The Poignant Past + Delicious Present in Tržič: Mauthausen and Gostišče Karavla

The tranquil St. Ana valley is squeezed between the Karavanke mountains along the road leading from Tržič to the Ljubelj pass. The valley was named after St. Anne’s church, which can be seen nestled beneath the mountains shortly before reaching the top of the windy road.

The valley has a particularly poignant past, as it was the location of a former World War II Mauthausen concentration camp, also known as the Ljubelj Labour Camp, the remains of which can still be seen today at the preserved and protected cultural site. It was the only World War II camp of its kind in Slovenia.

The concentration camp, which was a branch of the Mauthausen Nazi camp, was established during the time of the construction of the Ljubelj tunnel on the strategically important road between the then Nazi Germany and the southern occupied territories.

Today the remains have been arranged into a memorial park.

Though its not the usual type of tourist attraction, those interested in history, as well as anyone with a sense of respect for the past – myself included – can’t fail to be moved and feel somewhat poignant when strolling through the camp mindful of the dreadful atrocities that took place there.

The first 330 political internees were brought to the camp on 3rd June 1943, and the camp closed on 7th May 1945. There was a maximum of 1,300 internees, the majority were French, whilst there were also Poles, Yugoslavs, Italians, Czechs, Jews, Norwegians, Belgians, and Greeks, among others, the majority of which met their death while interned at the camp.

Click here to take a virtual walk through the camp.

On the opposite side of the road there is a monument with commemorative plaques giving more information (in various languages, though not in English).

From the Mathausen camp you can see a building on the opposite side of the road almost hidden in the forest. This is Gostišče Karavla (formerly known as Gostišče Koren), which I must admit to having overlooked on previous visits to the area.

However, following my recent visit I can attest that a meal here is a ‘must’ – thanks to both the fantastic food and the exceptionally friendly team – and I highly recommend rewarding yourself after a sightseeing visit to the area, or after a hike, bike ride or, in winter, a ski tour, or just ‘because you’re worth it!’

The menu is varied, with a focus on game and Angus steaks, though there are also plenty of other traditional Slovenian dishes and numerous options for vegetarians too.

As the focus is on game, I just had to try the wild boar with cranberries, which is served with homemade curd cheese štruklji, and the black Angus steak was cooked to perfection and ‘melt-in-the-mouth’ delicious!

And although, for a change(!) it was ‘dinner-a-deux’…

…the dessert – the house speciality buckwheat sponge with hot cranberries and cream – was mine, all mine!

Click here to find out more about all this and all the other attractions in the Trzic area, and here to read my previous post about hiking and other activities at Zelenica and Ljubelj.

© Adele in Slovenia

Discover Tržič and the Three Bells Trail

From time-to-time, when not dashing up and down hills and mountains, and especially at this time of year when many of the paths at higher altitudes are treacherous due to snow and, particularly, ice, I find that an easier, flatter walk such as the Three Bells Trail (in Slovene: Pot treh zvonov) is the perfect choice!

The mainly flat trail leads along quiet traffic-free country lanes and paths and through the Udin boršt woods and offers numerous beautiful viewpoints and places to rest and enjoy the sights and sounds of nature along the way.

Since the trail is circular, you can start anywhere really; I chose to begin in the village of Sebenje where there is an information board about the trail.

The trail is well marked throughout so once you find the first sign showing three green bells, you can just follow them and can’t really go wrong. However, if you want more information and like having a map in hand, then you can pick up a copy of the trail brochure at the Tržič Tourist Information Centre or download the brochure here.

Set off towards the newly renovated ski jump centre in Sebenje (in Slovene: skakalni center).

Then after a short while the tarmac road becomes a gravel path as you enter the Udin boršt woods where you will find the first of 2 trim trails along the way – ideal for a warm-up before heading onward!

After leaving the woods the trail leads in the direction of the village of Senično, from where there are wonderful views of Kriška gora (1471m), with its highest point Tolsti vrh (1715m), and neighbouring Storžič (2132m).

Before reaching the village, the trail turns right, passes a parachuting practice area, then leads to the hamlet of Novake.

Soon you reach one of the three small bells (the first, second or third depending on where you start the trail!).

Shortly after the trail re-enters the woods, where it leads gently uphill, before reaching the next bell and a pleasant rest area.

Shortly before exiting the woods you pass another trim trail – another chance for some extra fitness!

Then, you emerge into the village of Žiganja vas, whose inhabitants came up with the idea for the Three Bells Trail at the time when three bells where being replaced in the village church.

On a clear day, there are far-reaching views from one side of the Julian Alps, all the way to Triglav

…and on the other towards the Karavanke mountains that form a natural border between Slovenia and Austria.

In the centre of Žiganja vas, adjacent to St. Ulrich’s church, stands the giant village linden tree, which is so huge, and in places hollow, you can actually go inside it – and who could resist such an opportunity!

The trail then returns back to Sebenje completing the 9km-long circular route. Much of the route is also suitable for cycling (mountain or trekking bike). You should allow around 2 hours, more if you make frequent stops, and it is a truly pleasant way to while away a sunny winter’s afternoon!

You can find out more about the other walking and hiking trails in the Tržič area here, and, of course, stay tuned to my blog for more ideas and inspiration to come too!

© Adele in Slovenia

 

 

Test Your Skiing Skills at the Elan Alpine Skiing Museum!

The Radol’ca area is synonymous with Elan – the world-famous producer of skis, and now you can find out more about the company’s history and innovative products whilst enjoying some interactive fun at the new Elan Alpine Skiing Museum.

The museum is located at the company’s production unit in Begunje na Gorenjskem, just a short distance from Radovljica. It was opened in 2018 by the legendary Swedish skier Ingemar Stenmark, who competed using Elan skis throughout his entire career. The first pair of skis on which Stenmark competed in World Cup races is among the museum’s exhibits.

Elan was established in 1945 upon the initiative of the ski jumper and ski maker Rudi Finžgar (1920-1955) who in 1941, despite being young and inexperienced, became the first Slovenian ski jumper to jump over 100 metres. The company quickly became known for its innovative and trend-setting designs.

The museum showcases Elan’s 70-year history and its sources of inspiration for the future,

There are also exhibits showing some of the achievements of the company’s other divisions, including boats, aeroplanes, sports equipment and wind turbines.

The exhibits are spread over two floors in the small museum. Upstairs you can get a glimpse into a workshop…

…test your balance on skis and a snowboard – not as easy as it looks…

…and there is a chance to test your skills and get interactive on the ski simulator. Needless to say, I didn’t score top marks but it was fun having a go nonetheless and a pretty good workout too!

The museum is open Tuesdays – Saturdays from 10am-6pm and offers a great experience for all the family, even for non-skiers like me!

Adjoining the museum is the Elan Sports Shop, which is crammed with sports apparel, both Elan’s own-brand products and other brand names, which you can access from outside or alternatively once you make it past the finish line!

Whilst in the area you can also visit the many other numerous attractions and sights of interest in the village of Begunje na Gorenjskem and its surroundings, among them Kamen Castle, the Avsenik Museum, Katzenstein Mansion and the Museum of Hostages and two Taste Radol’ca restaurantsGostišče Draga and Gostilna Pr’Tavčar. If you want to get active then you can take a walk on the St. Peter’s Trail, the Begunje Village Trail or visit the Draga Valley from where you can set off on hikes in the Karavanke mountains.

© Adele in Slovenia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

© Adele in Slovenia

 

Jezersko: Slovenia’s First Mountaineering Village

The village of Jezersko lies at an altitude of 906 metres above sea-level at the foot of the Kamnik-Savinja Alps and the Karavanke range. It is Slovenia’s first, and it could be said ‘best’, true mountaineering village.

As befits somewhere with such pristine nature, it is spotlessly clean, all the hiking trails and attractions are very well marked, and a sense of peace and tranquility reigns over the entire valley.

What you won’t find in Jezersko are hordes of tourists, tacky souvenir shops, and over-priced eateries etc., instead you will find scattered homesteads and farms, a handful of eateries serving local food, friendly locals and ‘to-die-for’ views as far as the eye can see.

What I personally find so appealing about Jezersko, apart from the peace and great hiking, is that although the area, understandably, has a vision in terms of tourism, that vision is exactly what it should be i.e. to remain true to what it is, to avoid mass tourism, to attract the type of people who appreciate Jezersko for its pure simplicity. And that, in my book, is something to be applauded, and is in pleasant contrast to many of today’s tourist traps.

Further proof that Jezersko is a great mountaineering village, is its entry this year into the Bergsteiger Dorfer Association of Mountain Villages. With the exception of Jezersko, all the other villages are in well-known mountainous areas, such as Bavaria and Tyrol.

If walking and hiking is your thing, then in Jezersko there is something to suit all levels; 2 mountain huts, 20kms of easy trails, 10kms of challenging trails; 15kms of very demanding trails, and 1 secured climbing trail.

For an easy walk and a good way of getting acquainted with the area, I recommend a walk along the 8km Ravenska kočna Theme Trail.

It begins at the stunningly beautiful Planšar Lake (Planšarsko jezero)…

…and continues across meadows with magnificent views of the north faces of the Kamnik-Savinja Alps.

Having such excellent natural conditions for alpine sports, Jezersko is home to some of Slovenia’s mountaineering legends. Among them Davo Karničar (seen below), who in 2000 became the first person to ski from the peak of Mt Everest to the base camp, and then, over the next six years to 2006, went on to ski from the highest peaks in all the continents, making him a true legend in the world of alpinism.

As of this year, the entire Jezersko Mountain Trail is now available in English (translated by me!). The trail can be walked in sections or in its entirety. Many of the hikes involve some difficult sections, so if you love challenging hikes, then this is for you, but you can also pick and choose some of the easier trails, too. It includes all the greats such as Grintovec, Skuta, Jezerska kočna, Goli vrh, Velika Baba, Storžič, the Frischaufov dom hut, Kranjska and Koroška rinka, and more.

One of the most popular places for many hikers, either as a destination in itself or as a base for more demanding onward tours, is the Češka koca mountain hut (1543m). In addition to its fantastic location, what makes this hut unique is that it was built in 1900 by the Prague-based Czech branch of the Slovene Mountaineering Association, after which the hut was named. It has been renovated many times over the years but has retained its original style.

Jezersko is also popular in winter, when cross-country , ski touring and sledging are the activities of choice.

Photo: TIC Jezersko

So, this has just been a brief overview of Jezersko, I will be writing more in due course as one blog certainly doesn’t do it justice, but I hope it has at least whetted your appetites!

If you love hiking and appreciate nature at it’s best, when considering your (next) trip to Slovenia, consider Jezersko!

© Adele in Slovenia

Valvasorjev dom – Voted Slovenia’s Best Mountain Hut for the 3rd Time in 5 years!

So, it’s official, Valvasorjev dom is the winner of the title of Slovenia’s Best Mountain Hut – making it the third time it has won this prestigious title!

Last year, due to the rules of the competition which state that huts cannot be nominated two years in-a-row, Valvasorjev dom wasn’t in the running, but this year it once again breezed to become the holder of the title ‘Slovenia’s Best Mountain Hut 2018’. Congratulations to Aleš Štefe and the team!

Having already won the title in 2014 and 2016, this is a pretty impressive feat for a hut that doesn’t even have much of a view! But what it lacks in views, it makes up for with its great food, friendly team and welcoming atmosphere – all of which have proved to be a winning combination.

Valvasorjev dom (1,181m) lies beneath Stol (2,236m) – the highest peak in the Karavanke range. For those looking for a short hike, the hut can be a destination in itself – you can reach it in a little over an hour from the car park at the Završnica reservoir, or you can visit as part of a longer hike to Stol itself or numerous other destinations – as can be seen from the signs (below) in front of the hut.

During summer, you can also visit the other mountain hut on Stol, Prešernova koča – just a short distance from the summit – from where there are also numerous choices of onward routes.

The fascinating Ajdna archaelogical site is just a 30-minute walk from Valvasorjev dom.

Or you can visit one or more of the numerous mountain pastures beneath Stol such as the Zabreška planina highland (1,225m), or the Zirovniška planina (1,200m) highland.

Valvasorjev dom is also a popular destination for mountain bike enthusiasts, who can ride up the 5km forest road before heading off to traverse some of the afore-mentioned mountain pastures.

The fact that it is one of the few huts that is open year-round is also an added bonus, and Valvasorjev dom is as popular in winter as it is in summer.

When conditions permit, the 5km road from the valley is turned into a sledging track, too.

So, as you can see, there are more than enough reasons to visit the Valvasorjev dom mountain hut and to find out for yourself why it is a three-time winner!

Click here to find out more about hiking and other activities in the Žirovnica area beneath Stol.

© Adele in Slovenia

The Begunje Lambergh Trail – Explore Kamen Castle, Archeological Sites and Caves in the Draga Valley

The Lambergh Trail (Lambergova pot) begins at the Krpin recreation area in Begunje na Gorenjskem. It leads through the forest past the ruins of Kamen Castle, passing two small archeological sites, and ending in the lush Draga valley at the Gostišče Draga restaurant, where you can enjoy a drink, snack or slap-up meal to gather your strength for the return journey, or you could even continue further on one of the trails that lead into the Karavanke mountains.

It takes around an hour to walk the almost 8km path (one-way), though if you stop to explore the castle, which is a must(!), then you should allow more time. The terrain is undulating, so good footwear is required. There are information boards along the way where you can find out more.

The Njivice archeological site dates back to the Old Iron Age.

There are vast caves to explore, too, some of which make you feel rather small!

Halfway along the trail you emerge briefly from the forest and are greeted by wonderful views over the upper part of the village.

You then reach the mighty and impressive ruins of Kamen Castle.

The castle was once home to the Counts of Lambergh – hence the name of the trail. It has preserved Gothic and Renaissance entrances and the partial restoration works that were recently carried out have made the castle more accessible.

Kamen Castle was built in the 12th century by the Counts of Ortenburg; later it was owned by the Counts of Celje, and from 1436 the Counts of Lambergh. The counts abandoned the castle in the 18th century when they moved to the more comfortable Katzenstein Mansion in the centre of the village.

The path ends at the Gostišče Draga restaurant at the head of the Draga valley. The restaurant, a member of Taste Radol’ca, is renowned for its game, fresh river trout, and numerous other traditional Slovene dishes.

The štruklji alone, both the sweet and savoury versions, are definitely worth the walk!

You can either return the same way following the signs back to the Krpin recreation centre, or alternatively you could first walk along the valley road beside the stream back to the castle, where you can rejoin the path back to the start.

You could also take time to explore Begunje itself; the Begunje Village Trail is just one of the many theme trails in the Radol’ca area. Click here for more.

© Adele in Slovenia

A Spectrum of Sports and Culture Beneath Stol!

Stol, the highest mountain in the Karavanke range, which presides majestically over the Žirovnica area, together with the villages that lie beneath it, offer a whole spectrum of sporting activities with something for everyone – from challenging hikes to summits and family-friendly meanders along the many mountain pastures, to horse riding, cycling, running and even an adrenaline-filled zipline over the Sava Dolinka river.

Zipline Dolinka is a new, exciting way to get some adrenaline whilst marvelling at the stunning scenery around and below you. Its 5 cables offer a total of 2,371 metres of descent over the Sava Dolinka river.

For those who prefer to have both feet on solid ground, the Žirovnica area offers walks and hikes for all the family.

For example, if you looking for a more level walk, you could drive the 5km mountain road up to the Valvasorjev dom mountain hut and then set off on foot, first passing the Žirovniška planina mountain pasture and then on to one of my favourite spots – the Zabreška planina mountain pasture.

Though not an official mountain hut, in fine weather at weekends you may be able to get refreshments at the pasture hut, where you can take a seat on the wonderful, unique wooden furniture and soak up the views!

Kids – big and small – will love it too!

You can even continue further to the Doslovška planina mountain pasture and towards the Dom pri Izviru Završnice mountain hut, which I wrote about in a previous blog here.

Those wanting more challenging hikes are well catered for too, with trails to the summit of Stol itself, as well as, among others, to the Valvasorjev dom mountain hut and the Ajdna Archaelogical Site. Find more information here about this and other hikes in the Žirovnica area.

For those that like running, why not take part in the popular ‘Run Under the Free Sun‘ (Tek pod svobodnim soncem) on Saturday 1st September. The 10.7km route, which begins at 10am, leads past the important sights along the Path of Cultural Heritage. There are also shorter 200m, 400m, 600m and 900m routes, beginning at 9am, for children. Hurry with your registrations by 28th August. Find more here about this event and running in the Žirovnica area.

Cyclists are also well catered for in the Žirovnica area. From short, easy rides on the flat Imperial Road, and along the Path of Cultural Heritage, to longer, more challenging rides in the Završnica valley and onwards to the numerous mountain pastures beneath Stol. More information and route descriptions can be found here.

So, as you can see, there really is something for everyone and lovers of sports, culture and, not forgetting, beekeeping, should make a beeline for Žirovnica! There’s a fair chance you will find me there on my bike or on foot too!

© Adele in Slovenia