The Karavanke Mountains – Majestic Mt. Begunščica

At 2060m, Begunščica is amongst the highest mountains in the Karavanke range, and a favourite destination among locals and those looking for a moderately challenging and very scenic hike.

The approximately 120-kilometre-long Karavanke mountain range forms a natural border between Slovenia, to the south, and Austria, to the north. Thus, in late-spring it’s not uncommon for there to be snow on the northern facing slopes of the Karavanke, whilst it’s green on the sunny Slovenian side!

Green and sunny to the south, snowy to the north!

There are several ways to reach the summit; the most popular among them is to start from the Draga Valley in Begunje na Gorenjskem. If coming from Radovljica, drive through the village and continue in the direction of Tržič, then on the left you will see the road towards the valley. The valley is a popular starting point for hikes in the Karavanke range. The routes are well-marked and signposts show approximate walking times.

I recommend taking time to stop in the village of Begunje na Gorenjskem to have a stroll around the park, and also at the entrance to the Draga Valley to see the ruins of Kamen Castle.

Continue to the end of the valley to the parking area and from there you set off on foot. You can choose to either go via Preval on the first part of the Shepherd’s Trail, which is the more direct, short, but steeper route, or hike first up to the Roblekov dom mountain hut (1657m), where you can stop for refreshments either on the way up or down – or of course both ways! You can find more information about the Shepherd’s Trail here – http://www.radolca.si/en/shepherds-trail-begunje/

Looking down on the Preval mountain hut on the path up towards Begunščica

If you choose the route to Preval, it takes a good hour from the valley to reach the Koča na Prevalu mountain hut, again an optional break for refreshments here – then prepare yourself for the very steep path directly up to the summit. Here you leave the Shepherd’s Trail and take the marked path to Begunščica which, at times, can feel like an almost vertical ascent. However, apart from one small rocky section, it isn’t overly exposed and is manageable for competent and experienced hikers.

As you approach the summit you can’t fail to notice the ‘carpet’ of sheep droppings from the sheep that are taken to graze on the slopes of Begunščica during summer! I always wonder how on earth so few sheep manage to produce so many droppings! At the summit there is an orientation table which provides assistance when you are gobsmacked by the stunning views and don’t know where to look first!

Personally I prefer to do the hike in the direction as I have described it: Draga – Preval – Begunščica – Roblek – Draga, as the descent from the summit to Roblek is easier and more ‘knee-friendly’ than the steep path from the summit down to Preval. I also like doing it this way as it makes it an entirely circular route.

The path from the summit down towards the Roblekov dom hut

Whilst there is no hut at the summit, there’s no shortage of huts to visit; in addition to the aforementioned Koča na Prevalu and Roblekov dom huts, there is also the Tomčeva koča hut (1180m) on the Poljška Planina highland and the hut on the Planina Planinca highland (1136m), both of which are found at approximately the halfway point between the Draga Valley and the Roblekov dom hut.

The hut on the Planina Planinca highland

You can find out more about this and other hiking routes nearby on the Tourism Radol’ca website here – http://www.radolca.si/en/hiking/

© Adele in Slovenia

What’s On in Radovljica June 2017 – A Lot!

Here’s a round-up of the latest news and events taking place in June 2017, of interest to both visitors and locals, in my lovely home town of Radovljica as well as the surrounding towns and villages. I apologise in advance for the long blog, but there’s so much going on!

Any running enthusiasts out there? The annual Radovljica 10k run takes place this year on Friday 23rd June. The race is even featured on the Run International website, since, despite being the smallest event it lists, it is included for having ‘a particularly-beautiful setting’. The route goes through and around the town, from where there are fantastic views of the Sava river, the Julian Alps, the Karavanke mountains, and the Jelovica plateau. You can read more about the event here – http://www.runinternational.eu/2017-calendar/june/2851-radolska-10ka-2017

Every Tuesday you can join a FREE guided tour of Radovljica’s historic old town centre. The tour begins at 10am at the Radovljica Tourist Information Centre at the entrance to the old town in Linhart Square (Linhartov trg).

An exhibition titled ‘Terra Mystica’ is on view in the Radovljica Mansion in the old town until 2nd June. The exhibition showcases products made at the children’s ceramics biennial.

Talking of ceramics, the Festival of the Strength of the Earth (previously known as the Ceramics Festival) took place last Saturday. The main market event took place in Linhart Square, where visitors could see and buy products such as ceramic ware, herbs, seeds, natural cosmetics, and teas.

Photo: Boris Pretnar

Whilst workshops took place at the biodynamic garden at the town primary school.

Photo: Boris Pretnar

The annual month-long Vurnik Days (Vurnikovi dnevi) begins on 1st June in memory of the architect Ivan Vurnik who was born in Radovljica in 1884. Vurnik helped found the Ljubljana School of Architecture and, together with his wife, Helena Kottler Vurnik, they went on to design many notable buildings in Radovljica, as well as further afield in Slovenia.

Radovljica’s swimming pool was built in 1932 and is considered one of Vurnik’s most notable projects. The most distinguishing feature, at its time considered a daring feat of engineering and architecture, was the high diving platform. It was demolished in 1966 but Radovljica’s Olympic-size swimming pool lives on today, in the same location, though in a somewhat more modern form.

Another of his works is the Basilica of Mary Help of Christians in Brezje, built in the period from 1965 – 1967, which is today the most renowned pilgrimage centre in Slovenia. In 1988 it was elevated to the status of basilica by Pope John Paul II. More here – http://www.radolca.si/en/brezje/

The opening event will take place in the Šivec House Gallery on 1st June at 8pm where an exhibition of the work of Ivan and Helena Vurnik will be officially opened by Radovljica’s mayor. More about the gallery can be found here – http://www.radolca.si/en/radovljica-sivec-house-gallery/

All month there will also be a special Vurnik Tasting Menu available at Vila Podvin restaurant. More information here – http://www.vilapodvin.si/

The first Outdoor Cinema (Letni kino) will take place at Linhart Hall (Linhartova dvorana) on Friday 23rd June at 9.30pm when the film The Beatles: 8 Days a Week will be screened. And even better, this kick-off film, that you can enjoy sitting outdoors in the courtyard, is FREE.

On 23rd June the annual Midsummer’s Eve Festival will take place in the shelter of the ruins of Kamen Castle in Begunje na Gorenjskem.

Photo: Miran Kambic

And all this is in addition to the usual natural, historical and cultural sights of the Radovljica area – the historic old town centre, the stunning views of the Karavanke mountains, the Julian Alps, the Sava river, the countless walking, hiking and cycling routes, and the delicious local food on offer at Taste Radol’ca restaurants.

I know, it’s hard to know where to start!

© Adele in Slovenia

Archery Adventures and Delicious Draga Delights!

The beautiful Draga valley in Begunje in Gorenjskem – home to the ruins of Kamen Castle, the Gostišče Draga restaurant and the start point for numerous hikes in the Karavanke mountains – has just got even better thanks to the new improved 28-target archery range.

Having never so much as held a bow and arrow, I was keen to try it out for myself and, I must say, I’m hooked already and can’t wait to try it again!

If you have your own equipment, you can just turn up and pay in the Gostišče Draga restaurant and then head off on your own, of course taking care to follow the numbered markers in the correct direction.

If you, like me, are a total novice or a relative newcomer to archery, or you skills are a bit rusty, then I suggest contacting the ‘go-to’ man for archery around here, Robert (Robi) Levstek.

We started with a brief safety introduction and a few warm-up shots as Robi demonstrated and talked me through the technique.

I know you probably won’t believe me, since I barely believed it myself, but this was one of my first shots – totally a case of beginner’s luck, though, as it didn’t continue in that vein!

Robi made all of the animal targets and also makes all his own bows and arrows, something he is deservedly proud of.

The archery course is also ideal for families with children, and Robi teaches children from age 3+. It’s also extremely good value, considering it provides several hours of entertainment, at just 10 euros for adults and 8 euros for children.

Sensible footwear is a must, as is comfortable clothing, but other than that all you need is a sense of adventure and good spirits!

It’s great fun making your way around the course through the forest, crossing the stream and trying to spot the life-like animals. Those with a competitive nature, and even those without, will love it. For those who want to get competitive, you can tot-up points, join the club and/or compete in the regular Parkur tournaments, whilst for others it can merely be a fun day out surrounded by the wonderful nature of the Draga valley.

The archery range is open year-round and even in winter, provided the snow cover is not too deep, you can spot the animal targets!

And no visit to the Draga valley is complete without a meal at the Gostišče Draga restaurant. Known for its fresh trout, venison, and other traditional Slovenian dishes, of late the restaurant has also become a mecca for lovers of all kinds of štruklji – sweet and savoury. Unable to decide on which to try this time, I went for the triple whammy and tried 3 different versions – buckwheat with wild garlic, classic curd cheese, and blueberry – all of which were so delicious I took some home for the next day (or two) too!

 

 

You can contact Robi and/or find out more information via the Facebook pages Parkur Draga https://www.facebook.com/parkurdraga/ and Lokostrelstvo Robert Levstek https://www.facebook.com/Lokostrelstvo-Robert-Levstek-sp-679804982054234/

Enquiries and reservations for the archery range can also be made at the Gostišče Draga restaurant – http://www.gostisce-draga.si/

But watch out, you might, like me, get hooked – on both the archery and the štruklji!

© 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

 

Spend a Night with a Knight at Opulent Otočec Castle!

You are never too far away from a castle in Slovenia since there are around 500 of them. One of the most famous is Bled Castle, perched on a cliff above picturesque Lake Bled – an iconic image which is undoubtedly one of, if not the, symbol of Slovenian tourism.

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Another is the mighty Predjama Castle, which is built into the mouth of a cave and is entered into the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest cave castle in the world.

Photo: Nea Culpa

A good majority, though not all, of Slovenia’s castles are open to the public and are well-maintained. There are a few that have seen better days, but somehow even the ruins of once mighty castles seem impressive, such as this one, Kamen Castle in Begunje na Gorenjskem. The castle stands at the entrance to the Draga Valley, a popular start point for hikes in the Karavanke mountains.

Photo: Miran Kambič

At quite a number of castles you can get married or hold various types of functions and gatherings. This one, for example, Sevnica Castle, features an impressive wine vault.

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I can attest that the wine pairs perfectly with salami from Grajske mesnine butchers. You can read plenty more about the castle, my experience of the Sevnica Mountain Marathon, and what else to see and do in Sevnica, in this previous blog post – https://adeleinslovenia.com/2015/09/10/sevnica-so-much-to-see-and-do/

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Surprisingly, however, there are only a handful of castles in Slovenia where you can actually stay and live it up like a King or Queen! Among them my favourite would have to be Otočec Castle. Both the castle itself and the stunning setting, on an islet in the middle of the Krka River, make it quite unique.

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Nowadays the castle operates entirely as a luxury five-star hotel, the Relais & Chateaux Otečec Castle Hotel. The hotel seamlessly blends the castle’s history with modern luxurious furnishings, superior rooms and suites, and gourmet dining. More information here – http://www.grad-otocec.com/en/us/home/

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As with all good castles, there is a knight in shining armour! This one stands guards over the hotel reception – perhaps to weed out any unsavoury looking guests!

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The setting is about as idyllic as it gets!

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For lover’s of the great outdoors, Hotel Sport, within walking distance and owned by the same company, offers a wide range of sports activities available for guests staying at the Otočec Castle Hotel, including an indoor pool filled with thermal water, Turkish and Finnish saunas, covered tennis courts, and the Otočec Adventure Park offers fun for all the family.

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Golf Grad Otečec is just a stone’s throw away from the Otočec Castle Hotel and is one of Slovenia’s longest and most attractive golf courses.    http://www.golf-otocec.si/en

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To whet your appetite further, you can watch this short video and, if you have the chance, do go and experience Otočec for yourself!

© Adele in Slovenia

Archery, Hiking and Taste Radol’ca in the Draga Valley

Even a very rainy Saturday didn’t dampen the spirits of the 150+ archers who came from far and wide to take part in the recent archery tournament in the Draga Valley.

I am often in the Draga valley, as it is a starting point for a number of hikes in the Karavanke mountains, and is also home to Draga Inn, which offers tasty home-cooked, traditional Slovene food. The Inn is one the participating Taste Radol’ca restaurants where you can also take advantage of the ‘Adele in Slovenia Discount Card’. More information here – http://wp.me/p3005k-1oe

On this occasion I actually visited on the day prior to the archery tournament since a) rain was forecast for the day of the tournament itself; b) I wanted to take some photos of the targets and not to become a target myself during the tournament!;  c) I anticipated parking in the narrow valley to be nigh on impossible on the day of the tournament; and d) I wanted to walk up to the Planinca planina highland, 1136m, (seen below) before the next snowfall.

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There is a very pleasant path which runs from Draga Inn, through the forest, past the remains of Kamen Castle, before emerging near the parking area at the Krpin recreation ground in Begunje na Gorenjskem. It was on this path that I first came across the targets and since then, on a number of occasions, I have been back to search for more, as each time I go I discover new ones – which is a real thrill!

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The annual archery tournament attracts teams from Slovenia as well as from neighbouring countries.

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The targets are positioned in strategic places in the forest.

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It makes a great walk, especially with kids, who will love trying to spot the targets! So far I have found 7, though I think there are probably several more.

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If you are visiting the valley for a walk or hike, I’d also recommend a meal at Draga Inn, which specialises in game, trout, and other local and traditional Slovene dishes.

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© AdeleinSlovenia 2016

More Rainy Days Ideas – Radovljica and Studor

Most of July was blissfully hot and dry, and indeed records were being broken left, right and centre, until, that is, last week when a new, less than remarkable, record was set of just 20 minutes sunshine over a 5 day period. Let’s hope that record is consigned to the history books and not repeated any time soon! Fortunately, by Friday the sun had worked its way back and it was immediately hot again. The consequence, however, is that there wasn’t much in the way of hiking and cycling for me for the whole of last week, instead just endless trudges with my umbrella.

Once such ‘trudge’ – though in fairness the remarkable scenery means it can’t be described as a ‘trudge’ – was around the quaint village of Studor. The moody skies and the mountains of the Julian Alps rising up from Bohinj Lake only served to somehow make it even more scenic.

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Though only tiny, Studor it is known for its double height ‘toplar’ hayracks.

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The Mrcina ranch with its Icelandic horses.

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and also the Oplen House Museum (Oplenova hiša) which represents a typical 19th century home where various crafts were carried out and includes a black kitchen – http://www.slovenia.info/en/muzej/Studor-in-Bohinj,-Oplen-House-.htm?muzej=914&lng=2

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Meanwhile, in Radovljica, it is noticeable how rain actually attracts visitors to the area. On rainy summer days, the old town centre is often at its liveliest as people flood here from Bled, and the surrounding areas, seeking things to do on a rainy day. Popular attractions include:

The Museum of Apiculture, housed in the Radovljica Mansion, where you can learn all about the history and importance of beekeeping in Slovenia and see the collection of painted beehive panels, each one tells its own story, including the oldest one in the world.

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The Gingerbread Workshop at Lectar Inn, where you can see gingerbread hearts being made and decorated, pick up some souvenirs and/or enjoy a delicious meal in the restaurant.

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There’s also the Šivec House Gallery, St. Peter’s Church and, a little further afield, the iron-forging village of Kropa, the village of Kamna Gorica with its many bridges and streams, the ruins of Kamen Castle and the home of Avsenik music in Begunje, and the Vila Rustica archeological site and Village Museum in Mošnje.

All of the above mentioned are also accessible on the Hop-On Hop Off Tourist Bus which runs on Tuesdays and Thursdays throughout the summer – http://www.radolca.si/en/hop-on-hop-off-radolca/

Of course, on rainy days food and drink is usually top of most people’s list and Radovljica doesn’t disappoint on this score either with a plethora of cafes, and tasty homemade food at the Taste Radol’ca restaurants including Kunstelj Inn, Lectar Inn, Joštov hram, Vila Podvin. More information can be found here or click on the Taste Radol’ca heading at the top of this page – http://www.radolca.si/en/taste-radolca/

© AdeleinSlovenia 2015