Highlights of Radovljica 2017

So here we are at the start of another exciting year in the Radovljica area, with plenty of events to look forward to.

In this blog I’ve provided a month-by-month guide to some of the highlights, dates to note in your diary, and things to look forward to in this calendar year.

JANUARY

Why not go skiing at the small Kamna Gorica ski area in the Lipnica Valley, at the foot of the Jelovica plateau. The area has a drag lift, 400 metres of easy and 500 metres of slightly more challenging skiing terrain, and is particularly suitable for families. It’s also a bargain at just €6 per half day for children and €8 for adults. Find more information here (in Slovene only) – http://kamnagorica.si/smucisce/

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FEBRUARY

It’s carnival time! Known as ‘Pust‘, the main day is pustni torek (Shrove Tuesday) when, wherever you are in Slovenia, you could be forgiven for thinking it is Halloween as children go to school dressed up as all kinds of ghosts and gouls, and some can be seen going from door-to-door trick-or-treating. However, there is actually a point to pust; the idea being to help drive winter away by scaring it with various costumes and masks – something I whole-heartedly support – roll on spring! The traditional annual carnival procession will take place in Radovljica this year on Saturday 25th February.

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MARCH

Head to Kamna Gorica and/or Kropa on 11th March to watch the celebrations on the eve of St. Gregory’s Day, when local children make and float model vessels in the village streams. This age-old iron-forging custom takes place annually. The models, which are a mixture of unique art creations made from paper, cardboard and wood with candles affixed either on the exterior or interior, create a colourful effect against the dusk setting. This custom dates back to the era of manual iron-forging, before the introduction of the Gregorian calendar in 1582, when the name day of St. Gregory was considered the first day of spring.

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APRIL

The Radovljica Chocolate Festival is by far the biggest event of Radovljica’s calendar year, and one of the biggest events of its kind in the country. This year the festival will take place over three days from Friday 21st to Sunday 23rd April. You can be sure I’ll be writing plenty more about it nearer the time!

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MAY

Various workshops take place during the course of the week-long International Ceramics Festival, with the main day – Market Day – taking place this year on Saturday 27th May.

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JUNE

It’s time to get outdoors and enjoy the best that the Radovljica area has to offer – hiking in the Karavanke Alps, road cycling or off-road mountain biking, rafting and kayaking on the Sava river, caving, fishing, take a panoramic flight on go skydiving at Lesce Sports Airfield, go horseriding, or just lie back beside the river or on a terrace somewhere and enjoy the views. There’s so much choice!

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JULY

It’s summer and that means Fresh Thursdays in the Square! Every Thursday during July there are live concerts in Linhart Square, the heart of Radovlijca’s medieval old town.

Radovljica SLO 2011

Radovljica SLO 2011

The Hop-On Hop-Off Tourist Bus runs during July and August. At the time of writing, there is no official information about this year’s schedule, but I’ll be sure to let you know more about that too!

AUGUST

The opening ceremony of the 35th Radovljica Festival of Early Music will take place on Saturday 5th August, with concerts taking place throughout the month ending on 23rd August. The majority of concerts take place in the magnificent setting of Radovljica Manor.

Photo: Jana Jocif

Photo: Jana Jocif

SEPTEMBER

It’s all things sweet on Saturday 23rd September, when the annual Festival of Honey and Honey Dishes takes place in Lesce at the Gorenjska Beekeeping Education Centre. Expect cookery demonstrations, workshop, honey and honey products to try and buy, and something for all the family.

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OCTOBER

Even if there are no major events, there’s no shortage of things to see and do. For example, every first Saturday in the month visit the Farmer’s Market at Vila Podvin, where you can meet local suppliers and buy and taste their produce and products. Following the market, why not stay on for lunch prepared using ingredients sold at the market, and cooked by one of Slovenia’s top chefs, Uroš Štefelin.

Every first Sunday in the month a flea market takes place in Linhart Square, Radovljica (or in the Radovljica Mansion in the event of rain).

Or how about attending one of the regular evenings with the Avsenik House Ensemble in Begunje na Gorenjskem, the home of Slovenian folk music.

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NOVEMBER

It’s time to TASTE RADOL’CA – yippee! For the whole month of November the talented chefs at all the participating  Taste Radol’ca restaurants – of which last year there were 13 – rustle up amazing 3- or 4-course menus available a set price (last year €16). The opening and closing events are always a sell-out too. Taste Radol’ca goes from strength-to-strength each year, so I’m confident that 2017 will definitely be something not to miss!

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DECEMBER

The festive season has come round again, which means its time for the Advent Market, Christmas concerts, street entertainment and plenty more festive fun! The old town centre always looks particularly magical at this time of year.

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Of course, this is just a selection of the events taking place in the Radovljica area, but I hope it has at least whetted your appetite to include Radovljica on your list of places to visit this year!

© Adele in Slovenia

Valvasorjev dom – The Best Mountain Hut in Slovenia 2016

The Radovljica Mountain Association was founded in 1895 and is one of the oldest and most active mountain associations in Slovenia. As with the many other mountain associations throughout Slovenia, it carries out numerous activities, including training for mountain guidesguided hikesmanaging and maintaining mountain huts, and maintenance and marking of mountain trails.

Each association manages a number of mountain huts/shelters/lodges, the majority being in the immediate surroundings, whilst others can be in an entirely different part of the country. For example, the Radovljica Mountain Association manages three huts; Roblekov dom, Pogačnikov Dom na Kriški podih and Valvarsorjev dom. Just last week the latter was awarded, for the 2nd time in 3 years, the title of ‘Best Mountain Hut’.

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Valvarsorjev dom – Photo: PD Radovljica

Valvasorjev dom stands beneath Stol, the highest mountain in the Karavanke range, and on the terrace of the south slopes of Belščica. It is a favourite destination for locals and is also an excellent venue for organised meetings, courses, camps, or school nature trips. The hut has been entirely renovated and has well-equipped sleeping, sanitary and washing areas as well as central heating, running water, showers, radio and mobile connection.

For some, Valvarsorjev dom is a destination in itself. It can be reached from the Završnica valley in less than a hour on the marked trail, whilst for others it is a start point for hiking to Stol. You can also visit the Ajdna archeological site (read more here https://adeleinslovenia.com/2016/06/20/a-sunny-saturday-on-ajdna/).

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Or continue to one of the many highlands beneath Stol. As you can see below, there are plenty of options!

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One of the reasons that Valvasorjev dom is so popular, is that it is one of just a few mountain huts that is open year-round. It is also equally popular during winter with hikers, sledgers (conditions permitting) and off-piste skiers.

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However, that alone is certainly not enough to win the title, it is the friendliness of the team that run it, headed up by Aleš Štefe, as well as the excellent home-cooked food. Everything is made onsite, and one thing I find particularly impressive, is that since Aleš took over running the hut, they have not bought even one single loaf of bread, preferring instead of make their own. There are always a wide range of sweet and savoury dishes on offer such as soups, stews, štruklji, and award-winning strudel.

 Below you can find more information from the Radovljica Mountain Association about access and onward tours from Valvarsorjev dom.

Starting Point and Access:

Moste pri Žirovnici – Završnica – Valvasorjev dom (8km)

Završnica – Valvasorjev dom (1.15h)

Tours from Valvasorjev dom:

Žirovniška planina highland – Stol (2.30h)

Žirovniška planina highland – Zabreška planina highland – Stol (2.45h)

Potoški stol (via Potoška planina – 2h)

Vajnež – via Potoška planina (2.30h)

Ajdna Archeological Site (30min)

Onward routes to other huts:

Prešeren Hut (Prešernova koča) on Stol (3h or 3.30h)

Roblekov dom on Begunjščica (2.30h)

Planinski dom on Zelenici via the Lower Route (3.30h)

Dom Pristava on Javorniški Rovt (2.30h)

© Adele in Slovenia

 

 

Laško: A Festival of Beer, Blooms and More!

Laško is synonymous with beer, and, with it, the annual Beer and Blooms Festival (Pivo in Cvetje).

Though Laško beer is widely known, some perhaps might not even realise that Laško isn’t merely the name of a beer, it’s also a thriving, compact town – and a lovely one it is too! Laško is located just a 10 minute drive from Slovenia’s 3rd city, Celje, and is easily reached by taking the Celje exit of the Ljubljana-Maribor motorway. The town is also well connected by public transport, with fairly frequent trains from Ljubljana taking under 1.5 hours.

The best place to start a visit to Laško is at the tourist information centre, which occupies a prime position at the entrance to the town in ‘Trg Svobode’. The centre stocks a very comprehensive selection of souvenirs, beer-related or otherwise (I bought chocolate made with beer!), organises brewery tours (only offered for groups but even if you are alone, as I was, the centre will try to arrange for you to join another group), and offers bike rental, as well as an extensive range of information on what to see and do in the town and its surroundings. More information here – http://www.stik-lasko.si/en/

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The Black Bridge, situated at the outflow of the Žikovca stream

Now, back to the beer! Beer drinkers in Slovenia usually belong to one of two groups, the ‘reds’ or the ‘greens’! The ‘red’ refers to Union beer – the brewery is based in Ljubljana, whilst the ‘green’ refers to Laško.

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Laško beer dates back to 1825 when, Franz Geyer, a local producer of mead and gingerbread, founded the brewery, originally located in the Valvasorjev Spital building in the town centre, which is now a hotel. Geyer was later joined by the entrepreneur and developer Simon Kukec. Through the years the brewery has endured wars and economic crises, but has always managed to survive and even thrive. In 1944, when the factory was bombed, it was soon returned to its former glory and production restarted the following year.

Laško was the number one beer in the former Yugoslavia, which had a population of 22 million, and at the height of its popularity in the 1990s it was annually producing over a million hectolitres, with its beer being exported as far as India. Since Slovenia’s independence in 1991, and later the financial crisis, times have been tough for many of Slovenia’s companies, with many falling by the wayside, however, not withstanding a change of ownership, the Laško brewery has continued unhindered.

For many, a tour of the Laško brewery is high on the list of things to see and do, especially since, at the end of the tour, a tasting session is included! I can’t pretend to be a beer drinker, but that didn’t stop me going on a factory tour anyway! Brewery tours last around 2.5 hours, cost 8 euros, and include a visit to the Laško Museum, a guided tour of the brewery and a beer tasting session with savoury snacks.

You can get up close and personal with the ‘King of Beer’.

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Technology in the factory means that the production process is far-removed from days gone-by. During my tour I could count on one hand the number of employees I saw as everything is automated. The actual recipe and ingredients, however, have remained largely unchanged. A case of ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t try to fix it!’

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For a special treat visit the restaurant in Tabor Castle. The castle sits atop a small hill just immediately above the town centre. The castle is thought to date back to the 12th century, was razed to the ground by the Turks in 1487, and for the ensuing two centuries it remained in ruins. It was finally bought and restored by the Laško brewery in the mid-1980s. Today is houses an incredibly cute, teeny, not to mention popular, wedding hall (with the emphasis being on ‘teeny’ rather than ‘hall’!), and a fine-dining restaurant.

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For a special treat visit the Pavus restaurant, within the castle, which is ranked as one of the top 15 restaurants in Slovenia and one of the Jeunes Restaurateurs of Europe.

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There are plenty of walking and hiking paths in the immediate vicinity. A good way to get your bearings is to take a gentle stroll alongside the Savinja river. The small, well-kept city park, with a play area for children and abstract sculptures, is a nice place to linger in fine weather.

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Just a couple of kilometres from Laško in the hamlet of Strmca I visited the Šolar beekeepers, where for over 30 years the owners have been keeping bees and producing ‘Lectar‘ – otherwise known as decorated gingerbread, most often in the shape of a heart. Visitors can also experience the benefits of apitherapy. Their honey biscuits (medenjaki) are award-winning and I was treated to a sample together with some delicious honey liqueur.

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Now, getting back to the Beer and Blooms Festival. This year’s event will take place on 14th – 17th July.

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It actually started out as just a local flower festival, but was later, from 1965 onwards, expanded to include live music, fireworks, parades, exhibitions, and, of course, beer!

Over 135,000 people visited the 2015 festival and 250,000 jugs of beer were consumed. Not quite on a par with the Oktoberfest, but in Slovenian terms this is a pretty major ‘Don’t Miss’ event, and the bonus is that the beer is a fraction of the cost of that in Munich!

The highlight of the event, and that which draws the largest crowds, is the spectacular firework display on Saturday evening, which can last up to half-an-hour.

As with all good festivals, camping is embraced and a special area is set up for tents. Those looking for more comfortable accommodation can stay at the one of the Thermana Laško hotels. The Wellness Park hotel has a thermal centre with indoor and outdoor pools and retractable glass dome, a modern sauna and wellness centre and several restaurants and cafes. More here – http://bit.ly/1qdgmX1

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© Adele in Slovenia

Spas, Caves, Eats and Other Rainy (and Not So Rainy) Day Ideas!

Anyone visiting Slovenia in the last fortnight might be forgiven for thinking it rains here a lot! Please be reassured, however, that this much rain in June is not the norm. In the 9+ years I’ve been living here, I don’t think I can remember such a prolonged period of wet weather at this time of year. It really is turning out to be a strange year, weather-wise. After having very little snow during winter, we then had snow in late-April, and now, in the second-half of May and early June, it seems to be April! It’s been either raining torrentially or the clouds have been looming ominously, making it frustratingly difficult to go anywhere too far from home.

The good news is that it’s set to improve soon, just a couple more days of these storms then hot, dry weather is headed our way, yippee! In the meantime, I thought I’d share some of my ideas for how to spend rainy, as well as not so rainy, days in the Radovljica area and elsewhere in Slovenia.

VISIT A SPA

It doesn’t matter what the weather is doing outside if you are inside getting wet anyway! All of Slovenia’s thermal spas feature indoor and outdoor pools, saunas, jacuzzis and modern wellness facilities, offering something for all the family. You can read plenty more about spas and the facilities here and read some insider tips from me, here – https://spasinslovenia.com/

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DELVE INTO THE MAGICAL UNDERWORLD IN CAVES

A visit to one Slovenia’s caves, such as Postojna Caves or the UNESCO-listed Škocjan Caves, is ideal whatever the weather. There are over 9,000 caves in Slovenia, though only a small number of these are open to the public. The temperature in the caves is constant year-round so it really doesn’t matter if its snowing or there’s a heat-wave! All of the caves are fascinating and unique, and the current phenomena of the newly-hatched ‘baby dragons’ at Postojna Caves provides an additional reason to visit. Read more here – https://adeleinslovenia.com/2016/06/01/the-phenomenal-postojna-proteus-phenomena/

Underground river Pivka in Postojna Cave_photo Iztok Medja for Postojnska jama

VISIT, TASTE & DRINK RADOVLJICA

Rainy days always bring an influx of visitors to the Radovljica area as the small town packs in quite a few sights of interest. You can visit the Lectar Gingerbread Workshop, the Museum of Apiculture, the Šivec House Gallery, and the Beekeeping Education Centre of Gorenjska. More here – http://www.radolca.si/en/

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I don’t know about you, but this miserable weather makes me want to eat, eat, and then eat some more! The participating Taste Radol’ca restaurants all offer home-cooked, and locally sourced and produced food. Or why not visit the Sodček Wine Bar for a wine tasting session. More here – https://adeleinslovenia.com/taste-radolca/

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LISTEN TO SLOVENE FOLK MUSIC AT AVSENIK

Visit Avsenik in Begunje na Gorenjskem – home to the world-renowned legendary Avsenik music – a popular style of folk music. There are regular live events, festivals and workshops, and you can also visit the gallery and museum. More here – http://www.avsenik.com/en

TAKE IN SOME CULTURE AT SUMMER MUSEUM NIGHT

There are hundreds of museums and galleries in Slovenia and a lot of attention is placed on culture and cultural-related events and activities. Next Saturday, 18th June, is Summer Museum Night, when, from 6pm until midnight, museums and galleries throughout the country offer free entrance and host special events. More information here – http://www.tms.si/PMN/?page_id=67

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GO SHOPPING

Admittedly, I’m not a fan of shopping, particularly large shopping centres and especially when on holiday in a place where the great outdoors is so ‘great!’ So when I say ‘shopping’ I don’t mean traipsing round clothes shops, and getting hot, bothered and irritated in changing rooms (or is that just me?). Instead, when on holiday, I prefer to browse craft shops, visit local markets, buy and try local produce, and try to find unique buys. I particularly like foodie events such as Odprta Kuhna (Open Kitchen), which takes place every Friday (weather permitting) in Ljubljana. Closer to home at Vila Podvin in Mošnje a market takes place on the first Saturday of every month from 9am-noon, come rain or shine. You can meet local producers, buy food and non-food goods, and enjoy a delicious lunch cooked by one of Slovenia’s top chefs, Uroš Štefelin. More information here – http://www.vilapodvin.si/events

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I hope to have provided some ideas and inspiration, after all, the weather may mean some plans have to curtailed but there’s always plenty more to see and do until the next sunny day comes along!

© Adele in Slovenia

 

 

Birthdays in Slovenia

On the whole, birthday celebrations in Slovenia at not dissimilar to the birthday celebrations I was used to in the UK, and probably those in countless other countries. The birthday girl/boy might celebrate with friends and/or family, invite people round or go out for a drink and/or a meal and those with birthdays in the summer often have a picnic or barbeque.

However, the one big difference, and one which I’m still at odds with, even after having now celebrated 10 birthdays since moving to Slovenia, is that the one whose birthday it is has to arrange AND pay for whatever the celebration is! Now, this isn’t by any means a question or money, it’s just, for me at least, the principle that it should be the one day in the year that the birthday girl/boy is made to feel special and doesn’t have to run around preparing everything and paying for it too!

So, this year I was particularly delighted when a friend, who knows my feelings on this subject – and knowing I would otherwise be alone and would no doubt spend the day working, offered to organise my birthday celebration. We started with a lovely spread and a few sherries!

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Followed by a delicious Hersheys chocolate cake – minus the Hersheys!

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Later we drove to Kranj to watch our friend, Tanja Jamnik – President of the Musica Viva Choir, perform with the choir for their 70th anniversary concert. The hall was jam-packed, with standing room only at the back and it was lovely to see such appreciation of good music and recognition of the choir’s significant achievements throughout the years.

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Musica Viva, which currently comprises 37 singers, has performed as far afield as Argentina and the USA, as well as scores of concerts in Europe, and has won a host of awards. More information here – http://www.musicaviva.si/

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As someone who has moved over 30 times, from country to country and home to home, it has always been difficult to make, and maintain real friends. Having finally found my ‘home’ in Slovenia I have really learnt to appreciate such occasions, so, thank you Neda, Emilija, Jana, Tanja and Anja for a lovely evening. Perhaps the idea of making the birthday girl/boy feel special might even catch on!!!

This coming weekend Market Day, the main event of this year’s International Ceramics Festival in Radovljica, will take place on Saturday 28th May from 10am – 7pm. More than 20 ceramists will be exhibiting and selling their works in Radovljica’s historic old town centre.

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More information here – http://www.radolca.si/en/what-to-do/events-1/radovljica-international-ceramics-festival/83/385/

© Adele in Slovenia

 

 

A Feast of Festivals in Radovljica

Linhart Square, named after the Slovenian playwright and historian Anton Tomaž Linhart, is the hub of Radovljica’s cultural scene. A whole host of events take place in the square throughout the year, including:

  • The annual Chocolate Festival – April
  • The International Ceramics Festival – May
  • Summer Music Evenings – June & July
  • The Early Music Festival – August
  • Medieval Days – August
  • Advent Market – December

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The Baroque Radovljica Mansion hosts concerts all year round, featuring national and international choirs, bands, and the very popular annual Early Music Festival, as well as being home to the Museum of Apiculture and the Municipal Museum.

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Šivec Houseivčeva hisa) stands out amongst the town houses and is regarded as one of the finest examples of medieval burgher architecture in the whole of Slovenia. The façade of the house is dominated by a 17th century fresco depicting the Creation of Eve.

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Šivec House is a bourgeois house from the middle of the 16th century of late Gothic architecture. After restoration in 1976 all of the houses’s original beauty was uncovered including the façade as well as the interior with a collonaded entrance hall, kitchen and granary, and, on the first floor, a representation of living quarters. Nowadays, this room, with its extraordinary ambiance, serves as a wedding hall, and the collonaded entrance hall houses as an art gallery.

The gallery on the ground floor hosts rotating exhibitions (on average 10 per year), whilst the upper floor houses a permanent collection of original illustrations and another room is used as a venue for civil wedding ceremonies.

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The next new exhibition, Modern German Ceramics, will open on 29th April, with the opening ceremony at 7pm, and run until 29th May.

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More details about Radovljica’s museums and the Šivec House Gallery, including opening times and admission prices, can be found here – http://mro.si/english/ and more about Radovljica here – http://www.radolca.si/en/

© AdeleinSlovenia 2016

The Four Seasons of Spring!

Last week we really did have all the four seasons within the space of four days. It began with a few snowflakes on Wednesday morning, which later became heavy snowfall,  and certainly made a bit of a mockery of last week’s blog entitled ‘Spring in the Karavanke’. It’s now anything but spring in the Karavanke!

Though it had been forecast that it could snow in places at around the 700 metre level, Radovljica, where I live, is at 496m, so no-one, forecasters included, was quite expecting the snow to reach the valley – and certainly not so much of it – considering the previous week we had had temperatures in the twenties.

So this is what spring in the Karavanke now looks like!

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It wasn’t just in Gorenjska in the north-west of Slovenia either, it also snowed in other lower-lying regions of the country. I spent 2 days in Dolenjska, in the south-east, and it even snowed there too.

Hiking at the moment isn’t advisable as the late-spring snow is very wet and heavy, and has caused a lot of damage with branches and trees down, whilst the danger of avalanches is at level 4 – the highest level being 5. Instead however, those who are die-hard fans of winter and skiing once again took to the slopes as the Vogel ski resort re-opened for the extended holiday weekend.

On Saturday it was a return to temperatures of 18 degrees and the valley was bathed in sunshine and the Sava river at Radovljica was looking its sparkling best when I went for an early morning walk.

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However, it was a different matter when I got into the forest as I tried, and in places failed, to pick my way under and over fallen trees on the path up to Talež. It’s amazing the devastation just 24 hours of snow caused – more than in the whole of last winter.

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I was amazed and saddened at the number of fallen trees and branches, almost reminiscent of the damage caused by the glaze ice two winters ago, though, thankfully, nowhere near to that extent.

Some trees, such as this one below, had literally been torn apart under the weight of the heavy snow.

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It’s been over 20 years since there has been such heavy snowfall this late in the year, so this prompted me to try and uncover some historical snowy spring facts:

  • In 1907 40cm of snow fell on 29th April in Bohinjska Bistrica
  • In 1974 in Nomenj it snowed on the 10th of June
  • In 1985 it snowed on 3rd May
  • In 1988 it snowed on 24th April
  • The earliest snowfall of the year was recorded in 1972 on 11th September in Kotlje

Unfortunately it has also caused a huge amount of damage to crops and vines – in places its reported that up to 90% have been destroyed. This year’s honey production is also expected to be severely affected. Over one-third of honey produced in Slovenia is acacia honey, and a large number of the blooms have been destroyed. It’s all such a shame and another reminder of the equal wonders and cruelty of nature.

Roll on summer!!!

© Adele in Slovenia