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

Summer 2016 in Radol’ca – Hop-On Hop Off Tourist Bus

Regular readers will know that I usually publish my blogs on Mondays. However, I decided to purposely delay this one since yesterday it was raining, again, and I couldn’t face writing, and subject you to reading, yet another blog moaning about the rain!!!

Today, thankfully, is much better and we also had 4 glorious summer days of blazing sunshine last week. So, let’s just focus on more of those to come and not on the other 24 rainy days thus far in June! Woops, there I go again…

There are lots of things to look forward to this summer in Radol’ca*. Here are just a few of the events taking place in July to whet your appetite.

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  • The Hop-On Hop Off Tourist Bus begins operating again from 1st July until 31st August. The bus runs on Tuesdays (Bled-Radovljica-Kropa) and Thursdays (Bled-Radovljica-Begunje-Brezje), as well as at weekends to Bohinj and the Pokljuka plateau. Tickets, which are valid for the whole day, cost just 5 euros for adults, children up to the age of 10 travel free. More information here (click where it says Vec o Hop-On Hop Off to see the timetable) – http://radolca.si/kaj-poceti/dogodki/hop-on-hop-off-radolca-2016/83/904/

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  • FREE guided tours of the old town centre – Tuesdays at 9am in July and August, other months at 10am. Meet at the Radovljica Tourist Information Centre at the entrance to Linhart Square.

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Radovljica SLO 2011

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I always attend this event as I love the quaint iron-forging village of Kropa, nestled snuggly into a corner of the Lipnica Valley under the Jelovica plateau, where the tradition of iron-forging is still much in evidence. You can also try some local food, visit the village museums, and have a general nose about the narrow lanes.

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* In case of any confusion, Radol’ca is  the name used in the tourism slogan ‘Radol’ca, Honestly Sweet’. The Radol’ca area comprises the main town of Radovljica, as well as the surrounding towns and villages including Begunje na Gorenjskem, Brezje, Kropa, Kamna Gorica, Lesce, Mosnje and other smaller hamlets.

© Adele in Slovenia

Kunstelj Cooks & Draga Delights!

We’ve been spoilt with another week of warm autumn sunshine which was perfect for hiking and even a bit of cycling too. Unfortunately it looks set to end this week but it was certainly nice while it lasted!

In addition to the month-long of special menus at participating Taste Radol’ca restaurants, this year there are also a number of accompanying events which are open to everyone and FREE to attend.

These days there is ever more interest in where the food on our plates actually comes from. Knowing exactly where our food comes from is not only good for our health – food direct from the farm isn’t stuffed full of E numbers and the like – but it also helps support local farmers, producers and small businesses.

Since moving to Slovenia, and in particular since the launch of Taste Radol’ca, where the focus is on local food, I too have very much begun to embrace this style of buying and eating.

This week I visited two of the restaurants, this time not to indulge in the special menus – as delicious as they are – but to see the opening of a new mini-shop at Draga Inn and to participate in a culinary workshop at Kunstelj Inn.

The Draga Valley, at the far end of the village of Begunje na Gorenjskem, is the starting place for a number of hiking paths in the Karavanke mountains. The valley is also home to the restaurant with rooms Draga Inn (Gostišče Draga).

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The inn has now expanded its offer by opening its own mini-shop stocked with products exclusively from the valley or the family farm; a range of pickled vegetables grown in the Inn’s garden, home-cooked jams, honey from the valley’s beekeeper and these rather attractive hand-painted and produced rucksacks, which are apparently ‘flying off the shelves’.CIMG0144

On Saturday the first Kunstelj Cooks (Kunstelj kuha) workshop took place at Kunstelj Inn in Radovljica. The fine autumn weather was a bonus and meant that the workshop could be held outside on the terrace, which just happens to be one of my favourite places in Radovljica, to sit and admire the views of the Julian Alps, the Jelovica plateau, and the lush Lipnica valley.

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At this first workshop, to coincide with the celebrations for St. Martin’s Day, Kunstelj’s talented head chef, Maja Buden, used ingredients that are typical for St. Martin’s meals and showed how they could be used in a novel way.

A traditional St. Martin’s Day meal in Slovenia comprises roast goose or duck, served with mlinci, as seen below (a kind of thin dried pastry that is prepared by boiling over liquid – water, stock or soup, over then ), and red cabbage.

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Maja used all these traditional ingredients to create these delicious bite-size St. Martin’s mouthfuls!

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Next Saturday, 21st November, there will be another Kunstelj Cooks workshop. This time Maja promises she will be rustling up desserts. Do come, it’s tasty, interesting and FREE!

More information:

Taste Radol’ca – http://www.radolca.si/en/what-to-do/events-1/taste-radolca/83/380/

Kunstelj Inn –

Draga Inn – http://www.gostisce-draga.si/

Autumn Hiking in the Karavanke

After a less than promising start to autumn, it finally arrived in style last week with nature offering a palette of the most resplendent autumnal hues. This, together with the warm, sunny days – which lasted all weekend too – made it perfect weather to enjoy the great outdoors. As the Karavanke mountains are right on my doorstep, that’s where I most often head to get my hiking fix!

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On Sunday morning I headed off on my bike from home in Radovljica to the Draga valley, then on foot – initially up to the Preval highland and the Preval mountain hut (Koča na Prevalu) – part of the Karavanke range.

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From the hut there are a number of paths; steeply (very!) up through the forest to the top of Mt. Begunščica; through the Baron’s Tunnels to Ljubelj, back down to the Draga valley – either through the forest or via the road – or across Roža (čez Roža) to the Roblek mountain hut (Roblekov dom). I chose the latter, as it is one of my favourite walks, particularly as it is circular and offers wonderful views across the Radovljica plains, the Jelovica plateau, and onwards towards the Julian Alps.

As can be seen below, with such perfect weather and views across to the snow-capped Julian Alps, no photo-shopping is required!

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It’s always a particularly wonderful feeling being in the mountains and looking across at other parts of the country which are shrouded in low cloud, as was the case on Sunday morning!

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The opening event of this year’s month-long Taste Radol’ca is drawing nearer. Reservations are being taken for the opening event this Friday and participating restaurants have finalised their special Taste Radol’ca menus for the month of November – all available at just 15 euros for 3 courses and with the key focus on local ingredients.

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Additionally this year there are a range of accompanying events during the month of November. Below are some of the highlights, the whole list can be seen here –  http://radolca.si/kaj-poceti/dogodki/okusi-radolce/83/930/

  • Every Wednesday: Live accordion music evening at Lambergh Château & Hotel
  • Every Friday: Live music evening at Vila Podvin
  • Every Sunday at 1pm: Presentation of the Zupan Fish Farm at Vila Podvin
  • Saturday 7.11: Podvin Local Food Market at Vila Podvin
  • Sunday 8.11 from 12 – 5pm: Presentation and tasting of honey from the Draga valley at Draga Inn
  • Saturday 14.11 & 21.11 at 11am: Cookery workshop with tastings of St. Martin’s dishes at Kunstelj Inn
  • Friday 27.11: Culinary Evening with Sartori wines and live music at Grajska Gostilnica
  • Friday 4.12: Taste Radol’ca Closing Party at Joštov hram (tickets can be obtained by participating in this year’s 2 prize competitions)

@AdeleinSlovenia 2015

The Blacksmiths Festival + Hiking, Cycling and Mushrooms galore!

Summer is well and truly here – hooray! And with it come numerous fairs, festivals and other outdoors events, as well as myriad opportunities for hiking, cycling, swimming and enjoying the great outdoors.

I had a pretty active weekend myself. On Saturday I went by bike from Radovljica to Bohinjska Bela, the other side of Bled, from where I then hiked up to Galetovec, beginning at the climbing area by the Iglica waterfall. You can read more about hiking to Galetovec in this previous post – http://bit.ly/1HHmigK

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On Sunday I went by bike through the Radovna valley, which is always the place I head to bike when the heat is on as the cycle path leads mostly alongside the Radovna river and in the cool of the forest beneath the Mežakla and Pokljuka plateaus. I returned on the D2 cycle path from Mojstrana to Jesenice, and then by road back to Radovljica. You can read more about cycling in Radovna in this previous post –  http://bit.ly/1NL6B9f

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Other than that I was keeping cool in the shade of the forest, which isn’t hard to do when Slovenia is 60% covered by forest. I even got lucky and found my first mushrooms of the year which were delicious cooked up with chard from my vegetable plot!

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On Saturday it was also the annual Blacksmiths Festival (Kovaški smaren) in the village of Kropa, the cradle of Slovene iron-forging. The village, which sits snugly at the far eastern edge of the Jelovica plateau, is crammed with interesting sights and architecture and preserved technical heritage which is showcased during the annual festival. There were demonstrations of hand forging of nails in the Vigenjc Vice Blacksmiths Museum, a small handicraft market, old-time bikes, open days at the Blacksmiths Museum and the Fovšaritnica Museum House, as well as at the headquarters of UKO Kropa, which is keeping the iron-forging tradition alive in Kropa and specialise in all manner of wrought iron furnishings and fittings.

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Kropa is one of the destinations that can be visited on the Hop-On Hop-Off tourist bus which is now operating. The bus visits Kropa on Tuesdays on the route which also includes Bled, Radovljica and Kamna Gorica. As the name implies, you can get on and off the bus at the various place along the route and either wander at your own leisure or participate in one of the guided tours. The bus also runs on Thursdays additionally to Begunje and Brezje, and at weekends to Triglav National Park. More information can be found here – http://www.radolca.si/en/hop-on-hop-off-radolca/

The nation was saddened by the news of the death last week of the legendary Slavko Avsenik, the founder of Slovene national folk music. The music of the Avsenik brothers is popular worldwide, particularly in neighbouring European countries, but also farther afield. The family home, and venue for the Avsenik Festival, regular concerts, gallery and museum, is at Pr’Jožovcu in Begunje na Gorenjskem. To date they have produced over 1000 songs, which are now being performed by younger generations of the family, so there is no doubt that his music will live on forever.

© AdeleinSlovenia 2015

Hiking: Kropa and the top of Jelovica

When the weather is as hot as it has been in the past couple of weeks, which by the way I’m most definitely NOT complaining about, its time to seek hiking routes that are, as much as possible, in the shade. So this week here’s my suggest for a great circular route, which is entirely in the cool of the forest, leading to the highest point of the Jelovica plateau and beginning from the one of my favourite villages in this area – Kropa.

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Whenever I visit Kropa when the sun is shining, I have visions of myself living there. The village, with the Kroparica stream running right through its heart, and the houses embellished with wrought iron, really does look lovely when its bathed in sunshine. However, I know in reality, that life here probably isn’t that easy as the village’s location, nestled snugly at the foot of the far eastern corner of the Jelovica plateau in the Lipnica Valley, means not only that it is somewhat remote, but also that during the winter months there are very few hours of sunshine, which is something I definitely wouldn’t cope with! So, I just have to make do with visiting – and I’d certainly you do too!

For those without a car the Hop-on Hop-off tourist bus also visits Kropa every Tuesday during the summer months. More information and the timetable can be found here – http://www.radolca.si/en/hop-on-hop-off-radolca/

My walk leads first to the the Vodice Highland (Vodiška planina). Since I prefer to take the steeper shorter route up and the less steep but longer route down, I have described it in that direction. However, of course if you prefer it can just as easily be done in reverse, instead following the signs for Vodice rather than for Jamnik as described below.

Begin at St. Leonard’s Church, one of the two churches in the village. There is a small parking area here or otherwise park in the centre of the village, by the memorial, and take the steps which lead between houses up to the church.

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Take the path signed ‘strma pot’ – this means ‘steep path’ – and it is! It takes just over an hour to reach the Vodice highland.

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On reaching the highland, if the mountain hut is open, take a rest and enjoy some of the great home-cooked food – štruklji and strudel are particularly recommended here!

If you don’t want to continue any further, from here you could take another longer, and slightly less steep, route back to the village. Alternatively, continue with the hut on your right and outbuildings on the left, a further 100 metres or so until you see a sign to Jamnik and Dražgose.

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From here the path is obvious and just keep following the signs to Jamnik (where there is a choice, choose Jamnik not Dražgose). The path climbs slightly up to the highest point of the Jelovica plateau, Črni vrh, at 1304m. Of course one of the downsides a walk in the cool forest can be the lack of views, so be sure not to miss the 2 viewpoints. The first is just a few minutes from here where there is a clearing with panoramic wonderful views across the Radovljica plain and the peaks of the Karavanke and Kamnik Savinja Alps.

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From here on the path begins to gradually descend. Just keep following the signs to Jamnik, just being careful after reaching a dirt road where the path goes right then shortly after left more steeply down through the forest. It is marked but the first sign is easy to miss.

Another viewpoint is reached by taking a 2 minute detour of the path at the sign that says ‘klopca‘ (benches). From here you can see directly down to the village of Kropa and get a real sense of just how hemmed in it is.

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Eventually the path meets, and crosses, the winding road that comes up from Kropa, leading to the church on Jamnik. If you want to see the church then it is necessary to walk on the road for a while until the branch off towards the church.

Otherwise, immediately on crossing the road the path continues on the other side, levelling off in places, before leading back down to the village of Kropa and the 2nd of the village’s churches, the Church of the Mother of God.

On returning to the village you should also take some time to look around the village. Everywhere you look there are reminders of the village’s past when it was the cradle of Slovene iron-forging and most of the homes and buildings exhibit some form of wrought ironwork.

A particularly great time to visit Kropa is during the annual Blacksmiths’ Festival (Kovaški smaren) which this year takes place on 4th July. More information can be found here – http://www.radolca.si/en/what-to-do/events-1/iron-foging-festival/83/153/

Top Ten Summer Activities in Radovjlica

Phew, last week was, and thus far this week is, a scorcher. I’m not, though, complaining! I never do when it comes to the heat as I much prefer it to the cold, snow and drawn-out winters. There is no shortage of things to do when the weather is like this, so this week I thought I’d offer some suggestions, in no particular order, for surviving the summer heat in, and around, the Radovljica area.

1. ICE-CREAM! Lots of it! Ok, so I said above ‘in no particular order’ but I confess that ice-cream comes in at, or at least near, number one on my list! I can think of at least 6 places that sell ice-cream in Radovljica, though there’s probably more, many of which produce delicious homemade stuff too.

2. THE SAVA RIVER – in it, on it, by I, or even over it. You won’t catch me dipping even my big toe in it – it’s too cold for me – but those hardy enough to brave the icy water can take a dip in the river at various places. I prefer to walk by it, the new Sava River Trail is ideal as the trail benefits from the coolness of, in places, running right at the river’s edge, and also through the forest – http://radolca.si/en/the-sava-river-trail/. Others may prefer to enjoy the Sava river by partaking in one of the many water sports on offer such as rafting, kayaking, canyoning or canoeing – http://www.radolca.si/en/rafting-kayaking-canyoning/, or you can even zip over it on the zipline at Tinaraft.

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3. FOREST – Since around 60% of Slovenia is covered by forest, and the Radovljica area has its fair share, there’s more than enough to go round and ample space and opportunities to enjoy the forest, be it walking through it or seeking respite in the shade, The vast Jelovica Plateau, which forms the backdrop to Radovljica, is a great place to start, though do go armed with a map as ‘vast’ is an understatement! Vodiška planina, as seen below, has a mountain hut serving tasty homemade food and is a popular spot with locals. More here – http://www.radolca.si/en/jelovica-plateau/

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4. SWIMMING – Radovljica has an Olympic-size swimming pool and during the summer it’s open-air. There is also another outdoor pool in Kropa. More details about both can found here – http://www.radolca.si/en/swimming/

5. MOUNTAINS – Head up into the mountains for fresher, cooler air. The Karavanke mountains are less crowded than the better known Julian Alps, and are right on the doorstep. Don your hiking gear (hiking boots, poles, rucksack, food & drink etc.) and a map, and head off to discover the Karavanke – http://www.radolca.si/en/karavanke-range/

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6. CYCLING – Mountain biking in the cool forests of the Jelovica plateau or road biking on one of the many cycle routes around the area. Take your pick! http://www.radolca.si/en/cycling/

7. TASTE RADOLCA WITH A VIEW! Seat yourself in one of the Taste Radol’ca restaurants, enjoy a cold glass of something, and/or some homemade local food, and soak up the views. One of the best views can be found at Kunstelj Inn, but then nowhere exactly has a bad view! During the heat the usual hearty Gorenjska staples (stews, soups, roasts etc.) can seem a bit heavy but grilled dishes, such as the traditional Balkan cuisine found at Jostov hram in Podnart, hit the spot – http://www.radolca.si/en/restaurant-jostov-hram/

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8. OUTDOOR CULTURE AND EVENTS – The Summer Events Programme includes a wealth of outdoor concerts, open-air street theatre, open-air cinema, and much more. More information can be found here – http://www.radolca.si/en/what-to-do/

9. CAVING – Well, where could be cooler, in more ways than one, than a cave! – http://www.radolca.si/en/caving/

10. HOP-ON HOP-OFF TOURIST BUS – Actually, this is ideal regardless of the weather. Get on and off the bus at various places along the route and see sights of interest. The bus runs on Tuesdays and Thursdays during July and August. More information here – http://www.radolca.si/en/hop-on-hop-off-radolca/

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So, that’s my list which I hope provides some inspiration and ideas for spending summer days in, and around, Radovljica. I do hope, thought, that I’m not tempting fate by talking about the glorious weather since I seem to recall that this time last year the weather was similarly wonderful, but thereafter it went rapidly downhill for the rest of the ‘summer’. Fingers crossed for this year!

© AdeleinSlovenia 2015