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

Laško: A Festival of Beer, Blooms and More!

Laško is synonymous with beer, and, with it, the annual Beer and Blooms Festival (Pivo in Cvetje).

Though Laško beer is widely known, some perhaps might not even realise that Laško isn’t merely the name of a beer, it’s also a thriving, compact town – and a lovely one it is too! Laško is located just a 10 minute drive from Slovenia’s 3rd city, Celje, and is easily reached by taking the Celje exit of the Ljubljana-Maribor motorway. The town is also well connected by public transport, with fairly frequent trains from Ljubljana taking under 1.5 hours.

The best place to start a visit to Laško is at the tourist information centre, which occupies a prime position at the entrance to the town in ‘Trg Svobode’. The centre stocks a very comprehensive selection of souvenirs, beer-related or otherwise (I bought chocolate made with beer!), organises brewery tours (only offered for groups but even if you are alone, as I was, the centre will try to arrange for you to join another group), and offers bike rental, as well as an extensive range of information on what to see and do in the town and its surroundings. More information here – http://www.stik-lasko.si/en/

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The Black Bridge, situated at the outflow of the Žikovca stream

Now, back to the beer! Beer drinkers in Slovenia usually belong to one of two groups, the ‘reds’ or the ‘greens’! The ‘red’ refers to Union beer – the brewery is based in Ljubljana, whilst the ‘green’ refers to Laško.

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Laško beer dates back to 1825 when, Franz Geyer, a local producer of mead and gingerbread, founded the brewery, originally located in the Valvasorjev Spital building in the town centre, which is now a hotel. Geyer was later joined by the entrepreneur and developer Simon Kukec. Through the years the brewery has endured wars and economic crises, but has always managed to survive and even thrive. In 1944, when the factory was bombed, it was soon returned to its former glory and production restarted the following year.

Laško was the number one beer in the former Yugoslavia, which had a population of 22 million, and at the height of its popularity in the 1990s it was annually producing over a million hectolitres, with its beer being exported as far as India. Since Slovenia’s independence in 1991, and later the financial crisis, times have been tough for many of Slovenia’s companies, with many falling by the wayside, however, not withstanding a change of ownership, the Laško brewery has continued unhindered.

For many, a tour of the Laško brewery is high on the list of things to see and do, especially since, at the end of the tour, a tasting session is included! I can’t pretend to be a beer drinker, but that didn’t stop me going on a factory tour anyway! Brewery tours last around 2.5 hours, cost 8 euros, and include a visit to the Laško Museum, a guided tour of the brewery and a beer tasting session with savoury snacks.

You can get up close and personal with the ‘King of Beer’.

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Technology in the factory means that the production process is far-removed from days gone-by. During my tour I could count on one hand the number of employees I saw as everything is automated. The actual recipe and ingredients, however, have remained largely unchanged. A case of ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t try to fix it!’

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For a special treat visit the restaurant in Tabor Castle. The castle sits atop a small hill just immediately above the town centre. The castle is thought to date back to the 12th century, was razed to the ground by the Turks in 1487, and for the ensuing two centuries it remained in ruins. It was finally bought and restored by the Laško brewery in the mid-1980s. Today is houses an incredibly cute, teeny, not to mention popular, wedding hall (with the emphasis being on ‘teeny’ rather than ‘hall’!), and a fine-dining restaurant.

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For a special treat visit the Pavus restaurant, within the castle, which is ranked as one of the top 15 restaurants in Slovenia and one of the Jeunes Restaurateurs of Europe.

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There are plenty of walking and hiking paths in the immediate vicinity. A good way to get your bearings is to take a gentle stroll alongside the Savinja river. The small, well-kept city park, with a play area for children and abstract sculptures, is a nice place to linger in fine weather.

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Just a couple of kilometres from Laško in the hamlet of Strmca I visited the Šolar beekeepers, where for over 30 years the owners have been keeping bees and producing ‘Lectar‘ – otherwise known as decorated gingerbread, most often in the shape of a heart. Visitors can also experience the benefits of apitherapy. Their honey biscuits (medenjaki) are award-winning and I was treated to a sample together with some delicious honey liqueur.

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Now, getting back to the Beer and Blooms Festival. This year’s event will take place on 14th – 17th July.

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It actually started out as just a local flower festival, but was later, from 1965 onwards, expanded to include live music, fireworks, parades, exhibitions, and, of course, beer!

Over 135,000 people visited the 2015 festival and 250,000 jugs of beer were consumed. Not quite on a par with the Oktoberfest, but in Slovenian terms this is a pretty major ‘Don’t Miss’ event, and the bonus is that the beer is a fraction of the cost of that in Munich!

The highlight of the event, and that which draws the largest crowds, is the spectacular firework display on Saturday evening, which can last up to half-an-hour.

As with all good festivals, camping is embraced and a special area is set up for tents. Those looking for more comfortable accommodation can stay at the one of the Thermana Laško hotels. The Wellness Park hotel has a thermal centre with indoor and outdoor pools and retractable glass dome, a modern sauna and wellness centre and several restaurants and cafes. More here – http://bit.ly/1qdgmX1

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© Adele in Slovenia