Fit and Fun in Radovljica!

For many people, no doubt the thought of exercising on holiday couldn’t be further from their minds; then there are those of us for whom being active is a way of life, and whether at home or away, we like to find ways of ensuring we stay fit and healthy whilst also having fun!

So for those of you who fit into that bracket – myself included – Radovljica is the perfect destination!

As is widely known and acknowledged, the key to keeping fit is to find an activity, or activities, that are enjoyable, so taking part doesn’t feel like a chore and we are more likely to stick with it.

With the beautiful backdrop of the Karavanke mountains and the Jelovica plateau, as well as the Sava river and the Draga and Lipnica valleys, there are myriad outdoor sports and activities right on the doorstep or within close proximity of Radovljica, so here are some ideas:

HIKING – the Jelovica Plateau, the Karavanke range, or the nearby Julian Alps

WALKING and/or RUNNING – from short strolls or runs on theme paths such as the Sava River Trail, to long cross-country rambles and runs

CYCLING – of all types, mountain biking, road biking, endless possibilities

FISHING on the Sava river

HORSE RIDING or horse and carriage rides – get to know Lipizzaner horses at the Barbana stud farm in Globoko, or go riding at the Mošnje Horse Centre – just two among the places offering horse riding in the area. More here – http://www.radolca.si/en/in-the-company-of-horses/

WATER SPORTS – rafting, kayaking, canoeing

Other adrenalin-fuelled activities –  paintball, zip line, zorbing, caving, climbing

ARCHERY – on the parcour course in the tranquil Draga valley. Find out more here – https://adeleinslovenia.com/2017/04/10/archery-adventures-and-delicious-draga-delights/

SWIMMING at the Olympic size swimming pool in Radovljica – open-air in the summer, covered in the winter; or at the Kropa outdoor pool

PARACHUTING and PANORAMIC FLIGHTS over the Julian Alps from Lesce Sports Airfield

Find out more about sport, recreation and fun in the area here and I wish you fit and fun adventures in Radovljica! – http://www.radolca.si/en/sport-recreation-and-fun/

© Adele in Slovenia

Hop-On Hop-Off This Summer: Radovljica, Bled, Brezje, Kropa, Kamna Gorica, Begunje, Žirovnica

The Radol’ca Hop-On Hop-Off tourist bus will begin operating on Tuesday 4th July and will run every Tuesday and Thursday during July and August. This year there is an even wider range of places to visit and more things to see and do.

As in previous years a day ticket is great value at just 5 euros. You can get on and off the bus to visit sights of interest along the way, or just enjoy the ride!

On Tuesdays the route is Bled – Radovljica – Kropa, with additional stops at the Šobec Camp, Lesce, Lancovo and Kamna Gorica.

On Thursdays the route is Bled – Vrba – Žirovnica – Begunje – Brezje, with additional stops at Breznica, Spodnji Otok and Podvin.

To whet your appetite here’s a preview of just some of the things you can see and do along the way.

For the first time, this year the bus route includes Žirovnica, where you can visit the new Ajdna Museum Room to find out more about the Ajdna archeological site beneath Mt. Stol where remains were found from a Late Antiquity village dating back over 1400 years.

On especially hot days, a trip to the Završnica valley is an ideal way to seek some tranquillity and shade.

The valley is also a start point for great hikes and bike trips in the Karavanke range, including to the highest peak, Mt. Stol.

You can also visit Noč Beekeeping, where you can see some of the hives belonging to the president of Slovenia’s Beekeeping Association and his family, purchase honey and honey products, and try and buy the exclusive ‘Medena noč’ perfume made with Slovenian honey. You can read more about this in one of my previous blog posts here – https://adeleinslovenia.com/2016/06/06/perfume-made-with-slovene-honey-not-just-an-idea-a-reality/

In Brezje you can see the Basilica of Mary Help of Christians, and the Nativity Museum, or take a walk on the Path of Peace to the Peračica waterfall.

In Kamna Gorica you can walk through the village to see its many waterways, and walk up to the Sextons’ House Museum, which contains an original black kitchen. Its position offers great views over the village and towards the Karavanke mountains.

In Kropa you can visit the Iron Forging Museum, take a stroll through the village to see the former ironworkers houses, or visit the Vigenc Vice Blacksmith to watch a demonstration of manual nail forging.

In Radovljica itself there are numerous things to see and do including a visit to the Lectar Gingerbread Museum and Workshop, the Museum of Apiculture, the Šivec House Gallery, or simply enjoy a stroll through the well-preserved medieval old town and sit at the viewpoint and enjoy the views of the Sava river, the Jelovica plateau and the Julian Alps.

Or why not take the chance to find out more about Slovenian food and wine by enjoying a meal at one of the Taste Radol’ca restaurants or take a Taste Radol’ca Food Tour. More information here – https://adeleinslovenia.com/taste-radolca-tours/

Further information about the Hop-on Hop-off route and timetable can be found here – http://www.radolca.si/en/hop-on-hop-off-radolca/

© 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

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

 

Biking and Hiking in Koroška – Through and On Mount Peca!

For lovers of the great outdoors, particularly hiking and cycling, Slovenia’s Koroška region offers a wealth of opportunities and exciting, unique experiences and was somewhere I had long had on my list of places to get round to visiting.

This is not a place of mass-tourism, and is all the better for it. Instead it’s crammed with unspoilt nature, picturesque alpine valleys, peaceful hamlets, remote and hidden delights, farmsteads and tourist farms with hospitable locals. In fact, Koroška is among the most mountainous of Slovenia’s regions – hence it has my name written all over it!

I stayed at the family-run Bike and Eko Hotel Koroš, in Jamnica, near Mežica – the Alpine and mining centre of the Mežiska valley. As you can see below, the views I woke up to of the surrounding countryside and mountains were pretty breathtaking!

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The hotel stands at an altitude of 900m, and is the first dedicated bike hotel in Slovenia.

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As well as offering 10 simple rooms and excellent home-grown and home-cooked food, it boasts the Jamnica Single Trail Bike Park – a paradise for fans of adrenaline-filled mountain biking. Making the most of the idyllic surroundings, and with the agreement and co-operation of the local community, the hotel’s owners have prepared a network of 30km of single trails which you can tackle alone or with a guide. More information about the hotel and bike park here – http://www.mtbpark.com/si/main/ekohotelkoros

Photo: Rupert Fowler

Lead, zinc and iron ore mining was once the region’s key industry and there was, or rather still is, a labyrinth of tunnels under Mount Peca stretching for around 800 kilometres. At the peak of its production, around 2,000 people worked in the mine’s various units, which operated for three centuries, with production finally ceasing in 1994.

Nowadays, just a small part of the mine is open for tourists who can choose from 3 ways of experiencing it. The more sedentary option is to take a tour of the 3.5km Glančnik tunnel on board an original mining train. You also get to don some miners’ gear, to make the experience even more authentic! However, it’s not entirely sedentary, as the experience also includes a 1.5km walk through part of the mine.

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Another option, and for a unique and thrilling experience, is to explore the tunnels on a guided mountain bike trip – which was my choice!

The mountain bike experience lasts around 3 hours and begins with a short van ride to the entrance at Igrčevo, in Črna na Koroškem. Each participant is provided with a helmet and headlamp. Do make sure to have extra layers of clothing as it is a constant 10˚C inside the mines. It was around 30˚C outside on the day of my visit, so warm clothes were not at the forefront of my mind, though, I sure wish I had taken warm gloves!

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It feels slightly disconcerting at first, but you soon adjust to cycling through the narrow low tunnels. Along the way the guide gives information about the working conditions in the mine and you can see some remains of equipment used and names scribbled on the mine’s walls. The total ride itself is only around 6km, with a negligible incline.

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All the experiences begin at the cross-border Karavanke Geopark in Mežica, which in itself is worth a visit, and in 2013 it became a member of the European and global network of geoparks under the auspices of UNESCO.

The centre offers a glimpse into the more than 400 million-year-old history of the area of today’s eastern Karavanke and comprises an exhibition area with exhibits including a fully-preserved smithy, an information area with a café and gift shop, and it also hosts workshops and other events.

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In an adjacent building there is museum, which gives a further insight into the lives of those working in, or connected to, the mines, and a collection of ores, minerals and fossils.

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Note: for bike and kayak tours, prior reservations are required; the minimum age is 10. More information about the Geopark can be found here – http://www.podzemljepece.com/?lang=en

Having spent the afternoon going through Mount Peca, next morning it was time to go ON Mount Peca – this time on foot! Peca is part of the Karavanke chain, which has a total length of around 120km and forms a natural border between Slovenia and Austria.

The Peca massif forms part of the Eastern Karavanke and can be approached from either Slovenia or Austria. I chose to begin my hike from the serene and stunning Topla Valley, which is surrounded on all sides by lush forest and contains just a handful of farmsteads – each with a traditional shingle roof. This protected valley really is like something out of a fairytale and is about as unspoilt as it gets.

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At the far-end of the valley, near the entrance to the Topla mine, a path leads steeply up through the forest taking about 2 hours to reach the Dom na Peci mountain hut (1665m), where you can enjoy delicious home-cooked stews, štruklji, strudel and other types of food, which always seem to somehow taste even better when you have earnt them after a long hike!I

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However, knowing it was still a way to go to reach the top of Peca, Kordeževa glava (2125m), and not wishing to do so with a full stomach, I resisted the temptation and continued onwards and upwards! At first across a meadow, then the terrain becomes more rocky, but still relatively easy, though for those who like more challenging climbing routes (that doesn’t include me, I hasten to add!), there is also an alternative path to the top, which is classified as ‘demanding’.

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The higher you go, the better and more far-reaching are the views, and the more the effort pays off!

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Despite it being a searingly-hot mid-August weekend, I still had the place to myself! Well, not exactly, but in fact there were just about the right number of people for my liking. Enough that one could pass the time of day and exchange a few words with fellow hikers here and there, and find some friendly folk to take the odd snap for me, but not so many that it felt crowded – just perfect!

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Koroška tends to get somewhat overlooked in terms of tourism, at least in terms of those visiting from outside of Slovenia, however, I recommend that for lovers of the outdoors, it definitely deserves to be included in your holiday plans.

This gives just a brief snapshot of the area; more information about what else to see and do can be found here – http://www.koroska.si/en/

© 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

A Sunny Saturday on Ajdna!

It’s not exactly something to boast about, in fact it’s a rather unenviable fact that as of today, 20th June 2016, there has not yet been a single day in June when there hasn’t been some kind of precipitation. Even on Saturday, which was a glorious, sunny day, there was a short, sharp shower. However, looking at the forecast, it seems we could be in for plenty of hot, sunny days for the week ahead (didn’t I say that last week too?!).

So, back to last week’s glorious Saturday. I couldn’t decide whether to hike or bike, so in the end did a combination of the two! Or I should say ‘we’, since I had a friend visiting for the weekend from the U.K, so it was lovely to have some company for a change.

We began by cycling from home in Radovljica to the Završnica reservoir then hiked up to Smolnik, beneath Stol in the Karavanke mountains. More here – https://adeleinslovenia.com/2016/04/25/spring-in-the-karavanke-mountains/

We then continued to the Ajdna archaelogical site, which I have blogged about previously, though it was some years back – https://adeleinslovenia.com/2014/01/13/fascinating-ajdna/

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We took the steep route up, which involves a little climbing but is secured with iron rope and footholds.

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And the easier route back down!

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At the top there are well-preserved buildings and remains of buildings that are thought to date back to the late Antiquity, though evidence, some of it dating back as far as the collapse of the Roman Empire (476 AD), shows that it may have been inhabited far earlier. The peak provided locals with an excellent refuge from the troubles taking place down below in the valley. Ajdna is thought to be the highest lying settlement of its kind in Slovenia. Read more here – https://adeleinslovenia.com/2014/01/13/fascinating-ajdna/

 

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By lunchtime the clouds were beginning to gather but the views down the valley towards Jesenice and Kranjska Gora were still more than worth the effort!

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With the (promised) sunny days ahead, hopefully there will be plenty more of this to come!

© Adele in Slovenia