Beguiling Begunje na Gorenjskem

I’m fortunate to live just a few kilometres from the village of Begunje na Gorenjskem, which is packed full of natural and cultural sights of interest. I spend quite a lot of time there, too, whether hiking, cycling or eating great Taste Radol’ca food. So, in this blog I’ve focused on some of the highlights of beguiling Begunje.

Fans of popular folk music won’t want to miss a visit to the Avsenik family homestead, where the legendary forefathers of Slovene folk music, Slavko and Vilko Avsenik were born. Though, sadly, Slavko passed away in 2015, the family’s music very much lives on.

You can visit the gallery and museum, and/or attend one of the frequent music evenings and other events. More information here – http://www.radolca.si/en/avsenik-gallery-museum/

The Katzenstein Mansion in the heart of the village has had a long and interesting past. Built in the 14th century, its current Renaissance and Baroque appearance is a result of renovations in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. 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.

The Museum of Hostages (Muzej Talcev) has been housed in the building at the north-western end of the residential wing since 1961. 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. This one says ‘Molimo za mir’ (We pray for peace). Sobering stuff, indeed.

The park in the ground of the mansion is a lovely place for a stroll. It contains a 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. The bronze statues of a hostage and a prisoner, as well as the karst marble sculpture of a female hostage are the work of the sculptor, Boris Kalin.

Also in the heart of the village, near the entrance to the hospital and park, is the Gostilna Pr’ Tavčar restaurant, one of the 13 Taste Radol’ca restaurants. In the relatively short time it has been open it has become a firm favourite among locals.

At the end of the village you reach the Draga valley and the imposing ruins of  Kamen Castle, built in the 12th century by the Counts of Ortenburg. More information here – http://www.radolca.si/en/kamen-castle/

Photo: M Kambic

The short drive to the end of the valley brings you to Gostišče Draga, another of the participating Taste Radol’ca restaurants, where specialities include venison goulash, fresh trout, homemade sweet and savoury štruklji, and more. Situated in the shade of the forest beside a stream, it is particularly popular with those seeking refreshment and sustenance after expending their energy in the surrounds.

The Draga valley is a gateway for numerous hiking trails in the Karavanke mountains including, amongst others, to Begunščica, the ever-popular Roblekov dom mountain hut, and the Preval mountain hut.

As you can see, despite it’s modest size, Begunje packs in a lot, so be sure to include a visit on your trip to the Radovljica area.

© Adele in Slovenia

 

Spring in Radovljica Means Chocolate!

Yes, finally, after the coldest winter for over 30 years, spring is finally springing here in the Radovljica plains. And spring in Radovljica has come to mean chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate, due to the now annual Radovljica Chocolate Festival – this year taking place from Friday 21st – Sunday 23 April. How lucky I am that it takes place in my home town!

Though summer will always be my favourite season, spring isn’t far behind as it’s a time of blooming flowers, Easter, new-born lambs, longer days, warmer temperatures and, in case I haven’t already mentioned it, chocolate!

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Photo: Adele in Slovenia

To whet you appetite, and in case you missed it, here’s a recap of some of last year’s festival fun!

Guinness record was broken for the world’s largest chocolate bar by area. The chocolate bar was made by the Cukrček chocolatier and measured over 140 square metres, smashing the previous record of 102 square metres. It took over 300 hours to piece together the 28,000 pieces of chocolate.

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There was also a record number of chocolatiers and visitors to last year’s festival, and I have a feeling that this year, the 6th Radovljica Chocolate Festival, could be even bigger and better.

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Photo: Aleš Košir

For the first time last year visitors were able to travel to/from the festival by vintage steam train from Ljubljana.

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Photo: Adele in Slovenia

The packed programme also includes chocolate-related entertainment for all the family.

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Photo: Aleš Košir

What will this year’s festival bring? Well, the 2017 festival programme is still being prepared, but it will be available soon so keep your eye out on the festival website for updates – http://www.festival-cokolade.si/festival-2017/ as well as on the Visit Radol’ca Facebook pagehttps://www.facebook.com/RadolcaHonestlySweet/

© Adele in Slovenia

 

Like Beekeeping? Love Radovljica!

Those interested in beekeeping should definitely make a beeline for Radovljica!

The Radovljica area has a wealth of beekeeping-related sights of interest, all within close proximity, thus making it ideal place to visit for beekeepers or those with an interest in beekeeping.

One such example is the group of 38 beekeepers from Estonia who I helped with their plans to visit Radovljica.

Whilst the main purpose of their trip was beekeeping-related activities, they also managed to find time to do some sightseeing in Ljubljana, took a traditional pletna boat to the island on Lake Bled, and visited Vintgar Gorge.

The main beekeeping day began with a visit to Kralov med in the hamlet of Selo near Bled, where owner Blaž Ambrožič told them everything, and more, that they could possibly want to know about beekeeping in Slovenia. I wrote more extensively about my visit to Kralov med in a previous blog, also about World Bee Day, which you can read here – https://adeleinslovenia.com/2016/05/17/world-bee-day-the-anton-jansa-honey-route/

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The undoubted highlight, whether a beekeeper or not, is the chance to see and experience up close the hive found on a nearby tree trunk and transported to its current home. The fact you can get so close is testament to the calm nature of Slovenia’s Carniolan grey bee.

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Next the group came to Radovljica, beginning at the Tourist Information Centre where they tasted local honey and chocolate, and had the chance to buy some gifts to take home. They even brought us some of their own Estonian honey, which, as you can see, the staff enjoyed tasting!

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We then took a stroll through the medieval old town to see the main sights of interest – the Šivec House Gallery, the Radovljica Mansion, St. Peter’s Church, and the other wonderful frescoed buildings.

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Then it was on to the viewpoint for wonderful views of the Julian Alps, the Jelovica plateau and the Sava river.

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The next stop was to Lectar Inn to watch the process of making and decorating the traditional ‘lectar’ gingerbread’ hearts, made with honey, of course!

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And a chance to buy souvenirs and/or gifts for loved ones.

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Having seen Radovljica, it was then time to Taste Radol’ca, with a traditional Slovene lunch, also at Lectar Inn, one of the participating Taste Radol’ca restaurants. During lunch, the owner Jože entertained us with a few of his favourite songs played on the harmonica – never something to be missed!

The final stop in Radovljica was to the Museum of Apiculture, housed in the Radovljica Mansion, where visitors can learn all about the history of beekeeping in Slovenia, watch a video (narrated in English by me!), and in summer watch the bees hard work diligently in the hive.

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The group’s very last stop on the jam-packed, or should I say honey-packed, day, was to the Gorenjska Beekeeping Development and Education Centre in Lesce. You can read more about the centre and its wide-ranging activities here – http://www.radolca.si/en/gorenjska-region-beekeeping-development-and-education-centre/

So, as you can see, the Radovljica area really is a beekeeper’s paradise!

If you’d like any more information about Slovenian beekeeping, or are interested in taking a tour of the town and/or visiting some of the above-mentioned sights, feel free to get in touch or contact Tourism Radol’ca – http://www.radolca.si/en/

© Adele in Slovenia

Festive Radovljica: Christmas Market and Family Entertainment Galore!

It might not be the biggest of Slovenia’s Christmas markets, but the setting for Radovljica’s Advent Market, in the heart of the medieval old town – one of the 3 best preserved of its kind in Slovenia – makes it among the cutest and most attractive! Combined with the festive entertainment programme, which offers something for all the family, a visit to Radovljica should be on your list if you are spending time in Slovenia during this festive season.

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Photo: Pakt media

The festive programme kicks off this Friday 2nd December with the Christmas lights switch on at 4.30pm, and entertainment from DJ Darmar, performances by the Studio Ritem Dance Studio and the opening of the Advent Market.

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The Advent Market is open every Friday (3pm-8pm), Saturday and Sunday (10am-8pm) throughout December, and additionally on Christmas Eve (10an-5pm), Christmas Day (10am-7pm), and Boxing Day (26th Dec – 10am-8pm).

Below are just some of the highlights of the festive entertainment programme. Unless otherwise stated, all events take place in Linhart Square. Click here for the full programme – http://www.radolca.si/en/what-to-do/events-1/festive-december-in-linhart-square/83/395/

3rd & 11th December – Fairytale Horses for Children

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9-11th December – Open Day at the Lectar Gingerbread Workshop

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17th December at 8pm – Opera Concert: Baritone Ivan Andres Arnšek and pianist Mojca Lavrenčič (Radovljica Manor)

24th December at 11am – Čupakarba: Stilt walkers and jugglers

25th Dec at 5pm – Ana Snežna Street Theatre

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26th December at 5pm – Čupakabra and Priden Možic: Sodrga – street show with fire

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There are also creative workshops for children, performances by local choirs and bands, carol singing and more!

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You can find out more about what else to see and do in Slovenia during the festive period, more about Christmas markets, and some information about Christmas food and customs in my recent blog post here – https://adeleinslovenia.com/2016/11/20/christmas-2016-in-slovenia-christmas-markets-food-and-traditions/

© Adele in Slovenia

Taste Radol’ca 2016: Gostilna Avguštin, Great Food & To Die For Views Too!

It was absolutely delighted when I found out that Gostilna Avguštin was under new management and had joined Taste Radol’ca, since I had long wondered why this traditional restaurant, located in the heart of the historic old town of Radovljica, and with to die for views, did not take part in any of the town’s events and festivals. Thank goodness, then, that 2 young enterprising brothers, who previously worked at the restaurant as waiters, have taken over its running, and with it brought a fresh new approach to customer service and upgraded the menu of traditional food.

In fine weather the views from the terrace of Gostilna Avguštin are magnificent; Slovenia’s highest mountain, Mt. Triglav, can be seen in the background with the snow-capped Julian Alps and the Pokljuka plateau in the foreground, and the Jelovica plateau and the Sava river dominating the immediate view.

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Gostilna Avguštin was somewhere I often used to frequent in the first few years after I moved here. However, it then went through a bit of a – let’s just say – ‘wobbly’ stage, whereby sometimes it was fantastic, other times far less so, and I then began to go elsewhere. So, it’s really fantastic news that it is back to its best – well actually, even better – and that there is now another restaurant serving delicious Slovenian food right on my doorstep – now you won’t be able to keep me away!

So, on to the food! I tried out the Taste Radol’ca menu, of which there is a choice of 2, which is excellent value at just 16 euros for 3 courses, and all ingredients are from the local area.

To start I had pumpkin soup, which just happens to be my favourite type of soup on the planet, so it certainly hit the spot! The added pumpkin-seed oil, pumpkin seeds and homemade onion bread were the icing on the cake (icing on the soup?)!

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The main course consists of a hearty plate of pork fillet stuffed with prunes, buckwheat struklji and bacon-wrapped vegetables. It really was delicious and beautifully presented too.

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I always like to have a peek into the kitchens of the Taste Radol’ca restaurants where possible, to see the master chefs at work! So, I snuck in to watch dessert being prepared – chestnut cake.

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So, if it’s been a while since you last visited, or indeed you have never visited, do hot foot it down to Gostilna Avguštin soon!

© Adele in Slovenia

Taste Radol’ca 2016 – A Taste of Tradition at Gostilna Tavčar

Though I had been meaning to do so for a while, I had yet to visit Gostilna Tavčar in Begunje na Gorenjskem since it changed hands. Therefore, a visit to try the Taste Radol’ca 2016 menu gave me the perfect excuse!

Gostilna Tavčar is a typically traditional Slovenian restaurant and, what particularly struck me was, despite it being my first visit, I was greeted like an old friend. Since it re-opened the restaurant has become a firm favourite with locals – always a good sign, I think. A large part of that can, no doubt, be attributed not only to the great food, but also to the chef and owner, Mitja, who likes to take time out of the kitchen to mingle with guests.

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Mitja describes himself as “one of the old-school generation of cooks” and there’s nothing wrong with that I say!

Now, time to get down to the serious business of the food! The starter was guinea fowl pate with grated ‘tepka‘ pears and homemade buckwheat and walnut bread.

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I then sneaked into the kitchen to see my main course being cooked – the finest Angus rumpsteak, no less! And, as with all Taste Radol’ca menus, it costs just 16 euros for 3 courses, all made using local ingredients, and excellent value for money.

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My steak arrived – cooked to perfection – accompanied by chestnut puree and red cabbage.

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With just a dessert-sized space left in my stomach, it too didn’t disappoint. Tavčar plum mošnjiček – light pastry pockets served warm filled with hot plum sauce and strawberries.

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Gostilna Tavčar is open daily and also offers light lunches (malice), lunches and dinners as well as weekend and Sunday lunch specials.

Taste Radol’ca menus are available at 13 participating restaurants for the entire month of November. You can find more information about Taste Radol’ca here – http://www.radolca.si/en/what-to-do/events-1/taste-radolca-2016/83/394/

© Adele in Slovenia

 

Taste Radol’ca 2016 at Draga Inn – A Winning Start!

As there are 13 restaurants involved in this year’s Taste Radol’ca, I made a start last week already at attempting to try as many as possible during the month of November – all in the name of blog research for you, dear readers, of course!

Having perused the menus, I plumped for Draga Inn (Gostišče Draga), located in the Draga valley in Begunje na Gorenjskem, for my first Taste Radol’ca 2016 meal, and what a fine choice it was too!

There are 2 four-course menus to choose from, both costing just 16 euros, which is fantastic value and, as is the whole ethos of Taste Radol’ca, all products are sourced from local suppliers. I’ll let the photos of the food do (most of) the talking!

I opted for Menu I. but swapped to the Menu II. starter – game ragu with homemade cheese and bacon strukelj.

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The alternative starter is smoked trout with horseradish, honey and creamed celery.

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This was followed by cream of barley soup with chanterelle mushrooms.

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I’m still salivating when I think about the main course – succulent wild pork in cranberry sauce, calf cheek, puree of carrot, and bean strukelj.

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For those opting for Menu II. there is fillet of trout with mixed seeds, vegetable bake and pumpkin jam, which, although I’m not a lover of fish, also looked delicious.

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The portion sizes (even for my large appetite!) were just perfect, therefore we still, just about, had room for dessert. Strawberry dumpling, cinnamon ice-cream, and honey and chocolate cream.

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Sitting next to the log-burner, the ambience was cosy and warm and it was delightful to enjoy great food in the company of good friends – a welcome change from dining on my tod! So, thanks Jana, Tone and Pia!

So, one down, only 12 to go, though, this meal was so good, I have a feeling I will have to squeeze in another visit to Draga Inn before the month is out!

© Adele in Slovenia