More Rainy Days Ideas – Radovljica and Studor

Most of July was blissfully hot and dry, and indeed records were being broken left, right and centre, until, that is, last week when a new, less than remarkable, record was set of just 20 minutes sunshine over a 5 day period. Let’s hope that record is consigned to the history books and not repeated any time soon! Fortunately, by Friday the sun had worked its way back and it was immediately hot again. The consequence, however, is that there wasn’t much in the way of hiking and cycling for me for the whole of last week, instead just endless trudges with my umbrella.

Once such ‘trudge’ – though in fairness the remarkable scenery means it can’t be described as a ‘trudge’ – was around the quaint village of Studor. The moody skies and the mountains of the Julian Alps rising up from Bohinj Lake only served to somehow make it even more scenic.

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Though only tiny, Studor it is known for its double height ‘toplar’ hayracks.

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The Mrcina ranch with its Icelandic horses.

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and also the Oplen House Museum (Oplenova hiša) which represents a typical 19th century home where various crafts were carried out and includes a black kitchen – http://www.slovenia.info/en/muzej/Studor-in-Bohinj,-Oplen-House-.htm?muzej=914&lng=2

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Meanwhile, in Radovljica, it is noticeable how rain actually attracts visitors to the area. On rainy summer days, the old town centre is often at its liveliest as people flood here from Bled, and the surrounding areas, seeking things to do on a rainy day. Popular attractions include:

The Museum of Apiculture, housed in the Radovljica Mansion, where you can learn all about the history and importance of beekeeping in Slovenia and see the collection of painted beehive panels, each one tells its own story, including the oldest one in the world.

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The Gingerbread Workshop at Lectar Inn, where you can see gingerbread hearts being made and decorated, pick up some souvenirs and/or enjoy a delicious meal in the restaurant.

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There’s also the Šivec House Gallery, St. Peter’s Church and, a little further afield, the iron-forging village of Kropa, the village of Kamna Gorica with its many bridges and streams, the ruins of Kamen Castle and the home of Avsenik music in Begunje, and the Vila Rustica archeological site and Village Museum in Mošnje.

All of the above mentioned are also accessible on the Hop-On Hop Off Tourist Bus which runs on Tuesdays and Thursdays throughout the summer – http://www.radolca.si/en/hop-on-hop-off-radolca/

Of course, on rainy days food and drink is usually top of most people’s list and Radovljica doesn’t disappoint on this score either with a plethora of cafes, and tasty homemade food at the Taste Radol’ca restaurants including Kunstelj Inn, Lectar Inn, Joštov hram, Vila Podvin. More information can be found here or click on the Taste Radol’ca heading at the top of this page – http://www.radolca.si/en/taste-radolca/

© AdeleinSlovenia 2015

Celebrating Carnival Time – Avsenik Style!

This year, Carnival Saturday (Pustna sobota) also happened to fall on Valentine’s Day and Radovljica’s Carnival Dance (Pustni ples) took place at the Krek Hotel and Restaurant in Lesce. It is traditional to dress up in masks and costumes for pust, and the theme of this year’s dance was the music of the famous Avsenik Ensemble, from the nearby village of Begunje na Gorenjskem, since this year marks the 60th year since the issue of the hugely popular track ‘Na Golici’, which is also one of the most widely played. Since Avsenik have produced more than 1000 songs, attendees had a wide range of songs and lyrics to allow them to get creative with their costumes. Perhaps some of the best known songs, in this area at least, are ‘Na Robleku’ and ‘Na Golici‘ – named after two peaks in the Karavanke mountains which are popular destinations with hikers.

Here you can listen to the original version – http://youtu.be/r7gFNaGYEs8

And here you can listen to, and watch, a recent modern interpretation of ‘Na Golici’ – Riverdance style! – http://youtu.be/VUVN3mGiL9c

The music of the Avsenik Brothers is actually a world-wide phenomenon; it is particularly popular in Slovenia and neighbouring European countries, but is also known in the USA and even further afield, and their music has won countless awards. The home of Slovene popular folk music is at the birthplace of its founders, Slavko and Vilko Avsenik, at Pr’Jožovcu in Begunje. It is regularly visited by coach loads of fans of their music and the restaurant hosts regular music performances by the Avsenik House Ensemble, as well as workshops, festivals, competitions and other events. There is also a gallery and museum, music school, and guest accommodation. If you are visiting the Radol’ca area, then a visit isn’t complete without popping in to see, listen to, or even dance to, a bit of Avsenik!

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The main day of pust 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; to help drive winter away by scaring it with various costumes and masks. So, despite not being one inclined to fancy dress, masks etc., I am more than happy to join in and help drive winter away!

All the different regions of Slovenia have their own pust traditions, customs and characters. Among the most known are the ‘kurenti‘ from Ptuj (seen below left), where the country’s largest carnival takes place, with celebrations lasting a whole 2 weeks, and also the ‘laufarije‘ from Cerklje (below right). I think they look frightening enough to shoo-off winter!

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After 4 long weeks, and following an x-ray last Tuesday I was finally free of my immobilising shoulder immobilser last week and what a relief it was. To be able to quickly and easily get dressed and have a shower, do up my shoelaces etc. I, of course, wasted no time on my mission to regain my fitness and on Wednesday morning I was already up and out at 7am and at the mountain hut Roblekov dom in record time! Well, you didn’t expect any less did you?!

Oh and I should just add, here in Slovenia we eat doughnuts for Shrove Tuesday, instead of pancakes. I will, of course, oblige!

© AdeleinSlovenia 2015

The Draga Valley: The Lamberg Trail and the Draga Inn

The Draga Valley lies at the far end of the village of Begunje na Gorenjskem. The valley is little more than a couple of kilometres in length yet is a very popular destination, particularly as it is the start point for hiking to numerous destinations in the Karavanke mountains. The road through the valley has a monument and cemetery in remembrance to hostages of the second world war who were held in the Gestapo prison in the nearby Katzenstein Mansion in Begunje.

The Draga Inn (Gostišče Draga) is situated at the end of the valley alongside the Begunščica stream, making it an oasis of calm and tranquillity. During the summer months its position affords welcome relief from the heat, thanks to the freshness of the stream, whilst in the winter the Inn is toasty warm thanks to the log-burning fire –  just perfect for me! The Inn is particularly popular with weary hikers looking for some sustenance after a long hike. However, it also offers a more gourmet experience for those looking for something finer.

One of the most popular destinations to visit from the Draga valley is the Roblek mountain hut. From the valley it takes around 2 hours to reach the hut at 1672m and since it was dark when I went for dinner, and since the valley was shrouded in pesky low cloud most of the weekend and I just knew that the sun had to be up there somewhere, I returned over the weekend to take some photos and to hike up to Roblek in search of the sun. I didn’t have to go for as it was sunny up above 800metres, so I was rewarded for my efforts with fantastic views and warm sunshine up above the clouds. Other than the final 10 minutes, most of the path was free of snow but, as you can see from the picture below, winter has already arrived in the mountains.

 

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You can visit the valley by car, by bike or on foot, and a great way to reach the Draga Inn is via the Lamberg Trail which officially begins at the car park opposite the Avsenik Restaurant and Museum in Begunje. However, you can also park, as I usually do, at the Krpin Recreation Ground in Begunje and begin the walk from there. The trail runs behind the ruins of Kamen Castle and ends at the Inn, passing several information boards and sights of interest. The path is a little undulating but not difficult and takes about 45-1 hour minutes each way. More about the trail can be found here – http://www.radolca.si/en/lamberg-trail-begunje/ Keep your eyes pealed for wildlife though, who knows what you might encounter!

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As it is still November, and therefore the month of Taste Radol’ca, my friend and I decided we just had to take the chance to sample the Taste Radol’ca menu, and in fact because Gostišče Draga are offering 2 Taste Radol’ca menus, we plumped for one of each so we could try each others too (don’t we all do that?). However, since I don’t eat fish and menu 2 is predominantly fished-based, I lost out a bit there! The food was thoughtfully presented, tasty, and with generous, but not over-the-top, portion sizes, which was just as well as there were 4-courses to try.

We began with game pate with cranberries (menu 1) and smoked trout (menu 2). This was followed by pumpkin soup with toasted pumpkin seeds.

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Next came fillet of deer (in my case substituted for beef) in a honeyed-pepper sauce, cheese strukelj and, one of my favourite things on their menu, house dumplings filled with cranberry sauce. Menu 2 was trout fillet in cornmeal with buckwheat and mushrooms.

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Dessert was apple strudel (menu 1) and hot-chocolate soufflé (menu 2).

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Oh, and of course all capped off with a little glug of one of the myriad flavours of schnapps on offer!

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In addition to the Taste Radol’ca menu, Gostišče Draga offer a full and varied menu with an emphasis on game and fresh fish. Their philosophy is based on traceability of ingredients; many of the ingredients used, such as fruit, vegetables and flour, are home-grown and produced. More information can be found here – http://www.gostisce-draga.si/

So, I have now completed the (arduous!) task of reviewing this year’s new additions to Taste Radol’ca and am no doubt a few kilogrammes heavier for having done so! More information about all the participating restaurants can also be found under the Taste Radol’ca heading at the top of the blog.

With the festive season rapidly approaching, this week Radovljica’s residents are invited to help decorate the old town to help make it into a festive winter wonderland. Decoration, and the making of decorations, will take place on Wednesday (9am – 1pm), Thursday (9am – 1pm and 3pm – 7pm) and Friday (3pm – 7pm) in the atrium of the Radovljica Mansion. Come and join us and get in the festive spirit!

© AdeleinSlovenia 2014

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