The Begunje Village Trail – Along the Paths of Slavko Avsenik

The village of Begunje na Gorenjskem is the birthplace of the founder of Slovenian folk music, Slavko Avsenik, and a gateway to numerous hikes in the Karavanke mountains.

Get to know more about the village, its history, famous residents, and village life by taking a stroll along the Begunje Village Trail.

The trail begins opposite the Avsenik guest house and restaurant, where you can visit the Avsenik Museum to find out more about the legendary Slavko Avsenik and the music of the Avsenik Brothers Ensemble, as well as about the history of the village.

You can also see some hints and tips from the Avsenik Ensemble about how and where to see and enjoy the best of the area!

Continue past the cemetery through the narrow village lanes, passing the stream in places, heading towards St. Ulrich’s church.

Prior to reaching the church you will see an information board and to the right you can visit Robačnekov mill. It is officially open on Tuesdays and Fridays from 9am-12noon, however, outside of these times if the owner is home, as she was when I visited, just smile nicely and she will be happy to show you round!

After passing the church you can continue through the park past Katzenstein Mansion which today houses a psychiatric hospital and, at the rear, the Museum of Hostages. It is worth visiting the museum for a sobering, somewhat chilling, but interesting experience.

1n 1875 the mansion was sold to Austro-Hungarian judicial authorities and a prison, holding 300 female prisoners, was established. During the German occupation, it became a Gestapo prison and political prisoners were incarcerated in the mansion; after the war it again reprised its role as an all-female prison. Inside, on the walls of the former prison cells, you can see written records left by the prisoners and announcements by the occupiers concerning executions.

 The park is particularly known for its pavilion and the Chapel of St. Joseph, designed by the most famous Slovenian architect, Jože Plečnik, and is also home to a small cemetery where 457 hostages and 18 World War II combatants are laid to rest.
So, as you can see, Begunje na Gorenjskem may be a relatively small village, but it’s crammed with natural and cultural sights, so be sure to stop-off to wander the village trail to find out more! More information about this and other walking and hiking paths in the Radol’ca area can be found here – http://www.radolca.si/en/hiking/

© Adele in Slovenia

The Karavanke Mountains – Majestic Mt. Begunščica

At 2060m, Begunščica is amongst the highest mountains in the Karavanke range, and a favourite destination among locals and those looking for a moderately challenging and very scenic hike.

The approximately 120-kilometre-long Karavanke mountain range forms a natural border between Slovenia, to the south, and Austria, to the north. Thus, in late-spring it’s not uncommon for there to be snow on the northern facing slopes of the Karavanke, whilst it’s green on the sunny Slovenian side!

Green and sunny to the south, snowy to the north!

There are several ways to reach the summit; the most popular among them is to start from the Draga Valley in Begunje na Gorenjskem. If coming from Radovljica, drive through the village and continue in the direction of Tržič, then on the left you will see the road towards the valley. The valley is a popular starting point for hikes in the Karavanke range. The routes are well-marked and signposts show approximate walking times.

I recommend taking time to stop in the village of Begunje na Gorenjskem to have a stroll around the park, and also at the entrance to the Draga Valley to see the ruins of Kamen Castle.

Continue to the end of the valley to the parking area and from there you set off on foot. You can choose to either go via Preval on the first part of the Shepherd’s Trail, which is the more direct, short, but steeper route, or hike first up to the Roblekov dom mountain hut (1657m), where you can stop for refreshments either on the way up or down – or of course both ways! You can find more information about the Shepherd’s Trail here – http://www.radolca.si/en/shepherds-trail-begunje/

Looking down on the Preval mountain hut on the path up towards Begunščica

If you choose the route to Preval, it takes a good hour from the valley to reach the Koča na Prevalu mountain hut, again an optional break for refreshments here – then prepare yourself for the very steep path directly up to the summit. Here you leave the Shepherd’s Trail and take the marked path to Begunščica which, at times, can feel like an almost vertical ascent. However, apart from one small rocky section, it isn’t overly exposed and is manageable for competent and experienced hikers.

As you approach the summit you can’t fail to notice the ‘carpet’ of sheep droppings from the sheep that are taken to graze on the slopes of Begunščica during summer! I always wonder how on earth so few sheep manage to produce so many droppings! At the summit there is an orientation table which provides assistance when you are gobsmacked by the stunning views and don’t know where to look first!

Personally I prefer to do the hike in the direction as I have described it: Draga – Preval – Begunščica – Roblek – Draga, as the descent from the summit to Roblek is easier and more ‘knee-friendly’ than the steep path from the summit down to Preval. I also like doing it this way as it makes it an entirely circular route.

The path from the summit down towards the Roblekov dom hut

Whilst there is no hut at the summit, there’s no shortage of huts to visit; in addition to the aforementioned Koča na Prevalu and Roblekov dom huts, there is also the Tomčeva koča hut (1180m) on the Poljška Planina highland and the hut on the Planina Planinca highland (1136m), both of which are found at approximately the halfway point between the Draga Valley and the Roblekov dom hut.

The hut on the Planina Planinca highland

You can find out more about this and other hiking routes nearby on the Tourism Radol’ca website here – http://www.radolca.si/en/hiking/

© Adele in Slovenia

What’s On in Radovljica June 2017 – A Lot!

Here’s a round-up of the latest news and events taking place in June 2017, of interest to both visitors and locals, in my lovely home town of Radovljica as well as the surrounding towns and villages. I apologise in advance for the long blog, but there’s so much going on!

Any running enthusiasts out there? The annual Radovljica 10k run takes place this year on Friday 23rd June. The race is even featured on the Run International website, since, despite being the smallest event it lists, it is included for having ‘a particularly-beautiful setting’. The route goes through and around the town, from where there are fantastic views of the Sava river, the Julian Alps, the Karavanke mountains, and the Jelovica plateau. You can read more about the event here – http://www.runinternational.eu/2017-calendar/june/2851-radolska-10ka-2017

Every Tuesday you can join a FREE guided tour of Radovljica’s historic old town centre. The tour begins at 10am at the Radovljica Tourist Information Centre at the entrance to the old town in Linhart Square (Linhartov trg).

An exhibition titled ‘Terra Mystica’ is on view in the Radovljica Mansion in the old town until 2nd June. The exhibition showcases products made at the children’s ceramics biennial.

Talking of ceramics, the Festival of the Strength of the Earth (previously known as the Ceramics Festival) took place last Saturday. The main market event took place in Linhart Square, where visitors could see and buy products such as ceramic ware, herbs, seeds, natural cosmetics, and teas.

Photo: Boris Pretnar

Whilst workshops took place at the biodynamic garden at the town primary school.

Photo: Boris Pretnar

The annual month-long Vurnik Days (Vurnikovi dnevi) begins on 1st June in memory of the architect Ivan Vurnik who was born in Radovljica in 1884. Vurnik helped found the Ljubljana School of Architecture and, together with his wife, Helena Kottler Vurnik, they went on to design many notable buildings in Radovljica, as well as further afield in Slovenia.

Radovljica’s swimming pool was built in 1932 and is considered one of Vurnik’s most notable projects. The most distinguishing feature, at its time considered a daring feat of engineering and architecture, was the high diving platform. It was demolished in 1966 but Radovljica’s Olympic-size swimming pool lives on today, in the same location, though in a somewhat more modern form.

Another of his works is the Basilica of Mary Help of Christians in Brezje, built in the period from 1965 – 1967, which is today the most renowned pilgrimage centre in Slovenia. In 1988 it was elevated to the status of basilica by Pope John Paul II. More here – http://www.radolca.si/en/brezje/

The opening event will take place in the Šivec House Gallery on 1st June at 8pm where an exhibition of the work of Ivan and Helena Vurnik will be officially opened by Radovljica’s mayor. More about the gallery can be found here – http://www.radolca.si/en/radovljica-sivec-house-gallery/

All month there will also be a special Vurnik Tasting Menu available at Vila Podvin restaurant. More information here – http://www.vilapodvin.si/

The first Outdoor Cinema (Letni kino) will take place at Linhart Hall (Linhartova dvorana) on Friday 23rd June at 9.30pm when the film The Beatles: 8 Days a Week will be screened. And even better, this kick-off film, that you can enjoy sitting outdoors in the courtyard, is FREE.

On 23rd June the annual Midsummer’s Eve Festival will take place in the shelter of the ruins of Kamen Castle in Begunje na Gorenjskem.

Photo: Miran Kambic

And all this is in addition to the usual natural, historical and cultural sights of the Radovljica area – the historic old town centre, the stunning views of the Karavanke mountains, the Julian Alps, the Sava river, the countless walking, hiking and cycling routes, and the delicious local food on offer at Taste Radol’ca restaurants.

I know, it’s hard to know where to start!

© Adele in Slovenia

Archery Adventures and Delicious Draga Delights!

The beautiful Draga valley in Begunje in Gorenjskem – home to the ruins of Kamen Castle, the Gostišče Draga restaurant and the start point for numerous hikes in the Karavanke mountains – has just got even better thanks to the new improved 28-target archery range.

Having never so much as held a bow and arrow, I was keen to try it out for myself and, I must say, I’m hooked already and can’t wait to try it again!

If you have your own equipment, you can just turn up and pay in the Gostišče Draga restaurant and then head off on your own, of course taking care to follow the numbered markers in the correct direction.

If you, like me, are a total novice or a relative newcomer to archery, or you skills are a bit rusty, then I suggest contacting the ‘go-to’ man for archery around here, Robert (Robi) Levstek.

We started with a brief safety introduction and a few warm-up shots as Robi demonstrated and talked me through the technique.

I know you probably won’t believe me, since I barely believed it myself, but this was one of my first shots – totally a case of beginner’s luck, though, as it didn’t continue in that vein!

Robi made all of the animal targets and also makes all his own bows and arrows, something he is deservedly proud of.

The archery course is also ideal for families with children, and Robi teaches children from age 3+. It’s also extremely good value, considering it provides several hours of entertainment, at just 10 euros for adults and 8 euros for children.

Sensible footwear is a must, as is comfortable clothing, but other than that all you need is a sense of adventure and good spirits!

It’s great fun making your way around the course through the forest, crossing the stream and trying to spot the life-like animals. Those with a competitive nature, and even those without, will love it. For those who want to get competitive, you can tot-up points, join the club and/or compete in the regular Parkur tournaments, whilst for others it can merely be a fun day out surrounded by the wonderful nature of the Draga valley.

The archery range is open year-round and even in winter, provided the snow cover is not too deep, you can spot the animal targets!

And no visit to the Draga valley is complete without a meal at the Gostišče Draga restaurant. Known for its fresh trout, venison, and other traditional Slovenian dishes, of late the restaurant has also become a mecca for lovers of all kinds of štruklji – sweet and savoury. Unable to decide on which to try this time, I went for the triple whammy and tried 3 different versions – buckwheat with wild garlic, classic curd cheese, and blueberry – all of which were so delicious I took some home for the next day (or two) too!

 

 

You can contact Robi and/or find out more information via the Facebook pages Parkur Draga https://www.facebook.com/parkurdraga/ and Lokostrelstvo Robert Levstek https://www.facebook.com/Lokostrelstvo-Robert-Levstek-sp-679804982054234/

Enquiries and reservations for the archery range can also be made at the Gostišče Draga restaurant – http://www.gostisce-draga.si/

But watch out, you might, like me, get hooked – on both the archery and the štruklji!

© Adele in Slovenia

Beguiling Begunje na Gorenjskem

I’m fortunate to live just a few kilometres from the village of Begunje na Gorenjskem, which is packed full of natural and cultural sights of interest. I spend quite a lot of time there, too, whether hiking, cycling or eating great Taste Radol’ca food. So, in this blog I’ve focused on some of the highlights of beguiling Begunje.

Fans of popular folk music won’t want to miss a visit to the Avsenik family homestead, where the legendary forefathers of Slovene folk music, Slavko and Vilko Avsenik were born. Though, sadly, Slavko passed away in 2015, the family’s music very much lives on.

You can visit the gallery and museum, and/or attend one of the frequent music evenings and other events. More information here – http://www.radolca.si/en/avsenik-gallery-museum/

The Katzenstein Mansion in the heart of the village has had a long and interesting past. Built in the 14th century, its current Renaissance and Baroque appearance is a result of renovations in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. 1n 1875 the mansion was sold to Austro-Hungarian judicial authorities and a prison, holding 300 female prisoners, was established. During the German occupation, it became a Gestapo prison and political prisoners were incarcerated in the mansion; after the war it again reprised its role as an all-female prison.

The Museum of Hostages (Muzej Talcev) has been housed in the building at the north-western end of the residential wing since 1961. Inside, on the walls of the former prison cells, you can see written records left by the prisoners and announcements by the occupiers concerning executions. This one says ‘Molimo za mir’ (We pray for peace). Sobering stuff, indeed.

The park in the ground of the mansion is a lovely place for a stroll. It contains a pavilion and the Chapel of St. Joseph, designed by the most famous Slovenian architect, Jože Plečnik, and is also home to a small cemetery where 457 hostages and 18 World War II combatants are laid to rest. The bronze statues of a hostage and a prisoner, as well as the karst marble sculpture of a female hostage are the work of the sculptor, Boris Kalin.

Also in the heart of the village, near the entrance to the hospital and park, is the Gostilna Pr’ Tavčar restaurant, one of the 13 Taste Radol’ca restaurants. In the relatively short time it has been open it has become a firm favourite among locals.

At the end of the village you reach the Draga valley and the imposing ruins of  Kamen Castle, built in the 12th century by the Counts of Ortenburg. More information here – http://www.radolca.si/en/kamen-castle/

Photo: M Kambic

The short drive to the end of the valley brings you to Gostišče Draga, another of the participating Taste Radol’ca restaurants, where specialities include venison goulash, fresh trout, homemade sweet and savoury štruklji, and more. Situated in the shade of the forest beside a stream, it is particularly popular with those seeking refreshment and sustenance after expending their energy in the surrounds.

The Draga valley is a gateway for numerous hiking trails in the Karavanke mountains including, amongst others, to Begunščica, the ever-popular Roblekov dom mountain hut, and the Preval mountain hut.

As you can see, despite it’s modest size, Begunje packs in a lot, so be sure to include a visit on your trip to the Radovljica area.

© Adele in Slovenia

 

Taste Radol’ca 2016 – The Final Party but Far From the End!

In one way I was pleased to see the back of November – 22 days of rain, with the odd bit of snow thrown in for good measure – but the end of November also brought the end of the month-long Taste Radol’ca 2016, which isn’t so much sad as time for a celebration of all the hard work put in by the chefs during the past month and the even harder work put in by the diners – including me – having the tough job of trying out all the menus! If nothing else, my waistline will be pleased it has come to an end, though, with the festive season all but here, there’s still plenty of gluttony to come, no doubt!

Each year different restaurants host the opening and closing events and this year the Taste Radol’ca Final Party took place at Draga Inn in Begunje na Gorenjskem. We began outside with hot punch, much needed on a chilly December evening, and food to keep us warm provided by Gostilna Tavčar and the Globočnik Excursion Farm.

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In contrast to the opening event, which is a somewhat more formal sit-down multi-course meal that showcases the talented chefs, the final party is more a relaxed, social, let-your-hair down party and a chance to hobnob with the chefs. Thanks Uroš (Vila Podvin) and Mišo (Joštov Hram) for helping keep me warm!

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The chefs from the 13 participating restaurants once again did a magnificent job, each preparing a small dish for us to try.

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Bite-size dishes, each of them delicious, and all made using local ingredients. Too numerous were the dishes to show them all, but here are a few photos to drool over! Gostilna Tulipan dished up smoked pork neck with curd cheese on a bed of barley.

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The ever-popular Joštov Hram mini-burgers were a big hit!

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I found my place next to the log-burner to keep warm and enjoy mine!

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Jože and chef Aleš from Lectar Inn had a great system going providing us with their homemade štruklji.

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And of course the desserts didn’t disappoint either. Chestnut cake prepared by Gostilna Avguštin.

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And a delicious creation by Maja at Kunstelj Inn – a winning combination of a gingerbread base with a caramelised walnut, apple and meringue topping.

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But, it’s far from the end of the Taste Radol’ca story. In addition to their regular menus, all participating restaurants also offer Taste Radol’ca dishes, prepared using local ingredients, throughout the year. You can identify these dishes on menus by the small coloured bee next to the name of the dish.

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So, what are you waiting for, you can now Taste Radol’ca all year-round!

© Adele in Slovenia

 

The early bird catches the early winter of 2016!

Winter seems to have come early this year and, though the snow might look beautiful, I can’t say I’m ecstatic about it!

The past 2 years we haven’t had any significant snow until after Christmas, but last week’s dismal weather brought quite a significant amount of snow to higher-lying areas, and even a bit of the white stuff fell in lower-lying areas too.

I’m trying to be optimistic that perhaps we will still get a (very) late autumn with some milder temperatures, though, it’s look increasingly unlikely. But ‘glass-half-full’ and all that…

So, in an attempt to once again get accustomed to winter, I was up with the lark and braved freezing early morning temperatures to head up St. Peter’s Church above Begunje na Gorenjskem, just 10 minutes drive from Radovljica.

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Though its not easy to drag myself out of bed when it’s so cold and dark, the rewards are (usually!) worth it, which was certainly the case this time, as you can see below!

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The valley was still shrouded in low cloud and Triglav and the other peaks of the Julian Alps were looking particularly majestic.

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I continued up to Smokuški vrh.

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And this was my reward. Brilliant, warm sunshine and stunning views. It was tempting to linger there for a while, alas, the pile of translating awaiting me at home was ever present on my mind. But, I’d go, and will go, again in a heartbeat, even if it means an all-to-early start to the day!

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A case of the early bird catches the worm and the early winter and all that…!

© Adele in Slovenia