Visit Žirovnica: Autumn Hikes in the Karavanke Mountains

Providing the weather is good, autumn is one of the best times of the year for hiking in Slovenia; the weather is (usually) more stable i.e. there aren’t (usually!) late afternoon thunderstorms like in summer, and the trails are far less crowded than during the peak summer months. On the downside, the days are getting shorter and some of the mountain huts are already closed, with others only open at weekends, but provided you set off in good time and with proper equipment and a well-stocked rucksack, the hiking world – well Slovenia’s little part of it – is your oyster!

The Karavanke mountains above the Žirovnica area are a great destination for hiking year-round.

I have already written numerous blogs about my various hikes in the area, so this blog is a kind of ‘one-stop-shop’ where I have gathered together all, well far from all in truth, my hikes and blogs in the area, as well as a bonus one too!

The hikes listed below are all included in the leaflet ‘Žirovnica Green Energy – Hiking and Mountain Bike Trails in the Municipality of Žirovnica‘.

Valvasorjev dom (Valvasor mountain hut) is the three-times winner of the title ‘Best Mountain Hut in Slovenia’. It can be reached in around an hour from the reservoir in the Završnica valley.

Rezultat iskanja slik za valvasorjev dom

Photo: Planinska Zveza Slovenije

There are numerous onward trails from the hut, including to Stol, the highest peak in the Karavanke mountains.

Ajdna is the name of the tooth-shaped peak beneath Mount Stol and is home to a fascinating archaelogical site. It 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.

You can also find out more about Ajdna by visiting the Ajdna Museum Room in Čopova hisa (Čop’s House).

The numerous mountain pastures beneath Mt. Stol are ideal for those seeking easier, more level walks, and/or mountain bike enthusiasts.

The Žirovniška planina mountain pasture and the Zabreška planina mountain pasture are up there among my favourites!

I like to visit the Dom pri izviru Završnice (hut at the source of the Završnica stream) as part of a hike to Srednji vrh.

Starting from the Završnica valley, the trail passes the hut up to the Šija saddle, from where there is no lack of choice where to go next!

Stol is the highest mountain in the Karavanke range. As the Karavanke mountains form a natural border between Slovenian and Austria, you are spoilt for choice with fabulous views in all directions.

The word ‘stol’ means ‘chair’, hence once you are at the top, you are literally taking a seat atop the Karavanke!

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

I have already written two blogs about Tito’s Village, offering two alternative ways to reach it. The first describes the route from the Završnica valley or, for a more adventurous approach, take the path along the ridge to Mali vrh and onwards to Tito’s village.

The camp provided partisans with shelter from the German occupiers. The camp was in existence from 21 November 1944 – 31 January 1945, which, though only 2 months, was considered long for those times.

And finally, the Hudič babo pere waterfall – the ‘bonus’ walk I mentioned earlier!

One does, however, need a sense of adventure to find this waterfall, not to mention good footwear! I visited in late summer, when water levels were low, but imagine that during autumn the flow of water is somewhat more impressive. You can reach it on foot from the Završnica valley. After around cca. 200 metres from the reservoir, just before a wooden fenced ‘bridge’, take the (unmarked) path to the left. It first crosses a stream over a wooden boardwalk then leads up steeply into the forest where the path almost disappears. Just keep following the water for a further cca.20 mins to reach the top – but please do so with extreme caution!

So, as you can see, there’s no shortage of choice. The hardest thing, as always, is deciding where to go first. Happy Hiking in Žirovnica!

© Adele in Slovenia

 

By Bike to Žirovnica and the Završnica Valley

The Završnica valley, located in Žirovnica, is crammed full of interesting natural sights and attractions. It is best explored on foot or by bike, so join me on my bike to discover (just) some of the highlights!

It is a pleasant ride from Radovljica, where I live, along quiet, mainly traffic-free roads through Lesce and Hraše, where you can join the Imperial Road. In the past, the road, which is mostly untarmacked, was used by carriages for the transport of various goods. Today it makes a great traffic-free cycle route between Begunje na Gorenjskem and the villages under Mount Stol – the highest peak in the Karavanke mountains – that form the municipality of Žirovnica.

Along the way, and/or by making short detours, you can stop to see the many sights, particularly cultural, among them the Alley of Famous Men, and the birth houses – now museums – of famous men hailing from Žirovnica,

Those interested in beekeeping should make a beeline for Anton Janša’s apiary and Bee Paradise.

On reaching Žirovnica itself you can continue through Moste and then slightly uphill towards the Završnica valley and reservoir, where you can just ‘chill’, or continue further along the valley to the Zavrh bar and the Završnica Recreation Park, or even further if you want in the direction of Tito’s Village; for the last part, however, you will have dismount your bike and set off on foot.

Can you spot me?!

This is just one of the many options for cycling in the Žirovnica area; there’s something for everyone, from short, easy rides suitable for families to longer, more challenging mountain bike trails – such as the Predigra adrenaline ascent.

The 2 kilometre-long descent is rated as ‘very demanding’ and is therefore only suitable for experienced mountain bike riders with suitable equipment. It is therefore recommend that you book a guide to take you on the descent, and who can also guide you along the numerous mountain pastures beneath Mount Stol or to other parts of the Završnica valley. Contact the Žirovnica Cycling Club (KK Žirovnica) for more information: kkzavrsnica@gmail.com, +386 (0)41 474 984.

Photo: KK Završnica

Watch the video below to find out more about cycling in Žirovnica and/or click here for more information.

© Adele in Slovenia

Visit Žirovnica and Dine Hunter-Style at Lovski dom!

Lovski dom (Hunters’ Lodge) in the Završnica valley has long been a favourite place to dine among locals from the Žirovnica area as well as those from further afield. It has a reputation for its great wild game dishes, among others, as one would expect from a Hunters’ Lodge!

The restaurant was originally established by hunters, hence the name, and has now been under the same ownership for 27 years. Its winning recipe for success is a combination of great, traditional Slovenian food, hearty portions, friendly service and reasonable prices.

In fine weather you can sit outside and enjoy the views of both the surroundings and the restaurant’s own menagerie of animals, including Mici the bear.

…while during the colder months you can join the array of animal indoors – not live ones though!

Mici, originally from Kočevje, has been at ‘home’ at Lovski dom for 16 years now, and seemed more than happy to show off her climbing skills to get a treat of oranges and apples. The merits of keeping a bear in captivity are for some, obviously, questionable, however owner Ingrid explained to me that Mici has been in captivity all her life and would likely be unable to survive now in the wild.

Now, on to the food! Being somewhat limited in what I can order these days, I was unable to indulge, as I would have liked, in the huge meaty platters laden with Wiener schnitzel and other such traditional delights for which Lovski dom is known, including venison goulash, river trout and homemade štruklji.

Fortunately, however, I was able to indulge – and did – in the delicious and humungous pork ribs, the mixed grill, buckwheat with crackling, sauteed potatoes and salad, so, for a change, I didn’t feel short changed by being unable to eat anything containing gluten.

Reservations are recommended at weekends. Call 041 945 347 or email okrepcevalnica.stol@gmail.com

There is plenty to see and do in the vicinity of Lovski dom to build up an appetite for your hearty meal. You can hike in the Karavanke mountains, for example to Stol – the highest mountain in the Karavanke range – and/or visit the Valvasorjev dom mountain hut, which is the three-time winner of the title of Slovenia’s Best Mountain Hut (2014, 2016, 2018).

For a less strenuous option, you can visit the Turkish Cave or just take a leisurely stroll around the Završnica reservoir and recreation park – the choice is yours!

Find out more about what to see, do, and taste in Žirovnica here.

© Adele in Slovenia

 

Visit Žirovnica – A Ridge Hike to Tito’s Village via Mali vrh

When choosing what to blog about, sometimes a look at my blog statistics can help to provide inspiration. So, having seen that there has been significant interest in the blog I wrote last year about Tito’s Village (Titova vas), I thought I would write another blog on the theme, though this time describing an alternative, more interesting/challenging, way of reaching it; a hike along the ridge from Mali vrh and onward to Tito’s Village.

Mali vrh can be reached by taking the aptly-named Sunny Path (Sonča pot) from Žirovnica to St. Lawrence’s church (sv. Lovrenc). You can join the path and reach the church from several places. I like to park in Žirovnica then take the path that leads towards the steps that go up towards the distinctive water surge tank. Don’t go up the steps but just to the right the path, though not marked, is easily visible as it traverses the grassy meadows above the villages of Žirovnica.

Follow the path towards the church and, just a hundred metres or so before reaching the church, you will see a sign pointing upwards to the left marked Brin vrh.

If you want to visit the church, do so first, then return to the sign and head up the steep path to reach Mali vrh. At the top there is a small rest area…

…complete with a visitors book…

and, somewhat bizarrely, a broom! I’m guessing it must be to brush the snow off the benches in winter!

From Mali vrh continue along the ridge before descending to a saddle where you can either descend steeply down to the Završnica reservoir and recreational park (this makes a great circular route if you walk back past the reservoir and continue on the path back to the water surge tank), or you continue towards Tito’s village, or even further!

In a couple of places there are iron pegs and rungs, but there’s nothing too scary – fortunately – and it adds to the adventure!

The path is very well marked throughout, and there are a couple of strategically placed benches where you can take a breather and soak up the views of the surrounding villages and countryside, as well as Lake Bled and the Julian Alps on one side…

…while on the other you can see the lush Završnica valley beneath Mt. Stol – the highest peak in the Karavanke mountain range.

The path continues it way along the ridge, with a few nooks and crannies to explore along the way!

On reaching the sign for Titova vas, you can follow the forest road down to visit the secret World War II partisan camp that was hidden deep in the forest in a remote, hidden and relatively inaccessible location beneath the peak of Smokuški vrh. The camp had its own newspaper, a choir, butchery and everything needed for everyday life at that time.

The camp provided partisans with shelter from the German occupiers. Considering its location, in close proximity to German strongholds in nearby Žirovnica, Bled, Koroška Bela, Javornik, Jesenice, Lesce, Radovljica, Brezje, Poljče and Begunje, the existence of the camp from 21 November 1944 – 31 January 1945 – though only 2 months – was considered long for those times.

You can either return along the outward route described in my previous blog about Tito’s Village, or return by the same route, or, at the junction of paths, take the wide stony path downwards to the right, which leads down to the village of Smokuč, from where you can either walk back to the start along the road, or, to avoid having to walk along the road, follow the signs for the Žirovnica Path of Cultural Heritage (Pot po kulturni dediščini).

If you want a great base for a hiking holiday in Slovenia, why not consider Žirovnica; there’s a wealth to see and do, it’s off the main tourist trail – and therefore you get a more genuine experience of Slovenia than one does in the main tourist towns – there are plenty of places to eat, and it’s great value too!

© Adele in Slovenia

Summer 2019 in Radol’ca – So Much to See and Do!

Hooray, summer, my favourite time of the year, is here. And I’m lucky enough to get to spend it in my favourite place too – Radol’ca!

There are plenty of events, concerts and other events throughout this summer in Radol’ca, and, of course, no shortage of great places to hike, cycle, eat, relax, soak up the views and more!

So, here’s a run down of (just) some of the main events in Radol’ca this summer.

THURSDAY EVENINGS IN THE SQUARE

Live music and street food cooked up by Taste Radol’ca restaurants. The first concert kicks off at 8pm this Thursday 4th July, and thereafter for the following five Thursdays. Come on down to Linhart Square – the heart of Radovljica’s historic old town centre – to listen to music by: 4th July ‘Elevators‘; 11th July ‘Like the Rolling Stones‘; 18th July ‘Fadeouts‘; 25th July ‘Okustični‘, 1st August ‘Mrfy‘; 8th August ‘Maya Keuc/Amaya‘.

Thursday Evenings in the Square, photo: http://www.radolca.si

THE KROPA IRON FORGING FESTIVAL

This Saturday 6th July be sure to visit the village of Kropa to find out more about the cradle of Slovenia’s iron forging industry.

Kropa Iron Forging Museum

Kropa sits nestled into the far eastern edge of the Jelovica plateau and is crammed with interesting sights and preserved technical heritage and architecture.

There are demonstrations of hand forging of nails in the Vigenjc Vice Foundry, a small local craft market, old-time bikes, open days at the Iron Forging Museum and the Fovšaritnica Museum House, as well as at the headquarters of the company UKO Kropa, which specialises in all manner of wrought iron furnishings and fittings and is keeping the village’s iron-forging tradition alive.

MEETING OF THE TOWNS ALONG THE PATH OF VENUS AND MEDIEVAL MARKET

Sunday 28th July from 10am – 7pm: a medieval fair featuring dance and street shows and stalls laden with local crafts – ideal for buying gifts/souvenirs for friends and family (or treat yourself!) – which is also the opening event of the Radovljica Festival. It takes place in Linhart Square in the heart of Radovljica’s old town centre

Photo: Primož Černe

THE RADOVLJICA FESTIVAL

The popular festival of early music has been held in summer in Radovljica for 35 years. It boasts a diverse programme of classical concerts and workshops featuring musicians from far and wide. The festival takes place in the Radovljica Manor and St. Peter’s church.

The Radovljca Festival, Photo: http://www.radolca.si

Click here for the full festival programme.

AVSENIK FESTIVAL

A three-day festival of Slovenian national folk music at its ‘home’in Begunje na Gorenjskem – the birthplace of the Avsenik brothers – an unmissable event for lovers of this genre of music.

Slavko Avsenik (1929-2015), Photo: http://www.radolca.si

HOP-ON HOP-OFF BUS

The tourist Hop-On Hop-Off bus runs throughout July and August. It’s a great way to discover the villages and countryside of the Radol’ca area. In addition to the ride, there are guided tours and walks as well as other attractions to see and visit at each destination.

Pay just once and you can ride all day! Tickets cost €8 for adults, and children under the age of 10 can ride free of charge.

On Tuesdays you can travel on the Charming Towns and Villages route, which runs between Bled, Radovljica and Kropa.

Radovljica’s old town centre, photo: http://www.radolca.si

On Wednesdays you can ride on the Bee Our Guest route, where you will visit Kralov med Beekeeping, the Anton Janša Memorial Apiary, the Lesce Beekeeping Centre and the Apicultural Museum in Radovljica.

Anton Janša’s apiary in Breznica

Thursday’s route is Tales from the Countryside, which includes visits to France Prešeren’s birth house in Vrba, Begunje na Gorenjskem, Mošnje, Brezje and Radovljica.

Vrba, home to a monument to, and birth house of, France Prešeren

And on Friday’s you can journey along the Panoramic Road to Tržič, which includes a visit to Kamen Castle, Tržič and the Dovžan Gorge.

The old town centre of Tržič

So, as you can see, there’s plenty going on, and these are only the main events, there are numerous others too. And I haven’t even space to write about all the fab hiking and cycling trails, restaurants, and other cultural and natural attractions to visit. Oh well, you can always read back over the hundreds of blog posts I have written extolling the virtues of Radol’ca in the past, and/or continue to follow my blog to read about more adventures in the future!

© Adele in Slovenia

 

 

 

 

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

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