Delightful Dražgoše: The Home of Dražgoše Honey Breads and Serious Sunshine!

The village of Dražgoše is nestled into the southern slopes of the Jelovica plateau, perched at an altitude of 832m above sea-level, above the Selca valley and the town of Železniki. Thanks to its favourable location, Dražgoše is renowned as being one of the sunniest villages around and proudly goes under the slogan ‘Pri nas sonce je doma’ (Here is where the sun is at home).

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Dražgoše is most known for 2 things – its intricate hand-crafted honey breads and the Battle of Dražgoše. A good place to start a visit and learn more is at the recently reopened Brunarica Dražgoše snack bar.

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In addition to hot and cold drinks and snacks, you can pop upstairs to the small museum for a brief introduction to the history of the village and the tradition of making honey breads.

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There are 2 types of honey breads made in the Škofja Loka regionLoka honey breads (which regular readers will recall I recently made at the DUO Centre in Škofja Loka, read more here – https://adeleinslovenia.com/2017/01/13/loka-honey-breads-and-handicrafts-at-the-duo-arts-crafts-centre/) and Dražgoše honey breads. The key difference between the two is that Loka honey breads are made using a hand-carved mould, whereas Dražgoše honey breads are made entirely by hand.

I visited Breda Tolar and Alenka Lotrič who are masters in the art of making Dražgoše honey breads and are continuing their grandmother’s tradition.

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The dough is made using flour, honey, cinnamon and cloves. The honey is warmed through before mixing to allow the dough to be pliable for rolling and shaping.  Some of the designs are highly intricate and labour-intensive – real works of art. Dražgoše honey breads are edible, though in cases such as this one below, it would be such a shame to do so!

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Whilst I haven’t been blessed with any form of artistic talent whatsoever, these two ‘pros’ made it look easy. Just look closely at their versions compared to mine!

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After the intricate patterns are finished, the breads are baked in the oven then glazed with (more!) honey for a shiny finish. All couples getting married at Loka Castle (read more here – https://adeleinslovenia.com/2017/01/01/a-spotlight-on-skofja-loka/) receive a honey bread as a wedding gift. You can be sure that it will look better than my finished effort, though its not too bad for a novice I suppose, and I sure had fun making it, which is what counts!

The monument to the Battle of Dražgoše commemorates the World War II battle between Slovenian Partisans and Nazi armed forces, which ended with brutal reprisals by the German forces – executions, looting and torching of buildings – and the destruction of the village. The village was entirely rebuilt after the war. The monument with an ossuary was erected in 1976.

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The painting is by the renowned painter Ive Šubic from nearby Hotavlja who participated in the battle as a Partisan, later returning to depict it in art.

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Though the old village church was destroyed in the battle, the Škofja Loka Museum Association was able to move the partly-preserved altars to where they stand today in the chapel of Loka Castle, whilst the original church organs are now in the church in Železniki. In the village you can still see the remains of the church which have been well-preserved and where there is a memorial park.

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Dražgoše is also an idyllic area for hiking and cycling, albeit, flat it isn’t! In summer I’ve been known to cycle up from home in Radovljica first to Kropa, up to Jamnik and then on to Dražgoše. On this occasion (below), I was feeling particularly energetic and continued down into the Selca valley to Škofja Loka then via Kranj back to Radovljica. It was a long tiring tour but one that I must do again some time!

You can also hike up above the village to the hilltop of Dražgoška gora, visit one of a number of caves (accompanied by a guide), talke a walk along all, or part of, the Spominska pot (the Memorial Path) – a 3-3.5 hour-long route beginning at the Brunarica snack bar.

For more information about any of the above, and/or to arrange a honey bread workshop, contact Visit Škofja Lokahttp://www.visitskofjaloka.si/en/

© Adele in Slovenia

Spring in Radovljica Means Chocolate!

Yes, finally, after the coldest winter for over 30 years, spring is finally springing here in the Radovljica plains. And spring in Radovljica has come to mean chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate, due to the now annual Radovljica Chocolate Festival – this year taking place from Friday 21st – Sunday 23 April. How lucky I am that it takes place in my home town!

Though summer will always be my favourite season, spring isn’t far behind as it’s a time of blooming flowers, Easter, new-born lambs, longer days, warmer temperatures and, in case I haven’t already mentioned it, chocolate!

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Photo: Adele in Slovenia

To whet you appetite, and in case you missed it, here’s a recap of some of last year’s festival fun!

Guinness record was broken for the world’s largest chocolate bar by area. The chocolate bar was made by the Cukrček chocolatier and measured over 140 square metres, smashing the previous record of 102 square metres. It took over 300 hours to piece together the 28,000 pieces of chocolate.

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There was also a record number of chocolatiers and visitors to last year’s festival, and I have a feeling that this year, the 6th Radovljica Chocolate Festival, could be even bigger and better.

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Photo: Aleš Košir

For the first time last year visitors were able to travel to/from the festival by vintage steam train from Ljubljana.

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Photo: Adele in Slovenia

The packed programme also includes chocolate-related entertainment for all the family.

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Photo: Aleš Košir

What will this year’s festival bring? Well, the 2017 festival programme is still being prepared, but it will be available soon so keep your eye out on the festival website for updates – http://www.festival-cokolade.si/festival-2017/ as well as on the Visit Radol’ca Facebook pagehttps://www.facebook.com/RadolcaHonestlySweet/

© Adele in Slovenia

 

A Feast of Flavourful Fondues at Vila Podvin

Thanks to the ever-creative team at Vila Podvin in Mošnje, now there’s no need to go all the way to the Swiss Alps to enjoy a cheese fondue! Though only recently revived, the tradition of fondues in Podvin actually dates back quite some way.

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Prior to World War II, the French Duke of Polignac lived in Podvin Castle and, according to locals, the castle’s residents used to enjoy fondues on cold winter evenings, made with cheese that they brought with them from France. Vila Podvin decided to revive the tradition this winter, initially just for the month of February, but it’s been such a hit, that you will now be able to enjoy a fondue up until the end of April!

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When creating and testing fondue recipes, Uroš Štefelin, co-owner of Vila Podvin and one of Slovenia’s top chefs, was keen to ensure that rather than using imported cheese, he uses the excellent-quality cheese that is produced here in Slovenia. And he knew just where to turn – the  award-winning Pustotnik dairy from Gorenja vas – with whom he set about blending a mixture of their cheeses to create the perfect fondue.

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You can also try and buy Pustotnik cheese at the monthly Vila Podvin Local Market, which takes place on the first Saturday morning of each month. Read more here – https://adeleinslovenia.com/2016/09/05/shop-locally-at-radovljicas-farmers-and-craft-markets/

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Each cheese fondue comes with a whole host of tasty and unusual bite-size delights to dip into the gooey cheese!

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For a change from dining alone (sigh!), I invited fellow blogger Peter, who writes a blog in German about Slovenia, to join me for dinner – especially since the fondues are designed for two. Of course, fondues are not restricted to just cheese, oh no, lucky for me Vila Podvin does a chocolate fondue too, using 60% dark chocolate and with a range of wonderfully sinful things to dip, including chocolate brownies, fresh and dried fruit, macarons …

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Another important feature of the fondues, as well as other dishes, is the recent link-up with attendees of the Radovljica Centre for Work, Training and Care (CUDV). Working together they have created unique pieces of ceramicware on which to serve up the restaurant’s tasty and creative dishes. The range of products is collectively made and sold under the name BISER, meaning ‘pearl’, and they really do make original gifts or additions to your own kitchenware.

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Find out more about Vila Podvin here – http://www.vilapodvin.si/EN/ and about Taste Radol’ca here – http://www.radolca.si/en/taste-radolca/

© Adele in Slovenia

Sorica: Super Skiing and Slovenia’s Most Beautiful Mountain Village

The well-kept village of Sorica is considered to be one of most beautiful mountain villages in Slovenia. As the tourism writer Rudolf Badjura wrote ‘It would be necessary to travel some distance around the world to see such a beautiful village.’ And even though it didn’t look its best on a slightly overcast February afternoon when I visited, when nature’s hues are still somewhat subdued after the winter slumber, one can easily imagine how glorious it must be here in the warmer months when nature is at its vibrant best.

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Sorica is known as Grohar’s village (Groharjeva vas) as it is the birthplace of one of Slovenia’s most esteemed impressionist painters, Ivan Grohar (1867-1911).

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The best way to get acquainted with the village is by walking the theme path ‘Path through Sorica’, which begins in the centre of the village between the Gostilna Macesen restaurant with rooms and Grohar’s House (Groharjeva hiša) – Ivan Grohar’s birth house.

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With views like this, it’s easy to see where Grohar got his inspiration! The 18th century Baroque parish church of St. Nicholas contains a ceiling fresco of ‘The Last Supper’ by another of Slovenia’s esteemed painters, Janez Šubic from Poljane.

Tone Logonder, the sculptor of the statue of Ivan Grohar which was placed here in 1981, received the Gorenjska Prešeren Award for his work.

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Rather than just being a museum, locals wanted Grohar’s House to once again come to life and a winning formula was found in making it into a kind of one-stop cultural centre which has become particularly popular for school field trips, and visits for private groups can also be arranged. The ground floor features a gallery.

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On the first floor you can indulge your creative side and take part in a workshop in the music room.

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And then head up to the upper floor to the artists’ workshop to have a go at creating one of your own pictures to rival that of Grohar!

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You can choose to just soak up the views of the village and its surroundings, set off on one of the many paths in the hills and mountains or, for those with a thirst for more active pursuits, head up to Soriška planina where in winter you can ski and in summer there are numerous scenic and interesting hiking trails.

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Soriska planina can be reached from several directions; from Škofja Loka via Železniki, from Bohinjska Bistrica or from Most na Soči via Baška Grapa.

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Facilities at the Soriška planina ski resort consist of a two-person chairlift, 3 drag lifts, a children’s drag lift, a snow park, a sledging track, cross-country ski trails and a restaurant.

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I had previously hiked in this area in the summer, but prior to last week had never seen it in its winter glory. Even for non-skiers like me, there’s still snowy fun to be had! Here I am at the highest point of the ski resort looking back down over the village of Sorica.

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One of the most interesting features of this area are the numerous bunkers, barracks and other fortifications remaining from the time of the Rapallo Border – a former border that existed during both world wars between Yugoslavia and Italy.

Below you can see the bunker on Lajnar, and you can also continue to others including on Možic, Slatnik and Dravh.

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Find out more about the Soriška planina ski resort here – http://www.soriska-planina.si/en/hiking/ and more about other theme paths and trails along the Rapallo Border here – http://www.visitskofjaloka.si/en/experiences/theme-paths/rappalo-border

© Adele in Slovenia

Like Beekeeping? Love Radovljica!

Those interested in beekeeping should definitely make a beeline for Radovljica!

The Radovljica area has a wealth of beekeeping-related sights of interest, all within close proximity, thus making it ideal place to visit for beekeepers or those with an interest in beekeeping.

One such example is the group of 38 beekeepers from Estonia who I helped with their plans to visit Radovljica.

Whilst the main purpose of their trip was beekeeping-related activities, they also managed to find time to do some sightseeing in Ljubljana, took a traditional pletna boat to the island on Lake Bled, and visited Vintgar Gorge.

The main beekeeping day began with a visit to Kralov med in the hamlet of Selo near Bled, where owner Blaž Ambrožič told them everything, and more, that they could possibly want to know about beekeeping in Slovenia. I wrote more extensively about my visit to Kralov med in a previous blog, also about World Bee Day, which you can read here – https://adeleinslovenia.com/2016/05/17/world-bee-day-the-anton-jansa-honey-route/

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The undoubted highlight, whether a beekeeper or not, is the chance to see and experience up close the hive found on a nearby tree trunk and transported to its current home. The fact you can get so close is testament to the calm nature of Slovenia’s Carniolan grey bee.

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Next the group came to Radovljica, beginning at the Tourist Information Centre where they tasted local honey and chocolate, and had the chance to buy some gifts to take home. They even brought us some of their own Estonian honey, which, as you can see, the staff enjoyed tasting!

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We then took a stroll through the medieval old town to see the main sights of interest – the Šivec House Gallery, the Radovljica Mansion, St. Peter’s Church, and the other wonderful frescoed buildings.

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Then it was on to the viewpoint for wonderful views of the Julian Alps, the Jelovica plateau and the Sava river.

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The next stop was to Lectar Inn to watch the process of making and decorating the traditional ‘lectar’ gingerbread’ hearts, made with honey, of course!

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And a chance to buy souvenirs and/or gifts for loved ones.

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Having seen Radovljica, it was then time to Taste Radol’ca, with a traditional Slovene lunch, also at Lectar Inn, one of the participating Taste Radol’ca restaurants. During lunch, the owner Jože entertained us with a few of his favourite songs played on the harmonica – never something to be missed!

The final stop in Radovljica was to the Museum of Apiculture, housed in the Radovljica Mansion, where visitors can learn all about the history of beekeeping in Slovenia, watch a video (narrated in English by me!), and in summer watch the bees hard work diligently in the hive.

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The group’s very last stop on the jam-packed, or should I say honey-packed, day, was to the Gorenjska Beekeeping Development and Education Centre in Lesce. You can read more about the centre and its wide-ranging activities here – http://www.radolca.si/en/gorenjska-region-beekeeping-development-and-education-centre/

So, as you can see, the Radovljica area really is a beekeeper’s paradise!

If you’d like any more information about Slovenian beekeeping, or are interested in taking a tour of the town and/or visiting some of the above-mentioned sights, feel free to get in touch or contact Tourism Radol’ca – http://www.radolca.si/en/

© Adele in Slovenia

Sunny Skiing, Stunning Views and Romance on Stari Vrh!

The Stari Vrh ski resort is located in the middle of the Selca and Poljane valleys, just a ten minute drive from Škofja Loka. It’s proximity to Ljubljana makes it a popular destination; in winter for skiing, snowboarding and other winter sports, and in summer for hiking and cycling.

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Stari Vrh offers 10kms of slopes (1km difficult, 5kms medium, 4kms easy), together with a snowboard park, night skiing, a toboggan run and a children’s snow playground.

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Even for a non-skier like myself, it’s well worth donning your winter gear and taking the chairlift up to the top for the stunning panoramic views.

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Once at the top, you will be blown away (hopefully not literally!) by the views over the Škofja Loka hills and further to the Kamnik-Savinja Alps.

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The peak of Stari Vrh is at an altitude of 1217m.

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At the top you can visit the cosy Stari Vrh Restaurant and Guest House, where you can enjoy a drink and/or snack, indulge in one of the Slovene specialities – all the while gazing at the stunning views – or stay overnight in one of the inn’s comfortable rooms and warm up in the sauna!

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And since February is the month of romance, you might be interested to know that one of the ski pistes at Stari Vrh is named Valentine’s piste, after the nearby St. Valentines church in Jarčje Brdo. Additionally, the very scenic Valentine’s Path (Valentinova pot) begins at the lower station of the Stari Vrh chairlift. Note, however, that you will need to wait until at least spring before setting out to walk this path, as it runs on part of the ski piste, so can’t be walked when the ski centre is open.

The circular path is marked with green circles with a yellow inner and runs along old cart tracks and forest paths. It takes about 2 hours to complete, has a total height difference of 280 metres, and leads past the Žgajnar Tourist Farm, a 200-year old farmhouse in the hamlet of Zapreval, where in 1970 the Stari Vrh Tourist Association was founded. During winter there is a marked detour to reach Zapreval, since the ski pistes run almost literally past the front door, hence making it an excellent base for those on multi-day trips.

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Today the tourist farm offers accommodation and delicious home-produced and home-cooked food year-round. You can read more about the tourist farm here – http://zgajnar.starivrh.si/presentation/Presentation.html

The path begins at the lower station of the chairlift at the Stari vrh ski resort and continues beside the Valentine ski piste to reach the exact boundary of the municipalities of Gorenja vas-Poljane and Škofja Loka, before rising up to the Stari vrh Restaurant and Guest House. It continues through the village of Mlaka past the Jejlar homestead (Jejlarjeva domačija), the famous house where the film Cvetje v jeseni (Blossoms in Autumn) was filmed. On reaching the village of Jarčje Brdo you will catch sight of the imposing St. Valentine’s parish church and return to the start of the walk.

Photo: TD Stari Vrh

Photo: TD Stari Vrh

Every year on 31st October there is an organised hike on Valentine’s Path, arranged by the Stari Vrh Tourist Association, beginning at 9am from the car park of the lower station of the 6-person chairlift at the Stari vrh ski resort.

The Association also arranges other events, including the popular Charcoal Makers Day, which has been held annually on the first Sunday in August since 1972.

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Photo: TD Stari Vrh

Having seen how beautiful Stari Vrh is in winter, and the numerous opportunities the area offers for hiking and cycling in summer, I now can’t wait to go back and explore more of the area on foot or by bike. And when I do, you will be sure to read about it here!

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You can find out more about all the above on the Visit Skofja Loka website here – http://www.visitskofjaloka.si/en/about-us/tourism-board-skofja-loka

© Adele in Slovenia

 

 

 

Loka Honey Breads and Handicrafts at the DUO Arts & Crafts Centre

There is a long and rich tradition of making Loški kruhki (little honey breads) in the Škofja Loka area. It dates back to the 14th century when the Clarissa nuns ran a girls school in the town in the building seen below. The nuns introduced and taught locals how to make the honey breads, which they baked mainly for festivals, blessings and other celebrations.

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The DUO Arts & Crafts Centre, located in the heart of the medieval old town, showcases the rich handicraft tradition in the area by offering local craftspeople a place to showcase their handicrafts for visitors to browse and/or purchase, and an opportunity for them to present and transfer their skills to future generations.

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Among the items on show at the DUO Centre are carved wooden products made by the carver Petra Plestenjak Podlogar, who today is the only master craftsperson in Slovenia keeping alive the tradition of making wooden moulds for Škofja Loka honey breads.

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Curious to learn more, and always keen to get hands-on, I recently spent a very pleasant afternoon with Petra at the DUO Centre, learning her insider tips on making the dough for the honey breads and using her wonderfully ornate handcrafted moulds to make my own honey breads to take home.

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The basic recipe contains a mixture of flours, lashings of Slovenian honey, and selected spices such as cinnamon, pepper and cloves.

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Making the dough is a fairly simple and quick process, then begins the fun part of pressing it into the moulds and choosing which of the many ornate hand-carved moulds to use. Petra also makes moulds ‘to order’ for special birthdays, anniversaries and other celebrations.

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The little honey breads, and indeed the hand-carved moulds, make ideal gifts or souvenirs.

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Once baked, the breads are glazed with (more!) honey to give them a nice sheen.

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Then, well, I couldn’t resist any longer! The best bit – time to taste them!

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I know, after all that hard work I/we should take some time to admire the little honey breads before wolfing them down, but we made plenty so a few won’t go amiss. And, as Petra said ‘Poglej in pojej’ – Look then eat! A great motto I say!

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When visiting Škofja Loka be sure to drop into the DUO Centre to browse the range of products available, all of which make excellent gifts or a treat for yourself, and take a piece of Slovenia’s handicraft tradition home. Products include: wooden games and other unique wooden products, clay reliefs, lace products from the A. Primožič House of Bobbin Lace, basketware and wickerwork, tools and other forged-iron implements, felted items, items made from wool and recycled paper, dyed wool, silk and other knitted woolen products, Dražgoše honey breads, crocheted pieces, knitware, products made from rawhide, wood and other raw materials, bags, shoes, hats and other items made using wet-felting, patchwork and glassware.

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Upon prior arrangement, various workshops can be organised with any of the master craftspeople, where you can learn a new skill, or brush-on existing ones!

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More information about the DUO Center can be found here – http://www.visitskofjaloka.si/en/experiences/864

© Adele in Slovenia