Wacky and Wonderful Rainy Day Ideas in Slovenia – The Sunny Side of the Alps!

Autumn can be one of the nicest times of year here in Slovenia. The heat of the summer has subsided, and with it the risk of afternoon showers, the roads and tourist hotspots are less crowded, and the leaves falling from the trees are a wonderful kaleidoscope of autumn gold and russet colours.

However, although Slovenia is often called ‘The Sunny Side of the Alps’, let’s face it, it does also rain at times!

Bohinj Lake in Autumn – Photo: Dunja Wedam_3099_orig

Much of Slovenia’s natural beauty lies in the great outdoors. So, as I know only too well, it can be frustrating when it isn’t possible to get out there and enjoy it. But, it doesn’t have to spell disaster! There are still plenty of things to see and do, whatever the weather. So, in this blog, I’ve listed a few ideas for what to do on those gloomy, rainy, and maybe even snowy, days!

MUSEUMS – There are hundreds to choose from, thus it’s nigh-on impossible to single one out, so I’ve whittled down the choice somewhat, though, of course, the list is far from exhaustive. Below are just a few of the largest and most popular.

The Park of Military History in Pivka – even those who don’t consider themselves fans of military history, will find something here. The highlight is the chance to go inside the P-913 Zeta submarine. Read more about my recent visit here – http://goo.gl/nWm3Mq and find more information here – http://parkvojaskezgodovine.si/en/

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Photo: Simon Avsec http://www.slovenia.info

The UNESCO-listed Anthony’s Shaft Idria Mercury Mine – more than 700kms of tunnels, and 500 years of mercury mining. More information here – http://www.antonijevrov.si/index.php/en

Photo: Visitidrija.si

Photo: Visitidrija.si

The Museum of Apiculture in Radovljica – housed in the magnificent Baroque Radovljica Mansion. Learn about beekeeping in Slovenia and see the oldest beehive panel in the world.

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Photo: Tourism Radovljica

Škofja Loka Museum – housed in Loka Castle, one of Slovenia’s finest castles in the heart of the historic medieval old town. It boasts extensive and impressive museum collections. More information here – http://www.loski-muzej.si/en/

Photo: Jana Jocif

Photo: Jana Jocif

The Ptuj-Ormož Museum – housed in Ptuj Castle, in Slovenia’s oldest city. Highlights include the collections of traditional carnival masks, musical instruments and glass paintings, as well as the Castle Gallery. More information here – http://pmpo.si/en/

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Bistra Castle and the Technical Museum of Slovenia. The castle was originally a Carthusian monastery during the period from 1260 – 1782 and was later changed into a manor house. It houses an eclectic mix of exhibitions including the Slovenian Hunting Museum and a collection of ex-President Tito’s cars. Read more here – http://wp.me/p3005k-NM and find more information here – http://www.tms.si/index.php

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Ljubljana’s museums and galleries – being the capital city, there is a wide choice, among them the National Gallery, the Museum of Modern Art, the City Art Museum, and the Railway Museum. Find out more here – http://goo.gl/WCnyYn

EAT, DRINK AND BE MERRY! – It certainly doesn’t have to be bad weather to ‘Eat, Drink and Be Merry’, but a dose of traditional hearty Slovene food on a cold damp day is sure to lift your spirits!

Suggested traditional dishes and foods include; bograč, štruklji, jota, ričet, žlikrofi, kremšnita, gibanica. Read more in this previous blog entitled ‘Love Food – Love Slovenia: 10 Must Try Foodshttps://adeleinslovenia.com/2016/02/18/love-food-love-slovenia-10-must-try-slovene-foods/

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WINE or CRAFT BEER TASTING – Take your pick! There is plenty to choose from! You could head to one of the many wine-growing areas, such as Goriška Brda and the Vipava Valley, or, if you are in the capital, leave the choice to an expert and set off on a Ljubljananjam guided food walk, which can be tailored to suit. Read more here http://goo.gl/KqwmVo and find more information here – http://www.ljubljananjam.si/

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EXPLORE A CAVE OR TWO – With a constant temperature year-round, a visit to one of Slovenia’s tourist caves isn’t weather dependant. The Postojna Caves and the UNESCO-listed Škocjan Caves are the most popular, though there are also hundreds of other smaller caves.

Photo: Iztok Medja for Postojnska jama

SOMETHING DIFFERENT – Not necessarily ‘wacky’ but here are a few ‘out there’ ideas for a different way to spend a rainy day.

Cycle through a mountain! Just because it’s not cycling weather, it doesn’t mean you can’t cycle! For a unique experience try mountain biking through the former lead, zinc and iron ore mines under the Peca massif in Koroška. Read more here – http://goo.gl/DOvjXl

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Try and escape the Enigmarium Escape Rooms – Literally lock yourself in (or rather someone else locks you in!) a room, or even an igloo, and try to escape by solving clues before the time runs out. Don’t get locked in! Find out more here – http://escape-room.si/?lang=en

Photo: Enigmarium.si

Photo: Enigmarium.si

And finally, if its wet outside, how about some pampering and/or water-based enjoyment at one of Slovenia’s thermal spas. This year I have been on a journey of discovery of them all – well almost all, just one to go! You can follow my journey here – https://spasinslovenia.com/

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© Adele in Slovenia

 

Love Swimming, Love Slovenia!

It’s always lovely to hear from, and meet, readers and self-professed ‘fans’ of my blog. In the past 3 years I have received hundreds of emails, comments, messages on Facebook etc., some wanting ideas and advice, others just writing to say ‘thanks’, and have also enjoyed many a wonderful Taste Radol’ca meal together with readers generously wishing to show their appreciation.

It was particularly nice, then, when I recently met a whole group of readers! Patricia, a regular reader of my blog, has shared it with many of her group of fellow Americans, who were staying in Radovljica for a family swimming camp. She told me how helpful my blog had been in planning excursions and activities for the swimming camp and invited me to join the group for their final night’s banquet dinner at Kunstelj Inn – one of the Taste Radol’ca restaurants and just one of the venues where members of the group stayed during their visit.

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Maja and her team at Kunstelj Inn cooked up a delicious meal, using locally-sourced ingredients, and, as ever, the views from the terrace provided the icing on the cake!

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This was the 4th consecutive year that the Piranhas Swimming Club from Stuttgart chose Radovljica as the base for its summer family swimming camp. This year’s group totalled 108, comprised of 40 swimmers, with their families and friends, and, in some cases, 3 generations of the same family.

During their time staying in Radovljica, they certainly packed in a lot of sightseeing and activities, which just goes to show, as if proof were needed, what a wonderful place Radovljica is to base yourself for a holiday in Slovenia.

Radovljica’s Olympic-size swimming pool was the venue for the daily pool-based training and fun sessions. More information about Radol’ca’s swimming pools here – http://www.radolca.si/en/swimming/

Slovenia Swim Camp 2016 - Radovljica

They swam in Bled Lake.

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And did an open-water swim in the Adriatic sea in Piran Bay.

Slovenia 2016 - Open Water swim in Piran Bay

When not swimming, and for the non-swimmers among them, there was a whole host of other organised activities including cookery classes at Kunstelj Inn.

Slovenia 2016 - Cooking Class at the Kunstelj

Rafting on the Sava and Soča rivers.

Slovenia 2016 - Rafting the Soca River

Other activities included a visit to the iron-forging village of Kropa, a ride in the cable car to Vogel, kayaking on Bohinj Lake, hiking to the Savica waterfall, a visit to the Škocjan Caves, fishing, playing golf, making the famous Lectar gingerbread hearts at Lectar Inn in Radovljica, and more!

Patricia told me that they have all ‘fallen in love with Slovenia and Radovljica’ and are already planning the 2017 camp. So, I look forward to seeing you all back here next year. In the meantime, I’ll keep writing and providing ideas for some more activities for next year, so, stay tuned!

© Adele in Slovenia

The Bohinj Wild Flower Festival – A Jubilee Year

The annual Bohinj International Wild Flower Festival will take place from 21st May to 5th June and this year, the 10th successive year, marks a jubilee. The first festival was held in 2007 and since then it has been growing (pun intended!) in popularity, and gaining ever more recognition, by the year.

The main theme of the festival is the presentation of alpine flowers in the waters, meadows, hills and mountains of the areas surrounding Bohinj Lake, part of Triglav National Park.

During the festival a variety of events take place including guided walks and hikes, workshops, local craft and farmers markets, exhibitions, excursions, concerts and culinary evenings.

There are also activities for the whole family including a ‘Weekend for Families and Children’ which includes flower-related events as well as participation in water sports and other outdoor activities.

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You can get really hands-on at many of the workshops, first picking the flowers, then preparing them for various uses.

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Culinary evenings take place at selected local restaurants, such as at the restaurant at Camp Danica in Bohinjska Bistrica, seen below, where you can enjoy local delicacies, such as trout, paired with edible wild flowers.

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There are around 70 known types of flower which are endemic to Slovenia, and/or the immediate surroundings. A walk among them is a botanist’s dream. Theses species include:

Zois’ bellflower – endemic to Slovenia, Austria and Northern Italy and most prevalent in the Julian and Kamnik-Savinja Alps (shown below)

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Triglav Hawksbeard – discovered by one of the first four men to climb Triglav in 1778. It was found near where the Planika mountain hut now stands. It is very rare and is on the list of threatened species. So rare, I haven’t yet found it to photograph myself!

European False Stitchwort – first discovered near Ljubljana Castle in 1762 by the Carinthian botanist Jesuit Franc Ksaver Wolfen. It belongs to the Pink family, to which carnations also belong.

Trenta Scabious – discovered over 200 years ago in Idrija by a physician. The original finding is preserved in Slovenia’s Natural History Museum.

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Depending on the weather – late snowfall can sometimes mean the season begins later – you can expect to find wildflowers in the meadows and highlands from the end of May through to late summer.

If you are interested in wild flowers, and/or considering a visit, here’s a sneak peek of what you can expect to see, those that I have been lucky enough to encounter on my hikes within Triglav National Park.

  • Here I am on a hike in the highlands above Bohinj Lake; from Planina Krstenica towards Ogradi.

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  • Surrounded by wonderful wild flowers during a summer walk to the Seven Triglav Lakes valley. One can almost feel as if in a botanical garden, whilst completely at one with nature.

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Here are a few of my close-up snaps.

  • Alpine carnation (Alpski nagelj) – also known as Alpine Pink

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  • Carniolan lily (Kranjska lilija) – Not entirely endemic to Slovenia, since it can also be found in areas from north-east Italy to Bosnia, however, it is most common in Slovenia.

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  • Yellow Gentian (Košutnik) – native to the mountains of central and southern Europe

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  • Edelweiss (Planika) – this one probably doesn’t need any explanation as it’s widely known, but I had to include it as it’s such a special one, and also because we have a mountain hut named after it, which sits just beneath our highest mountain, Triglav.

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You can read more about the festival and find the whole of this year’s programme here – http://www.bohinj.si/alpskocvetje/eng/index.php

© AdeleinSlovenia 2016

 

Highlights of Triglav National Park!

In this blog I’d like to show you some of the highlights of Triglav National Park, including some of my personal favourite parts, which will hopefully provide some ideas and inspiration for those interested in exploring this wonderful part of Slovenia.

Triglav National Park is Slovenia’s only national park and is the heart of the Julian Alps. The park is located in the north-western part of Slovenia and is named after the country’s highest mountain, Mt. Triglav (2,864m). It covers an area of over 83,000 hectares.

On my blog I have always strived to ensure I give readers a personal account of my adventures and experiences in Slovenia, rather than just regurgitating information which is already readily available. Therefore, I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve never actually been to the top of Triglav, though I’ve been close!

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Unlike in some national parks, there are no official entry and exit points to the park, and no entrance fees to be paid. However, there are some rules by which visitors must abide to protect the flora and fauna of this jewel of nature. For example, wild flowers are not to be picked, no fires may be lit, and camping anywhere within the park, other than in designated campsites, is strictly forbidden.

One among my many favourite parts of Triglav National Park is Krn Lake (1391m) – as seen below, with Mt. Krn (2244m) in the background.

For this trip I started from the car park at the Savica waterfall in Bohinj and walked up to Komna (1520m), onwards past the Koča pod Bogatinom hut to the Vratca saddle then descended to the Dom pri Krnskih jezerih hut (1385m) where I stayed overnight. The next morning I got up (very!) early to hike up Mt. Krn, then returned the same way back to Savica. It makes a long 2nd day but the scenery is so wonderful, and other than the climb up to Krn, its reasonably easy going. If you don’t need to return back to Savica, then you can instead take the path down to the Dom dr. Klemena Juga hut (700m) in the Lepena valley from where you can explore the beautiful Soča valley.

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The picture-postcard pretty Planina pri Jezeru highland is another of my favourites and the options for reaching it are numerous. I like to start from Stara Fužina and walk first to Vogar, from where there are magnificent views over Bohinj lake and the surrounding mountains, then past the Kosijev dom na Vogarju hut (1054m).

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On this hike I continued first towards the Planina pri Jezeru hut (1453m) but then branched off towards Planina Blato (1147m) then to Planina Laz (1560m) – the oldest highland in Slovenia. From Planina Laz a very pleasant almost level route leads to Planina pri Jezeru from where, after a break for some sustenance, I returned to the Vogar highland and back to Stara Fužina. There are, however, also several other alternative routes that I have also taken, such as via Planina Viševnik and onwards to Pršivec (1761m).

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Planina Laz is on part of the Tourist Cheese Route (Turistična sirarna pot). The route leads across the many highlands in the Bohinj area where cheese and other dairy products can be sampled and bought. The route, which is marked with yellow signs, also leads past numerous natural features of interest such as gorges, waterfalls, museums, churches, and archeological sites. The path covers a very wide area so its not possible to walk it in its entirety (at least not in a day), so it’s best to just choose part of it and visit one or two of the highlands and dairies.

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One of the most popular destinations for hiking in Triglav National Park is the Seven Triglav Lakes Valley. It is doable in a day trip, particularly if you drive up the toll road, saving yourself approx. 1.5 hours of hiking, to begin at Planina Blato. However, to have time to fully experience and appreciate the entire length of the valley, it is best to stay at least one night in a mountain hut, such as the Koča pri Triglavskih jezerih (1685m), where you also get a chance to soak up the atmosphere of the surroundings, enjoy some hearty homemade food, and chat to some fellow hikers.

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As you can see, there’s no shortage of routes to choose!

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Wherever you see signs such as this one, you can buy home-produced cheese, sour milk, and other highland treats!

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And you can certainly see exactly where it comes from. There are no food miles here!

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Provided you have a map of the Julian Alps it is very easy to put together an itinerary for day, or multi-day, hikes. Routes are generally well-marked and there are plenty of mountain huts where you can overnight, though in the summer months I’d recommend booking ahead for the most popular huts – you wouldn’t want to hike all that way to find yourself without a bed for the night!

Triglav National Park awaits – time to get exploring!

© AdeleinSlovenia 2016

 

The New Triglav National Park Centre and a Froggy Tale!

Triglav National Park is Slovenia’s only national park, covers an area of 880 square kilometres and has 3 information centres including the newly-built and recently opened centre in the village of Stara Fužina, near Bohinj lake, which I visited for the first time last week.

Downstairs the centre, which is open 10am-3pm on weekdays and 10am-5pm at weekends, has a permanent exhibition, information and exhibits about the park, and a small area selling local products.

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However, its the upstairs viewing room that makes this place so special. The saying ‘a room with a view’ is certainly apt for this, and no photo-shopping is required. They have managed to capture the views and the essence of Bohinj lake and the surrounding mountains perfectly with the full-depth windows, relaxing hanging chairs and selection of magazines.

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The only thing missing was a nice cup of tea with which to be able to sit and marvel at the views!

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Whilst in the area I paid a visit to another of my favourite haunts, Čokohram, in the tiny village of Česnjica, near Bohinj lake. I wrote extensively about this in a previous blog – http://bit.ly/1iq7MR4 – however, this time there was an added reason for my visit, apart from the obvious reason of gorging myself with chocolate and cake.

Inside the tiny building the walls have been hand-painted with several pictures of frogs and, on a previous visit, the owner, Alenka, had begun to tell me about the reason for this and her plans for the future. So, I wanted to find out more, as I’m always one for listening to an interesting local story.

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Though, in fact, I won’t give too much away yet as Alenka has plans to create a ‘frog-based’ theme path that will lead from Bohinj lake to Čokohram in Česnjica – and you can be sure I’ll be writing about that as soon as the plan is realised.

In the meantime I’ll share some photos I took of the delicious things on offer, as each time I visit there is something new. This time I noticed new chocolate liqueur, home-baked chocolate cookies, and cake pops. Nothing escapes me!

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I also worked on persuading Alenka to be a part of next year’s Radovljica Chocolate Festival, which has become THE unmissable chocolate event in Slovenia and the date of next year’s festival has already been announced – 15-17th April 2016.

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

Easter Snow, Easter Food, and Chocolates Galore at Coko-Hram!

We may not have had a White Christmas, although the first snow of the year arrived on Boxing Day, however, this Easter was marked by abnormally cold and wintery temperatures. In fact, this past few days we’ve really had it all weather-wise; on Friday I was sitting outside a café in the sun drinking tea; on Saturday I was walking in the rain with my umbrella; on Sunday I was gazing out of the window at falling snowflakes and now, as I sit writing this on Monday, there’s another flurry of snow, well almost a blizzard actually combined with gusting winds. Winter certainly had the final say this Easter!

I read an interesting comparison yesterday of the temperature recorded at Kredarica, the mountain hut beneath Slovenia’s highest mountain, Triglav (2864m), where, on Christmas Day the temperature was +2.9 degrees, whilst on Easter Sunday it was MINUS 12, brrr…….. Thus, any plans for long hikes this weekend were scuppered and therefore my next love – food – was high on the agenda instead!

Food is a big deal in Slovenia at Easter. The most common tradition is for a family breakfast on Easter Sunday, consisting of baked ham with fresh horseradish, pirhi (coloured hard-boiled eggs) and, of course, potica (a rolled filled cake). As I have been asked to write as a guest on an American food blog – what an honour – this year I decided to do some Easter baking of my own and am rather proud of my first attempts at ‘šunka v testu’ – ham baked in a bread crust. Here is a sneek peek photo of my Easter table and I will post the link to the full blog when it is published.

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I already knew that April was going to be an indulgent month, and a heavenly one for a chocoholic like me – what with Easter and the Radovljica Chocolate Festival (see below for more details) both on the agenda. However, it just got even better when, on Friday, I discovered the cutest little café where they produce and sell the most amazing cakes and chocolates. Truly chocolate heaven for me! The place in question is Čoko-Hram in the tiny village of Bohinjska Češnjica near Bohinj lake. Blink and you could miss this place which, from the outside, belies what lies within. It is set just next to the road but a lack of good signage (new signs are being prepared!) means one could easily drive past, as I have done many-a-time, without giving it so much as a second look. But to do so is a crime – seriously – believe me!

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Once I stepped inside I was immediately charmed by the cute little chairs, tables, chalkboard drinks menus, and other homely touches; not to mention the glass chiller cabinet bursting full of delicious cakes and truffles, and the corner where home-produced chocolate, of all flavours, shapes and sizes, is displayed and for sale. So, as you can imagine, I had some serious tasting to do!

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Now, I love strong cheese; stilton, extra-mature cheddar – the stronger the better – but I have always turned my nose up at Mohant, a local cheese from the Bohinj area which has an extremely pungent aroma. So, when I was offered a taster of a truffle filled with mohant, I wasn’t overly enthusiastic at the prospect, but I tell you, it works! The combination of the sweet white chocolate and the creamy mohant truffle centre is genius – although I can imagine it might be a bit ‘Marmite’ for some people i.e. you either love it or hate it! Another such daring flavour combinations is dark chocolate with zaseka (smoked minced lard no less!), and others flavours and centres including tarragon, yoghurt, raspberry, honey-lemon-ginger, and many more. And then there were the cakes – oh the cakes! Where should I start? Perhaps it would be easiest to say, don’t just take my word for it, go and try them for yourself!

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Čoko Hram is owned and run by the same family who own the four-star Hotel Kristal in Ribčev Laz, just metres from Lake Bohinj. This is, in fact, how I came to visit Čoko Hram, rather than driving past as I would usually have done, since the chocolates are also on sale in the hotel, which I had visited as I had heard great things about their centre for Ayurveda massage and medicine – Calendula Ayurvedic & Medicinal Clinic – and wanted to see it and try it out for myself. I emerged 90 minutes later and, thanks to the healing hands of the Nepalese masseur, blissfully chilled-out and ready for anything- well almost anything! More about the clinic and hotel, which also features a rich collection of paintings from the annual artist colonies held there, can be found here – http://www.hotel-kristal-slovenia.com/index.php

Tourism Rado’l’ca are slowly tempting us details of the programme for this year’s Chocolate Festival which takes place 17-19th April. The full programme will be made available in the next few days on the festival website (I should know – I’m translating it!) and features such events such as:

  • Mini Planica – Jumping in Chocolate with Franci Petek
  • Culinary Shows by Taste Radol’ca restaurants and 3 of Slovenia’s top chefs
  • Chocolate Fortune Telling
  • Chocolate Adventure through Radovljica

….and much more – http://www.festival-cokolade.si

I have a feeling I will be writing a lot more about chocolate in the coming weeks! Hopefully, though, I’ll be offsetting all the indulgence with some hiking too, well if the weather plays ball that is!

© AdeleinSlovenia 2015