Christmas in Slovenia – Festive Radol’ca 2018

The festive season is upon us and Radovljica’s cute old town centre is looking postcard-pretty. But don’t just take my word for it, take a look at the video below to see more, and/or come and see it for yourself!

The switching-on of the Christmas lights took place yesterday in Radovljica’s Linhart Square, together with a St. Nicholas market and the closing event of this year’s Taste Radol’ca.

The old town centre was packed full of people eagerly awaiting the official start of the festive season. The mayor invited some of the younger among the spectators to help him switch on the lights.

And the street food offered by Taste Radol’ca restaurants proved to be a hit too!

Take a look at the December in Radovljica event calendar to see all the events taking place throughout the festive period.

There’s something for all the family including an Advent Market and numerous entertainers and performers in Linhart Square, among them fairytale horses and dogs, the excellent Ana Snežna street theatre, the Čupakabra stilt walkers, Grandfather Frost, young dancers of ballet and other contemporary dances, orchestras featuring pupils from Radovljica Music School, storytellers, shows and workshops for children, and more!

Radovljica’s ice rink officially opened on Friday and will be open throughout the winter from 3pm-6pm midweek and from 10am-6pm at weekends, school holidays and public holidays.

Admission for children with their own skates is FREE, while the price is just €2 for adults. Skate hire is available and You can warm up after skating with hot tea and mulled wine from the friendly team at Kofler Sports, who also offer skating courses for beginners (like me!).

A great way to find out more about Radovljica and see more of its attractions is on the family ‘Find Grandfather Frost’s Postbox‘ orientation adventure. Drop by the Radovljica Tourist Information Centre to pick up a copy of the instruction leaflet then follow the coloured arrows to various points in the old town centre and nearby park.

At each interactive point take an interesting, funny and original photograph with your nearest and dearest, and, if you share your photo on the Facebook page of Radovljica’s Tourist Information Centre@Visit Radol’ca – you could be in with the chance of winning a prize.

Tis the season to be jolly, so come on down and join the festive fun!

To end, albeit a bit early, Merry Christmas to one and all from me!

© Adele in Slovenia

Tasting Radol’ca for You!

It may only be the 4th of November, i.e. the start of the Month of Taste Radol’ca, but I’ve already managed to wolf down, or rather ‘savour’, three delicious Taste Radol’ca meals. And all this hardship is in the name of blogging – just for you! Oh dear, I fear it’s going to be a calorific month ahead!

In addition to the opening dinner last Friday at Joštov hram, this week I also enjoyed Taste Radol’ca meals at Gostišče Draga in the Draga valley in Begunje na Gorenjskem and Gostišče Tulipan in Lesce.

Gostišče Draga never disappoints, be it for a mid-week meal, Sunday lunch, a special occasion, or a Taste Radol’ca meal. In the years that I have been living in Radovljica, this restaurant has gone from strength-to-strength, and continues to do so.

Much of what chef and owner Aleš Tavčar magics up in the kitchen comes from the family farm, so you really know you are getting locally produced food. What they can’t source themselves, they get from local suppliers.

My partner in dine (see what I did there?!) for the evening was Radol’ca’s award-winning beekeeper, Erik Luznar, whose honey can be found in two of the dishes on the Taste Radol’ca menu, so it’s only fitting that he got a chance to try them too!

The family-run Gostišče Tulipan in Lesce has long been a staple among locals. Thanks to its numerous rooms and thus large capacity, it is a particularly popular place to hold various celebrations, but is also just as popular due to its good, honest Slovenian cuisine.

The four-course Taste Radol’ca menu is exceptional value. In fact, all Taste Radol’ca meals during the month of November are great value at just €18 for three or four courses.

So, that’s three down, six to go, if I don’t burst out of my trousers before then! Browse the menus, take your pick and Taste Radolca – I might just see you there!

© Adele in Slovenia

Taste Radol’ca 2018 – a Triumph of Taste and Talent!

Last Friday saw the opening event of this year’s Month of Taste Radol’ca.

There are 9 restaurants that co-operate in Taste Radol’ca, and every year the opening dinner is held at a different venue. This year it was the turn of Joštov hram in Podnart where, as has become the tradition, all the talented Taste Radol’ca chefs combined their skills, knowledge and creativity, culminating in a unique menu and a wonderful, memorable evening.

Photo: Boris Pretnar for Visit Radol’ca

The evening began with a farmers’ market and a chance to meet local producers and try some of their produce and products direct from the farm.

And we had a chance to sample a few Taste Radol’ca treats to keep us warm too!

Being home to the Museum of Apiculture and the Beekeeping Education Centre of Gorenjska, the Radol’ca area is synonmous with beekeeping and the theme of this year’s Taste Radol’ca is honey. The Radol’ca area is home to numerous beekeepers, among the most well-known is Erik Luznar of Čebelarstvo Luznar, whose acacia honey was recently judged the best in the country – congratulations Erik!

Throughout the evening music was provided by the excellent band Suho cvetje, who first played outdoors as a backdrop for the farmers’ market, and then moved indoors. Their unique style of music was just perfect for such an intimate venue, not overpowering and the perfect compliment to the jovial atmosphere.

At 7pm it was time for the main event, and we were ushered to our tables to let the feasting begin!

The whole focus of Taste Radol’ca is that all dishes are prepared using exclusively local ingredients, thus supporting local farmers and producers and ensuring an absolute minimum number of food miles. The other essence is that everyone mucks in, there are no egos at play here, it’s a case of ‘all hands on deck’ as all the chefs work in harmony with spectacular results. In addition to joining forces in the kitchen, the chefs, as well as restaurant owners and staff, all muck in too!

We began with a cold starter consisting of game pate, salami, hummus, pumpkin and mini peppers, prepared by Gostišče Draga and Gostišče Tulipan.

The soup was a particular treat for me – parsnip soup – parsnips are very rarely seen in supermarkets and almost never on the menus of restaurants, so bravo Vila Podvin and Lambergh Restaurant for using this wonderful vegetable! It was served with tortellini filled with mohant cheese – a distinctively pungent and whiffy cheese from the Bohinj area – served with hazelnuts, yoghurt and honey.

The hot starter was porcini mushrooms, from beneath Roblek, with locally-farmed trout and spinach, prepared by Gostilna Avguštin and Gostilna Pr’Tavčar.

The main course, courtesy of Joštov hram, Gostilna Kunstelj and Gostilna Lectar, was a mouthwatering combination of Kraskopolje pig wrapped in bacon with bean puree, roasted pepper sauce and spring onions.

With a nod to this year’s theme of honey, dessert, the brainchild of Gostilna Kunstelj and Gostilna Lectar, featured honeyed milk with a bee-shaped honeybread to dunk served with succulent honey cake.

And this is but the start, there is still the whole month of November ahead to enjoy meals at all the 9 Taste Radol’ca restaurantsJoštov hram, Gostilna Avguštin, Gostilna Lectar, Gostišče Draga, Gostilna Pr’Tavčar, Lambergh Restaurant, Vila Podvin, Gostilna Kunstelj and Gostišče Tulipan.

And to give you even more incentive, if you visit at least 5 restaurants by the end of November and collect a stamp at each one, you will receive two vouchers for food at the Taste Radol’ca closing event, which will take place on 1st December together with the switching-on of the Christmas lights and the opening of the Advent Market.

I hope this has whetted your appetite to try more – I know it has mine; Taste Radol’ca here I come! Check out the menus here to help you decide where to go (first)!

© Adele in Slovenia

Autumn Time is Tasty Time in Radol’ca – Taste Radol’ca!

Autumn, thus far, has been a very mixed bag! There have been some beautifully warm, sunny days, but also some bitingly cold, crisp mornings, with the first frost already on 25th September – the coldest September morning since 1977, whereas last year it was exactly a month later, on 25th October, when it was time to start scraping the ice of the car windscreen!

However, some things about autumn are stalwarts, among them the magnificent colours of nature and tasty food in Radol’ca!

Hiking in the Radol’ca area, and in particular in the Karavanke mountains, is wonderful in autumn, especially if you set off on one of those pleasantly warm days, as was the case on my hike last week to Begunščica (2,060m) from the Draga valley, when the views and visibility were quite astounding.

Even the sheep grazing just beneath the peak looked happy that the sky was so blue – and, trust me, no photo-shopping was required, it really was that blue!

And since all that hiking works up and appetite, on to the subject of food – my other great love!

Restaurant Week takes place bi-annually, in spring and in autumn, and makes dining at some of Slovenia’s finest restaurants accessible and affordable to all.

All restaurants that are part of Restaurant Week are assessed and have to meet strict criteria to be included, therefore, the fact that there are three Taste Radol’ca restaurantsVila Podvin, Gostilna Kunstelj, Lambergh Chateau and Hotel, included in the 19 restaurants in northern Slovenia, is a sure testament to the quality of Taste Radol’ca.

This year 100 restaurants are taking part in Spring Restaurant Week and from 12th – 21st October will offer fixed menus for just €18 per personReservations are essential, and many of the restaurants get booked up early, so don’t delay, book today!

In addition, the whole month of November is a celebration of the best of Taste Radol’ca, with all the nine participating Taste Radol’ca restaurants offering special fixed price menus for just €18.

 

This year’s opening event will take place on Friday 26th October at gostilna Joštov hram in Podnart. The evening will begin at 5pm with a farmers’ market, followed by the opening dinner at 7pm.

As in previous years, all the talented Taste Radol’ca chefs will combine their skills, experience and creativity to create a unique and memorable dinner. Reservations can be made from 8th October at the Radovljica Tourist Information Centre. The price of the opening dinner is €39.00 (drinks excluded).

The theme of this year’s Month of Cuisine is honey. Radovljica, as the beekeeping capital of Slovenia, and in the year when World Bee Day was first celebrated, will also end the year on a culinary-based bee theme.

 

I’m looking forward to seeing what inventive menus the chefs will be cooking up for us this year, and I might, just might, blog about it too!

© Adele in Slovenia

The Begunje Lambergh Trail – Explore Kamen Castle, Archeological Sites and Caves in the Draga Valley

The Lambergh Trail (Lambergova pot) begins at the Krpin recreation area in Begunje na Gorenjskem. It leads through the forest past the ruins of Kamen Castle, passing two small archeological sites, and ending in the lush Draga valley at the Gostišče Draga restaurant, where you can enjoy a drink, snack or slap-up meal to gather your strength for the return journey, or you could even continue further on one of the trails that lead into the Karavanke mountains.

It takes around an hour to walk the almost 8km path (one-way), though if you stop to explore the castle, which is a must(!), then you should allow more time. The terrain is undulating, so good footwear is required. There are information boards along the way where you can find out more.

The Njivice archeological site dates back to the Old Iron Age.

There are vast caves to explore, too, some of which make you feel rather small!

Halfway along the trail you emerge briefly from the forest and are greeted by wonderful views over the upper part of the village.

You then reach the mighty and impressive ruins of Kamen Castle.

The castle was once home to the Counts of Lambergh – hence the name of the trail. It has preserved Gothic and Renaissance entrances and the partial restoration works that were recently carried out have made the castle more accessible.

Kamen Castle was built in the 12th century by the Counts of Ortenburg; later it was owned by the Counts of Celje, and from 1436 the Counts of Lambergh. The counts abandoned the castle in the 18th century when they moved to the more comfortable Katzenstein Mansion in the centre of the village.

The path ends at the Gostišče Draga restaurant at the head of the Draga valley. The restaurant, a member of Taste Radol’ca, is renowned for its game, fresh river trout, and numerous other traditional Slovene dishes.

The štruklji alone, both the sweet and savoury versions, are definitely worth the walk!

You can either return the same way following the signs back to the Krpin recreation centre, or alternatively you could first walk along the valley road beside the stream back to the castle, where you can rejoin the path back to the start.

You could also take time to explore Begunje itself; the Begunje Village Trail is just one of the many theme trails in the Radol’ca area. Click here for more.

© Adele in Slovenia

A Celebration of Birthdays and Bees in Begunje!

Sunday 20th May, in addition to being the first World Bee Day, also happened to be my birthday. So plenty of reason for celebration this year, even if it wasn’t a ‘special’ birthday (thank god!).

When deciding where to hold a small gathering for friends that would comprise great food, a beautiful setting, something active, and some beekeeping-related, the choice was obvious, it just had to be the Draga Valley in Begunje na Gorenjskem!

So, I set about making plans and my plans all came together rather well, even if I say so myself!

We began with an introduction to archery on the parkour archery course. Regular readers may recall, however, that I’m not a complete archery novice, as I went to check out the course last year when I spent a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon under the professional guidance of Robert Levstek.

It’s great fun making your way around the course with its 30 life-size animal targets dotted throughout the forest. Those with a competitive nature, and even those without, will enjoy a fun day out surrounded by the wonderful nature of the Draga Valley. Find out more here – https://adeleinslovenia.com/2017/04/10/archery-adventures-and-delicious-draga-delights/

Next came the beekeeping-related part of our afternoon, and for this I contacted the local beekeeper Erik Luznar, who has one of his many hives in the valley.

Since the average age of Slovenia’s 10,000 beekeepers is 57, Erik is certainly bucking the trend in this respect, and his youth, spirit and enthusiasm made listening to him waxing lyrical about his beloved bees both pleasurable and fascinating.

And also in contrast to the majority of Slovenia’s beekeepers, beekeeping is not just Erik’s passion and hobby, it is his livelihood. He offers various types of honey (floral, acacia, forest, linden, chestnut, pine, fir), as well as royal jelly, pollen, propolis and beeswax. He also breeds queen bees, which are then sent throughout the world. So, whilst in the Radovljica area, if you would like to have a tour of his hives – independently or as part of a Taste Radol’ca tour – find out more about Slovenian beekeeping, or buy some of his award-winning honey or other bee products, he’s your man! Contact: cebelarstvo.luznar@gmail.com

Of course, no good celebration is complete without great food, and in the Draga Valley that comes in spades at Gostišče Draga, one of the participating Taste Radol’ca restaurants. If you want to enjoy a drink or three without worrying about getting home, there are rooms available above the restaurant too!

Since the Draga Valley is also an excellent starting point for hikes in the Karavanke mountains, the restaurant is a very popular choice for some post-hiking sustainance, but is equally as popular as somewhere to enjoy great Slovenian cuisine – in summer in the cool of the garden next to the stream, in winter next to the roaring wood burner.

Continuing with the honey theme, we dined well on dishes such as rumpsteak in pepper and honey sauce, štruklji with honey, and other savoury delights, and not forgetting a cake, too!

For an added twist, throughout the evening there was a chance to taste many varieties of honey, with the aim of guessing which was which.

Then, to see how much we had all taken in from Erik’s educational session, I had prepared a quiz about Slovenian beekeeping, too! Of course, this meant a bit of work on my part too. I felt like a school teacher marking tests!

For the perfect end to the evening, I was given some lovely birthday gifts, including vouchers for massages (can’t wait Simona Slegel!) and this hand-embroidered apron that reads ‘Ta prava Radol’canka‘. Radol’canka is the word used for a female from Radovljica, so it reads ‘A real Radol’canka‘!

So, as you can see, the Draga Valley is a one-stop destination for active and tasty outings, and with a bit of added ingenuity and forward planning, a great place for group celebrations and events. Thanks to everyone who contributed to a lovely evening!

® Adele in Slovenia

 

 

Magušar’s House – An Aladdin’s Cave of Clay!

The fruits of the first year of a three year project titled ‘Catalogue of Slovenian Clay‘ are being unveiled today in an exhibition at Radovljica’s Magušar’s House. The official opening of the exhibition begins today at 7pm, so you’ve still got time to get along, but if you don’t make it, don’t worry, the exhibition will be on view until the end of the summer (entrance is free, however, prior notice is required).

Photo: Miran Kambič

For the owner of the house and initiator of the project, Urban Magušar, clay isn’t merely a raw material from which he has been creating for decades – it is his life. “Those that work with clay all the time, are in touch with the origin of the universe”, said Urban in a recent blog post (the English version of the brand new website is coming soon!) for Tourism Radol’ca.

The current finds of Slovenian clay are shown on the map below. Incidentally, is often said that Slovenia, when viewed as a whole on a map, is shaped like a chicken. Do you agree?

After coming up with the idea, Urban set about contacting ceramists throughout Slovenia and over 100 samples were brought to the workshop in Magušar’s House where they were tested for basic physical properties: contraction, porosity, colour and granulation and heated to temperatures of 800-1,300˚C to determine the temperature range of sintering and melting.

Below you can see Urban in his ‘Aladdin’s cave of clay’!

Being a total clay ‘virgin’ it was fascinating to see all the different kinds of clay and how they react and change when heated and treated.

The artist and ceramist Živa Slavec explained to me about the different characteristics of the clays, for example, those from the Gorenjska are lighter in colour as there is more limestone, whereas those from the flat lands in Slovenia’s north-east are darker in colour and also more easy to locate and access.

Magušar House in itself is also worth a look, with its arcaded gothic courtyard, dating from c.1500, and pottery workshop where you can buy Magušar bowls and other pottery items. Occasional exhibitions, workshops and other events are also held there.

You can also find Magušar bowls being used in some of the Taste Radol’ca restaurants, where the focus on local food is further enhanced by serving it in local bowls made just minutes away – certainly no food miles involved here!

Taste Radol’ca at Gostilna Kunstelj

The Visit Radol’ca website has more information about Magusar’s House and the other historic houses in Radovljica’s old town, Taste Radol’ca restaurants, as well as plenty more information on what else to see and do in the town and its surroundings.

Do go and take a look, it sets you thinking and you will probably never look at a clay bowl the same way again!

© Adele in Slovenia