The Begunje Village Trail – Along the Paths of Slavko Avsenik

The village of Begunje na Gorenjskem is the birthplace of the founder of Slovenian folk music, Slavko Avsenik, and a gateway to numerous hikes in the Karavanke mountains.

Get to know more about the village, its history, famous residents, and village life by taking a stroll along the Begunje Village Trail.

The trail begins opposite the Avsenik guest house and restaurant, where you can visit the Avsenik Museum to find out more about the legendary Slavko Avsenik and the music of the Avsenik Brothers Ensemble, as well as about the history of the village.

You can also see some hints and tips from the Avsenik Ensemble about how and where to see and enjoy the best of the area!

Continue past the cemetery through the narrow village lanes, passing the stream in places, heading towards St. Ulrich’s church.

Prior to reaching the church you will see an information board and to the right you can visit Robačnekov mill. It is officially open on Tuesdays and Fridays from 9am-12noon, however, outside of these times if the owner is home, as she was when I visited, just smile nicely and she will be happy to show you round!

After passing the church you can continue through the park past Katzenstein Mansion which today houses a psychiatric hospital and, at the rear, the Museum of Hostages. It is worth visiting the museum for a sobering, somewhat chilling, but interesting experience.

1n 1875 the mansion was sold to Austro-Hungarian judicial authorities and a prison, holding 300 female prisoners, was established. During the German occupation, it became a Gestapo prison and political prisoners were incarcerated in the mansion; after the war it again reprised its role as an all-female prison. Inside, on the walls of the former prison cells, you can see written records left by the prisoners and announcements by the occupiers concerning executions.

 The park is particularly known for its pavilion and the Chapel of St. Joseph, designed by the most famous Slovenian architect, Jože Plečnik, and is also home to a small cemetery where 457 hostages and 18 World War II combatants are laid to rest.
So, as you can see, Begunje na Gorenjskem may be a relatively small village, but it’s crammed with natural and cultural sights, so be sure to stop-off to wander the village trail to find out more! More information about this and other walking and hiking paths in the Radol’ca area can be found here – http://www.radolca.si/en/hiking/

© Adele in Slovenia

The Path to Crngrob and the Pri Marku Tourist Farm

The Church of the Annunciation in Crngrob near Škofja Loka is among the most notable of Slovenia’s 800+ churches.

Photo: Jana Kuhar, Visit Škofja Loka

You can easily reach the church by car, however, if time permits I suggest setting off on foot or by bike from the centre of Škofja Loka along the Path to Crngrob theme path, where along the way you can see numerous shrines and admire the pleasant Škofja Loka countryside.

The 5km path starts at the information board opposite the bus station in front of the Nama department store. You can pick up a leaflet about the path from the Škofja Loka Tourist Information Centre or find more information about this and other theme paths in the area here – http://www.visitskofjaloka.si/en/experiences/theme-paths

The path, which is marked with a yellow circle with a white inner, is relatively level and mostly on quite country lanes.

You can also go by bike, as I did when exploring part of the Škofja Loka Cycle Route earlier this year. Read more in a previous blog here – https://adeleinslovenia.com/2017/06/11/active-and-historic-loka-the-skofja-loka-cycle-trail/

You first pass the shrine of Pieta, the work of the well-known Slovenian impressionist painter Ivan Grohar.

The Red Shrine, which was erected at the beginning of the 16th century as a reminder of the plague, is one of the oldest shrines in Slovenia.

A few minutes on you reach the village and church. Though from afar the outside of the church doesn’t look particularly remarkable, other than the fact it is a particularly large church for a village with just a handful of houses – the reason for this is that it was intended for pilgrims – as you get closer and glimpse the large fresco of St. Christopher on the exterior, and another of Holy Sunday in the shelter of the neo-gothic porch, you begin to get a sense this is no ordinary church.

Then you step inside and see the full beauty of the ornate interior, particularly the gold baroque altars and magnificent painted ceiling, you will soon realise why it is considered among the most valuable churches in the country.

It was originally built in the 13th century and extended over time with the bell tower dating from 1666 and the neo-gothic porch being added in 1858.

As befits something of such value, the church is kept locked, therefore to arrange to a guided tour of the interior you should contact Tourism Škofja Loka by email (info@skofja-loka.com) or by calling +00386 45 170 602 or +00386 41 424 776.

I recommended combining a visit to Crngrob with a stay or a visit to the Pri Marku tourist farm, which is situated just a few hundred metres from the church. The farm’s setting is idyllic, surrounded by rolling green hills, the church as a backdrop, and though only 5kms from Škofja Loka, it has a real air of being far from the hustle and bustle of life.

Pri Marku has 10 well-appointed rooms, or for a different experience you can also stay in the farm’s hayloft. All rooms come with a view!

You can get to know the farm’s animals – this one seemed very keen to get to know me!

Of course no Slovenian tourist farm is complete without delicious home-made, home-produced food and drink! Those staying at Pri Marku have half-board, but you can also drop by for a snack or a hearty lunch at weekends (prior booking essential) and try some other traditional Slovenian dishes and house specialities.

More information about the Pri Marku tourist farm can be found here – http://www.pri-marku-porenta.si/ANG/

© Adele in Slovenia

 

 

The Grabnarca Waterside Nature Trail

The start of the Grabnarca Waterside Nature Trail (Vodna učna pot Grabnarca), and the one shown here below, is in the village of Spodnja Lipica in the Lipnica Valley where there is a small parking area for a few cars and an information board about the trail. There is also an alternative start next to the small supermarket in the upper part of the village of Lancovo.

In places the trail follows the Grabnarca and Lipnica streams, which in the past powered mills and sawmills in the valley, and also leads to the spring of the Lipnica stream. Shortly after the trail crosses the gravel road which leads up to the Jelovica plateau.

The 5km trail is largely in the forest and crosses numerous wooden bridges.

The waymarkers and information boards (in Slovene only) show pictures demonstrating the importance of the streams for people in the Radovljica area – both then and now.

The ruins of old mills and other buildings can be seen alongside the path.

Here one is seen in its former glory.

Over a few more bridges, until you reach …

… the Vašče pond.

I can’t imagine how or when this boat last saw an action on the pond, but I guess there must be a reason it is here!

At the pond you can choose to either re-enter the forest and follow the waymarkers back to the start, or, as I did, continue a little further up towards the houses above the pond and back along the quiet country lanes to return to the start. Taking this option you are also rewarded with wonderful views of the Karavanke mountains.

I wouldn’t recommend walking this path after prolonged heavy rain, as, despite the numerous bridges, in places it can get quite muddy, but with the long, hot summer we have had of late, and which looks set to continue for at least a few days yet – not withstanding the storm that is going on outside my window right now! – now is an ideal time.

For more information see the Tourism Radol’ca website here – http://www.radolca.si/en/grabnarca-waterside-nature-trail/

© Adele in Slovenia

A Recce of the Rupnik Line

Another day of exploring the scenic Poljane valley; this time walking along part of the former Rupnik Line – 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.

It transpired that the strategically placed forts were never actually used for military or defence purposes, but the building of the fortifications at least brought residents a temporary solution to the unemployment and financial troubles which affected them due to the location of the Rapallo Border.

The Rupnik Line theme path begins at the cemetery in Gorenja vas where there is an information board showing the route.

The path is well marked; in places with green signs, such as seen below, in other places with yellow markings painted on trees.

There are actually two paths – a shorter 4.5km circular path and a longer non-circular path which is 6km one-way. However, due to the ever present damage in the forest due to the glaze ice in the winter of 2014 – the clear up job is still ongoing throughout many parts of the country – walking on the longer path is not currently advised.

For the first 2km both paths follow the same route, first uphill on an asphalt road, which later becomes an unmade road then into the forest where you soon reach the first bunker.

It takes a few minutes for your eyes to adjust to the darkness, but thereafter you can take a look inside. I clearly woke a bat from its slumber and not sure who was more startled, me or it!

Continue until you reach this sign, where you should take the shorter (krajša) path to the right.

The path continues past more bunkers, each with it’s own information board where you can learn more about the fortifications and take time to explore, but do exercise caution and have sensible, sturdy footwear.

You can enter some of the bunkers, whilst others are not so accessible.

Though not part of this theme path, one of the best-preserved and largest fortifications is the underground fortress on Goli vrh where there is a permanent exhibition of remains from the time of building. I shall be writing more about this in a future blog so watch this space! Find more information about the Rupnik Line theme path on the Visit Škofja Loka website here – http://www.visitskofjaloka.si/en/experiences/theme-paths/the-rupnik-line-construction

The annual Pisana Loka Festival (Colourful Loka) takes place this year in Škofja Loka from 25th August – 3rd September. The festival is a mixture of concerts, workshops and performances – many of which are FREE – that take place at various locations, including in the heart of the old town centre and at Loka Castle.

This year part of the festival will be dedicated to Latino Loka on 2nd September in the Town Square (Mestni trg), and promises to be sizzling!

More about the festival can be found here (in Slovene only) http://www.skofjaloka.si/objava/80730, whilst further details about all the events taking place this month in Škofja Loka, including in English about the Pisana Loka Festival, can be found in the latest events calendar here – http://www.visitskofjaloka.si/si/files/default/Newsletter/Avgust%202017/spletni%20KAM-1%20avgust.pdf

© Adele in Slovenia

 

Fit and Fun in Radovljica!

For many people, no doubt the thought of exercising on holiday couldn’t be further from their minds; then there are those of us for whom being active is a way of life, and whether at home or away, we like to find ways of ensuring we stay fit and healthy whilst also having fun!

So for those of you who fit into that bracket – myself included – Radovljica is the perfect destination!

As is widely known and acknowledged, the key to keeping fit is to find an activity, or activities, that are enjoyable, so taking part doesn’t feel like a chore and we are more likely to stick with it.

With the beautiful backdrop of the Karavanke mountains and the Jelovica plateau, as well as the Sava river and the Draga and Lipnica valleys, there are myriad outdoor sports and activities right on the doorstep or within close proximity of Radovljica, so here are some ideas:

HIKING – the Jelovica Plateau, the Karavanke range, or the nearby Julian Alps

WALKING and/or RUNNING – from short strolls or runs on theme paths such as the Sava River Trail, to long cross-country rambles and runs

CYCLING – of all types, mountain biking, road biking, endless possibilities

FISHING on the Sava river

HORSE RIDING or horse and carriage rides – get to know Lipizzaner horses at the Barbana stud farm in Globoko, or go riding at the Mošnje Horse Centre – just two among the places offering horse riding in the area. More here – http://www.radolca.si/en/in-the-company-of-horses/

WATER SPORTS – rafting, kayaking, canoeing

Other adrenalin-fuelled activities –  paintball, zip line, zorbing, caving, climbing

ARCHERY – on the parcour course in the tranquil Draga valley. Find out more here – https://adeleinslovenia.com/2017/04/10/archery-adventures-and-delicious-draga-delights/

SWIMMING at the Olympic size swimming pool in Radovljica – open-air in the summer, covered in the winter; or at the Kropa outdoor pool

PARACHUTING and PANORAMIC FLIGHTS over the Julian Alps from Lesce Sports Airfield

Find out more about sport, recreation and fun in the area here and I wish you fit and fun adventures in Radovljica! – http://www.radolca.si/en/sport-recreation-and-fun/

© Adele in Slovenia

Highlights of the Škofja Loka Historial 2017

The annual Škofja Loka Historial (Festival of History) took place last weekend in the well-preserved medieval old town and its surroundings.

I attended the festival and managed to dodge (most of !) the afternoon showers which are so often a feature at this time of year. And the spirits of all the dancers, actors, stallholders, and other performers and guests weren’t dampened either!

Below you can see some of the highlights of the festival, as well as see more of this charming town on the Sora river which should be on your list of places to visit whilst in Slovenia.

The fair and the majority of events took place in the main town square (Mestni trg) where visitors  had a chance to try some typical dishes from the area, part of the Taste of the Škofja Loka Countryside project (Okusi loškega podeželja).

One of the foods most synonymous with this area is Visoška pečenka – roast pork from nearby Visoko, studded with carrots, lemon, parsley garlic and laurel.

On the main stage there were performances from, amongst others, the Lonca Dance Society performing historic dances.

A display of flag throwing and sword play was performed by the Taboršti Kupci historic group from the twin town of Tabor in Southern Bohemia.

They certainly weren’t just play fighting! It was pretty brutal, raw fighting which, in addition to swordplay, seemed to involve a lot of bashing each other over the head with (real!) hammers!

In Rotovž, the former town hall building and one of the most prominent buildings in the square with its baroque frescoes and three-storey gothic arcaded courtyard, the main event took place at intervals throughout the day. The drama ‘The Devil’s Footbridge’ (Hudičev brv) tells the story of the devil, the Puštal frogmen and a stone bridge.

From the main square, I headed down through the narrow streets and alleys to the other main town square, Lower Square (Spodnji trg) where there were also various workshops and performances.

Next it was up to Loka Castle and the 16th century Škopar’s House (Škoparjeva hisa) where I had a chance to sample Loška medla, cooked in the original black kitchen; a simple peasant-style dish made of cooked millet which, according to some sources, originates from the Škofja Loka area.

Outside the house there were workshops and puppet shows for children, as well as weaving workshops. Unfortunately I haven’t got so much as a creative bone in my body when it comes to such things, but I’m always willing to give them a try! Weaving on a loom and using a weaving board; the latter, as I discovered, also requires a fair bit of patience!

Even when there aren’t any particular events happening in the town itself, there’s no shortage of things to see and do in and around it, as well as further afield in the Selca and Poljana valleys, about which I’ve already written quite a bit this year, but I’m certainly not finished yet!

And there’s no need to wait until next year’s Historial if you’d like to try your hand at some traditional handicrafts as this can be done all-year round at the DUO Arts and Crafts Centre (more here https://adeleinslovenia.com/2017/01/13/loka-honey-breads-and-handicrafts-at-the-duo-arts-crafts-centre/); you could also take a guided tour of the town to find out more about its history and listen to some of the many local legends, try some of the suggested experiences, or explore the pristine countryside on foot or by bike. More about all this can be found on the Visit Škofja Loka website – http://www.visitskofjaloka.si/en/

© Adele in Slovenia

The Karavanke Mountains – Majestic Mt. Begunščica

At 2060m, Begunščica is amongst the highest mountains in the Karavanke range, and a favourite destination among locals and those looking for a moderately challenging and very scenic hike.

The approximately 120-kilometre-long Karavanke mountain range forms a natural border between Slovenia, to the south, and Austria, to the north. Thus, in late-spring it’s not uncommon for there to be snow on the northern facing slopes of the Karavanke, whilst it’s green on the sunny Slovenian side!

Green and sunny to the south, snowy to the north!

There are several ways to reach the summit; the most popular among them is to start from the Draga Valley in Begunje na Gorenjskem. If coming from Radovljica, drive through the village and continue in the direction of Tržič, then on the left you will see the road towards the valley. The valley is a popular starting point for hikes in the Karavanke range. The routes are well-marked and signposts show approximate walking times.

I recommend taking time to stop in the village of Begunje na Gorenjskem to have a stroll around the park, and also at the entrance to the Draga Valley to see the ruins of Kamen Castle.

Continue to the end of the valley to the parking area and from there you set off on foot. You can choose to either go via Preval on the first part of the Shepherd’s Trail, which is the more direct, short, but steeper route, or hike first up to the Roblekov dom mountain hut (1657m), where you can stop for refreshments either on the way up or down – or of course both ways! You can find more information about the Shepherd’s Trail here – http://www.radolca.si/en/shepherds-trail-begunje/

Looking down on the Preval mountain hut on the path up towards Begunščica

If you choose the route to Preval, it takes a good hour from the valley to reach the Koča na Prevalu mountain hut, again an optional break for refreshments here – then prepare yourself for the very steep path directly up to the summit. Here you leave the Shepherd’s Trail and take the marked path to Begunščica which, at times, can feel like an almost vertical ascent. However, apart from one small rocky section, it isn’t overly exposed and is manageable for competent and experienced hikers.

As you approach the summit you can’t fail to notice the ‘carpet’ of sheep droppings from the sheep that are taken to graze on the slopes of Begunščica during summer! I always wonder how on earth so few sheep manage to produce so many droppings! At the summit there is an orientation table which provides assistance when you are gobsmacked by the stunning views and don’t know where to look first!

Personally I prefer to do the hike in the direction as I have described it: Draga – Preval – Begunščica – Roblek – Draga, as the descent from the summit to Roblek is easier and more ‘knee-friendly’ than the steep path from the summit down to Preval. I also like doing it this way as it makes it an entirely circular route.

The path from the summit down towards the Roblekov dom hut

Whilst there is no hut at the summit, there’s no shortage of huts to visit; in addition to the aforementioned Koča na Prevalu and Roblekov dom huts, there is also the Tomčeva koča hut (1180m) on the Poljška Planina highland and the hut on the Planina Planinca highland (1136m), both of which are found at approximately the halfway point between the Draga Valley and the Roblekov dom hut.

The hut on the Planina Planinca highland

You can find out more about this and other hiking routes nearby on the Tourism Radol’ca website here – http://www.radolca.si/en/hiking/

© Adele in Slovenia