The Katzenstein Mansion – A Chilling Reminder of the Past

The imposing Katzenstein Mansion, which stands in the heart of the village of Begunje na Gorenjskem, has had a long and interesting past. The mansion was built in the 14th century; renovations in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries contributed to its current Renaissance and Baroque appearance.

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The mansion’s setting and surroundings are idyllic and I always enjoy a walk around the park, particularly in this beautiful autumn weather we are currently enjoying, to admire the mansion and gaze up at the surrounding mountains of the Karavanke range. A great way to see more of the village is to walk the marked Begunje Village Trailhttp://radolca.si/en/begunje-village-trail/

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The park is particularly known for its pavilion and the Chapel of St. Joseph, designed by the most famous Slovenian architect, Jože Plečnik, and is also home to a small cemetery where 457 hostages and 18 World War II combatants are laid to rest. The bronze statues of a hostage and a prisoner, as well as the karst marble sculpture of a female hostage are the work of the sculptor, Boris Kalin.
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1n 1875 Katzenstein Mansion was sold to Austro-Hungarian judicial authorities and a prison, holding 300 female prisoners, was established. During the German occupation, it became a Gestapo prison and political prisoners were incarcerated in the mansion; after the war it again reprised its role as an all-female prison.
Since 1953, the main part of the mansion has been operating as the Begunje Psychiatric Hospital, whilst since 1961 in the building at the north-western end of the residential wing – annexed in 1875 – the Museum of Hostages (Muzej Talcev) has been housed since 1961.

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I must confess that until last week I hadn’t actually visited the museum, though had walked past it countless times. Somehow it seemed a bit depressing, however, following a recent chat with the director of Radovljica’s museums I realised that it was time to actually go and though the museum is only small its historic importance shouldn’t be overlooked. It doesn’t hurt for one to take a moment of quiet reflection to consider the suffering of the hostages held here.

Inside, on the walls of the former prison cells, you can see written records left by the prisoners and announcements by the occupiers concerning executions.

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Read more about the Museum of Hostages, opening times etc. here – http://radolca.si/en/begunje-museum-of-hostages/ AND here – http://www.muzeji-radovljica.si/3m_talci/_predstavitev.html
Read more about Katzenstein Mansion here – http://www.radolca.si/en/katzenstein-mansion/

Taste Radol’ca 2015 is GO!!!

This year’s Taste Radol’ca kicked off with a bang on Friday night with the opening event held at Lambergh Chateau & Hotel in Dvorska vas.

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The evening started with a market, where local producers and suppliers to the 11 participating restaurants offered their products to taste and buy and the talented Taste Radol’ca chefs rustled up some tasty warming morsels to satisfy the peckish!

Entertainment was provided by the popular singer Nuša Derenda, in the lovely setting of the chateau grounds.

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The main event then began – the opening Taste Radol’ca 2015 dinner – all 6 courses of it! The event was a complete sell-out, with all 90 places in the restaurant taken.

The ethos of Taste Radol’ca is collaboration between restaurants and the use of local produced products. All the products used in the opening dinner, as well as those in the menus that are available at each participating restaurant for the entire month of November for a set price of just 15 euros for three courses, are local.

The starter was prepared by the Globočnik Excursion Farm from Globoko.

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The next courses was a rainbow of trout with buckwheat hearts – prepared by Kunstelj Inn and Lectar Inn. Almost too pretty to eat!

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Next came the chestnut soup with mushrooms, just perfect for these autumn days, prepared by Tulipan Inn and Joštov hram.

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A farmer’s plate followed – prepared by Hotel Krek and Draga Inn.

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By now we were all beginning to burst at the seams but the delicious food kept coming! This dish comprised many elements including veal with mushrooms in cannelloni, cheek of calf, potato foam, barley and vegetables – courtesy of Lambergh Chateau & Hotel and Vila Podvin.

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And finally the dessert. It’s funny how however stuffed one is, we somehow always manage to find room for dessert, don’t we! Dessert was prepared by Grajska gostilnica, from right here in Radovljica, and the restaurant ‘Pri Jožovcu’ – home of Avsenik in Begunje na Gorenjskem.

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Suffice to say a great night was had by all and that was just the start. Now we have the whole month of November to try out the Taste Radol’ca menus at all the 11 participating restaurants and, if you manage to eat at 7 during the month, you can earn yourself automatic entry to the Taste Radol’ca Closing Party on 4th December at Joštov hram. So get eating and tasting the local culinary delight of Radol’ca!

For more information and to see the menus click below and I wish you bon appetit!

http://radolca.si/kaj-poceti/dogodki/okusi-radolce/83/930/

@AdeleinSlovenia 2015

Autumn Hiking in the Karavanke

After a less than promising start to autumn, it finally arrived in style last week with nature offering a palette of the most resplendent autumnal hues. This, together with the warm, sunny days – which lasted all weekend too – made it perfect weather to enjoy the great outdoors. As the Karavanke mountains are right on my doorstep, that’s where I most often head to get my hiking fix!

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On Sunday morning I headed off on my bike from home in Radovljica to the Draga valley, then on foot – initially up to the Preval highland and the Preval mountain hut (Koča na Prevalu) – part of the Karavanke range.

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From the hut there are a number of paths; steeply (very!) up through the forest to the top of Mt. Begunščica; through the Baron’s Tunnels to Ljubelj, back down to the Draga valley – either through the forest or via the road – or across Roža (čez Roža) to the Roblek mountain hut (Roblekov dom). I chose the latter, as it is one of my favourite walks, particularly as it is circular and offers wonderful views across the Radovljica plains, the Jelovica plateau, and onwards towards the Julian Alps.

As can be seen below, with such perfect weather and views across to the snow-capped Julian Alps, no photo-shopping is required!

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It’s always a particularly wonderful feeling being in the mountains and looking across at other parts of the country which are shrouded in low cloud, as was the case on Sunday morning!

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The opening event of this year’s month-long Taste Radol’ca is drawing nearer. Reservations are being taken for the opening event this Friday and participating restaurants have finalised their special Taste Radol’ca menus for the month of November – all available at just 15 euros for 3 courses and with the key focus on local ingredients.

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Additionally this year there are a range of accompanying events during the month of November. Below are some of the highlights, the whole list can be seen here –  http://radolca.si/kaj-poceti/dogodki/okusi-radolce/83/930/

  • Every Wednesday: Live accordion music evening at Lambergh Château & Hotel
  • Every Friday: Live music evening at Vila Podvin
  • Every Sunday at 1pm: Presentation of the Zupan Fish Farm at Vila Podvin
  • Saturday 7.11: Podvin Local Food Market at Vila Podvin
  • Sunday 8.11 from 12 – 5pm: Presentation and tasting of honey from the Draga valley at Draga Inn
  • Saturday 14.11 & 21.11 at 11am: Cookery workshop with tastings of St. Martin’s dishes at Kunstelj Inn
  • Friday 27.11: Culinary Evening with Sartori wines and live music at Grajska Gostilnica
  • Friday 4.12: Taste Radol’ca Closing Party at Joštov hram (tickets can be obtained by participating in this year’s 2 prize competitions)

@AdeleinSlovenia 2015

Nuts about Doughnuts in Trojane!

Say the word ‘Trojane‘ to pretty much anyone in Slovenia, no matter where they live, and they are likely to know instantly what you are talking about – doughnuts!

The reason being is that the village of Trojane has become a Slovene institution thanks to Gostilna Trojane, which comprises a restaurant, café, cake shop and gift shop and it is most famous for its Trojane doughnuts.

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Here’s a very potted history. Before the motorway was built, all traffic travelling from Ljubljana towards the northeast of Slovenia i.e. Celje, Maribor, Ptuj, and onwards towards Austria and Hungary, used to travel through the centre of Trojane and it also marks the halfway point on the trade route between Trieste and Vienna where, 150 years ago, the then tavern provided a stopover for weary travellers to rest, sleep and eat. Nowadays, the motorway skirts the village, which must have been a boon for residents, though at the time Gostilna Trojane had serious concerns about the effect it would have on their business. They certainly needn’t have, as in fact business even increased!

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In the 1930s a younger generation took over the restaurants and later, having seen the rising popularity of doughnuts in Vienna, had the idea of making them in Slovenia. Thus, in 1960, Trojane doughnuts were created and the rest, as they say, is history! Initially the doughnuts were served, free of charge, just to chauffeurs, bus drivers etc. as a dessert after their meal. But word soon spread and before long people were flocking to try them.

They are definitely at their best when still warm! The classic doughnut is filled with apricot jam, though other variations are available.

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These days, for most people its almost impossible, indeed unthinkable, to drive past Trojane without stopping for a doughnut, cake, or a hearty meal from the very extensive menu and although it’s not exactly on my doorstep, if I’m in that direction I also always make a beeline there – well with the world’s worse sweet tooth I would!

On a recent visit I sat down with Urška Strnad, Head of Service, to find out more about the company and get some facts and figures, which left me even more impressed by this place. Despite its astonishing success, the privately run company certainly isn’t resting on its laurels. They have recently renovated a previous unused part of the building and can now cater for up to 850 guests in total, as well as having installed solar panels to add to their dedication to being environmentally-friendly. The majority of the 150+ staff live within a 15km radius, and car-sharing is encouraged. Additionally, everything is made on-site and only Slovene ingredients are used in all the bakery products.

Trojane doughnuts are significantly larger than the average doughnut, each one weighing 180-200g. I was astonished to discover that every doughnut is actually made by-hand and when you consider that they make, on average, between 10-15,000 per day – yes, per day – that’s no mean feat!

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As you might expect, I’ve tried everything ‘sweet’ on offer and, in addition to the doughnuts, my personal favourites are the chestnut roulade and the gibanica – one piece of which is enough to feed a small army! I was even allowed to have a go at cutting and decorating a roulade, though, I think I’d better stick to eating them rather than icing them!

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Trojane isn’t just about food though, just take a look at the views.

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It’s also worth taking the time to explore the area surrounding the village and perhaps, as I did, work up an appetite for the inevitable indulgence to follow, by taking a walk on one of the surrounding hills or the forests of the picturesque Zasavje valley.

In the immediate vicinity of Gostilna Trojane, you can walk from Zavrh up to the viewing tower ‘Stolp na Rebri’  – also later written as ‘Stolp na Rebru’ – hmm, the wonders of the Slovene language!

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The path starts 200 metres or so from the restaurant complex at the sign for ‘Zavrh‘. You can park here or continue a little further up and park where the tarmac road ends and continue on foot up the gravel track. You first reach a shine to St. Ozbolt.

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The path then leads a little more steeply up through the forest taking approximately 45 minutes to climb to 878m where a wooden viewing tower is located.

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It’s worth climbing up to the top for views like this and in the knowledge delicious food awaits down there in the valley!

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Other popular destinations for a walk in the area is to Spilk, or to the Čemšeniška planina highland and the mountain hut Koča na Čemšeniški planini. These two are also now on my list of places to go – well, any excuse to visit Trojane!

Useful links:

Gostilna Trojane –

@AdeleinSlovenia 2015