A Taste Radol’ca Culinary Challenge!

Life in Slovenia is almost back to normal – tourist attractions, hotels, restaurants, campsites, etc. are open, and there are even tourists to be seen here and there! That said, there has been a spike in new cases in the past week, so we aren’t out of the woods yet, and caution is still the name of the game.

As a result of COVID-19, now, more than ever, it is important to support local businesses and to look after our health – of which eating a healthy, balanced diet plays an important part. So, it seemed an appropriate time to set Taste Radol’ca restaurants a culinary challenge!

The background to my ‘challenge’ is the situation I find myself in these days since being diagnosed with coeliac disease, which is that going out to eat leads to feelings of: (1) anxiety, (2) apprehension, (3) embarrassment and (4) envy. The first two are due to never being able to be 100% sure that when I order gluten-free food it will really be gluten-free and prepared in a ‘safe’ way, the third is due to having to ask the waiting staff and/or chefs so many questions, and the fourth because invariably I can only ever order one or two things from the menu, which most often aren’t the things I would have previously chosen to eat, and I then end up feeling envious looking at fellow diners tucking into their tasty-looking meals.

Thus I decide it was high-time to be brave and embrace the great, local cuisine and to put my faith in the Taste Radol’ca chefs! I contacted 4 restaurants and asked them to prepare a selection of dishes – meat-based, vegan, and vegetarian – all of which needed to be gluten-free. I should add that I’m neither a vegan or a vegetarian, however, I know that these days an increasing number of people are turning to vegan lifestyles, and there are also those with coeliac disease who choose to additionally be vegan, which must be doubly difficult.

So, below you can see the tasty delights I devoured, beginning at Gostišče Draga in the Draga valley in Begunje na Gorenjskem.

I used to particularly enjoy the various sweet and savoury štruklji at this restaurant, and up until now, I hadn’t found anywhere that offers gluten-free štruklji. I had kind of resigned myself to never being able to eat one of my favourite Slovenian foods again, well, unless I made them myself – and that isn’t about to happen!

So, I was more than over the moon to discover that owner and head chef Ales Tavčar finally lived up to his promise and prepared gluten-free štruklji for me! And, even better, they were such as success they will be featuring on the menu sometime in the near future.

Struklji can be eaten both as a savoury dish, for example with a mushroom sauce…

…or sweet, for example with cranberry sauce. I think my face tells the picture of how delighted I was, and, trust me, they tasted as good as they look!

Vegans are catered for too with dishes such as buckwheat with apple and almonds, which is also gluten-free.

Next up was Gostišče Tulipan in Lesce. Regular readers might recall that I held my celebration there on the occasion of gaining Slovenian citizenship last year. And at that time too it came up trumps with a gluten-free buffet for all my guests. You can read about my celebration here – https://adeleinslovenia.com/2019/10/14/when-adele-in-slovenia-became-adele-is-a-slovene/

So, my visit was with less trepidation in the knowledge that they know their stuff in terms of gluten-free food and preparation.

This time I enjoyed risotto with prawns and truffles – gluten-free and also suitable for pescatarians…

…rump steak with roasted vegetables and potatoes – all naturally gluten-free…

…and rice noodles with homemade wild garlic pesto – vegan and gluten-free.

And all enjoyed on the terrace with a great view!

Next was the turn of Restavracija Center in Lesce, which is a new, and very welcome, addition to the Taste Radol’ca ‘family’.

Since being diagnosed with coeliac disease this place has become my ‘go-to’ restaurant, notably for their amazing gluten-free pizzas, which actually look, and taste, like pizzas – something that can’t be said for many a gluten-free pizza! The dough is made separately and the pizzas are cooked in special baking trays to avoid any cross-contamination. Eating here is the one time I don’t feel so hard done-by!

And this pizza ticks the vegetarian box too, though there are plenty of meat pizzas, too!

For meat eaters, a great gluten-free choice is the beef tagliata, potatoes, rocket and parmesan…

…while vegans can enjoy a seasonal risotto – this one with asparagus was by far the best risotto I’ve ever eaten and from now on will be my second choice in the event that they have run out of gluten-free pizzas, which does happen at times, so it’s always best to call ahead to check to avoid disappointment.

And I ended at Gostilna Kunstelj, which ranks among one of Slovenia’s most well-known traditional restaurants. Even the former Yugoslavian president Tito used to visit!

In fine weather the fantastic view makes the food taste even better!

Since Gostilna Kunstelj’s whole ethos is based on using local and seasonal produce, there is certainly no lack of choice for vegetarians and vegans, and many of the dishes are either naturally gluten-free or can be adapted to be so.

A big hit with me, and a revelation too, was the buckwheat with vegetables and pumpkin seed tempeh. Full of colour and flavour, indeed!

There are numerous salads on the menu, which use produce from the restaurant’s own garden.

Gostilna Kunstelj also has renovated guest rooms, all of which come with stunning views too!

Fortunately, Taste Radol’ca’s talented chefs came up trumps and I’m delighted that now I know I have a slightly wider choice of dishes when I go out to eat, though, of course, the worry is, and will be, ever-present, as even the tiniest grain of gluten sets off an autoimmune reaction. But one needs to also remember that there are people far worse off in life!

© Adele in Slovenia

52 Shades of Radovljica – The Sequel!

Well, it’s not exactly ‘a sequel’, more ‘part two’, but it has more of a ring to it!

But first, since some of you have been asking, here’s an update of what is happening in Slovenia in terms of the COVID-19 situation. On Friday 15th May the government officially declared an end to the COVID-19 virus in Slovenia – making it the first country in Europe to do so. It isn’t, however, an end to some of the measures in place, i.e. masks still have to be worn in public places, only hotels with up to 30 rooms are open, distancing measures are in place on public transport, etc., and younger children returned to school/nursery as of 18th May. The borders with neighbouring countries have also reopened, however, at the moment only for citizens/permanent residents and those with written proof of their reason for coming into the country – but the situation is changing rapidly, so do check before making any plans!

So, back to Radol’ca, and carrying on from part one of ‘52 Shades of Radovljica‘, below you can find out more about the remaining 26 towns, villages and hamlets in the municipality of Radovljica.

Peračica – home to the Peračica waterfalls, which you can see on a walk along the Brezje Path of Peace.

Podnart – a village beside the Sava river with a railway station on the main line between Ljubljana and Jesenice. It is also home to the restaurant Joštov hram, which is particularly known for its excellent grilled meat.

Poljče – a small settlement of houses and farmhouses lining the road between Begunje na Gorenjskem and Rodine.

Poljšica pri Podnartu – a small settlement beside the Sava river near Ovsiše.

Posavec – a settlement next to the Sava river near Podnart.

Praproše – a handful of houses near Ljubno.

Prezrenje – a small settlement tucked away up a hill between Podnart one one side and the Lipnica valley on the other.

Radovljica – the main town and administrative centre of the municipality. The beautifully preserved old town centre is the star attraction.

Ravnica – A few scattered houses near the Fux footbridge.

Photo: Adele in Slovenia

Rovte – a small settlement in a sunny location above the Lipnica valley.

Slatna – a small hamlet beneath Mt. Dobrča and one of the starting points for the hike to the Koča na Dobrči mountain hut (1,478m) and onward to its peak.

Spodnja Dobrava – three settlements – Spodnja (Lower) Srednja (Middle), Zgornja (Upper) – that lie 500 metres above sea-level on a sunny plateau above the Lipnica valley.

Spodnja Lipnica – together with Zgornja Lipica, these two hamlets occupy an idyllic position in the lush Lipnica valley. From here you can easily reach the ruins of Lipnica Castle and the Grabnarca Waterside Nature Trail on foot.

Spodnji Otok – Spodnji (Lower) and Zgornji (Upper) Otok mainly comprise traditional Slovenian alpine farmhouses. The former is set back slightly from the road, whilst the houses of the latter line the main road towards Begunje na Gorenjskem. Spodjni Otok is particularly known for its church – Church of St. John the Baptist – which chimes noon at 11am! An interesting legend has it that when Turkish invaders were approaching the village, their horses were attacked by hornets and they fled. Since this happened at exactly 11am, the church still today chimes noon an hour early.

Srednja Dobrava – see Spodnja Dobrava. The village is also home to the Church of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.

Srednja vas – A small hamlet of houses lining the road beneath Mount Dobrča.

Studenčice – a small hamlet near Lesce, home to a garden centre and St. Florian’s church, which features one of the earliest wall paintings in Slovenia dating from the early 14th century.

Vošče – a small settlement above Lancovo that features on a walk along the Grabnarca Waterside Nature Trail.

Vrbnje – home to the Dolenc farm and farm shop, a favourite among locals for its milk and home-produced cheese and yoghurt.

Zadnja vas – the final hamlet – as the name suggests – translation: last village – beneath Mt. Dobrča before reaching the municipality of Tržič. It is home to St. Lucy’s church, which in the past people with eye problems flocked to, since its patron saint is the patron saint of vision.

Zaloše – a hamlet near Podnart with houses lining the road beside the Sava river.

Zapuže – a small settlement between Radovljica and Begunje na Gorenjskem.

Zgornja Dobrava – see Spodnja Dobrava.

Zgornja Lipnica – see Spodnja Lipica.

Zgornji Otok – see Spodnji Otok.

Zgoša – home to the family-run Resman bakery. Prior to being diagnosed with coeliac disease, I used to love their homemade bread. Highly recommend for those of you luckily enough to still be able to eat it!

So, that concludes ’52 Shades of Radovljica’. I hope it has been as enlightening for you as it has for me!

© Adele in Slovenia

World Bee Day: The Anton Janša Honey Route

Much of the history of beekeeping in Slovenia can be attributed to Anton Janša (1734-1733) and still today barely a word is said about Slovenian beekeeping without his name being mentioned. Perhaps it was fate then that I moved to Slovenia, and particularly to the Gorenjska region, from where more than 150 prominent beekeepers hail, including Anton Janša, with whom I also share a birthday – 20th May – which is now (hopefully) to become World Bee Day! I live in Radovljica, home to the Museum of Apiculture and close to the village of Breznica where Anton Janša, was born.

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Slovenia is the only EU member state that has protected its indigenous bee, the Carniolan bee, which means that no other bee can be bred here. The Carniolan bee is the 2nd most widely used breed of bee in the world and originated in this region of the country.

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The initiative for a World Bee Day was started by the Slovene Beekeeping Association, who, rightly so, believe there should be a World Day in recognition of something that is of such vital importance to the world. I whole-heartedly support this movement, after all, there are World Days for pretty much everything these days, so bees more than deserve to be recognised.

To mark this, I went on my own little ‘bee adventure’, following part of the Anton Janša Honey Route, which takes in Radovljica, Bled, Vrba, and Škofja Loka.

I began by visiting Janša’s beehive in Breznica which is part of the Žirovnica Path of Cultural Heritage that connects the birth places of many notable Slovenes including Dr. France Prešeren, Matija Čop, Franc Saleški Finžgar and Janez Jalen. More information here – http://bit.ly/1T26zxe

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As with the majority of hives in Slovenia, Jansa’s features original painted beehive panels, unique to Slovenia, each of which depicts a humorous or satirical story – this one shows animals taking over the role of humans.

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I also visited the Kralov med hives in the hamlet of Selo, near Bled, where beekeeper Blaž Ambrožič oozed enthusiasm when showing and telling me about the wonders of bees.

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I thought I knew a reasonable amount about beekeeping, however, Blaž told me so many astonishing facts about beekeeping that I can but recommend that you go and find out more for yourself! After all, it seems that barely a day passes when there isn’t more astonishing evidence about the importance of bees and the benefits of honey. It really is one of the best foods of nature as well as being credited with alleviating a range of medical conditions and lately has also become the latest trend in beauty products. You can also read about my recent experience of a bee sting facial here – http://bit.ly/1Spm1o2

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The star of the show at Kralov med is undoubtedly the hive that was painstakingly transplanted from a tree trunk and transported, bees and all, to where it sits today, and where the bees are still working diligently.

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As a measure of the calm characteristics of the Carniolan bee, Blaž encouraged me to put my hand inside the hive and the bees were completely unperturbed by my presence.

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I had a chance to try some of the honey and learn about the various characteristics and properties of the different kinds of honey and propolis.

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At the time of my visit a brand new hive had just been built which will also be available for apitherapy and visitors will even be able to sleep there, all the while inhaling the intoxicating scents of the bees, which is known to have beneficial effects, particularly for those suffering from respiratory diseases.

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Can you find out more about Kralov med here – http://www.kralov-med.si/en/home/

The Anton Janša route also includes:

  •  The Carniolan queen mating station in the Završnica valley
  • The Museum of Apiculture in Radovljica, which features, amongst other exhibits, hundreds of beehive front panels including the world’s oldest – http://www.radolca.si/en/radovljica-apiculture-museum/
  • The hamlets of Combe and Bitnje in Bohinj, where the internationally renowned bee merchant Jan Strgar kept his bees and who, together with Mihael Ambrožič, was responsible for the spread in popularity of the Carniolan bee

You can also visit the Beekeeping Education Centre of Gorenjska in Lescehttp://www.cricg.si/angleski-jezik/ and follow developments regarding the World Bee Day Initiative here – https://www.facebook.com/worldbeeday/?fref=ts

So, come on, let’s unite to support World Bee Day and Save the Bees!

© Adele in Slovenia