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

 

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

Archery, Hiking and Taste Radol’ca in the Draga Valley

Even a very rainy Saturday didn’t dampen the spirits of the 150+ archers who came from far and wide to take part in the recent archery tournament in the Draga Valley.

I am often in the Draga valley, as it is a starting point for a number of hikes in the Karavanke mountains, and is also home to Draga Inn, which offers tasty home-cooked, traditional Slovene food. The Inn is one the participating Taste Radol’ca restaurants where you can also take advantage of the ‘Adele in Slovenia Discount Card’. More information here – http://wp.me/p3005k-1oe

On this occasion I actually visited on the day prior to the archery tournament since a) rain was forecast for the day of the tournament itself; b) I wanted to take some photos of the targets and not to become a target myself during the tournament!;  c) I anticipated parking in the narrow valley to be nigh on impossible on the day of the tournament; and d) I wanted to walk up to the Planinca planina highland, 1136m, (seen below) before the next snowfall.

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There is a very pleasant path which runs from Draga Inn, through the forest, past the remains of Kamen Castle, before emerging near the parking area at the Krpin recreation ground in Begunje na Gorenjskem. It was on this path that I first came across the targets and since then, on a number of occasions, I have been back to search for more, as each time I go I discover new ones – which is a real thrill!

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The annual archery tournament attracts teams from Slovenia as well as from neighbouring countries.

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The targets are positioned in strategic places in the forest.

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It makes a great walk, especially with kids, who will love trying to spot the targets! So far I have found 7, though I think there are probably several more.

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If you are visiting the valley for a walk or hike, I’d also recommend a meal at Draga Inn, which specialises in game, trout, and other local and traditional Slovene dishes.

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© AdeleinSlovenia 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

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