The Path Along the Rapallo Border

The Rapallo Border Theme Path has been designed to acquaint those who walk along all or part of it with the period between the 1st and 2nd World War and the effect the Rapallo border had on the towns and villages along its length. Armed with a copy of a leaflet giving details of the route and its history, I set off to explore!

The theme path begins at Žiri Museum – more about which, as well as the area itself, you can read in one of my blogs from earlier this year – https://adeleinslovenia.com/2017/04/17/discovering-the-most-ziri-things/

There is an information board opposite the museum. With your back to the board, head steeply – and I mean steeply! – uphill to Tabor and continue to follow the usual Slovenian hiking trail markers – a red circle with a white inner.

After just a few minutes you are already rewarded with a fantastic view over the town and valley.

The Rapallo Border was established as a result of the Treaty of Rapallo that was signed on 12th November 1920 in the Italian town of Rapallo. The treaty required a third of the territory of Slovenia to be handed over to Italy.

The effect on those living in the border areas was dramatic with neighbours, relatives and friends overnight becoming citizens of two separate kingdoms – the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (later the Kingdom of Yugoslavia), and the Kingdom of Italy.

The entire border was 244km in length and was divided in 70 sections. At the start of each section there was a main boundary stone, with smaller boundary stones in between.

The Rapallo Border Theme Path covers the area of five main boundary stones numbered from 35 – 39.  The path is rather, or very, sparsely marked in places, so do keep your eyes peeled for the red and white circles (on trees, stones, buildings, behind you, in front of you, etc.) as well as the odd yellow theme path sign. Alternatively, you could contact Visit Škofja Loka and arrange to arrange a guide, thus eliminating any such worries, and getting the added benefit of the chance to find out more interesting facts and figures from a local expert.

You could choose to walk its entire length (46km, 9-10 hours), or for a shorter, easier version, take the circular path from Žiri to Mrzli vrh and back, which is 13km and takes approximately 4 hours, with optional extensions to additional boundary stones.

Shortly after leaving Tabor and emerging from the forest you are rewarded with another great view.

If you’ve got kids in tow, or in fact even if not, trying to spot the border stones can be treated as something of a treasure hunt! No. 39 was easy to spot…

..whereas as first I walked straight past no. 38 as it is somewhat concealed by a tree and undergrowth!

If you choose to continue to Mrzli vrh, at the village of Breznica the path descends a little on the road, before continuing upwards, at first on the road then again leading into the forest, towards the peak of Mrzli vrh and the Koča na Mrzlem vrhu mountain hut. The hut is open on Friday, Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays.

From here you could opt to return by the same route, or alternatively take the circular route via Ledenica to return to Žiri; the latter, however, means quite a few kilometres, though a pleasant walk, back through the valley to return to the museum.

The views that accompany you along the ridge of Mrzli vrh aren’t half bad either!

There is also an alternative start for the route which begins in Sovodenj and leads to Mrzli vrh (14km, cca.4 hours – one way), or you could walk a shorter circular route from Sovodenj to Nova Oselica and back (6km, cca. 2 hours).

For more information, see the Visit Škofja Loka website or visit the Škofja Loka Tourist Information Centre to pick up a leaflet – http://www.visitskofjaloka.si/en/experiences/theme-paths/rappalo-border

© Adele in Slovenia

Roblekov dom – Slovenia’s Best Mountain Hut 2017

The Roblekov dom mountain hut on Mt. Begunščica in the Karavanke mountains has just been announced as the winner of the title ‘Best Mountain Hut 2017’.

Photo: Jani Kolman

The competition was contested by 72 out of the 181 mountain huts (including bivouacs and shelters) in Slovenia, and of the 70,000+ votes cast by the public, Roblekov dom was this year’s clear winner.

There are numerous reasons why Roblekov dom is such a well-known and popular destination for hikers from all over Slovenia – not least due to the popular song, which surely almost every Slovene knows by heart, ‘Na Roblek bom odsel’ (I’m going to Roblek), written and performed by the legend of Slovenian folk music, Slavko Avsenik. Watch and listen here!

These days the song is still performed by the hugely popular Avsenik Ensemble, from Begunje na Gorenjskem.

The Roblekov dom hut has long been a popular destination and now, with the new caretaker managers – Zdenka and Rok Podpečan, who took over the running of the hut last year and assure visitors a warm welcome regardless of the weather – the hut has now become even more popular and they have added a few of their own new touches, too!

For many, myself included, the fact that you can’t reach the hut by car is a major plus i.e. you have to hike up to earn your view and/or tasty treat, making it all the more rewarding, not to mention peaceful and pollution-free.

Roblekov dom is accessible year-round, and is actually probably even more popular during winter than in summer. I love hiking up there in winter to enjoy some winter sun, often finding myself above the cloud that is lingering above the valley.

Even when there is A LOT of snow, you might find me (somewhere!) up there!

Even though I don’t like snow, I will make an exception to visit Roblek dom on a sunny winter’s day!

The hut can be a destination by itself, just sit and soak up the views whilst enjoying some tasty mountain food, or as part of a hike to the top of Mt. Begunščica, which you can read more about in this blog post from earlier this year here – https://adeleinslovenia.com/2017/06/18/the-karavanke-mountains-majestic-mt-begunscica/

The most usual place to begin a hike to Roblekov dom is from the Draga valley, which is reached through the village of Begunje na Gorenjskem, and is home to the impressive ruins of the mighty Kamen Castle. You can either take the direct route up or take the Shepherd’s Trail to Preval then the path ‘čez Roža’ to reach the hut. Note, however, that during winter, when there is snow and/or ice, it isn’t advisable to attempt the Shepherd’s Trail. More about the Shepherd’s Trail can be found here – http://www.radolca.si/en/shepherds-trail-begunje/

Photo: Miran Kambić

Roblekov dom is open year-round; daily during the summer months and at weekends only throughout the remainder of the year, as well as on public holidays.

So, don’t delay, visit today, and find out for yourself why Roblekov dom has been voted Slovenia’s best mountain hut!

© Adele in Slovenia

Fit and Fun in Radovljica!

For many people, no doubt the thought of exercising on holiday couldn’t be further from their minds; then there are those of us for whom being active is a way of life, and whether at home or away, we like to find ways of ensuring we stay fit and healthy whilst also having fun!

So for those of you who fit into that bracket – myself included – Radovljica is the perfect destination!

As is widely known and acknowledged, the key to keeping fit is to find an activity, or activities, that are enjoyable, so taking part doesn’t feel like a chore and we are more likely to stick with it.

With the beautiful backdrop of the Karavanke mountains and the Jelovica plateau, as well as the Sava river and the Draga and Lipnica valleys, there are myriad outdoor sports and activities right on the doorstep or within close proximity of Radovljica, so here are some ideas:

HIKING – the Jelovica Plateau, the Karavanke range, or the nearby Julian Alps

WALKING and/or RUNNING – from short strolls or runs on theme paths such as the Sava River Trail, to long cross-country rambles and runs

CYCLING – of all types, mountain biking, road biking, endless possibilities

FISHING on the Sava river

HORSE RIDING or horse and carriage rides – get to know Lipizzaner horses at the Barbana stud farm in Globoko, or go riding at the Mošnje Horse Centre – just two among the places offering horse riding in the area. More here – http://www.radolca.si/en/in-the-company-of-horses/

WATER SPORTS – rafting, kayaking, canoeing

Other adrenalin-fuelled activities –  paintball, zip line, zorbing, caving, climbing

ARCHERY – on the parcour course in the tranquil Draga valley. Find out more here – https://adeleinslovenia.com/2017/04/10/archery-adventures-and-delicious-draga-delights/

SWIMMING at the Olympic size swimming pool in Radovljica – open-air in the summer, covered in the winter; or at the Kropa outdoor pool

PARACHUTING and PANORAMIC FLIGHTS over the Julian Alps from Lesce Sports Airfield

Find out more about sport, recreation and fun in the area here and I wish you fit and fun adventures in Radovljica! – http://www.radolca.si/en/sport-recreation-and-fun/

© Adele in Slovenia

The early bird catches the early winter of 2016!

Winter seems to have come early this year and, though the snow might look beautiful, I can’t say I’m ecstatic about it!

The past 2 years we haven’t had any significant snow until after Christmas, but last week’s dismal weather brought quite a significant amount of snow to higher-lying areas, and even a bit of the white stuff fell in lower-lying areas too.

I’m trying to be optimistic that perhaps we will still get a (very) late autumn with some milder temperatures, though, it’s look increasingly unlikely. But ‘glass-half-full’ and all that…

So, in an attempt to once again get accustomed to winter, I was up with the lark and braved freezing early morning temperatures to head up St. Peter’s Church above Begunje na Gorenjskem, just 10 minutes drive from Radovljica.

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Though its not easy to drag myself out of bed when it’s so cold and dark, the rewards are (usually!) worth it, which was certainly the case this time, as you can see below!

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The valley was still shrouded in low cloud and Triglav and the other peaks of the Julian Alps were looking particularly majestic.

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I continued up to Smokuški vrh.

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And this was my reward. Brilliant, warm sunshine and stunning views. It was tempting to linger there for a while, alas, the pile of translating awaiting me at home was ever present on my mind. But, I’d go, and will go, again in a heartbeat, even if it means an all-to-early start to the day!

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A case of the early bird catches the worm and the early winter and all that…!

© Adele in Slovenia

Biking and Hiking in Koroška – Through and On Mount Peca!

For lovers of the great outdoors, particularly hiking and cycling, Slovenia’s Koroška region offers a wealth of opportunities and exciting, unique experiences and was somewhere I had long had on my list of places to get round to visiting.

This is not a place of mass-tourism, and is all the better for it. Instead it’s crammed with unspoilt nature, picturesque alpine valleys, peaceful hamlets, remote and hidden delights, farmsteads and tourist farms with hospitable locals. In fact, Koroška is among the most mountainous of Slovenia’s regions – hence it has my name written all over it!

I stayed at the family-run Bike and Eko Hotel Koroš, in Jamnica, near Mežica – the Alpine and mining centre of the Mežiska valley. As you can see below, the views I woke up to of the surrounding countryside and mountains were pretty breathtaking!

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The hotel stands at an altitude of 900m, and is the first dedicated bike hotel in Slovenia.

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As well as offering 10 simple rooms and excellent home-grown and home-cooked food, it boasts the Jamnica Single Trail Bike Park – a paradise for fans of adrenaline-filled mountain biking. Making the most of the idyllic surroundings, and with the agreement and co-operation of the local community, the hotel’s owners have prepared a network of 30km of single trails which you can tackle alone or with a guide. More information about the hotel and bike park here – http://www.mtbpark.com/si/main/ekohotelkoros

Photo: Rupert Fowler

Lead, zinc and iron ore mining was once the region’s key industry and there was, or rather still is, a labyrinth of tunnels under Mount Peca stretching for around 800 kilometres. At the peak of its production, around 2,000 people worked in the mine’s various units, which operated for three centuries, with production finally ceasing in 1994.

Nowadays, just a small part of the mine is open for tourists who can choose from 3 ways of experiencing it. The more sedentary option is to take a tour of the 3.5km Glančnik tunnel on board an original mining train. You also get to don some miners’ gear, to make the experience even more authentic! However, it’s not entirely sedentary, as the experience also includes a 1.5km walk through part of the mine.

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Another option, and for a unique and thrilling experience, is to explore the tunnels on a guided mountain bike trip – which was my choice!

The mountain bike experience lasts around 3 hours and begins with a short van ride to the entrance at Igrčevo, in Črna na Koroškem. Each participant is provided with a helmet and headlamp. Do make sure to have extra layers of clothing as it is a constant 10˚C inside the mines. It was around 30˚C outside on the day of my visit, so warm clothes were not at the forefront of my mind, though, I sure wish I had taken warm gloves!

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It feels slightly disconcerting at first, but you soon adjust to cycling through the narrow low tunnels. Along the way the guide gives information about the working conditions in the mine and you can see some remains of equipment used and names scribbled on the mine’s walls. The total ride itself is only around 6km, with a negligible incline.

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All the experiences begin at the cross-border Karavanke Geopark in Mežica, which in itself is worth a visit, and in 2013 it became a member of the European and global network of geoparks under the auspices of UNESCO.

The centre offers a glimpse into the more than 400 million-year-old history of the area of today’s eastern Karavanke and comprises an exhibition area with exhibits including a fully-preserved smithy, an information area with a café and gift shop, and it also hosts workshops and other events.

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In an adjacent building there is museum, which gives a further insight into the lives of those working in, or connected to, the mines, and a collection of ores, minerals and fossils.

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Note: for bike and kayak tours, prior reservations are required; the minimum age is 10. More information about the Geopark can be found here – http://www.podzemljepece.com/?lang=en

Having spent the afternoon going through Mount Peca, next morning it was time to go ON Mount Peca – this time on foot! Peca is part of the Karavanke chain, which has a total length of around 120km and forms a natural border between Slovenia and Austria.

The Peca massif forms part of the Eastern Karavanke and can be approached from either Slovenia or Austria. I chose to begin my hike from the serene and stunning Topla Valley, which is surrounded on all sides by lush forest and contains just a handful of farmsteads – each with a traditional shingle roof. This protected valley really is like something out of a fairytale and is about as unspoilt as it gets.

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At the far-end of the valley, near the entrance to the Topla mine, a path leads steeply up through the forest taking about 2 hours to reach the Dom na Peci mountain hut (1665m), where you can enjoy delicious home-cooked stews, štruklji, strudel and other types of food, which always seem to somehow taste even better when you have earnt them after a long hike!I

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However, knowing it was still a way to go to reach the top of Peca, Kordeževa glava (2125m), and not wishing to do so with a full stomach, I resisted the temptation and continued onwards and upwards! At first across a meadow, then the terrain becomes more rocky, but still relatively easy, though for those who like more challenging climbing routes (that doesn’t include me, I hasten to add!), there is also an alternative path to the top, which is classified as ‘demanding’.

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The higher you go, the better and more far-reaching are the views, and the more the effort pays off!

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Despite it being a searingly-hot mid-August weekend, I still had the place to myself! Well, not exactly, but in fact there were just about the right number of people for my liking. Enough that one could pass the time of day and exchange a few words with fellow hikers here and there, and find some friendly folk to take the odd snap for me, but not so many that it felt crowded – just perfect!

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Koroška tends to get somewhat overlooked in terms of tourism, at least in terms of those visiting from outside of Slovenia, however, I recommend that for lovers of the outdoors, it definitely deserves to be included in your holiday plans.

This gives just a brief snapshot of the area; more information about what else to see and do can be found here – http://www.koroska.si/en/

© Adele in Slovenia

Hiking the Alpe Adria Trail – Stage 23: Kranjska Gora to Trenta, Slovenia

The Alpe Adria Trail, which begins on Kaiser Franz Josefs Hohe in Austria and ends on the coast at Muggia in Italy, has 43 stages and a total length of 750kms. The trail is a collaboration between three countries – Austria, Slovenia, Italy and offers lovers of the great outdoors myriad possibilities for enjoying the stunning and ever-changing scenery along the way from the highest glaciers to sea-level.

It’s easy to pick and choose where to start and how far to walk, however, since the route is linear, be sure to have a plan how to get back if you need to do so! In terms of the trail in Slovenia, stage 22 runs from Austria into Slovenia, stages 23, 24 and 25 are entirely within Slovenia, and stage 27 begins in Slovenia ending in Italy.

Stage 23 of the trail officially starts in the centre of Kranjska Gora (810m), though I started my early morning hike from the stunning Lake Jasna, which sits at the foot of the Vršič Pass. It was very tempting to linger a while, however, I had a long hike ahead so headed onwards, and upwards.

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The mythical golden-horned mountain goat ‘zlatorog‘ is a landmark and obligatory photo spot!

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From the far-end of the lake the route then leads along the Krnica valley, beside the Pišnica river and makes a fairly level easy start to the day. Note: If you’re looking to escape the summer heat, this valley is the place to be. Whatever the time of year in the early morning it’s freeeeeezing!!! In winter, Krnica is a particularly popular place for sledging.

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The route then turns right, passes the Mali Tamar Memorial to those who have lost their lives in the mountains, crosses a bridge over the stream, and then the ascent to Vršič begins. It is well-marked throughout with Alpe Adria signs as well as the usual Slovene way-markers (a red circle with a white inner).

The Vršič Pass is the highest mountain pass in Slovenia. It was built in the early 19th century, originally for military purposes, and has a total of 50 hairpin bends. You can, of course, drive up instead of hiking, or even cycle – as many do, though note that the pass is usually closed throughout winter when there is heavy snowfall due to the danger of avalanches.

The trail goes largely through the forest, though in places it emerges – or if ‘it’ doesn’t then ‘you’ can – from the forest at sights of interest and to take in the views. The first such sight is the Russian Chapel, which was built in memory of the suffering of the thousands of Russian prisoners during construction of the road. Hundreds of prisoners and their guards – Russian and Austrian – lost their lives due to an enormous avalanche in winter 1916 – the exact number who died was never known.

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The route continues to the right of the chapel, again through the forest. I recommend a stop at bend 17 to see the somewhat eerie looking stones that have begun to ‘appear’ in recent years. I guess someone started the trend and others followed!

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The view from here isn’t half bad either!

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It’s now not far to reach the top, less than half-an-hour and I was already at 1611m at the top of the Vršič Pass.

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From the top it was easy to see where I was heading, down towards the Soča Valley and I could hardly wait to glimpse the always-stunning emerald-green Soča river.

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When leaving the top, look for this sign and walk down the road for approximately 500 metres.

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As tempting as it is to admire the views, be sure to keep your eyes to the ground here, as here the way-marker for the trail is only on the ground and could easily be missed.

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From here the trail re-enters the forest and leads on a pleasant gently-descending path, eventually emerging between stones walls into the parking area at the source of the Soča river, where there is a small hut offering refreshments. In places the trail is marked by the letters AAT – as shown below.

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If you choose to take a detour to see the source of the Soča river, it takes about 10-15 minutes to reach the first viewpoint – a relatively easy path, thereafter its a bit of a climb, assisted by iron pegs and rope, so not for the faint-hearted! Knowing I still had a way to go, I just went to the first viewpoint (well, that’s my excuse anyway!).

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From here it is downhill all the way. The Soča River Trail leads on traffic-free paths to Trenta, home to a Triglav National Park Information Centre, and where there is a mini-market, restaurant and a sprinkling of accommodation options.

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The total distance of this stage of the trail is 17.8km, of which the ascent is 962m and 1146m descent. It can easily be shortened as required – at least during the summer months when buses operate over the Vršič pass from Kranjska Gora to the Soča Valley. Out of peak season, however, you would need to ensure you have suitable onward, or return, transport.

In total the hike took less than 5 hours, including photo stops. If you take time to linger and savour the views, perhaps enjoy a meal at one of the several mountain huts en-route to, or at the top of, the Vršič pass, then it makes a very enjoyable full day trip. Highly recommended!

More information about the trail can be found here – http://alpe-adria-trail.com/en/ and more information about autumn hiking in Slovenia here – http://www.slovenia.info/en/Autumn-hiking-in-Slovenia.htm?aktivna_pohodniska_jesen_slovenija=0&lng=2

© Adele in Slovenia

 

A Sunny Saturday on Ajdna!

It’s not exactly something to boast about, in fact it’s a rather unenviable fact that as of today, 20th June 2016, there has not yet been a single day in June when there hasn’t been some kind of precipitation. Even on Saturday, which was a glorious, sunny day, there was a short, sharp shower. However, looking at the forecast, it seems we could be in for plenty of hot, sunny days for the week ahead (didn’t I say that last week too?!).

So, back to last week’s glorious Saturday. I couldn’t decide whether to hike or bike, so in the end did a combination of the two! Or I should say ‘we’, since I had a friend visiting for the weekend from the U.K, so it was lovely to have some company for a change.

We began by cycling from home in Radovljica to the Završnica reservoir then hiked up to Smolnik, beneath Stol in the Karavanke mountains. More here – https://adeleinslovenia.com/2016/04/25/spring-in-the-karavanke-mountains/

We then continued to the Ajdna archaelogical site, which I have blogged about previously, though it was some years back – https://adeleinslovenia.com/2014/01/13/fascinating-ajdna/

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We took the steep route up, which involves a little climbing but is secured with iron rope and footholds.

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And the easier route back down!

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At the top there are well-preserved buildings and remains of buildings that are thought to date back to the late Antiquity, though evidence, some of it dating back as far as the collapse of the Roman Empire (476 AD), shows that it may have been inhabited far earlier. The peak provided locals with an excellent refuge from the troubles taking place down below in the valley. Ajdna is thought to be the highest lying settlement of its kind in Slovenia. Read more here – https://adeleinslovenia.com/2014/01/13/fascinating-ajdna/

 

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By lunchtime the clouds were beginning to gather but the views down the valley towards Jesenice and Kranjska Gora were still more than worth the effort!

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With the (promised) sunny days ahead, hopefully there will be plenty more of this to come!

© Adele in Slovenia