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

Taste Radol’ca 2016 at Draga Inn – A Winning Start!

As there are 13 restaurants involved in this year’s Taste Radol’ca, I made a start last week already at attempting to try as many as possible during the month of November – all in the name of blog research for you, dear readers, of course!

Having perused the menus, I plumped for Draga Inn (Gostišče Draga), located in the Draga valley in Begunje na Gorenjskem, for my first Taste Radol’ca 2016 meal, and what a fine choice it was too!

There are 2 four-course menus to choose from, both costing just 16 euros, which is fantastic value and, as is the whole ethos of Taste Radol’ca, all products are sourced from local suppliers. I’ll let the photos of the food do (most of) the talking!

I opted for Menu I. but swapped to the Menu II. starter – game ragu with homemade cheese and bacon strukelj.

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The alternative starter is smoked trout with horseradish, honey and creamed celery.

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This was followed by cream of barley soup with chanterelle mushrooms.

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I’m still salivating when I think about the main course – succulent wild pork in cranberry sauce, calf cheek, puree of carrot, and bean strukelj.

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For those opting for Menu II. there is fillet of trout with mixed seeds, vegetable bake and pumpkin jam, which, although I’m not a lover of fish, also looked delicious.

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The portion sizes (even for my large appetite!) were just perfect, therefore we still, just about, had room for dessert. Strawberry dumpling, cinnamon ice-cream, and honey and chocolate cream.

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Sitting next to the log-burner, the ambience was cosy and warm and it was delightful to enjoy great food in the company of good friends – a welcome change from dining on my tod! So, thanks Jana, Tone and Pia!

So, one down, only 12 to go, though, this meal was so good, I have a feeling I will have to squeeze in another visit to Draga Inn before the month is out!

© Adele in Slovenia

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

Seriously Scrumptious Štruklji!

It’s kind of difficult to describe štruklji, and when reading menus there are all manner of descriptions that get lost in translation –  the majority of which certainly don’t do them justice! I love them and was therefore even more delighted when I recently saw that Draga Inn, which is among my favourite local restaurants, and which already makes great savoury štruklji, has now added a new range of sweet štruklji to its menu, which can also be bought to take home.

It didn’t take me long to go and try them out for myself, especially since chocolate is involved! Oh my, are they good, if you like štruklji, you simply have to try them! This is the white chocolate version, which was my favourite among the new varieties, though the walnut one came a close second!

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Štruklji are made using a light dough, of which there are many variations but the most basic ingredients are flour, water, a dash of oil and a pinch of salt – some doughs also contain egg. Once the dough has been allowed to rest it is rolled out, filled, wrapped in a soft muslin cloth, then boiled, or occasionally wrapped in foil and baked.

They can be eaten either as a side dish, instead of potatoes, rice etc., as a main meal in itself, or sweet versions as dessert.

The most common type of štruklji are filled with skuta – a type of curd cheese (not cottage cheese as it is invariably translated). At Draga Inn the savoury version are served as an accompaniment to their delicious venison goulash, which I can also highly recommend.

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Of course, the quality varies, as does the ratio of dough to filling. Sometimes they can be somewhat bland and dry, but the ones at Draga Inn have a perfectly light dough with a very generous amount of filling and are anything but bland. It was impossible to choose which one(s) to taste, as they all looked and sounded so delicious, so I just tasted all the new flavours – blueberry, walnut, white chocolate, and dark chocolate – and left both very content and fit to burst!

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Draga Inn is one of the participating Taste Radol’ca restaurants, where the emphasis is on using local ingredients, and these štruklji are no exception. Read more here – http://www.radolca.si/en/taste-radolca/

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Draga Inn is located at the end of the Draga Valley, in Begunje na Gorenjskem. The valley is a very popular starting point for hikes in the Karavanke mountains and en-route to the valley you can visit the ruins of Kamen Castle.

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You can find more information about Draga Inn here (note that the website is currently being reconstructed) – http://www.gostisce-draga.si/

Until the expiry of the offer on 8th June, you can also use the Adele in Slovenia Discount Card at Draga Inn. Even more reason to go and try the delicious food! More here – https://adeleinslovenia.com/contact/

© Adele in Slovenia

Kunstelj Cooks & Draga Delights!

We’ve been spoilt with another week of warm autumn sunshine which was perfect for hiking and even a bit of cycling too. Unfortunately it looks set to end this week but it was certainly nice while it lasted!

In addition to the month-long of special menus at participating Taste Radol’ca restaurants, this year there are also a number of accompanying events which are open to everyone and FREE to attend.

These days there is ever more interest in where the food on our plates actually comes from. Knowing exactly where our food comes from is not only good for our health – food direct from the farm isn’t stuffed full of E numbers and the like – but it also helps support local farmers, producers and small businesses.

Since moving to Slovenia, and in particular since the launch of Taste Radol’ca, where the focus is on local food, I too have very much begun to embrace this style of buying and eating.

This week I visited two of the restaurants, this time not to indulge in the special menus – as delicious as they are – but to see the opening of a new mini-shop at Draga Inn and to participate in a culinary workshop at Kunstelj Inn.

The Draga Valley, at the far end of the village of Begunje na Gorenjskem, is the starting place for a number of hiking paths in the Karavanke mountains. The valley is also home to the restaurant with rooms Draga Inn (Gostišče Draga).

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The inn has now expanded its offer by opening its own mini-shop stocked with products exclusively from the valley or the family farm; a range of pickled vegetables grown in the Inn’s garden, home-cooked jams, honey from the valley’s beekeeper and these rather attractive hand-painted and produced rucksacks, which are apparently ‘flying off the shelves’.CIMG0144

On Saturday the first Kunstelj Cooks (Kunstelj kuha) workshop took place at Kunstelj Inn in Radovljica. The fine autumn weather was a bonus and meant that the workshop could be held outside on the terrace, which just happens to be one of my favourite places in Radovljica, to sit and admire the views of the Julian Alps, the Jelovica plateau, and the lush Lipnica valley.

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At this first workshop, to coincide with the celebrations for St. Martin’s Day, Kunstelj’s talented head chef, Maja Buden, used ingredients that are typical for St. Martin’s meals and showed how they could be used in a novel way.

A traditional St. Martin’s Day meal in Slovenia comprises roast goose or duck, served with mlinci, as seen below (a kind of thin dried pastry that is prepared by boiling over liquid – water, stock or soup, over then ), and red cabbage.

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Maja used all these traditional ingredients to create these delicious bite-size St. Martin’s mouthfuls!

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Next Saturday, 21st November, there will be another Kunstelj Cooks workshop. This time Maja promises she will be rustling up desserts. Do come, it’s tasty, interesting and FREE!

More information:

Taste Radol’ca – http://www.radolca.si/en/what-to-do/events-1/taste-radolca/83/380/

Kunstelj Inn –

Draga Inn – http://www.gostisce-draga.si/

Autumn Hiking in the Karavanke

After a less than promising start to autumn, it finally arrived in style last week with nature offering a palette of the most resplendent autumnal hues. This, together with the warm, sunny days – which lasted all weekend too – made it perfect weather to enjoy the great outdoors. As the Karavanke mountains are right on my doorstep, that’s where I most often head to get my hiking fix!

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On Sunday morning I headed off on my bike from home in Radovljica to the Draga valley, then on foot – initially up to the Preval highland and the Preval mountain hut (Koča na Prevalu) – part of the Karavanke range.

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From the hut there are a number of paths; steeply (very!) up through the forest to the top of Mt. Begunščica; through the Baron’s Tunnels to Ljubelj, back down to the Draga valley – either through the forest or via the road – or across Roža (čez Roža) to the Roblek mountain hut (Roblekov dom). I chose the latter, as it is one of my favourite walks, particularly as it is circular and offers wonderful views across the Radovljica plains, the Jelovica plateau, and onwards towards the Julian Alps.

As can be seen below, with such perfect weather and views across to the snow-capped Julian Alps, no photo-shopping is required!

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It’s always a particularly wonderful feeling being in the mountains and looking across at other parts of the country which are shrouded in low cloud, as was the case on Sunday morning!

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The opening event of this year’s month-long Taste Radol’ca is drawing nearer. Reservations are being taken for the opening event this Friday and participating restaurants have finalised their special Taste Radol’ca menus for the month of November – all available at just 15 euros for 3 courses and with the key focus on local ingredients.

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Additionally this year there are a range of accompanying events during the month of November. Below are some of the highlights, the whole list can be seen here –  http://radolca.si/kaj-poceti/dogodki/okusi-radolce/83/930/

  • Every Wednesday: Live accordion music evening at Lambergh Château & Hotel
  • Every Friday: Live music evening at Vila Podvin
  • Every Sunday at 1pm: Presentation of the Zupan Fish Farm at Vila Podvin
  • Saturday 7.11: Podvin Local Food Market at Vila Podvin
  • Sunday 8.11 from 12 – 5pm: Presentation and tasting of honey from the Draga valley at Draga Inn
  • Saturday 14.11 & 21.11 at 11am: Cookery workshop with tastings of St. Martin’s dishes at Kunstelj Inn
  • Friday 27.11: Culinary Evening with Sartori wines and live music at Grajska Gostilnica
  • Friday 4.12: Taste Radol’ca Closing Party at Joštov hram (tickets can be obtained by participating in this year’s 2 prize competitions)

@AdeleinSlovenia 2015

The Draga Valley: The Lamberg Trail and the Draga Inn

The Draga Valley lies at the far end of the village of Begunje na Gorenjskem. The valley is little more than a couple of kilometres in length yet is a very popular destination, particularly as it is the start point for hiking to numerous destinations in the Karavanke mountains. The road through the valley has a monument and cemetery in remembrance to hostages of the second world war who were held in the Gestapo prison in the nearby Katzenstein Mansion in Begunje.

The Draga Inn (Gostišče Draga) is situated at the end of the valley alongside the Begunščica stream, making it an oasis of calm and tranquillity. During the summer months its position affords welcome relief from the heat, thanks to the freshness of the stream, whilst in the winter the Inn is toasty warm thanks to the log-burning fire –  just perfect for me! The Inn is particularly popular with weary hikers looking for some sustenance after a long hike. However, it also offers a more gourmet experience for those looking for something finer.

One of the most popular destinations to visit from the Draga valley is the Roblek mountain hut. From the valley it takes around 2 hours to reach the hut at 1672m and since it was dark when I went for dinner, and since the valley was shrouded in pesky low cloud most of the weekend and I just knew that the sun had to be up there somewhere, I returned over the weekend to take some photos and to hike up to Roblek in search of the sun. I didn’t have to go for as it was sunny up above 800metres, so I was rewarded for my efforts with fantastic views and warm sunshine up above the clouds. Other than the final 10 minutes, most of the path was free of snow but, as you can see from the picture below, winter has already arrived in the mountains.

 

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You can visit the valley by car, by bike or on foot, and a great way to reach the Draga Inn is via the Lamberg Trail which officially begins at the car park opposite the Avsenik Restaurant and Museum in Begunje. However, you can also park, as I usually do, at the Krpin Recreation Ground in Begunje and begin the walk from there. The trail runs behind the ruins of Kamen Castle and ends at the Inn, passing several information boards and sights of interest. The path is a little undulating but not difficult and takes about 45-1 hour minutes each way. More about the trail can be found here – http://www.radolca.si/en/lamberg-trail-begunje/ Keep your eyes pealed for wildlife though, who knows what you might encounter!

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As it is still November, and therefore the month of Taste Radol’ca, my friend and I decided we just had to take the chance to sample the Taste Radol’ca menu, and in fact because Gostišče Draga are offering 2 Taste Radol’ca menus, we plumped for one of each so we could try each others too (don’t we all do that?). However, since I don’t eat fish and menu 2 is predominantly fished-based, I lost out a bit there! The food was thoughtfully presented, tasty, and with generous, but not over-the-top, portion sizes, which was just as well as there were 4-courses to try.

We began with game pate with cranberries (menu 1) and smoked trout (menu 2). This was followed by pumpkin soup with toasted pumpkin seeds.

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Next came fillet of deer (in my case substituted for beef) in a honeyed-pepper sauce, cheese strukelj and, one of my favourite things on their menu, house dumplings filled with cranberry sauce. Menu 2 was trout fillet in cornmeal with buckwheat and mushrooms.

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Dessert was apple strudel (menu 1) and hot-chocolate soufflé (menu 2).

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Oh, and of course all capped off with a little glug of one of the myriad flavours of schnapps on offer!

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In addition to the Taste Radol’ca menu, Gostišče Draga offer a full and varied menu with an emphasis on game and fresh fish. Their philosophy is based on traceability of ingredients; many of the ingredients used, such as fruit, vegetables and flour, are home-grown and produced. More information can be found here – http://www.gostisce-draga.si/

So, I have now completed the (arduous!) task of reviewing this year’s new additions to Taste Radol’ca and am no doubt a few kilogrammes heavier for having done so! More information about all the participating restaurants can also be found under the Taste Radol’ca heading at the top of the blog.

With the festive season rapidly approaching, this week Radovljica’s residents are invited to help decorate the old town to help make it into a festive winter wonderland. Decoration, and the making of decorations, will take place on Wednesday (9am – 1pm), Thursday (9am – 1pm and 3pm – 7pm) and Friday (3pm – 7pm) in the atrium of the Radovljica Mansion. Come and join us and get in the festive spirit!

© AdeleinSlovenia 2014