Sports and Entertainment at the Završnica Recreation Park

The Završnica Recreation Park, with its reservoir, trim trail, and beautiful backdrop of the Karavanke mountains, is a great place to visit whether you want to be mega active, moderately active, or to just chill! The park, and the entire Završnica valley, offers something for everyone, and even more so last weekend at the ‘Day of Sport and Entertainment‘.

The day included a chance to try out activities including climbing, beach volleyball, 9-pin skittles, football, summer sledging and more.

Live music contributed to the fun atmosphere, too!

Some of the activities are available throughout the year, such as a children’s playground, horse riding, and a trim trail, where, on the latter, you can test your strength and balance…

…of which it seems I have neither!

There’s no shortage of hiking, cycling and mountain bike trails. in the valley and the surrounding peaks of the Karavanke mountains.

If all these activities aren’t your cup of tea, or if/when you’ve had your fill of being active, head for the Zavrh bar, where you can sit beside the Završnica stream, enjoy a cup of something hot or a glass or something chilled, or even have a light meal (burgers, stews, salads etc.).

It is possible to hire the entire sports park, or part of it (e.g. the volleyball court, football pitch) for private events, school groups, team building events, etc., which includes an area for picnics/barbecues, plus sports activities and ample parking, and there are also organised school summer camps.

For further information and prices contact TVD Partizan or the Žirovnica Institute for Tourism and Culture.

But it’s not just summer, there’s fun to be had in the Završnica valley during winter too, so it’s a real year-round leisure destination!

© Adele in Slovenia

Visit Tržič: MINFOS and the St. Anne Mine

The Tržič area is known to be one of the most fascinating areas of Slovenia in geological terms.

MINFOS is an annual 2-day exhibition of minerals and fossils, which, together with the Dolina Exhibition and Education Centre* and some fascinating geological trails, showcases the area’s rich geological treasures. The exhibition is held in the Tržič Olympians Arena (the red-roofed building just out of sight to the left of building in the foreground below) in the heart of the picturesque old town.

The event unites visitors and exhibitors from far and wide, from those with a specific interest in minerals and fossils wanting to enrich their knowledge by viewing specialised exhibits, talking to experts, and/or attending creative and educational workshops, to those who just want to take a look and/or maybe treat themselves or their loved ones to some new jewellery or other gifts.

There is a fascinating array of exhibits of almost every shape, colour and size imaginable…

…and you wouldn’t believe how heavy some of them are, despite the relatively small size!

Although this year’s MINFOS took place last weekend – hence its too late to visit this year – you can instead visit the Dolina Exhibition and Education Centre in the hamlet of Dolina located along the valley of the Dovžan gorge** (Dovžanova soteska), just over 3 kilometres northeast of Tržič.

At the centre you can find out more about the picturesque valley that was carved out by the Tržič Bistrica river which laid bare the most complete sequence of rocks from the younger Paleozoic period, ranging in age from 300 to 260 million years.

As part of MINFOS, visitors are offered guided tours of the Dovžan gorge and the St. Anne mine (Šentanski rudnik) I chose to visit the latter. Guided tours can also be arranged at other times via the Tržič Tourist Information Centre.

Whilst in the past Idrija was the hub of Slovenia’s mercury mining industry, a number of miners from Idrija also came to work at the mine at Podljubelj. Regular production of cinnabar began at the mine in 1975 but ceased just a quarter of a century later in 1902 due to the low amount of mercury in the ore. A total of about 110,000 tonnes of ore and almost 300 tonnes of mercury were obtained from the mine.

Our incredibly knowledgeable guide, Luka, enlightened us about the history of the mine. At the end of the 19th century, 75 miners worked at the mine, of which 24 were women. But I won’t divulge all the details and spoil the surprise, instead why not take a tour and see it for yourself!

The tour begins by passing the entrance to the 450 metre-long Avgust mine, which served as a service route.

The Friderik mine was the main export tunnel for tailings.

The Anton mine, which was the most rich in ore and was thus also the most mined, is the only part that is open for visitors on the tour. Before entering we donned hard hats and were given torches, then we were off…into the unknown!

Luka told us many more fascinating facts, demonstrated the depth of the deepest shaft – approx. 35 metres, and pointed out the traces of cinnabar that can still be seen on the walls of the mine as well as beneath foot.

It is a bit nippy in there, so be sure to wrap up well – regardless of the weather outdoors – but it’s certainly worth it for a glimpse into part of Tržič’s history.

© Adele in Slovenia

* In fine weather the Dolina Exhibition and Education Centre is open from May until the end of October at weekends and on public holidays from 11am to 6pm, and at other times by prior arrangement.

** Due to extensive flooding in April this year, part of the path through the Dovžan gorge is closed, but rest assured, once it is open again I will be blogging about that too!

Picerija pri Daretu, Žirovnica – My Go-To (and gluten-free) Pizza Place!

It will come as no surprise to regular readers of my blog when I say that I have always enjoyed eating out. Not just for the food itself but also for a change of scenery; working at home has many advantages, but when one’s home is also one’s office – and hence the place you spend the most time – going out becomes even more of a treat.

However, having recently been diagnosed with coeliac disease, I now find myself in a kind of period of ‘mourning’ for all the delicious things that, literally overnight, have become off limits for me. And then there was the realisation that a lot of my blogs are also food-related, so how am I going to square blogging with coeliac disease. Therefore, I was more than delighted when I discovered that Picerija pri Daretu in Selo pri Žirovnici offers gluten-free pizzas, and good ones too!

My first taste of gluten-free pizza in a local pizzeria was, well, a total disaster; it was barely big enough to feed a small child and the dough was all-but raw. So, to be honest, I wasn’t holding out my hope. But, what a revelation, this places does excellent pizzas – the regular kind and the gluten-free ones too – my ‘pizza partner’ for the evening confirmed that his regular (gluten-full!) pizza was also delicious!

It can’t be denied that, from the outside at least, Picerija pri Daretu doesn’t look like a pizzeria per se, and one could easily pass by without noticing it, in fact, I confess that I have been past hundreds of times without giving it much thought. However, as well all know, looks can be deceptive, and, from now on, this will definitely be my ‘go-to’ pizza place!

I got lucky as, following a week of unseasonably cool and wet weather, on Friday afternoon the skies suddenly brightened and it was even warm enough to sit outside and soak up the view!

So, I took the opportunity to ask the owner, Darko Noč, a bit more about the pizzeria and how, and why, he and his team decided to offer gluten-free pizzas.

He told me that since taking over the pizzeria around five years, there has been a noticeable increase in requests for gluten-free pizzas. Therefore, around two years ago the team decided to find out more and undertook some education about the requirements. They then spent the next two years or so perfecting a recipe for gluten-free dough and, as you can see below, it actually looks like – and tastes – like a regular pizza! And, trust me, anyone who has tried gluten-free pizza or bread will know that producing something like this is a major achievement!

And the salads are pretty good too!

I should stress, however, for those with severe symptoms of coeliac (fortunately I’m not among them), as the pizzeria is only small, they do not have a separate area for preparing gluten-free food, so those worried about cross-contamination should chat to the friendly team if they are unsure.

Picerija pri Daretu is open daily from 11am – 10pm, oh and, by the way, they offer delivery too, yippee! And for gluten-free pizzas, it’s recommended that you call in advance as the dough is made fresh to order and therefore takes a little longer to prepare. Click here for more information about this, and other places to eat in the Žirovnica area.

If you want to work up an appetite prior to eating, or even burn off some calories after your meal, I recommend the short hike up to St. Lawrence’s church (725m). There are a number of paths to reach the church, one of which starts almost opposite the pizzeria from where you can follow the road up through the village, past St. Cantius’ church, then follow the sign (to the right) for sv. Lovrenc.

A church was first built here during the time of the Turkish invasions, but was later abandoned in 1821 when a new parish church was built in the village of Breznica. In the 1990s volunteers built a new church on the foundations of the original one.

A particular feature of the church is its presbytery which has painted pictures of the flowers that are found in the area surrounding the church.

On the outside wall there is an unusual mosaic of St. Christopher.

The path to the church is just one of the 16 trails included in the new map of hiking and mountain bike trails in the Žirovnica area, which you download here or pick up a copy (available in Slovene and English) at the Žirovnica Tourist Information Centre in Čop’s House (Čopova hiša).

© Adele in Slovenia

Hiking in Žirovnica: The Turkish Cave

The Turkish Cave (Turška jama) is located at an altitude of 835m above the Završnica valley. The name of the cave derives from when, many centuries ago, women and children retreated to the cave to seek refuge from Turkish invaders.

The path to the cave is just one of the 16 trails included in the new map of hiking and mountain bike trails in the Žirovnica area, which you download here or pick up a copy (available in Slovene and English) at the Žirovnica Tourist Information Centre in Čop’s House (Čopova hiša).

The trail begins at the car park at the Završnica reservoir, which is a very popular place among locals either for just chilling or as a starting point for numerous hiking and cycling trips in the Završnica valley and the surrounding Karavanke mountains, or, of course, both, i.e. first hike or bike, then chill!

Set off along the gravel road towards the Valvasorjev dom mountain hut, where, after cca. 1 kilometre, you will reach a sharp left turn. There is a rest area and a sign showing the path towards the Turška jama cave.

From the sign it takes just 5-10 minutes to ascend through the forest to the cave.

The cave has two entrances, is 18 metres long and 2 metres deep.

The view from the cave is somewhat obstructed by trees…

…so it’s worth venturing (carefully!) a few metres further…

…where you a richly rewarded for your efforts with fabulous views.

You can also extend your trip by visiting the Valvasorjev dom mountain hut – three times the winner in recent years of the title of ‘Slovenia’s Best Mountain Hut’ – or you can even continue to Stol, the ‘top’ of the Karavanke!

© Adele in Slovenia

Discovering the Taste(s) of Žirovnica – Gostišče Osvald

Regular readers of my blog will know that I have written numerous posts about the fantastic hiking opportunities the Žirovnica area offers, among them an ascent of Stol, the highest mountain in the Karavanke range. And now, since all hungry hikers (as well as cyclists and those pursuing other active pursuits) need plenty of sustenance and a ‘reward’ for their efforts, I have now set about delving more deeply into what is on offer at Žirovnica’s restaurants and inns – all in the name of research, of course!

So, let’s begin with a popular and traditional Slovenian restaurant – Gostišče Osvald, which is located on the main road through Žirovnica in the hamlet of Selo pri Žirovnici and is the oldest restaurant in the area.

One of my desires when writing such blogs is to try and uncover and share with readers any particular dishes that are a real speciality of a particular restaurant or area. Hence I left it to owner Anže to dish me up his specialties!

I hit gold with this giant buckwheat ‘krap’! ‘Krapi’ are usually smaller, individual dumplings, filled with curd cheese. This giant one, however, has a small amount of yeast mixed into the buckwheat dough to allow it to rise, is filled with a mixture of curd cheese and millet, and topped with pork crackling – ingenious and delicious!

Another speciality of the Žirovnica area is buckwheat with porcini mushrooms. It’s not dissimilar to a mushroom risotto, albeit it with grains of buckwheat instead of rice, with onion, herbs and sour cream to finish. It can be a hearty and filling dish on its own or a side dish.

Served together with a roast, I left fit to burst!

Anže then showed me around the other parts of the deceptively large building, which features two additional rooms for functions.

The restaurant was built in the mid-19th century. In bygone days there was a barn next door for the horses of horsemen who stopped in Selo pri Žirovnici on their onward travels and stayed in rooms above the barn.

Today you too can stay there – though above the restaurant rather than in the barn! – in the recently refurbished attic rooms, which are simple but make a bargain place to stay and ideal base for exploring the area.

Gostišče Osvald is in close proximity to Čopova hisa (Čop’s House), the birth house of Matija Čop, the first Slovenian philologist, literary historian and librarian, one of the greatest European scholars of his time and a good friend and mentor of France Prešeren.

His birth house is now also home to the Žirovnica Tourist Information Centre as well as the Ajdna Museum Room, featuring an exhibition of artefacts found during archeological excavations at Ajdna. Read more about hiking to Ajdna in one of my previous blog posts.

Also close by is the Avenue of Famous Men, located in front of the primary school in Žirovnica, and part of the Žirovnica Path of Cultural Heritage. You can take a horse and cart ride along the path every fourth Saturday in the month from March to October.

The ‘avenue’ features bust statues of five of the most famous and influential men from the Žirovnica area –Anton Janša, France Prešeren, Fran Saleški Finžgar, Janez Jalen and Matija Čop.

Click here for more information about what to see and do in Žirovnica and here for more about what, and where, to taste Žirovnica, and keep an eye out for more ‘tasty’ blogs to come too!

© 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

A Spectrum of Sports and Culture Beneath Stol!

Stol, the highest mountain in the Karavanke range, which presides majestically over the Žirovnica area, together with the villages that lie beneath it, offer a whole spectrum of sporting activities with something for everyone – from challenging hikes to summits and family-friendly meanders along the many mountain pastures, to horse riding, cycling, running and even an adrenaline-filled zipline over the Sava Dolinka river.

Zipline Dolinka is a new, exciting way to get some adrenaline whilst marvelling at the stunning scenery around and below you. Its 5 cables offer a total of 2,371 metres of descent over the Sava Dolinka river.

For those who prefer to have both feet on solid ground, the Žirovnica area offers walks and hikes for all the family.

For example, if you looking for a more level walk, you could drive the 5km mountain road up to the Valvasorjev dom mountain hut and then set off on foot, first passing the Žirovniška planina mountain pasture and then on to one of my favourite spots – the Zabreška planina mountain pasture.

Though not an official mountain hut, in fine weather at weekends you may be able to get refreshments at the pasture hut, where you can take a seat on the wonderful, unique wooden furniture and soak up the views!

Kids – big and small – will love it too!

You can even continue further to the Doslovška planina mountain pasture and towards the Dom pri Izviru Završnice mountain hut, which I wrote about in a previous blog here.

Those wanting more challenging hikes are well catered for too, with trails to the summit of Stol itself, as well as, among others, to the Valvasorjev dom mountain hut and the Ajdna Archaelogical Site. Find more information here about this and other hikes in the Žirovnica area.

For those that like running, why not take part in the popular ‘Run Under the Free Sun‘ (Tek pod svobodnim soncem) on Saturday 1st September. The 10.7km route, which begins at 10am, leads past the important sights along the Path of Cultural Heritage. There are also shorter 200m, 400m, 600m and 900m routes, beginning at 9am, for children. Hurry with your registrations by 28th August. Find more here about this event and running in the Žirovnica area.

Cyclists are also well catered for in the Žirovnica area. From short, easy rides on the flat Imperial Road, and along the Path of Cultural Heritage, to longer, more challenging rides in the Završnica valley and onwards to the numerous mountain pastures beneath Stol. More information and route descriptions can be found here.

So, as you can see, there really is something for everyone and lovers of sports, culture and, not forgetting, beekeeping, should make a beeline for Žirovnica! There’s a fair chance you will find me there on my bike or on foot too!

© Adele in Slovenia