Summit Stol and Take a Seat Atop the Karavanke!

If I crane my neck, I can see Stol, the highest mountain in the Karavanke range, from my desk. Thus, it’s an ever-present feature in my life and, accordingly so, I can’t resist hiking to its top at least a couple of times per year, and yesterday it was time for the first hike to the summit this year!

The word ‘stol’ in Slovenian means ‘chair’, since when viewed from its western side (not the side I can see from here!), its summit forms a kind of ‘back’ for the flatter slightly lower summit which is home to the Prešernova koča mountain hut.

At 2,236 metres, Stol, along with the other mountains in the Karavanke range, forms a natural border between Slovenia and Austria, hence, on a clear day, there are always stunning views to be had in all directions.

Though quite a large percentage of those who hike to the summit of Stol do so by driving the 5km forest road to the Valvasorjev dom mountain hut and from there setting off on foot, I always opt to do the entire hike from the valley, as otherwise it just feels a bit like cheating to me!

After parking at the Završnica reservoir, I set off on the first part of the trail to the Valvasorjev dom hut (cca. 50 mins) from where, as you can see below, there are numerous paths leading in various directions.

Regular readers will know that I have a penchant for circular walks, and this time was no exception! I took the shorter, steeper Žirovniška pot (Žirovnica path) up, and the longer, less steep Zabreška pot (Zabreznica path) down, which is always my preferred route.

If you are feeling somewhat gallant, you might opt to not walk past the pile of logs without putting one in your rucksack or on your shoulder – the staff at the Prešernova koca mountain hut will be very grateful for your assistance in keeping the stove burning! Whether or not I was gallant enough to carry one up or not, I will leave you to decide!

It was somewhat overcast for the majority of the hike up, the story of this ‘summer’, but in actual fact a bit of cloud cover was welcome on the long, steep hike up, and on reaching the top, the clouds majestically began to part to reveal blue skies and warming sunshine, and, for a change, it wasn’t blowing a gale up there, as can so often be the case!

Before the final ascent to the top, the path leads up a steep stony gully, from where there is a real bird’s eye view of the Upper Sava Valley and the Julian Alps in the background. The path is distinct and well-marked throughout.

As you reach the summit, you will notice that the typical red and white Slovenian markers change to red and white with a green outer circle, denoting that the path is on the border with Austria – always a kind of exciting feeling, even after 11 years here!

It took me just over 3hrs 15 minutes to reach the summit. And, as is the tradition, don’t forget to sign the visitors’ book as you take your ‘seat’ at the top of the Karavanke!

Once at the top, among the magnificent sights, you can see Lake Bled on one side, whilst on the other Lake Worthersee in Klagenfurt.

You won’t be alone, since even if there aren’t many other hikers (on Sunday, there were!), there are always some brazen birds that don’t seem in the slightest bit scared of humans as they sit in wait for some tasty tit bits!

After descending from the summit, there was time for a quick bit of sustenance at the Prešernova koca mountain hut, where there is simple, but tasty mountain-type food and refreshments on offer, a(nother) visitors’ book to sign, and then it was time to begin the descent – more about which you can read in my next blog about the myriad of mountain pastures beneath Stol, coming soon…!

Click here for the Visit Žirovnica website where there is more information about this and other hiking trails in the Žirovnica area.

© Adele in Slovenia

Srednji Vrh: Seeking the Sun and a Stream in the Karavanke!

This ‘summer’ – not that it can really be called that thus far – hasn’t been kind to us outdoor types. This time last year we were basking in 35 degrees, whilst a week ago we had temperatures half that, and since the start of June there have only been a couple of days when there hasn’t been rain somewhere in Slovenia.

Thus, trying to find days with clear blue skies for hiking and getting some good snaps for my blog have been few and far between. Fed up with waiting, I just went anyway, and, though not as gloriously sunny as I would have liked, I managed to get in a good hike in the Karavanke mountains to Srednji vrh and the Dom pri izviru Završnice (mountain hut at the source of the Završnica stream) – and even stayed dry too!

Despite the less sunny photos, I hope you, nonetheless, enjoy this glimpse into just one of the many fantastic hikes in the Karavanke mountains in the Žirovnica area. Join me on my trip to see the source of the Završnica stream and Srednji vrh!

I started my hike from the Završnica valley. How far you go by car is a matter of choice – some choose to drive as far as possible along the valley, whilst I prefer to leave the car and set off on foot along the gravel road. You will want to stop and admire the reservoir (seen below on a sunnier day!), but if you have transport, then do continue along the valley further before parking, as its a long walk from here.

From here the road gets much rougher and it’s best to set off on foot. The area, with its many mountain pastures, is also popular for mountain biking.

The road rises gradually to reach the Tinčkova koca hut, which isn’t actually an official mountain hut, rather a private hut, but somehow the name has stuck!

The Dom pri izviru Završnice hut. which was recently renovated and has new beds and furniture, is situated at an altitude of 1425m above the Smokuč mountain pasture (Smokuška planina) and on the backside of the Zelenica ski piste (sadly, no longer operational).

The hut is open from 1st June to 1st October, and at other times at weekends, weather permitting, and by prior arrangement for groups. From the hut there are numerous options for continuing to explore the peaks of the Karavanke including Vrtača, Begunščica and Stol.

I always find the springs of rivers and streams fascinating. Where on earth does all the water come from? At the source of the Završnica stream, there is barely a trickle of water to be seen – and that despite the abundance of snow and rain this year – yet just a little further down the valley, it turns into a gushing stream.

The beauty of hiking in the Karavanke, particularly in the ‘summer’ (ahem!), is the lack of crowds. I hiked for close to 5 hours and only met around a dozen people in that time – bliss for those who really want to get away from it all.

As I like to make my hikes circular, where possible, I continued from the hut up the ski slope before turning left and heading on the slopes beneath Vrtača. In this area there is a lot of loose rock and scree, so you need to keep your wits about you. As you get higher, you are rewarded with a glimpse of Lake Bled in the distance.

Where the path branches off right to ascend the summit of Vrtača, I took the left fork marked for Stol. On reaching a junction I then descend to the Šija saddle, from where there is certainly no lack of choice of where to go next!

I chose the path to Srednji vrh (1796m), which is just a further 15 minute climb from the saddle. At the top there is a visitors’ book, a solitary bench and fab views!

I then descended back down towards the hut, which is less than half-an-hour from the Šija saddle before returning on the same road.

Click here for more information and this and other hikes in the Žirovnica area.

© Adele in Slovenia

Hop-On Hop-On 2018 is Here – This Year Even Bigger and Better!

The Hop-On Hop-Off tourist bus made its first journey(s) of the season this week and this year there’s even more to see and do with two extra days added to the timetable and entirely new destinations to discover! Take a ride and discover the hidden corners of the Radol’ca countryside.

The Hop-On Hop-Off bus is a great way to discover more of Radol’ca and the surrounding areas. For those who do not have a car or those who want to simply leave the car behind and be chauffeur-driven for a change, without having to worry about reading maps, finding parking places etc.

On Tuesdays you can take the ‘Charming Towns and Villages‘ route, which includes visits to Radovljica, Posavec, Ljubno and Kropa. Among the highlights of this route are the Iron Forging Museum and the Vigenc Vice foundry in Kropa, where at the latter you can see a demonstration of hand nail forging, and the Museum of Apiculture and Lectar Honeybread Museum and Workshop in Radovljica.

A demonstration of hand nail forging, Vigenc Vice Foundry, Kropa

Lectar Inn Honeybread Museum and Workshop, Radovljica

On Wednesdays the ‘Bee Our Guest‘ bus provides a fascinating insight into Slovenian beekeeping and includes visits to the Museum of Apiculture in Radovljica, the Beekeeping Education Centre of Gorenjska in Lesce, Anton Janša’s apiary in Breznica, Bee Paradise in Selo pri Žirovnici and Kralov med beekeeping in Selo pri Bledu.

Kralov med, Selo pri Bledu

Anton Janša’s apiary, Breznica pri Žirovnici

Thursday’s ‘Tales from the Countryside‘ route takes passengers to places such as Vrba, Žirovnica, Begunje na Gorenjskem, Brezje and Podvin. Among the highlights of the route are the ruins of Kamen Castle, the Avsenik Museum and the Museum of Hostages in Begunje, Adventure Mini Golf in Gorica, the Villa Rustica archaelogical site in Mošnje, and the Basilica of Mary Help of Christians in Brezje.

Adventure Mini Golf in Gorica

Završnica Valley, Žirovnica

And on Fridays, the bus runs to Begunje na Gorenjskem and then along the ‘Panoramic Road to Tržič‘. Highlights include the ruins of Kamen Castle, the old town centre of Tržič, the Mebron foundry and the Dovžan Gorge.

Ruins of Kamen Castle, Begunje na Gorenjskem

Dovžan Gorge, Tržič

So, as you can see, there’s plenty to choose from; in fact the toughest decision could be choosing which of the routes to take!

Click here for more information and the full timetable.

© Adele in Slovenia

 

The Forgotten Village on Ajdna – A Fascinating Archeological Site and a Great Hike Too!

Ajdna is the name of a tooth-shaped peak that lies beneath Mt. Stol, the highest mountain in the Karavanke range. A hike to Ajdna is fascinating, interesting and, if you take the steep way up, also a little challenging – but don’t worry, there’s an easier route up there as well!

The site was first discovered by the field archaeologist Andrej Valič, who climbed to Ajdna with hunters in the 1970s. He identified the remains of an ancient village and archaeological excavations began in 1977. What they uncovered was, or rather is, truly fascinating. Below is an artist’s impression of the village on Ajdna.

Ajdna provided locals with an excellent refuge from the troubles taking place down below in the valley, though one can only imagine what conditions must have been like that led people to flee to somewhere so inaccessible and, particularly in winter one would imagine, inhospitable. Mind you, they certainly found a place of peace and with stunning views!

Ajdna was settled during the crisis times of the collapse of the Western-Roman Empire in 476 AD. Extensive, expensive and exceptionally complex conservation work was carried out and today there are well-preserved buildings and remains of buildings that are thought to date back to the late Antiquity, though some evidence shows that it may even have been inhabited far earlier.

It is estimated that Ajdna was destroyed at the end of the 6th or beginning of the 7th century. The desecration of the church points to the destruction most likely being the result of it being pillaged and set alight by attackers of other religions.

There are several ways to reach Ajdna, depending on which direction you are coming from and also depending on how far you want to walk. I took the path that leads from the reservoir in the Završnica valley. It first follows the path towards the Valvasor mountain hut, where, about 15 minutes before reaching the hut, you turn left onto a gravel road. From here its along the road for approximately 15-20 minutes until the junction with the turn off marked for Ajdna. The path at first goes downhill, through the forest, until reaching the base of the peak. From here there is a choice of the harder, climbing path (15 mins) or the easier path (20 mins). It is well marked throughout.

I chose the harder path up and the easier path down. The path up, though not technically difficult, does require sturdy footwear, a steady hand, concentration and no fear of heights as it leads directly up the rock face – but it is well-equipped with steel cable and rungs. For those not so keen on such ascents, or those with small children, take the slightly longer and easier path to the right. Whichever way you reach Ajdna, you will be richly rewarded for your efforts!

All the information boards at Ajdna are in both Slovenian and English (I should know, I translated them as part of the exhibition catalogue!), so you can read more about the finds and the history of the site.

In addition, to complement a visit to Ajdna, you can visit the Ajdna Museum Room in Čop’s Birth House (Čopova hisa) in Žirovnica, where you can learn more about the site and see exhibits of the many fascinating finds including tools, earthenware, jewellery and weapons.

The house is also the seat of Tourism Žirovnica, thus you can also find out more about what to see and do in the area and/or click here for more information.

© Adele in Slovenia

Visit ‘Shakespeare’s House’ in Slovenia!

Ok, yes, guilty as charged of using an attention grabbing headline! Of course you can’t visit the actual Shakespeare’s House in Slovenia, you can, however, visit the house of Slovenia’s equivalent!

And what better way to do it than in style on a horse and cart ride along the Žirovnica Path of Cultural Heritage.

Despite only living to the tender age of 49, the legacy of France Prešeren (1800-1849), Slovenia’s most famous poet, remains as strong today as ever. In fact, Prešeren was, or rather is, so important to Slovenian culture, that a national holiday is dedicated to him annually on 8th February – Prešeren’s Day. 

The Path of Cultural Heritage takes in Prešeren’s birth house, as well as the birth houses of his friends – the linguist and literary historian Matija Čop in Žirovnica, the writer Fran Saleški Finžgar in Doslovče, and the writer and priest Janez Jalen in Rodine.

Čop’s House (Čopova hiša) is also the home of the Žirovnica Institute for Tourism and Culture, where you can pick up leaflets and find out more about the area.

The path runs through the hamlets that make up the Municipality of Žirovnica, with the Karavanke mountains as a back drop, an abundance of lush green scenery to admire, a number of restaurants serving traditional Slovenian food.

Whilst in the area you can also visit Janša’s Memorial Apiary, as well as the recently-opened Bee Paradise – the brainchild of the president of Slovenia’s Beekeeping Association. Read more here https://adeleinslovenia.com/2018/05/06/cebelji-raj-a-real-bee-paradise/

To mark the recent World Bee Day a memorial plaque was erected in front of the Jansa’s memorial apiary. Read more about the first World Bee Day celebrations here – https://adeleinslovenia.com/2018/05/21/zirovnica-the-place-to-bee-to-celebrate-world-bee-day/

All the houses offer a unique insight into life in bygone days and you can see exhibits including an original black kitchen, and other items typical of the era.

Whilst you can visit the house at other times, independently or as part of a guided tour, a unique way to do so is by taking a ride on a traditionallojtrnik‘ – a traditional horse and cart – which runs every fourth Saturday in the month from March to October.

The ride departs from the car park in Vrba, which is also the location of Prešeren’s birth house, at 10am, 11am and 12noon. Upon purchase of a ticket for at least one of the birth houses, rides are FREE. The next opportunity will be on 23rd June.

And here’s my tip: sweet talk Janez and he might even let you ride up front!

Click here for more information about this and other natural and cultural attractions in the Žirovnica area.

© Adele in Slovenia

 

 

 

Žirovnica – The Place to Be(e) to Celebrate World Bee Day!

So, at last, the long-awaited first ever World Bee Day took place on Sunday 20th May and Žirovnica was the place to be(e)!

The celebrations were centred around Breznica, the birth place of Anton Janša and home to his memorial apiary, which, following recent renovation, has been further improved by the placing of a new memorial plaque to mark World Bee Day.

There were celebrations throughout the land to mark this momentous day, even more momentous since Slovenia, and in particular the President of the Slovenian Beekeeping Association, Bostjan Noč, was the initiator of the campaign to have 20th May, the birth date of Anton Janša, Slovenia’s greatest beekeeper, proclaimed World Bee Day. After all, as we all know, or should all know, every third spoonful of food we eat is dependent on pollination by bees, thus ‘No Bees, No Life‘!

I don’t have the official numbers, however, it seemed as if the majority of Slovenia’s 10,000 beekeepers came dressed in their finest to celebrate. For a population of just 2 million, well, do the maths…!

A meeting of Slovenian beekeepers took place under the honorary patronage of the President of the Republic of Slovenia, Borut Pahor, whilst throughout the day there were bee-themed events and entertainment.

Visitors were able to watch a film presentation to find out more about the plans for the ‘Bee Park’ – a competition was held recently to come up a name for the new park. The winner has been chosen, however, as yet the name is still under wraps!

A honey market lined the streets and there were concerts, street entertainers and more!

To mark the day, a new stamp was issued by the Slovenian postal service, and Slovenia also launched a special 2 euro coin. Look out for the 2 euro coins in circulation throughout the euro area –  I’ve already got mine!

A great day was had by all and the future for Slovenia’s bees and beekeepers looks very bright. The nation sure did its bees proud!

Photo: Simon Senica

This summer you can take a ride on the Bee Our Guest Hop-On Hop-Off tourist bus, which will take you on a journey through the surroundings of Bled, Radovljica and Žirovnica every Wednesday in July and August. Along the way you can visit some of Gorenjska’s beekeepers, Janša’s memorial apiary, Bee Paradise, the Beekeeping Education Centre of Gorenjska, and more!

For more information about apitourism in Slovenia see the Bee Our Guest website, and to find out more about the ‘Cradle of Slovenian Beekeeping‘ see the Visit Zirovnica website.

© Adele in Slovenia

 

 

Čebelji raj – A Real Bee Paradise!

The newly-opened Bee Paradise (Čebelji raj) in the hamlet of Selo in Žirovnica, is a great acquisition for Slovenian beekeeping, Slovenian tourism, the Municipality of Žirovnica, and last but not least, for Slovenia’s bees!

Bee Paradise is the brainchild of the president of the Slovenian Beekeeping Association, Bostjan Noč, who has been involved with beekeeping from an early age and is an exemplary example of a diligent and devoted ‘father’ to his numerous colonies of bees, as well as working tirelessly to preserve and promote beekeeping in Slovenia.

 

Indeed, it was Bostjan, together with other leading members of the Slovenian Beekeepers’ Association, that was the driving force behind Slovenia’s initiative to have 20th May, the birth date of the pioneer of modern apiculture, Anton Janša, declared as World Bee Day. And they succeeded in this not-insignificant achievement, when the United Nations General Assembly unanimously declared the first World Bee Day will be held on 20th May 2018.

Apitherapy has been the buzz word in alternative therapies of late, and at Bee Paradise you can sample its health benefits by taking a seat in one of the comfy loungers, listening to soothing music and the gentle buzzing of the bees and breathing in the intoxicating air. The benefits of bee products – honey, propolis, royal jelly, pollen – are combined in apitheraphy to prevent and/or heal numerous conditions and diseases.

Both inside and outside you can get up-close-and-personal with the Noč family’s bees. Suspended from the ceiling, this ingenious glass sphere allows the bees to come and go as they please, whilst providing a fascinating perspective for visitors.

Tasting sessions and special programmes can be arranged for groups upon prior arrangement, as well as various workshops, professional lectures, presentations etc. Contact details: Tel: 040 431 930 or https://www.cebelarstvo-noc.si/ (website in Slovenian only).

In the garden there is an area planted with special honeybee plants, and from April to October there is a viewing hive where you can watch the bees close-up.

A speciality is the uniquely-designed hive containing jars that the bees fill directly with honey – how ingenious and labour-saving is that!

In front of the family house there is a painted hive and a small shop where you can stock up on goodies and gifts!

And, of course, you can’t visit without tasting the fruits of the bees labour! There are 7 varieties of Slovenian honey to choose from, as well as 2 new products, available exclusively at Bee Paradise; bela medolada – a combination of white chocolate and honey, and temna medolada – cocoa and honey. Paradise indeed for someone with a sweet tooth like me!

The first World Bee Day is fast approaching, and Bee Paradise, as well as Anton Jansa’s memorial apiary, which is just minutes away, will be part of the numerous celebrations taking place throughout Slovenia, and indeed the world!

More information about Slovenian beekeeping and World Bee Day can be found on the Bee Our Guest website, and for more information about what else to see and do in the Žirovnica area, see the Visit Žirovnica website.

© Adele in Slovenia