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

Spring in the Karavanke Mountains

After all the excesses of the Radovljica Chocolate Festival, last week was all about my other great love – Slovenia’s great outdoors!

Spring has arrived in the Karavanke mountains and, particularly on the south facing slopes, the snow is melting at a pace, or rather ‘was’. When I started writing this blog last week, it certainly was ‘Spring in the Karavanke Mountains’. Now, however, looking out of my window at the fresh snow, and digging out my gloves and warm clothes again, it feels anything but spring-like! Nevertheless, the blog below remains ‘as was’ and hopefully spring-proper will return very soon.

It is, however, a different matter on the north facing slopes of the Karavanke, so it’s still a bit too soon in the season for any serious hiking above 1,500 metres, and it’s an entirely different matter in the Julian Alps, where there is still a significant amount of snow, even at lower levels.

It’s still a little nippy early morning, especially for cycling, but wrapped up well I cycled from Radovljica to the Završnica reservoir then headed on foot to Smolnik (1002m). What I particularly like about Smolnik is that despite it being near the Valvasor mountain hut (Valvasorjev dom) – a very popular destination for hikers, Smolnik itself is relatively unknown as the path is not marked, thus only those ‘in the know’ frequent it – until now perhaps!!!

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Though I also often hike up to the Valvasor hut at this time of year, what sets Smolnik apart is the view, since the views from the hut are rather restricted. The path up through the forest is very steep, so I consider a pair of hiking poles a must – though there is an option to approach it from the opposite direction, via the road that leads to the Ajdna archeological site, which is a far less steep option. In places it little more than a mass of tangled tree routes, however, the path is clear and easy to follow.

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On reaching the top of Smolnik there are wonderful views across the valley and towards Bled Lake, a great reward for my effort.

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There is a bench for resting weary limbs if required, with Stol, the highest peak in the Karavanke range, dominating the backdrop, and looking very ‘moody’ on this occasion.

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From the peak of Smolnik it’s easy to reach the Valvasor mountain hut, from where you can continue to one of the mountain highlands as I did – in this case the Žirovniška planina highland, for marvellous views of the snow-capped Julian Alps, or continue towards Ajdna, which is well worth a visit. You can read more about that in a previous blog here – https://adeleinslovenia.com/2014/01/13/fascinating-ajdna/

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It’s just the start of the season, so plenty of this, and more, to come!

© Adele in Slovenia 2016

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

Stories of Slovene Success: Peter Prevc & Elan – Passion, Commitment and Pride

New from me this week, the first in an occasional series of ‘Stories of Slovene Success’, and there is currently no greater story of Slovene success than that of Peter Prevc.

The village of Begunje na Gorenjskem, within the Radovljica municipality, is home to the world-renowned manufacturer of skis and sailboats, Elan.

Elan has a long tradition dating back to 1944 and though it may not be the biggest manufacturer of skis in the world, it is certainly right up there when it comes to innovation. The dictionary description of the word Elan – enthusiasm, confidence and style – sums up the company’s passion and commitment to producing world-class skis and sailboats.

Elan skis and sailboats are produced right here in Slovenia in the factory in Begunje, a picturesque village beneath the Karavanke mountains, whilst its snowboards are produced in neighbouring Austria and motorised yachts in Croatia.

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If you are visiting the area you can call into the Elan Sports and Leisure Equipment Store, which sells not only skis and ski accessories, but also a range of clothing, bikes, and other outdoor equipment and accessories. Read more here – http://www.radolca.si/en/elan/

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Sadly, as has been the fate of so many Slovene-owned companies since the start of the financial crisis (is it officially over yet or not?), Elan is no longer under Slovene ownership, however, production at the factory in Begunje continues unhindered and, with a Slovene workforce, it can still be considered a story of Slovene success.

The current Slovene hero and world-class ski jumper, Peter Prevc – who is dominating this season’s ski jumping world cup – uses Elan skis and is a great advert for doing so!

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On Wednesday last week he won the Golden Eagle trophy for the 4 Hills Tour, making him the first Slovene to have done so for 20 years. To say that the nation is proud of him would be a gross understatement. Just wait until this year’s Planica World Cup Ski Jumping Final (17-20th March), where I have a feeling most of Slovenia will be there supporting him and it will be off-the-scale crazy! More about Planica here – http://www.planica.si/Programme

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© AdeleinSlovenia 2016

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

The Radovljica Festival / Završnica Recreation Park

The Radovljica Early Music Festival began on Saturday 8th August and runs until Sunday 23rd August. There is a rich programme of concerts, workshops and masterclasses which take place in Radovljica Mansion and St. Peter’s Church. More details can be found here – http://www.radolca.si/en/what-to-do/events-1/radovljica-festival/83/260/ and also here – http://www.festival-radovljica.si/en/

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Leila Schayegh

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Phoenix Munich Ensemble

As much as I love hiking and cycling in the hilly and mountainous surroundings of Radovljica, there are the occasional times – such as when I’ve already hiked for 5 hours and am tired but don’t want to be at home when the weather is so beautiful – when a nice leisurely bike ride is called for. Fortunately, we have that here too!

So, on Friday, after the aforementioned 5 hour hike (more about that another time), I cycled to the Završnica Recreation Park in the Završnica Valley which, from home, takes less than 45 minutes, taking the route Radovljica – Lesce – Hraše – Rodine – Zabreznica – Žirovnica – Moste – Završnica, and then to the Zavrh bar which has lately become one of my favourites places to sit and enjoy a drink beside the cool of the Završnica stream.

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Chilling by the stream!

The reservoir is also the start point of the 2km-long Završnica Trim Trail which leads beside the stream to the Zavrh bar and onwards, making it perfect for these sultry hot days when the cool of the forest offers some respite from the heat.

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The Zavrsnica reservoir (and me!)

The Recreation Park also comprises a football field, a natural climbing wall and beach volleyball courts. The Završnica Valley is also an excellent starting point for mountain biking, and for hikes in the Karavanke mountains, such as to Stol, the highest mountain in the Karavanke, or to the ski slopes and the spring of the Završnica stream at Zelenica. Fishing and horse-riding are also popular activities in the valley.

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The new bridge connecting the trim trail

In winter there is a cross-country skiing area and, if the snow conditions are right, the road which leads up to the Valvasor mountain hut is turned into a sledging track. More information about the valley can be found here – http://www.zavrsnica.si/?id=50 (Slovene) or http://en.zirovnica.eu/home/ (English)

But it’s not time to be thinking about winter yet. Still more good weather ahead this week to enjoy….

© 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

gostilna Walking Pokljuka’s Highlands / Radovljica Ceramics Festival 2015

I’ve had a bit of a cold hanging around for the past few days, maybe the weather is to blame due to a week of temperatures in the mid-twenties followed by half a week of rain and temperatures barely reaching 10 degrees. This week, however, with the exception of a blip yesterday, it looks set to warm up again and hopefully I, and the weather, are now on the up!

I’m not good at being ill so, unless I’m really at death’s door, I still prefer to get outdoors in the fresh air rather than be cooped up indoors. Though, since I was feeling a bit lacklustre I needed a more gentle alternative and therefore a trip to the Pokljuka plateau was just the ticket. The vast plateau really does offer something for everyone. I usually go for longer hikes and baulk at the thought of driving part of the way, but this time I did let the car take some of the strain! There are endless places to walk of all lengths and difficulties, though, it is best to stick to marked paths and forest roads as one could very easily get lost in the great swathes of forest. Nevertheless, it doesn’t really matter where, how far, or how high, you go on Pokljuka, every path offers its own magic.

I began by driving past the Kranjska dolina highland, from where Stol, the highest peak in the Karavanke, can be seen in the background.

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Next I set off, on foot, towards Lipanca and the Blejska koća mountain hut. However, instead of continuing up to the hut, I took another path back down to rejoin the road, reaching one of my favourite highlands, Planina zajavornik. The whole of Pokljuka lies within Triglav National Park, which means there are certain rules to abide to protect nature and, as can be seen below, there are bears in the area, though the chances of meeting one are probably one in a million!

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I then enjoyed a rest in the sun among the wildflowers. The sun was lovely and warm though the wind was a bit nippy hence why I’m wrapped up in an old bivvie bag! There are a smattering of small wooden houses on the highland and, during the summer months, cheese, yoghurt and sour milk can be bought direct from the herdsmen.

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On Saturday it was the main day, Market Day, of this year’s Ceramics Festival in Radovljica. Aside from the monster of a hail storm early afternoon, it was a fine day that drew visitors – locals and tourists alike – to browse and buy from the stalls where they could chat directly with the ceramists themselves. There were also workshops, for adults and children, for those interested in having a go at making something for themselves. The Festival was officially opened on Thursday at an event attended by Radovljica’s Mayor and the ceramist Grainne Watts from Ireland whose exhibits could be seen in the lobby of the Radovljica Mansion.

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As a collector of elephants, though I don’t actually recall when or why I started collecting them, these colourful ornaments caught my eye.

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Later on Saturday, as part of Vurnik Days (Vurnikovi dnevi), the event ‘Pozdrav trti’ (A Toast to the Vine) took place at Kunstelj Inn in Radovljica. The vine is in the garden at Kunstelj Inn which offers great local food and one of the finest views in town. The vine, of the original variety Žametna črnina, is a descendant of the world’s oldest vine (as recorded in the Guiness Book of Records) which is found in Slovenia’s 2nd biggest city, Maribor.  More information about Kunstelj Inn can be found here – http://www.kunstelj.si/

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