Like Beekeeping? Love Radovljica!

Those interested in beekeeping should definitely make a beeline for Radovljica!

The Radovljica area has a wealth of beekeeping-related sights of interest, all within close proximity, thus making it ideal place to visit for beekeepers or those with an interest in beekeeping.

One such example is the group of 38 beekeepers from Estonia who I helped with their plans to visit Radovljica.

Whilst the main purpose of their trip was beekeeping-related activities, they also managed to find time to do some sightseeing in Ljubljana, took a traditional pletna boat to the island on Lake Bled, and visited Vintgar Gorge.

The main beekeeping day began with a visit to Kralov med in the hamlet of Selo near Bled, where owner Blaž Ambrožič told them everything, and more, that they could possibly want to know about beekeeping in Slovenia. I wrote more extensively about my visit to Kralov med in a previous blog, also about World Bee Day, which you can read here – https://adeleinslovenia.com/2016/05/17/world-bee-day-the-anton-jansa-honey-route/

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The undoubted highlight, whether a beekeeper or not, is the chance to see and experience up close the hive found on a nearby tree trunk and transported to its current home. The fact you can get so close is testament to the calm nature of Slovenia’s Carniolan grey bee.

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Next the group came to Radovljica, beginning at the Tourist Information Centre where they tasted local honey and chocolate, and had the chance to buy some gifts to take home. They even brought us some of their own Estonian honey, which, as you can see, the staff enjoyed tasting!

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We then took a stroll through the medieval old town to see the main sights of interest – the Šivec House Gallery, the Radovljica Mansion, St. Peter’s Church, and the other wonderful frescoed buildings.

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Then it was on to the viewpoint for wonderful views of the Julian Alps, the Jelovica plateau and the Sava river.

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The next stop was to Lectar Inn to watch the process of making and decorating the traditional ‘lectar’ gingerbread’ hearts, made with honey, of course!

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And a chance to buy souvenirs and/or gifts for loved ones.

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Having seen Radovljica, it was then time to Taste Radol’ca, with a traditional Slovene lunch, also at Lectar Inn, one of the participating Taste Radol’ca restaurants. During lunch, the owner Jože entertained us with a few of his favourite songs played on the harmonica – never something to be missed!

The final stop in Radovljica was to the Museum of Apiculture, housed in the Radovljica Mansion, where visitors can learn all about the history of beekeeping in Slovenia, watch a video (narrated in English by me!), and in summer watch the bees hard work diligently in the hive.

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The group’s very last stop on the jam-packed, or should I say honey-packed, day, was to the Gorenjska Beekeeping Development and Education Centre in Lesce. You can read more about the centre and its wide-ranging activities here – http://www.radolca.si/en/gorenjska-region-beekeeping-development-and-education-centre/

So, as you can see, the Radovljica area really is a beekeeper’s paradise!

If you’d like any more information about Slovenian beekeeping, or are interested in taking a tour of the town and/or visiting some of the above-mentioned sights, feel free to get in touch or contact Tourism Radol’ca – http://www.radolca.si/en/

© Adele in Slovenia

Sunny Skiing, Stunning Views and Romance on Stari Vrh!

The Stari Vrh ski resort is located in the middle of the Selca and Poljane valleys, just a ten minute drive from Škofja Loka. It’s proximity to Ljubljana makes it a popular destination; in winter for skiing, snowboarding and other winter sports, and in summer for hiking and cycling.

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Stari Vrh offers 10kms of slopes (1km difficult, 5kms medium, 4kms easy), together with a snowboard park, night skiing, a toboggan run and a children’s snow playground.

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Even for a non-skier like myself, it’s well worth donning your winter gear and taking the chairlift up to the top for the stunning panoramic views.

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Once at the top, you will be blown away (hopefully not literally!) by the views over the Škofja Loka hills and further to the Kamnik-Savinja Alps.

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The peak of Stari Vrh is at an altitude of 1217m.

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At the top you can visit the cosy Stari Vrh Restaurant and Guest House, where you can enjoy a drink and/or snack, indulge in one of the Slovene specialities – all the while gazing at the stunning views – or stay overnight in one of the inn’s comfortable rooms and warm up in the sauna!

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And since February is the month of romance, you might be interested to know that one of the ski pistes at Stari Vrh is named Valentine’s piste, after the nearby St. Valentines church in Jarčje Brdo. Additionally, the very scenic Valentine’s Path (Valentinova pot) begins at the lower station of the Stari Vrh chairlift. Note, however, that you will need to wait until at least spring before setting out to walk this path, as it runs on part of the ski piste, so can’t be walked when the ski centre is open.

The circular path is marked with green circles with a yellow inner and runs along old cart tracks and forest paths. It takes about 2 hours to complete, has a total height difference of 280 metres, and leads past the Žgajnar Tourist Farm, a 200-year old farmhouse in the hamlet of Zapreval, where in 1970 the Stari Vrh Tourist Association was founded. During winter there is a marked detour to reach Zapreval, since the ski pistes run almost literally past the front door, hence making it an excellent base for those on multi-day trips.

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Today the tourist farm offers accommodation and delicious home-produced and home-cooked food year-round. You can read more about the tourist farm here – http://zgajnar.starivrh.si/presentation/Presentation.html

The path begins at the lower station of the chairlift at the Stari vrh ski resort and continues beside the Valentine ski piste to reach the exact boundary of the municipalities of Gorenja vas-Poljane and Škofja Loka, before rising up to the Stari vrh Restaurant and Guest House. It continues through the village of Mlaka past the Jejlar homestead (Jejlarjeva domačija), the famous house where the film Cvetje v jeseni (Blossoms in Autumn) was filmed. On reaching the village of Jarčje Brdo you will catch sight of the imposing St. Valentine’s parish church and return to the start of the walk.

Photo: TD Stari Vrh

Photo: TD Stari Vrh

Every year on 31st October there is an organised hike on Valentine’s Path, arranged by the Stari Vrh Tourist Association, beginning at 9am from the car park of the lower station of the 6-person chairlift at the Stari vrh ski resort.

The Association also arranges other events, including the popular Charcoal Makers Day, which has been held annually on the first Sunday in August since 1972.

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Photo: TD Stari Vrh

Having seen how beautiful Stari Vrh is in winter, and the numerous opportunities the area offers for hiking and cycling in summer, I now can’t wait to go back and explore more of the area on foot or by bike. And when I do, you will be sure to read about it here!

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You can find out more about all the above on the Visit Skofja Loka website here – http://www.visitskofjaloka.si/en/about-us/tourism-board-skofja-loka

© Adele in Slovenia

 

 

 

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.

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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

Loka Honey Breads and Handicrafts at the DUO Arts & Crafts Centre

There is a long and rich tradition of making Loški kruhki (little honey breads) in the Škofja Loka area. It dates back to the 14th century when the Clarissa nuns ran a girls school in the town in the building seen below. The nuns introduced and taught locals how to make the honey breads, which they baked mainly for festivals, blessings and other celebrations.

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The DUO Arts & Crafts Centre, located in the heart of the medieval old town, showcases the rich handicraft tradition in the area by offering local craftspeople a place to showcase their handicrafts for visitors to browse and/or purchase, and an opportunity for them to present and transfer their skills to future generations.

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Among the items on show at the DUO Centre are carved wooden products made by the carver Petra Plestenjak Podlogar, who today is the only master craftsperson in Slovenia keeping alive the tradition of making wooden moulds for Škofja Loka honey breads.

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Curious to learn more, and always keen to get hands-on, I recently spent a very pleasant afternoon with Petra at the DUO Centre, learning her insider tips on making the dough for the honey breads and using her wonderfully ornate handcrafted moulds to make my own honey breads to take home.

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The basic recipe contains a mixture of flours, lashings of Slovenian honey, and selected spices such as cinnamon, pepper and cloves.

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Making the dough is a fairly simple and quick process, then begins the fun part of pressing it into the moulds and choosing which of the many ornate hand-carved moulds to use. Petra also makes moulds ‘to order’ for special birthdays, anniversaries and other celebrations.

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The little honey breads, and indeed the hand-carved moulds, make ideal gifts or souvenirs.

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Once baked, the breads are glazed with (more!) honey to give them a nice sheen.

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Then, well, I couldn’t resist any longer! The best bit – time to taste them!

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I know, after all that hard work I/we should take some time to admire the little honey breads before wolfing them down, but we made plenty so a few won’t go amiss. And, as Petra said ‘Poglej in pojej’ – Look then eat! A great motto I say!

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When visiting Škofja Loka be sure to drop into the DUO Centre to browse the range of products available, all of which make excellent gifts or a treat for yourself, and take a piece of Slovenia’s handicraft tradition home. Products include: wooden games and other unique wooden products, clay reliefs, lace products from the A. Primožič House of Bobbin Lace, basketware and wickerwork, tools and other forged-iron implements, felted items, items made from wool and recycled paper, dyed wool, silk and other knitted woolen products, Dražgoše honey breads, crocheted pieces, knitware, products made from rawhide, wood and other raw materials, bags, shoes, hats and other items made using wet-felting, patchwork and glassware.

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Upon prior arrangement, various workshops can be organised with any of the master craftspeople, where you can learn a new skill, or brush-on existing ones!

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More information about the DUO Center can be found here – http://www.visitskofjaloka.si/en/experiences/864

© Adele in Slovenia

 

Genuine warmth, hospitality and Slovenian food at Globočnik

On a cold winter’s evening, I recently paid a(nother) visit to the Globočnik Excursion Farm (Izletniška kmetija Globočnik), where there is always a guaranteed warm welcome together with genuine hospitality and traditional Slovenian food – I just love this place!

Situated in the tiny hamlet of Globoko, next to the Sava river, this centuries-old farmhouse is extra cosy during the winter thanks to the log fire and wood-burning stove. The house dates back to 1628 and contains an original black-kitchen.

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The house really has a unique ambience and you feel right at home from the minute you step inside, much in part to the owner Cene – a larger-than-life character with a wealth of tales to tell – ably assisted by his wife, Nika.

On the day I visited, they were holding their annual demonstration and tasting of ‘koline‘ – the traditional preparation of various sausages from the winter pig slaughter. As you can see from the photo below, at Globočnik, it is still done the traditional way.

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A lot of muscle is required, though, so it’s ‘all hands on deck!’

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On this annual traditional day, one of the farm’s neighbours, who is known as a ‘star bread baker’ also comes to join in to ensure there is delicious just-baked bread to accompany the meat feast! With that many years experience of bread baking under her belt, you just know it’s going to be great bread!

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Made in the traditional way and using original equipment together with lots of TLC!

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And the results speak for themselves!

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As was the rest of the food, which sure hits the spot on a chilly winter’s night!

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I could still just about do up my jeans after the feast! And yes, that is flour all over my jumper, nothing like getting stuck in!

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The atmosphere was made even warmer thanks to zither and accordion music.

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And beautiful singing which soon had people up on their feet!

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For the past 2 years, Globočnik has also been one of the participating Taste Radol’ca restaurants, where the focus is on locally produced ingredients.

Dishes available include cold-cut platters and various soups to start; main courses such as grilled sausages, black-pudding, roast pork, stewed beef or roast duck, goulash, tripe, and various stews; a wide selection of side dishes such as steamed sauerkraut, roast potatoes, turnips, buckwheat with mushrooms, cheese štruklji; and desserts such as apple strudel and stuffed apples with walnuts and honey.

Note – The Globočnik Excursion Farm is only at weekends (or at other times upon prior arrangement) and reservations are essential. Unfortunately, however, the website is in Slovene only, and somewhat outdated – top marks for food and hospitality but technology really isn’t their thing, though we forgive them – so the best bet is to call 040 736 930 and if you need any help or more information, you can always turn to me and I’ll endeavour to help.

© Adele in Slovenia

A Spotlight on Škofja Loka

So, it’s 2017, a new year and a new(ish) start for me too. Having spent the last 4 years extolling the wonders of my home town of Radovljica, this year, whilst I will still be writing plenty about Radovljica, I’m also turning my attention to another of my favourite historic towns in Slovenia – Škofja Loka.

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When I was choosing where to live it was a toss-up between Radovljica and Škofja Loka, as both towns are my kind of place i.e. historic and picturesque medieval old towns with wonderful surrounding nature, opportunities for outdoor activities and conveniently located.

So, I hope you will join me in the coming weeks, months, and maybe even years, on my adventures in the Škofja Loka area, including the surrounding Poljane and Selca valleys, where there is a wealth of natural beauty, cultural and heritage sites, traditional and unique cuisine and a wealth of things to see and do.

The obvious place to start is with the area’s crowning glory – Škofja Loka Castle. The castle stands on a small hill above the main old town square and dominates the view as you arrive into the town. Whichever angle you see it from, and whether from near or far, its a mighty impressive building.

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Even the uphill approach to the castle is scenic!

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The original castle was built in 1202 by the Freising Bishops, who, during the period from 973-1803, owned the Loka Estate. The castle was completely renovated following an earthquake in 1511 that almost entirely destroyed it.

Loka Museum – among the most popular and visited of Slovenia’s museums. The museum is bursting with rich and varied archaeological, historical, cultural, ethnological, art and natural history collections.

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Exhibits are housed in numerous rooms, galleries and corridors including Grohar’s Room – dedicated to one of Slovenia’s most important painters, Ivan Grohar – the Castle Chapel, the Round Tower and a special place in the collection is dedicated to the writer Ivan Tavčar, who hailed from nearby Visoko in the Poljane valley and wrote many of his greatest works at Tavčar Manor.

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Space is utilised to the full and the walls of the ground floor corridors are adorned by paintings and frescoes, mostly based on religious themes from the baroque period.

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One of the highlights is undoubtedly the preserved original drawbridge – one of the only of its kind in Slovenia – which was the original and only entrance to the castle.

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As well as the glass-floored area where you can walk over part of the castle’s original foundations. A slightly unnerving but different experience!

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There are great views from the castle over the town and the Sora river.

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You should set aside at least a few hours to stroll up to the castle, browse the exhibits in the museum, take in the views and stroll around the castle park, where you can also visit the Škopar House (Škoparjeva hisa) open-air museum, a typical 16th dwelling that was moved from nearby Puštal and features an original black kitchen.

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You can find out more about Škofja Loka Castle and Museum here – http://www.loski-muzej.si/en/ and visit the official Visit Škofja Loka website here – http://www.visitskofjaloka.si/en/

I can’t wait to discover more and hope you will accompany me along every step of the way!

Happy New Year to you all!

© Adele in Slovenia

Winter Hiking and Snowshoeing in Slovenia’s Julian Alps

I’ve had quite a few enquiries recently via my blog regarding winter hiking in Slovenia. So, I thought I would put together a new blog post with some ideas about where to hike here in winter, and also about another alternative winter sport – snowshoeing.

Before I go on, however, one thing I would like to emphasise – and cannot emphasise enough – is that you MUST be properly prepared and equipped for winter hiking. In the past couple of weeks there have been a number of deaths in our mountains, and, as is so often the case, among them are tales of people going to the mountains in trainers or other such inappropriate attire. Proper equipment is essential year-round, but particularly so in winter, as is knowing the terrain. Personally, during winter, particularly when hiking alone, I stick to routes that I know and that I know are well-trodden.

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As I’m not a skier – never have been and never will be – snowshoeing provides great exercise and (can be!) great fun too, provided the conditions are right. Putting on a pair of snowshoes for the first time is a slightly strange experience. One feels rather awkward and clumsy walking around with, what look and feel like, tennis racquets strapped to your feet, though the modern versions, as seen below, are somewhat sleeker in their design.

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Once you get used to walking with a wider and slightly ungainly gait, you soon get used to it, though a pair of hiking poles is a requisite. Walking with snowshoes enable you to access places on foot that would otherwise be inaccessible during winter. However, snowshoes aren’t suitable for scaling high peaks, but rather for traversing wider, flatter snow-covered terrain.

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One of the best, and one of my favourite, places for winter activities is the Gorenjska region, where I live in the northwest of Slovenia, is the Pokljuka plateau. The entire forested Karst plateau, 20kms in length, is within Triglav National Park, and reaches an elevation of 1,400m. The highest peak is Debela peč (2014m), which, together with the peaks of Brda, Mrežce and Viševnik, are among the most popular with hikers year-round.

As can be seen below – me en-route to Debela peč – winter hiking, when at times you can be waist deep (or deeper!) in snow, can be exhausting at times, so isn’t for the faint-hearted!

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But the rewards can also be fantastic, provided you are well-equipped, sensible, know the terrain, and are fit enough!

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Pokljuka is approximately 15kms from Bled. Other than for a few months during summer, there is no regular, scheduled public transport to the plateau, so a car is essential. The plateau can also be reached from the road which turns off near Bohinjska Bistrica and leads up towards Gorjuše.

This year on 8-11th December Pokljuka hosted the annual BMW Biathlon World Cup. The plateau is a favourite training destination for many winter sports people from across Europe as well as for the Slovene military who have a barracks at Rudno Polje, which is also home to the Pokljuka Sports Centre and the Hotel Center http://www.center-pokljuka.si/en.html

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Pokljuka is a very popular destination with fans of cross-country skiing. I have tried it, on a few occasions, but me and skiing – of any kind – are never going to get along! Here’s me trying to ‘play it cool’ whilst a group of Slovenian military recruits go whizzing by!

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I’ve been there at times when the weather is less than favourable too, though once home in the warm with a cuppa, all is forgiven and forgotten!

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With its wide, open pastures and traditional wooden huts, the beautiful Planina Zajavornik highland is among the most popular parts of Pokljuka. The highland is also equally stunning during summer. You can cross the highland on foot and then head further up to the Blejska koča mountain hut, where you can enjoy hearty, traditional Slovenian food such as Carniolan sausage or a stew such as ričet, or, if the road is clear of snow, you can drive a little further by taking the road to the right from Mrzli studenec then park on the opposite side of the highland before continuing on foot up to the mountain hut.

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There are so many lovely parts of Pokljuka, it’s hard to choose a favourite and it’s equally beautiful, if not more so, during summer. Below you can see the Kranjska dolina highland, which you pass if you take the road as described above. I particularly like cycling in this area in summer.

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It’s fairly easy to navigate your way around Pokljuka, but a map of the Julian Alps will certainly aid you in planning routes.

I hope this has provided some ideas and inspiration for winter hiking in Slovenia. I wish you happy, and above all, safe, hiking!

© Adele in Slovenia