Sorica: Super Skiing and Slovenia’s Most Beautiful Mountain Village

The well-kept village of Sorica is considered to be one of most beautiful mountain villages in Slovenia. As the tourism writer Rudolf Badjura wrote ‘It would be necessary to travel some distance around the world to see such a beautiful village.’ And even though it didn’t look its best on a slightly overcast February afternoon when I visited, when nature’s hues are still somewhat subdued after the winter slumber, one can easily imagine how glorious it must be here in the warmer months when nature is at its vibrant best.

dsc00362

Sorica is known as Grohar’s village (Groharjeva vas) as it is the birthplace of one of Slovenia’s most esteemed impressionist painters, Ivan Grohar (1867-1911).

dsc00360

The best way to get acquainted with the village is by walking the theme path ‘Path through Sorica’, which begins in the centre of the village between the Gostilna Macesen restaurant with rooms and Grohar’s House (Groharjeva hiša) – Ivan Grohar’s birth house.

dsc00365

With views like this, it’s easy to see where Grohar got his inspiration! The 18th century Baroque parish church of St. Nicholas contains a ceiling fresco of ‘The Last Supper’ by another of Slovenia’s esteemed painters, Janez Šubic from Poljane.

Tone Logonder, the sculptor of the statue of Ivan Grohar which was placed here in 1981, received the Gorenjska Prešeren Award for his work.

dsc00371

Rather than just being a museum, locals wanted Grohar’s House to once again come to life and a winning formula was found in making it into a kind of one-stop cultural centre which has become particularly popular for school field trips, and visits for private groups can also be arranged. The ground floor features a gallery.

dsc00380

On the first floor you can indulge your creative side and take part in a workshop in the music room.

dsc00389

And then head up to the upper floor to the artists’ workshop to have a go at creating one of your own pictures to rival that of Grohar!

dsc00391

You can choose to just soak up the views of the village and its surroundings, set off on one of the many paths in the hills and mountains or, for those with a thirst for more active pursuits, head up to Soriška planina where in winter you can ski and in summer there are numerous scenic and interesting hiking trails.

dsc00334

Soriska planina can be reached from several directions; from Škofja Loka via Železniki, from Bohinjska Bistrica or from Most na Soči via Baška Grapa.

dsc00356

Facilities at the Soriška planina ski resort consist of a two-person chairlift, 3 drag lifts, a children’s drag lift, a snow park, a sledging track, cross-country ski trails and a restaurant.

15975001_1301471476588056_8741942859265004115_o

I had previously hiked in this area in the summer, but prior to last week had never seen it in its winter glory. Even for non-skiers like me, there’s still snowy fun to be had! Here I am at the highest point of the ski resort looking back down over the village of Sorica.

dsc00344

One of the most interesting features of this area are the numerous bunkers, barracks and other fortifications remaining from the time of the Rapallo Border – a former border that existed during both world wars between Yugoslavia and Italy.

Below you can see the bunker on Lajnar, and you can also continue to others including on Možic, Slatnik and Dravh.

dsc00346

Find out more about the Soriška planina ski resort here – http://www.soriska-planina.si/en/hiking/ and more about other theme paths and trails along the Rapallo Border here – http://www.visitskofjaloka.si/en/experiences/theme-paths/rappalo-border

© Adele in Slovenia

Winter Hiking and Snowshoeing in Slovenia’s Julian Alps

I’ve had quite a few enquiries recently via my blog regarding winter hiking in Slovenia. So, I thought I would put together a new blog post with some ideas about where to hike here in winter, and also about another alternative winter sport – snowshoeing.

Before I go on, however, one thing I would like to emphasise – and cannot emphasise enough – is that you MUST be properly prepared and equipped for winter hiking. In the past couple of weeks there have been a number of deaths in our mountains, and, as is so often the case, among them are tales of people going to the mountains in trainers or other such inappropriate attire. Proper equipment is essential year-round, but particularly so in winter, as is knowing the terrain. Personally, during winter, particularly when hiking alone, I stick to routes that I know and that I know are well-trodden.

kozlov-rob-15-januar-2011-021

As I’m not a skier – never have been and never will be – snowshoeing provides great exercise and (can be!) great fun too, provided the conditions are right. Putting on a pair of snowshoes for the first time is a slightly strange experience. One feels rather awkward and clumsy walking around with, what look and feel like, tennis racquets strapped to your feet, though the modern versions, as seen below, are somewhat sleeker in their design.

snowshoe-sizing

Once you get used to walking with a wider and slightly ungainly gait, you soon get used to it, though a pair of hiking poles is a requisite. Walking with snowshoes enable you to access places on foot that would otherwise be inaccessible during winter. However, snowshoes aren’t suitable for scaling high peaks, but rather for traversing wider, flatter snow-covered terrain.

vrata-krplanje-18-januar-2013-001-001

One of the best, and one of my favourite, places for winter activities is the Gorenjska region, where I live in the northwest of Slovenia, is the Pokljuka plateau. The entire forested Karst plateau, 20kms in length, is within Triglav National Park, and reaches an elevation of 1,400m. The highest peak is Debela peč (2014m), which, together with the peaks of Brda, Mrežce and Viševnik, are among the most popular with hikers year-round.

As can be seen below – me en-route to Debela peč – winter hiking, when at times you can be waist deep (or deeper!) in snow, can be exhausting at times, so isn’t for the faint-hearted!

debela-pec-19-februar-2011-026

But the rewards can also be fantastic, provided you are well-equipped, sensible, know the terrain, and are fit enough!

debela-pec-19-februar-2011-018

Pokljuka is approximately 15kms from Bled. Other than for a few months during summer, there is no regular, scheduled public transport to the plateau, so a car is essential. The plateau can also be reached from the road which turns off near Bohinjska Bistrica and leads up towards Gorjuše.

This year on 8-11th December Pokljuka hosted the annual BMW Biathlon World Cup. The plateau is a favourite training destination for many winter sports people from across Europe as well as for the Slovene military who have a barracks at Rudno Polje, which is also home to the Pokljuka Sports Centre and the Hotel Center http://www.center-pokljuka.si/en.html

druge_prireditve

Pokljuka is a very popular destination with fans of cross-country skiing. I have tried it, on a few occasions, but me and skiing – of any kind – are never going to get along! Here’s me trying to ‘play it cool’ whilst a group of Slovenian military recruits go whizzing by!

pokljuka-16-02-2008-017

I’ve been there at times when the weather is less than favourable too, though once home in the warm with a cuppa, all is forgiven and forgotten!

mrezice-25-november-2010-023

With its wide, open pastures and traditional wooden huts, the beautiful Planina Zajavornik highland is among the most popular parts of Pokljuka. The highland is also equally stunning during summer. You can cross the highland on foot and then head further up to the Blejska koča mountain hut, where you can enjoy hearty, traditional Slovenian food such as Carniolan sausage or a stew such as ričet, or, if the road is clear of snow, you can drive a little further by taking the road to the right from Mrzli studenec then park on the opposite side of the highland before continuing on foot up to the mountain hut.

cimg6921

There are so many lovely parts of Pokljuka, it’s hard to choose a favourite and it’s equally beautiful, if not more so, during summer. Below you can see the Kranjska dolina highland, which you pass if you take the road as described above. I particularly like cycling in this area in summer.

cimg8730

It’s fairly easy to navigate your way around Pokljuka, but a map of the Julian Alps will certainly aid you in planning routes.

I hope this has provided some ideas and inspiration for winter hiking in Slovenia. I wish you happy, and above all, safe, hiking!

© Adele in Slovenia

The Four Seasons of Spring!

Last week we really did have all the four seasons within the space of four days. It began with a few snowflakes on Wednesday morning, which later became heavy snowfall,  and certainly made a bit of a mockery of last week’s blog entitled ‘Spring in the Karavanke’. It’s now anything but spring in the Karavanke!

Though it had been forecast that it could snow in places at around the 700 metre level, Radovljica, where I live, is at 496m, so no-one, forecasters included, was quite expecting the snow to reach the valley – and certainly not so much of it – considering the previous week we had had temperatures in the twenties.

So this is what spring in the Karavanke now looks like!

13062176_1074769012580907_4605015675305884375_n

It wasn’t just in Gorenjska in the north-west of Slovenia either, it also snowed in other lower-lying regions of the country. I spent 2 days in Dolenjska, in the south-east, and it even snowed there too.

Hiking at the moment isn’t advisable as the late-spring snow is very wet and heavy, and has caused a lot of damage with branches and trees down, whilst the danger of avalanches is at level 4 – the highest level being 5. Instead however, those who are die-hard fans of winter and skiing once again took to the slopes as the Vogel ski resort re-opened for the extended holiday weekend.

On Saturday it was a return to temperatures of 18 degrees and the valley was bathed in sunshine and the Sava river at Radovljica was looking its sparkling best when I went for an early morning walk.

CIMG1177

However, it was a different matter when I got into the forest as I tried, and in places failed, to pick my way under and over fallen trees on the path up to Talež. It’s amazing the devastation just 24 hours of snow caused – more than in the whole of last winter.

CIMG1179

I was amazed and saddened at the number of fallen trees and branches, almost reminiscent of the damage caused by the glaze ice two winters ago, though, thankfully, nowhere near to that extent.

Some trees, such as this one below, had literally been torn apart under the weight of the heavy snow.

CIMG1181

It’s been over 20 years since there has been such heavy snowfall this late in the year, so this prompted me to try and uncover some historical snowy spring facts:

  • In 1907 40cm of snow fell on 29th April in Bohinjska Bistrica
  • In 1974 in Nomenj it snowed on the 10th of June
  • In 1985 it snowed on 3rd May
  • In 1988 it snowed on 24th April
  • The earliest snowfall of the year was recorded in 1972 on 11th September in Kotlje

Unfortunately it has also caused a huge amount of damage to crops and vines – in places its reported that up to 90% have been destroyed. This year’s honey production is also expected to be severely affected. Over one-third of honey produced in Slovenia is acacia honey, and a large number of the blooms have been destroyed. It’s all such a shame and another reminder of the equal wonders and cruelty of nature.

Roll on summer!!!

© 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.

Childrens Wknd Bohinj flower festival

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

flower festival workshop

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.

culinary evening danica

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)

zoisova_zvoncnica_1s

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.

trenta-scabious-scabiosa-trenta-355e5ab376

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.

Bohinjske planine 27. Julij 2011 007

  • 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.

Sedmera jezera Julij 2010 009

Here are a few of my close-up snaps.

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

  • 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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

  • 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.

Komna 14 Julij 2012 004

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