Jezersko: Slovenia’s First Mountaineering Village

The village of Jezersko lies at an altitude of 906 metres above sea-level at the foot of the Kamnik-Savinja Alps and the Karavanke range. It is Slovenia’s first, and it could be said ‘best’, true mountaineering village.

As befits somewhere with such pristine nature, it is spotlessly clean, all the hiking trails and attractions are very well marked, and a sense of peace and tranquility reigns over the entire valley.

What you won’t find in Jezersko are hordes of tourists, tacky souvenir shops, and over-priced eateries etc., instead you will find scattered homesteads and farms, a handful of eateries serving local food, friendly locals and ‘to-die-for’ views as far as the eye can see.

What I personally find so appealing about Jezersko, apart from the peace and great hiking, is that although the area, understandably, has a vision in terms of tourism, that vision is exactly what it should be i.e. to remain true to what it is, to avoid mass tourism, to attract the type of people who appreciate Jezersko for its pure simplicity. And that, in my book, is something to be applauded, and is in pleasant contrast to many of today’s tourist traps.

Further proof that Jezersko is a great mountaineering village, is its entry this year into the Bergsteiger Dorfer Association of Mountain Villages. With the exception of Jezersko, all the other villages are in well-known mountainous areas, such as Bavaria and Tyrol.

If walking and hiking is your thing, then in Jezersko there is something to suit all levels; 2 mountain huts, 20kms of easy trails, 10kms of challenging trails; 15kms of very demanding trails, and 1 secured climbing trail.

For an easy walk and a good way of getting acquainted with the area, I recommend a walk along the 8km Ravenska kočna Theme Trail.

It begins at the stunningly beautiful Planšar Lake (Planšarsko jezero)…

…and continues across meadows with magnificent views of the north faces of the Kamnik-Savinja Alps.

Having such excellent natural conditions for alpine sports, Jezersko is home to some of Slovenia’s mountaineering legends. Among them Davo Karničar (seen below), who in 2000 became the first person to ski from the peak of Mt Everest to the base camp, and then, over the next six years to 2006, went on to ski from the highest peaks in all the continents, making him a true legend in the world of alpinism.

As of this year, the entire Jezersko Mountain Trail is now available in English (translated by me!). The trail can be walked in sections or in its entirety. Many of the hikes involve some difficult sections, so if you love challenging hikes, then this is for you, but you can also pick and choose some of the easier trails, too. It includes all the greats such as Grintovec, Skuta, Jezerska kočna, Goli vrh, Velika Baba, Storžič, the Frischaufov dom hut, Kranjska and Koroška rinka, and more.

One of the most popular places for many hikers, either as a destination in itself or as a base for more demanding onward tours, is the Češka koca mountain hut (1543m). In addition to its fantastic location, what makes this hut unique is that it was built in 1900 by the Prague-based Czech branch of the Slovene Mountaineering Association, after which the hut was named. It has been renovated many times over the years but has retained its original style.

Jezersko is also popular in winter, when cross-country , ski touring and sledging are the activities of choice.

Photo: TIC Jezersko

So, this has just been a brief overview of Jezersko, I will be writing more in due course as one blog certainly doesn’t do it justice, but I hope it has at least whetted your appetites!

If you love hiking and appreciate nature at it’s best, when considering your (next) trip to Slovenia, consider Jezersko!

© Adele in Slovenia

Autumn Time is Tasty Time in Radol’ca – Taste Radol’ca!

Autumn, thus far, has been a very mixed bag! There have been some beautifully warm, sunny days, but also some bitingly cold, crisp mornings, with the first frost already on 25th September – the coldest September morning since 1977, whereas last year it was exactly a month later, on 25th October, when it was time to start scraping the ice of the car windscreen!

However, some things about autumn are stalwarts, among them the magnificent colours of nature and tasty food in Radol’ca!

Hiking in the Radol’ca area, and in particular in the Karavanke mountains, is wonderful in autumn, especially if you set off on one of those pleasantly warm days, as was the case on my hike last week to Begunščica (2,060m) from the Draga valley, when the views and visibility were quite astounding.

Even the sheep grazing just beneath the peak looked happy that the sky was so blue – and, trust me, no photo-shopping was required, it really was that blue!

And since all that hiking works up and appetite, on to the subject of food – my other great love!

Restaurant Week takes place bi-annually, in spring and in autumn, and makes dining at some of Slovenia’s finest restaurants accessible and affordable to all.

All restaurants that are part of Restaurant Week are assessed and have to meet strict criteria to be included, therefore, the fact that there are three Taste Radol’ca restaurantsVila Podvin, Gostilna Kunstelj, Lambergh Chateau and Hotel, included in the 19 restaurants in northern Slovenia, is a sure testament to the quality of Taste Radol’ca.

This year 100 restaurants are taking part in Spring Restaurant Week and from 12th – 21st October will offer fixed menus for just €18 per personReservations are essential, and many of the restaurants get booked up early, so don’t delay, book today!

In addition, the whole month of November is a celebration of the best of Taste Radol’ca, with all the nine participating Taste Radol’ca restaurants offering special fixed price menus for just €18.

 

This year’s opening event will take place on Friday 26th October at gostilna Joštov hram in Podnart. The evening will begin at 5pm with a farmers’ market, followed by the opening dinner at 7pm.

As in previous years, all the talented Taste Radol’ca chefs will combine their skills, experience and creativity to create a unique and memorable dinner. Reservations can be made from 8th October at the Radovljica Tourist Information Centre. The price of the opening dinner is €39.00 (drinks excluded).

The theme of this year’s Month of Cuisine is honey. Radovljica, as the beekeeping capital of Slovenia, and in the year when World Bee Day was first celebrated, will also end the year on a culinary-based bee theme.

 

I’m looking forward to seeing what inventive menus the chefs will be cooking up for us this year, and I might, just might, blog about it too!

© Adele in Slovenia

Best Autumn Hikes in Bohinj

Though summer will always be my favourite time of the year in Slovenia, autumn comes a close second, particularly when it comes to my favourite pastime – hiking. Though I have titled this blog ‘Best Autumn Hikes in Bohinj‘ in truth it’s almost impossible to pick the ‘best’ hikes in an area with so much natural beauty and so many amazing hiking trails. So, below are just a few of my favourite autumn hikes in Bohinj and Triglav National Park.

To the south of Lake Bohinj, the Lower Bohinj mountain range offers wonderful hikes to suit all; shorter linear walks, longer circular walks or hut-to-hut hikes. As the days shorten in autumn, you can also make great use of the Vogel gondola to take you up or down – I prefer the latter, though I’m guessing I’m in the minority when it comes to that!

I love walking along the ridge, or part of it, that runs between Črna Prst, above Bohinjska Bistrica, to Rodica and onwards to the peak of Šija and down the ski slopes to the Vogel ski resort. Below are some of the highlights of my recent hike through the Bareča dolina valley towards Rodica.

The path starts off gently through the forest…

…before reaching the largely abandoned but nevertheless beautiful Suha mountain pasture.

From here its onwards and upwards to the Čez Suho saddle, where, on a fine day, you are richly rewarded with views as far as the eye can see of the surrounding peaks of the Julian Alps and, to the south, towards Slovenia’s Primorska region. You can also see the path(s) ahead and then take your choice. Turn left for Rodica or right towards Vogel.

On reaching the saddle beneath Šija, it’s just a short 15 minutes to the top, before heading down the ski slopes to the heart of the Vogel ski resort. The paths are well marked throughout.

On the way back, I met some very friendly sheep…

And stopped to ring the wishing bell!

.before reaching Vogel, which is, indeed, ‘Like a fairytale’!

In autumn the hugely popular 7 Triglav Lakes Valley is far less crowded so you can enjoy the best of the valley whilst, at times, even feeling like you have it all to yourself!

Without doubt one of my favourite autumn hikes is to Pršivec, a viewpoint on the north side of Lake Bohinj, where in autumn the colours of the surrounding larch trees, combined with the stunning views of the lake and the surrounding peaks, is truly magnificent.

There is often fog lingering above the lake in autumn, and on reaching the viewpoint at Vogar, you get that smug feeling of being, almost, on top of the world!

Lake Bohinj is at its most spectacular when viewed from Pršivec. It almost seems heart-shaped, well, it certainly captures the heart of all who see it!

I hope this has provided at least a few ideas for autumn hikes in Bohinj; there are countless others, too. So, what are you waiting for, it’s all there, ready for the taking – or rather the hiking! Click here for more about what else to do and do in autumn in Bohinj and here for advice on hiking in Bohinj in autumn.

© 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

The Begunje Lambergh Trail – Explore Kamen Castle, Archeological Sites and Caves in the Draga Valley

The Lambergh Trail (Lambergova pot) begins at the Krpin recreation area in Begunje na Gorenjskem. It leads through the forest past the ruins of Kamen Castle, passing two small archeological sites, and ending in the lush Draga valley at the Gostišče Draga restaurant, where you can enjoy a drink, snack or slap-up meal to gather your strength for the return journey, or you could even continue further on one of the trails that lead into the Karavanke mountains.

It takes around an hour to walk the almost 8km path (one-way), though if you stop to explore the castle, which is a must(!), then you should allow more time. The terrain is undulating, so good footwear is required. There are information boards along the way where you can find out more.

The Njivice archeological site dates back to the Old Iron Age.

There are vast caves to explore, too, some of which make you feel rather small!

Halfway along the trail you emerge briefly from the forest and are greeted by wonderful views over the upper part of the village.

You then reach the mighty and impressive ruins of Kamen Castle.

The castle was once home to the Counts of Lambergh – hence the name of the trail. It has preserved Gothic and Renaissance entrances and the partial restoration works that were recently carried out have made the castle more accessible.

Kamen Castle was built in the 12th century by the Counts of Ortenburg; later it was owned by the Counts of Celje, and from 1436 the Counts of Lambergh. The counts abandoned the castle in the 18th century when they moved to the more comfortable Katzenstein Mansion in the centre of the village.

The path ends at the Gostišče Draga restaurant at the head of the Draga valley. The restaurant, a member of Taste Radol’ca, is renowned for its game, fresh river trout, and numerous other traditional Slovene dishes.

The štruklji alone, both the sweet and savoury versions, are definitely worth the walk!

You can either return the same way following the signs back to the Krpin recreation centre, or alternatively you could first walk along the valley road beside the stream back to the castle, where you can rejoin the path back to the start.

You could also take time to explore Begunje itself; the Begunje Village Trail is just one of the many theme trails in the Radol’ca area. Click here for more.

© 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

Triglav 240: Hiking The Jubilee Mountain Trail

Of the many thousands of people who enjoy hiking in the Julian Alps and Triglav National Park, and the many who every year climb to the summit of Slovenia’s highest mountain, Triglav, there is probably only a tiny percentage of those who know, or give any thought to, how, when, and by whom, the summit was first conquered.

So, to coincide with the celebrations for the 240th anniversary since the first recorded summit of Triglav, join me to find out more about the four brave men who first conquered Slovenia’s magnificent 2,864m-high three-headed giant – the word Triglav means ‘three heads’!

The Jubilee Mountain Trail has been created to commemorate the first men who climbed to the summit of Triglav. The entire trail takes around 2-3 days. Along the way you can collect stamps at the nine destinations that make up the trail, or just take time to visit individuals sections, whether in the Bohinj valley or high up in the Julian Alps. It matters not, it’s not a competition, it’s a journey – one of discovery, appreciation and respect for the four brave men who first conquered Triglav, and one of personal satisfaction for each individual who undertakes it.

Since there are no actual documented records of the exact trail originally taken by the four friends, the Jubilee Mountain Trail is based on assumptions, according to where the men lived and how and where they gathered along the way.

The trail begins at the birth house of Štefan Rožič in the village of Savica in the Lower Bohinj valley then continues to Zoisova graščina, a mansion belonging to the initiator of the expedition, Baron Žiga Zois, in Stara Fužina. The village was also home to another of the four brave men, Lovrenc Willomitzer, whilst the remaining two, Matevž Kos and Luka Korošec, were from nearby Jereka and Koprivnik respectively.

From there it continues to the Planinska koča na Uskovnici mountain hut on the Pokljuka plateau, which I wrote more about in a recent blog post here . If you are following the entire trail you can get your next stamp here, or just enjoy and standalone trip, suitable for all the family, to this mountain pasture dotted with wooden weekend homes and cute-as-a-button chapel.

After a relatively gentle start, the trail leads up steeply to the Vodnikov dom na Velem polju mountain hut. The location of this hut, in the still green world of the Julian Alps before the rocky giants take over, makes it a worthy standalone trip – for an out-and-back day hike or as part of a longer hut-to-hut hike, even for those not wishing to walk the entire trail.

If you choose to continue your next target is Slovenia’s highest ‘hotel‘ – the Triglavski dom na Kredarici mountain hut (2,515m). The hut sits on a a ridge beneath Triglav and Rjavina. You have to overcome a few areas with steel ropes and foot rungs to reach it, and rarely is one lucky enough to get there when it isn’t shrouded in cloud, but it’s a welcome sight when you get there!

The large and unique hut even has its own chapelwind turbines and meteorological station. It can accommodate over 300 people and, even though it is officially closed in winter, there are meteorologists present 365 days per year.

Now comes Triglav itself, if you choose to undertake it. The final ascent, and of course the descent too, is considered a fixed climbing route, for which a helmet and harness is required. However, you certainly don’t have to hike to its summit to be able to enjoy and appreciate it. You can admire if from afar, get up close and admire it from below or, for those with a head for heights, go for the top to reach the famous Aljaž Tower.

From Triglav the trail continues to the Dom Planika pod Triglavom mountain hut, or for those who choose not to ascend Triglav itself, you can just descend from the Triglavski dom hut directly to Dom Planika.

From the Planika hut the route returns to the Vodnikov dom hut and then steeply down to the Koča na Vojah hut in the Voje valley, with its picture-perfect backdrop and exceedingly good blueberry pie!

The trail ends at the Monument to Four Brave Men in Ribčev Laz, where at the snack bar opposite the monument, you can get your final stamp, and/or just admire the magnificent monument whilst paying homage to the men who made it all possible!

If you intend to complete the entire trail, be sure to pick up a copy of the Jubilee Mountain Trail booklet before setting off and at each destination ensure you seek out the special Triglav 240 stamp. You have until December 2018 to collect all 9 stamps, and those who do will be eligible to receive a special award at the conclusion of the celebration of the 240th anniversary, which will take place on International Mountain Day on 11 December 2018.

There is a full programme of events taking place throughout the year to mark the anniversary, and on 2nd September there will be a special live TV broadcast ‘Doma pod Triglavom‘ at 8pm which everyone is invited to join, followed by the premiere of a new documentary at 10pm. In addition, a two-day guided hike of the Jubilee Trail will take place on 29th and 30th September – bookings are essential. Contact: info:bohinj.si, or tel: +386 (0)4 574 85 90

© Adele in Slovenia