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

A Sunny Saturday on Ajdna!

It’s not exactly something to boast about, in fact it’s a rather unenviable fact that as of today, 20th June 2016, there has not yet been a single day in June when there hasn’t been some kind of precipitation. Even on Saturday, which was a glorious, sunny day, there was a short, sharp shower. However, looking at the forecast, it seems we could be in for plenty of hot, sunny days for the week ahead (didn’t I say that last week too?!).

So, back to last week’s glorious Saturday. I couldn’t decide whether to hike or bike, so in the end did a combination of the two! Or I should say ‘we’, since I had a friend visiting for the weekend from the U.K, so it was lovely to have some company for a change.

We began by cycling from home in Radovljica to the Završnica reservoir then hiked up to Smolnik, beneath Stol in the Karavanke mountains. More here – https://adeleinslovenia.com/2016/04/25/spring-in-the-karavanke-mountains/

We then continued to the Ajdna archaelogical site, which I have blogged about previously, though it was some years back – https://adeleinslovenia.com/2014/01/13/fascinating-ajdna/

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We took the steep route up, which involves a little climbing but is secured with iron rope and footholds.

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And the easier route back down!

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At the top there are well-preserved buildings and remains of buildings that are thought to date back to the late Antiquity, though evidence, some of it dating back as far as the collapse of the Roman Empire (476 AD), shows that it may have been inhabited far earlier. The peak provided locals with an excellent refuge from the troubles taking place down below in the valley. Ajdna is thought to be the highest lying settlement of its kind in Slovenia. Read more here – https://adeleinslovenia.com/2014/01/13/fascinating-ajdna/

 

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By lunchtime the clouds were beginning to gather but the views down the valley towards Jesenice and Kranjska Gora were still more than worth the effort!

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With the (promised) sunny days ahead, hopefully there will be plenty more of this to come!

© Adele in Slovenia

Spring in the Karavanke Mountains

After all the excesses of the Radovljica Chocolate Festival, last week was all about my other great love – Slovenia’s great outdoors!

Spring has arrived in the Karavanke mountains and, particularly on the south facing slopes, the snow is melting at a pace, or rather ‘was’. When I started writing this blog last week, it certainly was ‘Spring in the Karavanke Mountains’. Now, however, looking out of my window at the fresh snow, and digging out my gloves and warm clothes again, it feels anything but spring-like! Nevertheless, the blog below remains ‘as was’ and hopefully spring-proper will return very soon.

It is, however, a different matter on the north facing slopes of the Karavanke, so it’s still a bit too soon in the season for any serious hiking above 1,500 metres, and it’s an entirely different matter in the Julian Alps, where there is still a significant amount of snow, even at lower levels.

It’s still a little nippy early morning, especially for cycling, but wrapped up well I cycled from Radovljica to the Završnica reservoir then headed on foot to Smolnik (1002m). What I particularly like about Smolnik is that despite it being near the Valvasor mountain hut (Valvasorjev dom) – a very popular destination for hikers, Smolnik itself is relatively unknown as the path is not marked, thus only those ‘in the know’ frequent it – until now perhaps!!!

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Though I also often hike up to the Valvasor hut at this time of year, what sets Smolnik apart is the view, since the views from the hut are rather restricted. The path up through the forest is very steep, so I consider a pair of hiking poles a must – though there is an option to approach it from the opposite direction, via the road that leads to the Ajdna archeological site, which is a far less steep option. In places it little more than a mass of tangled tree routes, however, the path is clear and easy to follow.

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On reaching the top of Smolnik there are wonderful views across the valley and towards Bled Lake, a great reward for my effort.

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There is a bench for resting weary limbs if required, with Stol, the highest peak in the Karavanke range, dominating the backdrop, and looking very ‘moody’ on this occasion.

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From the peak of Smolnik it’s easy to reach the Valvasor mountain hut, from where you can continue to one of the mountain highlands as I did – in this case the Žirovniška planina highland, for marvellous views of the snow-capped Julian Alps, or continue towards Ajdna, which is well worth a visit. You can read more about that in a previous blog here – https://adeleinslovenia.com/2014/01/13/fascinating-ajdna/

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It’s just the start of the season, so plenty of this, and more, to come!

© Adele in Slovenia 2016

Hiking, cycling and strolling in sunny Slovenia!

After the excesses of the Easter weekend (see last week’s post), this weekend was devoted to my number one passion i.e. being outdoors, and as a bonus the whole weekend the country was bathed in fabulous warm sunshine. It was certainly a far cry from last weekend’s snowy/windy/cold and very changeable weather and, as you will see below, I managed to squeeze in quite a lot!

  • A stroll amongst the spring flowers in Ljubljana’s Botanic Gardens where even the terrapins were basking in the sun.

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  • A walk up to Ljubljana Castle.

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  • A hike up to the Potoška highland (Potoška planina).

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As you can see, in places there was still some snow. In fact, it is quite difficult at the moment to choose where to hike because the sunny slopes, up to around 1200-1300m, are now free of snow, however, any higher, and particularly in shaded areas, there is still a lot of snow and ice to contend with, so hikes into the higher mountains will have to wait a while yet. These past couple of days though, due to the high temperatures, it is beginning to melt fast so hopefully it won’t be too much longer until I can begin to start venturing further and higher.

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I began from the reservoir in Žirovnica, which I had cycled to from home, then followed the path up towards the Valvasor mountain hut (Valvasorjev dom). On reaching the road forest road, which is crossed in order to continue towards the hut, there is a sign for Ajdna and Potoška planina to the left. I had actually intended to go to Ajdna but there was a training course for mountain guides taking place there all weekend so I instead continued on the forest road up to the Potoška highland (1270m) from where there are far-reaching views across the Julian Alps and along the Upper-Sava valley towards Kranjska Gora, however, it was rather hazy sunshine so the photos don’t really do the views justice on this occasion. From the highland I turned right to continue towards the Valvasor hut but, rather than going to the hut itself, I continued on to the next highland, Žirovniška planina. There are several such mountain highlands that lie on the slopes beneath Stol, the highest mountain in the Karavanke range.

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  • A ride on the new bike path in Jesenice. I love this new path as its traffic-free and now joins up with the bike path from Mojstrana towards Kranjska Gora and onwards into Italy.

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Next weekend, of course, its the Radovljica Chocolate Festival so will once again be dedicated to my other passion i.e. chocolate! All the chocolately fun kicks off on Friday 17th April at 3pm and continues all weekend. The full festival programme is now available here – http://www.festival-cokolade.si/en/programme/

© AdeleinSlovenia 2015

Fascinating Ajdna!

No, the title of this week’s blog isn’t a reference to the British cabaret act of (almost) the same name (Fascinating Aida), but in fact a reference to the fascinating archeological site of Ajdna.

Ajdna is a peak, located at an altitude of 1064m, high above the village of Potoki. It is part of the Karavanke range, on the slopes of Stol which is the highest mountain in the Karavanke. On a clear day, as it was when I went this week, the views along the Upper Sava Valley, as well as across the Julian Alps, are magnificent and far reaching.

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As well as being an interesting place to walk and to admire the views, there was another reason for my visit since last year, for my birthday, two friends gave me a necklace with a bird (as seen below), the symbol of Ajdna. Following that, we all planned to go together for a walk there but for a variety of reasons i.e. too hot, raining, busy etc. our trip never quite came to fruition. So this week, with the perfect (spring) winter weather we have been having, I decided that now was the time to go. Who would have thought that it would be possible in mid-January!

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Today the site has been designated an archeological monument of great importance and has a protected status. The settlement that stands here is thought to be from the late Antiquity, though evidence, some of it dating back as far as the collapse of the Roman Empire (476 AD), shows that it may have been inhabited far earlier. The peak provided locals with an excellent refuge from the troubles taking place down below in the valley, not to mention with excellent views too! Ajdna is also thought to be the highest lying settlement of its kind in Slovenia.

Excavations didn’t begin here until 1976 and since then remains of weapons, jewellery and other household objects, as well as many graves, have been found, some of which are now on display in the Gorenjska Museum in Kranj. It is thought the site was home to around 100 people. Today many well-preserved buildings still remain and there are photographs and posters documenting the finds.

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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. There is a path which leads directly up from Potoki or from Završnica, in the direction of the Valvasor mountain hut.

Since it was a lovely day and I fortunately had time on my side, I started from Žirovnica and made a long walk of it. First, I climbed the stairs adjacent to the water tower, through the tunnel and continued on the path to reach the Završnica reservoir. From here I followed the marked path as if going to Valvasor dom, turning left on the mountain road approximately 15 minutes beneath Valvasor dom. 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). 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 foot and hand holds. For those not so keen on such ascents, or those with small children, take the slightly longer path to the right, which though easier, also requires a degree of concentration as the area is quite exposed and prone to rockfall. Whichever way you reach it, you will be richly rewarded for your efforts! I will gradually be adding more photos of this, and some of my other trips, on my Pinterest profile too, just click here – http://www.pinterest.com/adeleinslovenia/

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So, as you can see from the photos, there is still no snow here in the valley. For the first part of this week, some rain is forecast, with snow at around the 1,000 metre level. For anyone booked to ski at Kranjska Gora, I’m afraid to report that it is pretty green there. However, I’ve heard that some of the hotels are arranging shuttles to alternative ski resorts either within Slovenia or to nearby Austria or Italy so all is not lost. At Vogel and Krvavec however, there is plenty of snow and they are having a great season and with Slovenia being such a small country, its quite easy to get from resort to resort, without long distances involved.

If you are visiting the area, whether to ski or not, there are of course plenty of other things to see and do to. Take a look back through some of my previous posts for some ideas. I’ve covered a pretty wide spectrum about Radovljica, where I live, but also about many other areas around the region and even further afield.

This week there will be a FREE guided tour of the medieval old town of Radovljica on Tuesday 14th January at 10am. There is also an outdoor ice rink in Radovljica, open weekdays from 3-6pm, weekends from 10-6pm. Entrance is free for children up to the age of 18 (with their own skates) and just 2 euros for adults. On Thursday 16th there will be a public production by the Avsenik Music School in Begunje beginning at 6.30pm at the Avsenik Museum – entrance is free.

© AdeleinSlovenia 2014