The Begunje Village Trail – Along the Paths of Slavko Avsenik

The village of Begunje na Gorenjskem is the birthplace of the founder of Slovenian folk music, Slavko Avsenik, and a gateway to numerous hikes in the Karavanke mountains.

Get to know more about the village, its history, famous residents, and village life by taking a stroll along the Begunje Village Trail.

The trail begins opposite the Avsenik guest house and restaurant, where you can visit the Avsenik Museum to find out more about the legendary Slavko Avsenik and the music of the Avsenik Brothers Ensemble, as well as about the history of the village.

You can also see some hints and tips from the Avsenik Ensemble about how and where to see and enjoy the best of the area!

Continue past the cemetery through the narrow village lanes, passing the stream in places, heading towards St. Ulrich’s church.

Prior to reaching the church you will see an information board and to the right you can visit Robačnekov mill. It is officially open on Tuesdays and Fridays from 9am-12noon, however, outside of these times if the owner is home, as she was when I visited, just smile nicely and she will be happy to show you round!

After passing the church you can continue through the park past Katzenstein Mansion which today houses a psychiatric hospital and, at the rear, the Museum of Hostages. It is worth visiting the museum for a sobering, somewhat chilling, but interesting experience.

1n 1875 the mansion was sold to Austro-Hungarian judicial authorities and a prison, holding 300 female prisoners, was established. During the German occupation, it became a Gestapo prison and political prisoners were incarcerated in the mansion; after the war it again reprised its role as an all-female prison. Inside, on the walls of the former prison cells, you can see written records left by the prisoners and announcements by the occupiers concerning executions.

 The park is particularly known for its pavilion and the Chapel of St. Joseph, designed by the most famous Slovenian architect, Jože Plečnik, and is also home to a small cemetery where 457 hostages and 18 World War II combatants are laid to rest.
So, as you can see, Begunje na Gorenjskem may be a relatively small village, but it’s crammed with natural and cultural sights, so be sure to stop-off to wander the village trail to find out more! More information about this and other walking and hiking paths in the Radol’ca area can be found here – http://www.radolca.si/en/hiking/

© Adele in Slovenia

Beguiling Begunje na Gorenjskem

I’m fortunate to live just a few kilometres from the village of Begunje na Gorenjskem, which is packed full of natural and cultural sights of interest. I spend quite a lot of time there, too, whether hiking, cycling or eating great Taste Radol’ca food. So, in this blog I’ve focused on some of the highlights of beguiling Begunje.

Fans of popular folk music won’t want to miss a visit to the Avsenik family homestead, where the legendary forefathers of Slovene folk music, Slavko and Vilko Avsenik were born. Though, sadly, Slavko passed away in 2015, the family’s music very much lives on.

You can visit the gallery and museum, and/or attend one of the frequent music evenings and other events. More information here – http://www.radolca.si/en/avsenik-gallery-museum/

The Katzenstein Mansion in the heart of the village has had a long and interesting past. Built in the 14th century, its current Renaissance and Baroque appearance is a result of renovations in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. 1n 1875 the mansion was sold to Austro-Hungarian judicial authorities and a prison, holding 300 female prisoners, was established. During the German occupation, it became a Gestapo prison and political prisoners were incarcerated in the mansion; after the war it again reprised its role as an all-female prison.

The Museum of Hostages (Muzej Talcev) has been housed in the building at the north-western end of the residential wing since 1961. Inside, on the walls of the former prison cells, you can see written records left by the prisoners and announcements by the occupiers concerning executions. This one says ‘Molimo za mir’ (We pray for peace). Sobering stuff, indeed.

The park in the ground of the mansion is a lovely place for a stroll. It contains a pavilion and the Chapel of St. Joseph, designed by the most famous Slovenian architect, Jože Plečnik, and is also home to a small cemetery where 457 hostages and 18 World War II combatants are laid to rest. The bronze statues of a hostage and a prisoner, as well as the karst marble sculpture of a female hostage are the work of the sculptor, Boris Kalin.

Also in the heart of the village, near the entrance to the hospital and park, is the Gostilna Pr’ Tavčar restaurant, one of the 13 Taste Radol’ca restaurants. In the relatively short time it has been open it has become a firm favourite among locals.

At the end of the village you reach the Draga valley and the imposing ruins of  Kamen Castle, built in the 12th century by the Counts of Ortenburg. More information here – http://www.radolca.si/en/kamen-castle/

Photo: M Kambic

The short drive to the end of the valley brings you to Gostišče Draga, another of the participating Taste Radol’ca restaurants, where specialities include venison goulash, fresh trout, homemade sweet and savoury štruklji, and more. Situated in the shade of the forest beside a stream, it is particularly popular with those seeking refreshment and sustenance after expending their energy in the surrounds.

The Draga valley is a gateway for numerous hiking trails in the Karavanke mountains including, amongst others, to Begunščica, the ever-popular Roblekov dom mountain hut, and the Preval mountain hut.

As you can see, despite it’s modest size, Begunje packs in a lot, so be sure to include a visit on your trip to the Radovljica area.

© Adele in Slovenia

 

The Katzenstein Mansion – A Chilling Reminder of the Past

The imposing Katzenstein Mansion, which stands in the heart of the village of Begunje na Gorenjskem, has had a long and interesting past. The mansion was built in the 14th century; renovations in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries contributed to its current Renaissance and Baroque appearance.

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The mansion’s setting and surroundings are idyllic and I always enjoy a walk around the park, particularly in this beautiful autumn weather we are currently enjoying, to admire the mansion and gaze up at the surrounding mountains of the Karavanke range. A great way to see more of the village is to walk the marked Begunje Village Trailhttp://radolca.si/en/begunje-village-trail/

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The park is particularly known for its pavilion and the Chapel of St. Joseph, designed by the most famous Slovenian architect, Jože Plečnik, and is also home to a small cemetery where 457 hostages and 18 World War II combatants are laid to rest. The bronze statues of a hostage and a prisoner, as well as the karst marble sculpture of a female hostage are the work of the sculptor, Boris Kalin.
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1n 1875 Katzenstein Mansion was sold to Austro-Hungarian judicial authorities and a prison, holding 300 female prisoners, was established. During the German occupation, it became a Gestapo prison and political prisoners were incarcerated in the mansion; after the war it again reprised its role as an all-female prison.
Since 1953, the main part of the mansion has been operating as the Begunje Psychiatric Hospital, whilst since 1961 in the building at the north-western end of the residential wing – annexed in 1875 – the Museum of Hostages (Muzej Talcev) has been housed since 1961.

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I must confess that until last week I hadn’t actually visited the museum, though had walked past it countless times. Somehow it seemed a bit depressing, however, following a recent chat with the director of Radovljica’s museums I realised that it was time to actually go and though the museum is only small its historic importance shouldn’t be overlooked. It doesn’t hurt for one to take a moment of quiet reflection to consider the suffering of the hostages held here.

Inside, on the walls of the former prison cells, you can see written records left by the prisoners and announcements by the occupiers concerning executions.

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Read more about the Museum of Hostages, opening times etc. here – http://radolca.si/en/begunje-museum-of-hostages/ AND here – http://www.muzeji-radovljica.si/3m_talci/_predstavitev.html
Read more about Katzenstein Mansion here – http://www.radolca.si/en/katzenstein-mansion/

Recuperation, Rehabilitation, Relaxation, Recreation – all this and more at Rogaška!

The Rogaška Health Spa and Park is probably the most known among Slovenia’s many spas. This unique resort has a 400-year tradition and attracts guests from all over the world who wish to benefit from its healing restorative, relaxation and medical programmes.

During my visit I stayed at the beautiful, timeless, Grand Hotel Rogaška, which is just one of the luxury hotels set around the park.

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The Grand Hotel is particularly known for its Crystal Ballroom, where weddings, celebrations and other events are regularly held. The hotel’s Spa and Beauty Centre is housed in a former ‘health house’ from the 19th century, which nowadays offers a comprehensive range of professional cosmetic and medical procedures, as well as relaxation in the thermal pools and saunas.

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The town of Rogaška Slatina is dominated by the Rogaška Wellness Park, the surrounding hotels and the vast 12-storey Medical Centre which carries out all manner of health programmes including cardiology, gastroenterology, urology, and dermatology, as well as beauty and rejuvenation treatments. The basis of all medication treatments is the curative powers of Donat Mg water, which contains magnesium and, even in small amounts, can contribute to the healing of various ailments. The miraculous power of Rogaška mineral water was first analysed by alchemists back in 1572 and is known to contain 1000mg of magnesium per litre.

In its golden age, the Rogaška Health Spa hosted visits by members of imperial families (Habsburg, Bonaparte, Hohenzollern, Bourbon, Obrenović, Karađorđević and others), members of high nobility (Esterhazy, Turn und Taxis, Della Grazia, Furstenberg, Windischgraetz, Liechtenstein) and many other important guests, among them Bishop Strossmayer, the great English traveller Richard Burton and the writer Berta von Suttner.

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The Tempel building houses a gallery and shops

The positive effects of Donat Mg mineral water have been scientifically proven. It has been shown to act against stomach acid and stimulate the emptying and biliary secretion of juices of the pancreas. Minerals are absorbed in the small intestine; healthy kidneys eliminate any surplus of absorbed minerals.

As seen below, each patient receiving treatment is allocated their own numbered glass and then must drink the required amount of Donat Mg, according to their personalised plan.

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As well as the facilities in each hotel, the Rogaška Riviera thermal pools (unfortunately closed during my visit) are just a few minutes walk from the park. These pools can also be used by visitors who are not staying in the resort hotels and comprise indoor and outdoor pools and whirlpools where the special thermal-mineral water – containing sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium – contributes to a feeling of relaxation and regeneration and is particularly benefits for diseases of the joints and soft tissue.

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But that’s not all! The town of Rogaška Slatina is also home to the Rogaška Glassworks, which has been producing its well-known and highly-regarded crystal products for over 350 years. Although I didn’t have time during my visit for a factory tour, I did pop in to the shop and couldn’t resist a purchase or two!

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Rogaška is surrounded by beautiful nature. There are 9 marked walking trails, which begin directly from the centre and vary from less than 2kms up to almost 15km in length. There’s even a small ski slope, Janina, though at just 362m I can’t imagine an awful lot of skiing goes on there! A great way to see the town in all its glory is to get up above it, as I did by walking on trail number 6 to the hill Tržaski hrib – well worth it for the view.

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Just behind the medical centre is St. Anne’s Chapel, which I was rather taken by as its stone facade is somewhat unusual in Slovenia – more akin to an English style church. It was built in 1804 and in 1926 was renovated according to plans of Slovenia’s great architect, Jože Plečnik. Close by is Ana’s Mansion and Museum (Anin Dvor), a brand new building which is a cultural-tourist centre housing various collections and exhibitions.

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The Boč Nature Park is home to the peak of Boč (978m), the last peak in the Karavanke mountains. A viewing tower stands at the top, whilst the popular mountain hut on Boč (Dom na Boču) sits somewhat beneath the peak at 698m. Unfortunately the weather shattered my plans to hike up there, though I did walk a little of the way – via the road since it was raining – and at least managed to catch a brief lull in the rain for this rather dramatic looking shot below.

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Rogaška really does offer something for everyone; those in need of medical treatment, those wanting to improve their health; those wishing to escape from the stress of every day life; and even those – such as myself – who aren’t very good at relaxing but nevertheless want to enjoy some recreation (and a tad of relaxation!) in the wonderful green surroundings.

Useful links:

Donat Mg water – http://www.donatmg.eu/en

Rogaška Medical Centre – http://www.rogaska-medical.com/en/

Grand Hotel Rogaška – http://grandhotel-rogaska.com/

Rogaška Crystal – http://www.steklarna-rogaska.si/en

Tourism Rogaška – http://www.rogaska-tourism.com/en/Default.aspx

Prekmurje – The Land of Storks, Pumpkins, Floating Mills and more….

Having lived in Slovenia for over 8 years, and being a lover of hiking and all things Alpine, I had yet to visit the northeast of Slovenia. I’d long intended to get there but, in truth, I suppose I always assumed it would be a bit ‘flat and boring’. Well, I stand corrected. Yes, it is flat in places, but there are also rolling hills, vineyards, castles, lakes, numerous spas, delicious food, and more. So here’s a brief run down of my visit which will hopefully whet your appetites too!

The Prekmurje region, part of Slovenia’s Pomurje, is named after the Mura river and is known, among other things, for its many storks which can be seen throughout the area nesting on chimneys tops and in large nests balanced precariously on telegraph poles. The hotel where I stayed even had its own stork family nesting on the roof and a live camera broadcasting on a screen in the restaurant so guests can sit and enjoy a meal whilst watching them!

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This stork was sat contentedly on its nest whilst I enjoyed my dinner!

Prekmurje is also known for its pumpkins and, at the time of my visit, it was prime harvesting time. Thousands of pumpkins can be seen scattered across fields, though, they are mainly used for their seeds which are extracted to make the delicious pumpkin-seed oil which is another typical product in this area and makes an excellent salad dressing. I also tried ice-cream served with pumpkin-seed oil and, though it might sound an odd combination, it works!

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Nearby, in the village of Markišavci, I visited the family run Kodila Ham Producers which produces and sells all manner of delicious meats, as well as other local produce. The firm’s speciality are the dried hams which are first rubbed with salt, being left to air-dry for 18-45 days, then rinsed, smoked, rubbed (in this case with buckwheat flour and pig fat) and left for up to 6 months. The hams have been awarded the status of food of protected geographic origin and a part of the trademark ‘Scent of Prekmurje (Diši po Prekmurju) which brings together a number of indigenous foods, some of which, including Prekmurje ham and the layer-cake ‘gibanica‘ have now been given the status of protected foods.

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The Kodila hams. I can’t portray the smell but it was very tempting!

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Prekmurje gibanica cake – layers of pastry, apple, poppy seeds, curd cheese and walnuts – delicious!

The Bukovnica lake (Bukovniško jezero) is a 4.5ha, 2-5m deep, man-made lake and is a popular fishing and picnic spot. There are plenty of places to walk nearby, and the area around the lake is home to the renowned energy points that are thought to have special energy that calms, relaxes, revitalises and have healing properties. There is also an adventure park in the forest which surrounds the lake, which offers all sorts of different adventures for all the family.

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Bukovnisko jezero lake

The first use of floating mills on the Mura river dates back to the 4th century when flooding was a frequent problem in the area and thus the floating mills were designed to rise with the water levels. At their peak there were 94 mills operating on the river. Many of them were lost along the years due to fires and others mishaps, whilst the advances in technology, the arrival of electricity, and attacks from the German army, saw off the majority of the mills and today just two mills remain. The larger one, seen below, is at Ižakovci, whilst there is another small mill near the village of Veržej. Both these mills are still active and visitors are able to see the process of flour-making and even buy flour to take home.

Here is a link to a popular Slovene song about the mills on the Mura river – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TjKuXUbbNwE

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One of the last remaining floating mills on the fiver Mura at Ižakovci

Prekmurje’s most famous and popular church, the Church of the Ascension is situated in Bogojina and was designed by the famous Slovene architect, Jože Plečnik (1872-1957), and built during the period 1924 – 1927. Plecnik’s architecture is well-known in Europe and particularly made its mark on Vienna, Prague and Ljubljana. Ljubljana’s Triple Bridge is among the most notable of his works.

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As you can see, there’s more than enough to keep you occupied for a few days, or even longer, in Prekmurje.

Useful links:

The Church of the Ascension – http://www.slovenia.info/en/cerkev/Bogojina,-Church-of-the-Ascens.htm?cerkev=4735&lng=2

Diši po Prekmurju – http://www.disi-po-prekmurju.si/en/informacija.asp?id_meta_type=46

Bukovnica Lake Adventure Park – http://www.pustolovskipark.si/en/

Tourism Pomurje – http://www.visitpomurje.eu/en/home

© AdeleinSlovenia 2015