Spend a Night with a Knight at Opulent Otočec Castle!

You are never too far away from a castle in Slovenia since there are around 500 of them. One of the most famous is Bled Castle, perched on a cliff above picturesque Lake Bled – an iconic image which is undoubtedly one of, if not the, symbol of Slovenian tourism.

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Another is the mighty Predjama Castle, which is built into the mouth of a cave and is entered into the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest cave castle in the world.

Photo: Nea Culpa

A good majority, though not all, of Slovenia’s castles are open to the public and are well-maintained. There are a few that have seen better days, but somehow even the ruins of once mighty castles seem impressive, such as this one, Kamen Castle in Begunje na Gorenjskem. The castle stands at the entrance to the Draga Valley, a popular start point for hikes in the Karavanke mountains.

Photo: Miran Kambič

At quite a number of castles you can get married or hold various types of functions and gatherings. This one, for example, Sevnica Castle, features an impressive wine vault.

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I can attest that the wine pairs perfectly with salami from Grajske mesnine butchers. You can read plenty more about the castle, my experience of the Sevnica Mountain Marathon, and what else to see and do in Sevnica, in this previous blog post – https://adeleinslovenia.com/2015/09/10/sevnica-so-much-to-see-and-do/

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Surprisingly, however, there are only a handful of castles in Slovenia where you can actually stay and live it up like a King or Queen! Among them my favourite would have to be Otočec Castle. Both the castle itself and the stunning setting, on an islet in the middle of the Krka River, make it quite unique.

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Nowadays the castle operates entirely as a luxury five-star hotel, the Relais & Chateaux Otečec Castle Hotel. The hotel seamlessly blends the castle’s history with modern luxurious furnishings, superior rooms and suites, and gourmet dining. More information here – http://www.grad-otocec.com/en/us/home/

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As with all good castles, there is a knight in shining armour! This one stands guards over the hotel reception – perhaps to weed out any unsavoury looking guests!

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The setting is about as idyllic as it gets!

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For lover’s of the great outdoors, Hotel Sport, within walking distance and owned by the same company, offers a wide range of sports activities available for guests staying at the Otočec Castle Hotel, including an indoor pool filled with thermal water, Turkish and Finnish saunas, covered tennis courts, and the Otočec Adventure Park offers fun for all the family.

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Golf Grad Otečec is just a stone’s throw away from the Otočec Castle Hotel and is one of Slovenia’s longest and most attractive golf courses.    http://www.golf-otocec.si/en

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To whet your appetite further, you can watch this short video and, if you have the chance, do go and experience Otočec for yourself!

© Adele in Slovenia

Swimming: Lakes, rivers and pools in Radol’ca and Bled

At this time of the year a lot of people’s thoughts turn to how, and where, to keep cool. So this week I thought I would offer some ideas along those lines. Personally, as someone who can feel the cold even in the midst of a heat wave, I’m not one for cold water, it has to be like a jacuzzi for me to get in it. However for many people, locals and tourists alike, going for a swim or a quick dip in a pool, lake or river is the perfect way to cool down and seek respite from the heat.

RADOVLJICA SWIMMING POOL – The Olympic-size swimming pool in Radovljica is open all year round. During the winter it is covered over but during the summer it is open-air. It also has a pool for kids, beach volleyball, a pizzeria and there’s a campsite right next door.

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KROPA SWIMMING POOL – A 25mx12.5m pool with a separate pool for kids, beach volleyball, a café and a picnic area. The pool is located in the Lipnica Valley at the junction towards Kropa and is open daily during the summer.

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CAMPING ŠOBEC – Take a dip in the Šobec lake at the campsite of the same name. It is also open (admission charge payable) to those not staying at the camp.

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More information about the above can be found here – http://www.radolca.si/en/swimming/

BLED CASTLE LIDO – The only designated bathing and swimming area by Lake Bled. It is set right beneath Bled Castle and has ample facilities including changing rooms, lockers, toilets and showers, rental of beach umbrellas and rowing boats, snacks and drinks stands.

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BLED LAKE – You can also take a dip directly into the lake. Due to the changeable weather this year, the temperature of the water is a little lower than usual and is currently around 22 degrees.

More information here – http://www.bled.si/en/what-to-do/summer-sports/swimming

For those brave enough, the Sava river is also an option, be it for cooling off, water sports such as rafting, or, as I did last weekend, just sitting relaxing on its banks. Yes, I do relax sometimes – though I had been for a 4 hour bike ride first!!

Of course there are also many other ways of keeping cool in the heat. My preference is to go for a walk in the cool of the forest or high in the mountains and since Slovenia is largely covered by forest and here in Gorenjska there are mountains a plenty, these things are not difficult to find!

And not forgetting ice-cream – an essential summer ingredient which you certainly don’t have to go far to find. There are numerous cafes offering homemade ice-cream. One of my personal favourites in Radovljica is Vidic House (Vidičeva hisa) in the old town centre of Radovljica where there are a wide variety of flavours and generous portions to match, whilst in Bled I usually head for the famous Šmon Pattiserie which, in addition to ice-cream, offers an impressive (and irrestistible!) range of cakes and pastries.

Here’s a selection of events coming up in the week ahead:

Tuesday 22nd July – Concert of the 17th Pikolo Flute Workshop – 8pm at Bled Castle

Wednesday 23rd July – Concert from the opera ‘La Boheme –  8pm in the Radovljica Manor – Tickets available from the Radovljica Tourist Information Office

Thursday 24th July – Music Thursdays ‘Neomi’ – 8pm in Linhart Square, Radovljica – Free open-air concert

Friday 25th July – Concert of the 17th Pikolo Flute Workshop – 6pm at Bled Golf Hotel

© AdeleinSlovenia 2014

The Slovenian Alps (Gorenjska) Guest Green Card

The area of Slovenia that I live in is called Gorenjska, otherwise known as the Slovenian Alps region, and, in my biased opinion, the most beautiful part of the country –  although pretty much everywhere you go in Slovenia you are spoilt for choice with stunning views, unspoilt countryside, sprawling forests, tranquil valleys, rolling hills and mighty mountains, crystal-clear rivers and lakes, fairytale castles and more.

Visitors to the Gorenjska region, who stay at least one night at one of the participating accommodation providers, can take advantage of the free Gorenjska Guest Green Card which is a benefit card offering discounts on sights of interest, culinary delights, sports activities and other experiences in the region.

As an example, I’ve listed below just some of the places and experiences where discount is available, at some of the more popular tourist destinations, but there are also many more throughout the region including in Radovljica, Bled, Kranjska Gora, Bohinj, Kranj, Škofja Loka, Jesenice, Jezersko, Tržič and Žirovnica. More information can be found here – http://www.slovenian-alps.com/en/greencard/about

  • Lectar Inn and Gingerbread Museum, Radovlijca
  • The Radovljica Museum of Beekeeping, Guided Beekeeping tours
  • The Šivec House Gallery, Radovljica
  • The Iron-Forging Museum, Kropa
  • The Restaurant at Bled Castle
  • Bled Island
  • Bled Golf Course
  • The Castle Boathouse
  • Triglav National Park tours
  • The Bohinj Steam Train
  • The Tourist Train around Bled Lake
  • Škofja Loka Castle and Gallery

This past week has been very April-like with not a day passing by without a shower or two. I’ve been fairly snowed-under with work so haven’t been able to make as many trips out as I would have usually, but fortunately on Saturday afternoon, when I ventured up to Bled Castle to watch the annual ‘Medieval Days’ event, the sun was shining in all its glory and Bled lake was looking at its shimmering best. It is possible to drive up to the castle but I, naturally, chose to walk up – it’s not that far and the effort makes the views all the more rewarding.

The Medieval Days event is a coming-together of medieval groups, not only from Slovenia but also from other European countries, who come to participate in the battle re-enactments and be a part of the event. Visitors can mingle among the groups, talk to them, take a close up look at their costumes, weapons and armoury, browse the market stalls, watch the traditional craftsman at work and, as I did, generally enjoy the atmosphere and the far-reaching views across Bled, the Radovljica plains and the Karavanke range.

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This week Radovljica is hosting an International Ceramics Festival (http://www.radolca.si/kaj-poceti/dogodki/mednarodni-festival-keramike-radovljica-2014/83/591/). Various events, exhibitions and workshops are taking place throughout the week with the main event ‘Market Day‘ taking place from 10am-6pm on Saturday 7th June. The old town centre and the Radovljica Manor will be abuzz with exhibitors and vendors of a wide array of ceramic products of all shapes and sizes, free workshops for children, music and entertainment, and food from the Taste Radol’ca restaurants. There will also be an opportunity to buy specially-made bowls and have them filled with a choice of the tasty food on offer – so you know where you’ll find me lurking – I so nearly managed a whole blog without the mention of food!

© AdeleinSlovenia 2014