, what makes this 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 style.

Jezersko is also popular in winter, when cross-country , ski touring and sledging are the activities of choice.

Photo: TIC Jezersko

So, this has just been a brief overview of Jezersko, I will be writing more in due course as one blog certainly doesn’t do it justice, but I hope it has at least whetted your appetites!

If you love hiking and appreciate nature at it’s best, when considering your (next) trip to Slovenia, consider Jezersko!

© Adele in Slovenia

Valvasorjev dom – Voted Slovenia’s Best Mountain Hut for the 3rd Time in 5 years!

So, it’s official, Valvasorjev dom is the winner of the title of Slovenia’s Best Mountain Hut – making it the third time it has won this prestigious title!

Last year, due to the rules of the competition which state that huts cannot be nominated two years in-a-row, Valvasorjev dom wasn’t in the running, but this year it once again breezed to become the holder of the title ‘Slovenia’s Best Mountain Hut 2018’. Congratulations to Aleš Štefe and the team!

Having already won the title in 2014 and 2016, this is a pretty impressive feat for a hut that doesn’t even have much of a view! But what it lacks in views, it makes up for with its great food, friendly team and welcoming atmosphere – all of which have proved to be a winning combination.

Valvasorjev dom (1,181m) lies beneath Stol (2,236m) – the highest peak in the Karavanke range. For those looking for a short hike, the hut can be a destination in itself – you can reach it in a little over an hour from the car park at the Završnica reservoir, or you can visit as part of a longer hike to Stol itself or numerous other destinations – as can be seen from the signs (below) in front of the hut.

During summer, you can also visit the other mountain hut on Stol, Prešernova koča – just a short distance from the summit – from where there are also numerous choices of onward routes.

The fascinating Ajdna archaelogical site is just a 30-minute walk from Valvasorjev dom.

Or you can visit one or more of the numerous mountain pastures beneath Stol such as the Zabreška planina highland (1,225m), or the Zirovniška planina (1,200m) highland.

Valvasorjev dom is also a popular destination for mountain bike enthusiasts, who can ride up the 5km forest road before heading off to traverse some of the afore-mentioned mountain pastures.

The fact that it is one of the few huts that is open year-round is also an added bonus, and Valvasorjev dom is as popular in winter as it is in summer.

When conditions permit, the 5km road from the valley is turned into a sledging track, too.

So, as you can see, there are more than enough reasons to visit the Valvasorjev dom mountain hut and to find out for yourself why it is a three-time winner!

Click here to find out more about hiking and other activities in the Žirovnica area beneath Stol.

© Adele in Slovenia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Adele in Slovenia

A Slovenian Winter’s Tale!

Regular readers and followers of my blog will know that I have been faithfully posting blogs on a weekly basis for around 5 years now.

And now, all of a sudden, it seems to have gone a bit quiet on the Adele in Slovenia front! So this short blog is by way of an explanation to those concerned and loyal readers and followers out there, some of whom, from as far afield as the USA and New Zealand, have even been kind and concerned enough to contact me to inquire about my well-being due to my going AWOL – thank you, sincerely!

The main culprit, in addition to my crazy workload, has been the – for me at least – long, seemingly never-ending, harsh and difficult winter this year, which hasn’t been conducive to much in the way of outdoor activities worthy of blogging – other than those about which I have frequently written previously.

So, my Slovenia Winter’s Tale…. It began with early snow in last November, there was a respite in the second-half of December and first half of January, then February saw 18 days out of 28 of snow, March brought a week of extreme polar-like temperatures, followed by a week of rain, followed by more snow! And that brings us almost to April, and it’s still cold out there! We are being promised warmer temperatures for Easter, hmm……!

Rest assured, however, I haven’t turned into a couch potato, god forbid, I’ve still been out there, gritting my teeth and bearing the winter, since this year there has been little choice. So I thought I’d briefly share with you a few photos of my hike last weekend up to the Komna plateau and onwards toward the Bogatin hut (not open!), above Bohinj lake. Omg, there is a LOT of snow up there – around 3.5 metres!

Although I would still rather it was all lush and green, I have to admit, it was fairytale like and I was lucky enough to catch a few hours sun before it clouded over in the afternoon. The early bird and all that…

No doubt you are thinking ‘What is she moaning about, it looks gorgeous!’. Well, yes, it does, but, believe me, after months and months of it, the novelty soon wears off!

Anyway, according to the calendar at least, spring is here, and this morning I saw these little beauties in the forest as proof!

I would also like to mention here, for those of you planning hiking trips in Slovenia this year, that currently there is double the average amount of snow in the high mountains, so please do take this into consideration, as it will be well into early summer before many places are snow-free.

So, dear Adele in Slovenia readers and followers, you can expect more from me during the course of the year, I promise, providing the weather plays ball and providing I can get away from my computer and from translating, which is, after all, what pays the bills!

© Adele in Slovenia

 

Winter Activities in the Završnica Valley

Winter has now really shown its teeth and the recent couple of heavy snowfalls rapidly brought an end to the unusually mild and green January. So, those that love winter, and with it winters sports, are now in their element enjoying all manners of snow-based activities.

As there is also plenty of snow this year in the valley, not just in the mountains, you don’t have to go far from home (or from your holiday home!) to find cross-country skiing trails, sledging tracks and winter walking and hiking trails – all of this, and more, can be found in the Završnica Recreation Park in the Završnica valley.

For lovers of sledging the 5km road that begins near the reservoir in the valley and leads to the Valvasorjev dom mountain hut is a paradise, and this year almost the entire length of the road has been prepared as a sledging track. Of course, you do first have to drag your sledge uphill…

There is also a small sledging track and a 1.5km circular cross-country ski trail opposite the Zavrh bar just a few hundred metres further along the valley from the reservoir. Here you don’t have to drag your sledge too far to enjoy the rewards!

So you can have multiple attempts – however you choose to get down!

If you prefer your winter sports on ‘two legs’, then you can hike the cca. 1 hour path up to the Valvasorjev dom mountain hut – twice the winner of the title of Slovenia’s Best Mountain Hut – where you can be sure of a warm welcome and delicious home-cooked food; soups, stews, strudel etc.

I would, however, advise having a pair of lightweight crampons in your rucksack for the descent, as the lower parts of the path can tend to get very icy at this time of year.

Or you could opt for a shorter, easier walk around the reservoir and along the trim trail to the Zavrh bar.

Once you reach the Zavrh bar, you can cross the bridge, turn left and continue on the right side of the stream, or turn left to follow the trim trail back to the reservoir.

So, don’t delay, get out there and enjoy it today – while the snow lasts!

Click here to find out more about the Završnica Recreation Park (in Slovene only) or here for the Visit Žirovnica website where you can find more information about all the other facilities and attractions in the Žirovnica area.

© Adele in Slovenia