Slovenian Beekeeping: Bee our Guest!

This week I’d like to bring you some exciting news about a great new initiative and book – both on the theme of beekeeping – something at which Slovenia excels. Despite not being a beekeeper myself, since living in Slovenia I have become acutely aware of the importance that bees play in the world and, I believe, it’s something that should be of great importance to us all. Read on…!

Photo: S Senica

The Radovljica area has long been known for its ‘sweet’ traditions, primarily beekeeping-related, as well as chocolate in recent years thanks to the very popular Radovljica Chocolate Festival! Radovljica’s old town is home to the Museum of Apiculture, whilst the Beekeeping Education Centre of Gorenjska is situated in nearby Lesce.

Now, a new initiative has been launched to unite and promote Slovenian beekeeping in the Upper Gorenjska regionBEE OUR GUEST!

Photo: S Senica

BEE OUR GUEST is a collaboration between the municipalities of Bohinj, Bled, Gorje, Žirovnica, Radovljica and Kranjska Gora, and its aim is to acquaint visitors with Slovenian beekeeping in the Upper Gorenjska region, as well as offer information, tours and packages that combine beekeeping with the region’s other numerous sights and attractions. Thus, Bee Our Guest offers something for all those who want to see and experience a different side of the area’s natural beauty – whether you are a beekeeping enthusiast or just a lover of nature and all things ‘sweet’!

The Museum of Apiculture is located in the magnificent Radovljica Mansion in the heart of Radovljica’s old town centre, where, amongst other exhibits, you can see a rich collection of hand-painted beehive front panels, including the oldest in the world; each of the panels tells its own story!

You can also observe the bees busy buzzing about their business in the observation hive! More information can be found here – http://www.radolca.si/en/radovljica-apiculture-museum/

You can pay a visit to Lectar Inn, where in the cellar you can visit the workshop and museum where they have been making traditional Lectar honeybreads for centuries. You can buy gifts and souvenirs for your loved ones or for special occasions or, upon prior arrangement, join in a workshop and have a go at making one yourself.

On the website (http://www.beeourguest.eu/) and Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/BeeOurGuest.Slovenia/) you can also keep up-to-date with all the latest developments regarding World Bee Day, which has now been officially declared as 20th May, the birth date of Anton Janša (1734-1773), considered Slovenia’s greatest beekeeper.

“Every third spoonful of food on Earth depends on bees or, more precisely, on pollination. The more the meadows are polluted and the more frequently they are mown, the smaller the number of bees. Do we even realise what that means for our future and for us?” This comes from the authors of the newly-published book No Bees, No Life, available in English and Slovene, and is something we should all most definitely be aware of.

Written by the President of Slovenia’s Beekeeping Association, Bostjan Noč, the head of the breeding programme for the Carniolan honey bee, at the Slovenian Beekeeping Association, Peter Kozmus, and author of many books in the fields of ethnology and apiculture, Karolina Vrtačnik, as well as 66 contributions from 32 countries, the book has been receiving wide acclaim. You can find out more and/or order a copy here – https://beebooks.si/en/

I’ll be bringing you plenty more on this subject, and exploring it in more depth in the not-too-distant future, but for now, I’m off for for some quiet contemplation – oh and a cup of tea with Slovenian honey!

© Adele in Slovenia

 

Hiking the Alpe Adria Trail – Stage 23: Kranjska Gora to Trenta, Slovenia

The Alpe Adria Trail, which begins on Kaiser Franz Josefs Hohe in Austria and ends on the coast at Muggia in Italy, has 43 stages and a total length of 750kms. The trail is a collaboration between three countries – Austria, Slovenia, Italy and offers lovers of the great outdoors myriad possibilities for enjoying the stunning and ever-changing scenery along the way from the highest glaciers to sea-level.

It’s easy to pick and choose where to start and how far to walk, however, since the route is linear, be sure to have a plan how to get back if you need to do so! In terms of the trail in Slovenia, stage 22 runs from Austria into Slovenia, stages 23, 24 and 25 are entirely within Slovenia, and stage 27 begins in Slovenia ending in Italy.

Stage 23 of the trail officially starts in the centre of Kranjska Gora (810m), though I started my early morning hike from the stunning Lake Jasna, which sits at the foot of the Vršič Pass. It was very tempting to linger a while, however, I had a long hike ahead so headed onwards, and upwards.

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The mythical golden-horned mountain goat ‘zlatorog‘ is a landmark and obligatory photo spot!

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From the far-end of the lake the route then leads along the Krnica valley, beside the Pišnica river and makes a fairly level easy start to the day. Note: If you’re looking to escape the summer heat, this valley is the place to be. Whatever the time of year in the early morning it’s freeeeeezing!!! In winter, Krnica is a particularly popular place for sledging.

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The route then turns right, passes the Mali Tamar Memorial to those who have lost their lives in the mountains, crosses a bridge over the stream, and then the ascent to Vršič begins. It is well-marked throughout with Alpe Adria signs as well as the usual Slovene way-markers (a red circle with a white inner).

The Vršič Pass is the highest mountain pass in Slovenia. It was built in the early 19th century, originally for military purposes, and has a total of 50 hairpin bends. You can, of course, drive up instead of hiking, or even cycle – as many do, though note that the pass is usually closed throughout winter when there is heavy snowfall due to the danger of avalanches.

The trail goes largely through the forest, though in places it emerges – or if ‘it’ doesn’t then ‘you’ can – from the forest at sights of interest and to take in the views. The first such sight is the Russian Chapel, which was built in memory of the suffering of the thousands of Russian prisoners during construction of the road. Hundreds of prisoners and their guards – Russian and Austrian – lost their lives due to an enormous avalanche in winter 1916 – the exact number who died was never known.

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The route continues to the right of the chapel, again through the forest. I recommend a stop at bend 17 to see the somewhat eerie looking stones that have begun to ‘appear’ in recent years. I guess someone started the trend and others followed!

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The view from here isn’t half bad either!

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It’s now not far to reach the top, less than half-an-hour and I was already at 1611m at the top of the Vršič Pass.

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From the top it was easy to see where I was heading, down towards the Soča Valley and I could hardly wait to glimpse the always-stunning emerald-green Soča river.

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When leaving the top, look for this sign and walk down the road for approximately 500 metres.

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As tempting as it is to admire the views, be sure to keep your eyes to the ground here, as here the way-marker for the trail is only on the ground and could easily be missed.

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From here the trail re-enters the forest and leads on a pleasant gently-descending path, eventually emerging between stones walls into the parking area at the source of the Soča river, where there is a small hut offering refreshments. In places the trail is marked by the letters AAT – as shown below.

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If you choose to take a detour to see the source of the Soča river, it takes about 10-15 minutes to reach the first viewpoint – a relatively easy path, thereafter its a bit of a climb, assisted by iron pegs and rope, so not for the faint-hearted! Knowing I still had a way to go, I just went to the first viewpoint (well, that’s my excuse anyway!).

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From here it is downhill all the way. The Soča River Trail leads on traffic-free paths to Trenta, home to a Triglav National Park Information Centre, and where there is a mini-market, restaurant and a sprinkling of accommodation options.

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The total distance of this stage of the trail is 17.8km, of which the ascent is 962m and 1146m descent. It can easily be shortened as required – at least during the summer months when buses operate over the Vršič pass from Kranjska Gora to the Soča Valley. Out of peak season, however, you would need to ensure you have suitable onward, or return, transport.

In total the hike took less than 5 hours, including photo stops. If you take time to linger and savour the views, perhaps enjoy a meal at one of the several mountain huts en-route to, or at the top of, the Vršič pass, then it makes a very enjoyable full day trip. Highly recommended!

More information about the trail can be found here – http://alpe-adria-trail.com/en/ and more information about autumn hiking in Slovenia here – http://www.slovenia.info/en/Autumn-hiking-in-Slovenia.htm?aktivna_pohodniska_jesen_slovenija=0&lng=2

© Adele in Slovenia

 

Winter Holidays in Kranjska Gora; So much more than ‘just’ snow!

I’m not a fan of traditional winter sports, however, since living here I’ve had to get used to the fact that winter happens, and winter means snow. Therefore, I have learnt to participate in some alternative winter activities such as snowshoeing, winter hiking and, on occasion, cross-country skiing.

One of the best resorts in Slovenia for winter-based activities, both traditional skiing-based as well as alternative winter sports, is Kranjska Gora.

Though Kranjska Gora can sometimes affected by its relatively low altitude, and thus lack of, or meagre amounts of, snow, the resort has made concerted efforts to ensure there are plenty of other activities and events taking place during the winter season should lack of snow be a problem. Here are just some of the things happening in Kranjska Gora this winter, where there’s something on offer for all the family, whether skiers or not.

Kranjska Gora Welcomes You! which takes place weekly until the end of February on the snow beach behind the Ramada resort, comprises music, children’s entertainment and a presentation of what to see and do, and is an ideal way to acquaint yourself with all the resort has to offer.

Skiing, of course, is the number one activity in Kranjska Gora. The slopes are particularly suited to beginners, though seasoned skiers will find some more challenging runs among the 18 ski slopes with 5 chairlifts and 13 drag lifts. As with any major ski resort, there are numerous ski schools and ski rental outlets. On a sunny day, with the backdrop of the magnificent Julian Alps, you can, I’m sure, see the appeal!

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There are over 40kms of maintained cross-country ski trails. The keen-eyed among you will notice that whilst this is me, it isn’t me in Kranjska Gora! This is me on Pokljuka! Although I’ve tried cross-country skiing, alas me and skiing – in any form – just don’t, and never will, get on, but I wanted to include this photos just to prove that I have tried!!!

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The Vršič pass, which leads from Kranjska Gora to the Soča valley, is usually closed for much of the winter due to snowfall.* Providing someone has blazed a trail before you, it does, though, make a great place for a winter hike. Below you can see me on the road – yes, that’s a road! – at bend 17, with wonderful views of the Julian Alps. I must stress though, that you do need to be well-equipped for winter hiking and be sure to only follow worn trails if you don’t know the terrain.

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* The Vršič pass doesn’t currently look like this. At the time of publishing this blog (4 Feb 2016) we have had very little snowfall  – though there was fresh snowfall in the mountains yesterday evening – and for the first time that I can remember since being in Slovenia, the pass has remained open for much of the entire winter, though only for vehicles up to 3.5 tonnes equipped with winter tyres and/or snow chains. Please be sure to check the traffic information centre website for the latest traffic information – http://www.promet.si/portal/en/1traffic-conditions.aspx

When there is heavy and fresh snow, hiking isn’t always possible so a pair of snowshoes are called for. Snowshoes enable you to traverse the snow without sinking in it up to your waist – or deeper! They fit over regular winter hiking boots and are easy to use, though do feel somewhat ungainly to begin with.

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Every Thursday at 5pm the Kranjska Gora Culinary Journey takes place. Diners set off on a journey to visit five restaurants within the town and enjoy a different course, with accompanying drinks, at each venue. More information here – https://www.hit-alpinea.si/en/culinary-journey

Husky sledding trips can be booked and arranged in Kranjska Gora, though actually take place just over the border in Italy.

The Eskimo Village comprises a hotel, restaurant and bar. Guests can partake in a number of fun snow-based activities such as snow golf, igloo building, and sledding.

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You can even cycle in the winter at the Winter Bike Park. Hmm, much as I love cycling I think I’ll give that one a miss, but I’m sure it’s an adrenaline-junkies dream!

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There’s also no shortage of winter events, many of them international, including Family Day on the Snow Beach (13.2), Snow Volley 2016 (20.2), Audi FIS World Cup, Vitranc (5 & 6.3) and the Planica World Ski Jump Championships (18-20.3)

You can also see more about winter sports in Slovenia in this short video.

Useful Links:

Tourism Kranjska Gora – http://www.kranjska-gora.si/en/

Kranjska Gora Welcomes You – http://www.kranjska-gora.si/en/events-calendar/621-Kranjska-Gora-welcomes-you

Eskimo Village – http://www.eskimska-vas.si/en/

Winter Bike Park – http://www.bike-park.si/home

© AdeleinSlovenia 2016

Christmas in Slovenia; Markets, Food, Traditions and more!

Slovenia hasn’t been celebrating Christmas for that long, well not in the form that many of us know it. However, the country has certainly caught up with, and caught onto, the festive spirit and now there are Christmas-related events happening throughout the land.

So, how is Christmas celebrated in Slovenia? What is/isn’t open? What is there to do, where to go?

As in many other countries in Europe, the evening of the 24th is when most families celebrate and get together for a special meal, exchange gifts and/or attend midnight mass. If you are visiting Slovenia at that time it is worth noting that many restaurants may be closed on this evening or close earlier than usual. Shops are usually open on the 24th but close a little earlier than usual. All shops are closed on the 25th and again this is a family day, often for some recreational activities perhaps skiing, hiking or visiting relatives. The 26th is also a public holiday, ‘Independence and Unity Day’ and therefore again many shops and business will be closed although these days most of the larger ones are open, at least for a few hours in the morning.

There are Christmas markets taking place in all the major cities, the largest being in Ljubljana, where there are numerous markets. The main market is held alongside the banks of the Ljubljanica river, but there are also other markets spread across the city’s squares, with a vast range of events and entertainment taking place from now until the New Year. More information here – https://www.visitljubljana.com/en/activities/entertainment/77402/detail.html

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Festive Ljubljana (Dunja Wedam)

In Maribor, Slovenia’s 2nd biggest city, there are numerous events taking place including the Fairy City (Vilinsko mesto), a Festive Fair and a long list of concerts and other events. More information here – http://maribor-pohorje.si/festive-december-in-maribor0.aspx

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Maribor Christmas Market (photo MP produkcija)

In Celje, ‘Fairytale Celje’ (Pravljično Celje), including a Christmas market, runs from 29th Nov – 31st Dec – http://www.dezela-celjska.si/en/node/72073

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Festive Celje

Other towns with smaller Christmas markets include the Festive Winter Village in Bled – from 4.12 – 17. 1 – http://www.bled.si/en/events/2015/12/04/2264-Festive-Winter-Village

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Festive Winter Village, Bled

The Alpine Village in Kranjska Gora – from 28.11 – 3.1 – http://www.kranjska-gora.si/si/files/default/plakat%20dec.pdf

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Alpine Village, Kranjska Gora

And not forgetting the Advent Market in small, but perfectly formed, Radovljica – where I live – http://www.radolca.si/en/what-to-do/events-1/festive-december-in-linhart-square/83/110/

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Advent in Radovljica (pakt media)

If you’ve never been to Radovjlica, just watch this video of a Christmas commercial shot here 2 years ago to see how magical it looks – http://klip.si/video-reklama-za-bauli-snemana-v-radovljici-4484

Those in, or heading to, the Slovene coast will also find a Christmas market in Portorož (http://bit.ly/1jhWPkH)

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Christmas Market in Portorož

There are of course many more towns that have Christmas markets and events – too many to list here – and many of these, including those listed here also have open-air ice-skating rinks.

If you are looking for a festive event with a difference, every year, weather conditions permitting, there is a live ice nativity play held in the Mlača Gorge in the village of Mojstrana. With the freezing temperatures we have had of late, this year’s event looks sure to be going ahead and the performances are scheduled to begin on Christmas Day. The entrance fee also includes a walk through the ice kingdom, a gallery of nativity scenes and the nativity performance held in the frozen waterfall. Be sure to wrap up warmly! More information can be found here – http://lednoplezanje.com/zive-jaslice-v-ledu/

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Live Ice Nativity in Mojstrana

Turning to food, no Slovene home is complete over the festive season without potica – a traditional rolled and filled cake. You will find it everywhere; in cafes, supermarkets, and in almost every Slovene’s home. Potica come in many varieties, the most popular varieties are filled with walnut or poppy seeds, but there are also other fillings including tarragon or coconut, and special editions with dual fillings, such as the one below – named ‘potica of our roots‘  prepared by one of Slovenia’s top chefs, Uroš Štefelin, from Vila Podvin.

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Potica of Our Roots

Wherever you choose to visit and/or spend Christmas in Slovenia, I hope you have a great festive season!

A new old face in town / A facelift for Lake Jasna

There’s a new old face in Radovljica’s old town in the form of a new bronze statue of Dr. Cene Avguštin (1923 – 2010), created by the academic sculptor Tatjana Kostanjevič. The statue stands in the square between St. Peter’s Church and the Radovljica Mansion – home to the Museum of Apiculture, the Municipal Museum, a music school and the venue for numerous concerts, weddings, exhibitions and other events.

Cene Avgustin

Dr. Cene Avguštin was an art historian and conservator and an honoured citizen of Radovljica who strived to popularise cultural heritage through his work which included museum and gallery activities (director, custodian), architectural and urbanistic development of Gorenjska’s medieval towns and squares, and professional lecturing.

This week I revisited Lake Jasna in Kranjska Gora as I had read about its recent facelift. The small lake has always been a popular spot with its backdrop of the Julian Alps, crystal clear water and en-route to the Vršic pass. However, it had long felt somewhat neglected, so its new appearance, complete with wooden chairs, bridges and a small tower is most definitely a welcome and well-received improvement.

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And finally there’s somewhere to get an ice-cream and a drink and to sit and soak up the scenery.

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Radol’ca introduced the Tourist Hop-on- Hop-off bus two years ago and, as far as I’m aware, was the first town in Slovenia to do so. It has been a definite success and set a shining example. So, this year, for the first time, Kranjska gora has also begun operating a Hop-on Hop-Off tour bus which visits the area’s 10 most attractive sights, including Lake Jasna

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Useful Links:

Radovljica Hop-On Hop-Off Tourist Bus – http://www.radolca.si/en/hop-on-hop-off-radolca/

Radovljica Mansion – http://www.radolca.si/en/art-history-overview/

St. Peter’s Church – http://www.radolca.si/en/radovljica-church/

Kranjska Gora Hop-On Hop-Off Tour Bus – http://www.kranjska-gora.si/en/activities/summer-activities/tour-bus

© AdeleinSlovenia 2015

Hiking, cycling and strolling in sunny Slovenia!

After the excesses of the Easter weekend (see last week’s post), this weekend was devoted to my number one passion i.e. being outdoors, and as a bonus the whole weekend the country was bathed in fabulous warm sunshine. It was certainly a far cry from last weekend’s snowy/windy/cold and very changeable weather and, as you will see below, I managed to squeeze in quite a lot!

  • A stroll amongst the spring flowers in Ljubljana’s Botanic Gardens where even the terrapins were basking in the sun.

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  • A walk up to Ljubljana Castle.

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  • A hike up to the Potoška highland (Potoška planina).

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As you can see, in places there was still some snow. In fact, it is quite difficult at the moment to choose where to hike because the sunny slopes, up to around 1200-1300m, are now free of snow, however, any higher, and particularly in shaded areas, there is still a lot of snow and ice to contend with, so hikes into the higher mountains will have to wait a while yet. These past couple of days though, due to the high temperatures, it is beginning to melt fast so hopefully it won’t be too much longer until I can begin to start venturing further and higher.

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I began from the reservoir in Žirovnica, which I had cycled to from home, then followed the path up towards the Valvasor mountain hut (Valvasorjev dom). On reaching the road forest road, which is crossed in order to continue towards the hut, there is a sign for Ajdna and Potoška planina to the left. I had actually intended to go to Ajdna but there was a training course for mountain guides taking place there all weekend so I instead continued on the forest road up to the Potoška highland (1270m) from where there are far-reaching views across the Julian Alps and along the Upper-Sava valley towards Kranjska Gora, however, it was rather hazy sunshine so the photos don’t really do the views justice on this occasion. From the highland I turned right to continue towards the Valvasor hut but, rather than going to the hut itself, I continued on to the next highland, Žirovniška planina. There are several such mountain highlands that lie on the slopes beneath Stol, the highest mountain in the Karavanke range.

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  • A ride on the new bike path in Jesenice. I love this new path as its traffic-free and now joins up with the bike path from Mojstrana towards Kranjska Gora and onwards into Italy.

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Next weekend, of course, its the Radovljica Chocolate Festival so will once again be dedicated to my other passion i.e. chocolate! All the chocolately fun kicks off on Friday 17th April at 3pm and continues all weekend. The full festival programme is now available here – http://www.festival-cokolade.si/en/programme/

© AdeleinSlovenia 2015

New Zip Line over the Sava river / Panoramic Bled

Other than the almighty storm last Monday evening, which brought with it another wave of damage and destruction, summer sunshine and high temperatures reigned last week and I even managed a whole week without getting drenched! Once again I took full advantage of this and had a weekend packed full of action and adventure.

On Saturday morning I set off from home by bike to Kranjska Gora; riding first to Bled, then through Gorje to reach the cycle path through the Radovna Valley (read more about this in a previous post here – http://wp.me/p3005k-hH). On reaching the village of Mojstrana I joined the D2 cycle path which runs along the route of the ex-railway line all the way to Kranjska Gora then onwards to Rateče before continuing into Italy. On this occasion, my destination was Lake Jasna in Kranjska Gora, which took a little under 3 hours to reach from home.

The cycle path is traffic-free and rises very subtly up towards Kranjska Gora. You do have to keep your wits about you though, particularly when the weather is fine, as being one of the rare traffic-free, and therefore safe and child friendly, cycle paths in this area, it is very popularč not only with cyclists but also roller skaters, ski rollers (think cross-country skiing minus the snow!), dog-walkers and joggers. I nearly came a cropper a couple of times due to errant cyclists admiring the (admittedly) stunning scenery and not looking where they were going and lost tourists straying onto the path with their cars. Oh well, just another couple of scrapes and bruises to add to my already battle-weary legs!

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Just 2 kilometres from Kranjska Gora, Lake Jasna is a small crystal-clear alpine lake which sits at the foot of the Vršič pass, Slovenia’s highest mountain pass (1611m).  The statue of Zlatorog (Golden Horn), as seen below, stands proudly at the lake shore.

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After cycling home, this time via Mojstrana and Jesenice, rather than back through the Radovna Valley, I had a quick rest and then headed down to the Sava river at Radovljica to the opening of the new zip line over the Sava river at the Tinaraft Centre. Below you can see me getting prepared, and others rafting on the Sava river, which I was about to zip across from 20 metres high – yikes!

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After a short safety briefing, I was off; across the bridge, up to the start and then the fun part! As well as the zipline, as the name implies, Tinaraft offer rafting and other adrenalin-fuelled activities such as canyoning, paintball and zorbing. More information can be found here – http://www.tinaraft.si/

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Despite being a little tired, when I awoke to another beautiful morning on Sunday, I couldn’t resist the pull of the mountains and set off to hike up to Begunščica. At 2060m, Begunščica is among the highest of the mountains in the Karavanke range. There are a number of ways of reaching the highest point of the ridge, named ‘veliki vrh’; from the Draga valley via the Roblek dom mountain hut, from Ljubelj via Zelenica or, as I did, from the Draga Valley to Preval and then via the (very) steep path which leads seemingly almost vertically upwards for about one hour through the forest before emerging into a rocky area, where a few metres of climbing is required then on to traverse the ridge (note: the approach from this direction is not advisable if you are scared of heights as there is a sheer drop on either side) before reaching the top where an orientation post points out all the surrounding mountains and there are far-reaching views across both Slovenia and Austria. Unfortunately, the clouds beat me to the top on this occasion, so I didn’t take any photographs at the top itself, but there’s already more than enough for this week, and anyway I’ll be back up there sooner or later no doubt! I made the return by the easier, less steep route via Roblek dom and then back down to the valley.

Also this week, as if Bled wasn’t already picturesque enough, a new panoramic photo frame has been installed on the small Straža hill, above Lake Bled (read more about Straža here in a previous post – https://adeleinslovenia.wordpress.com/2014/07/01/hop-on-hop-off-bus-bled-radovljica-and-the-julian-alps/). If you want THE ultimate photo shot of Bled, then its well worth making the trip up to Straža.

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Good News – Following the winter damage, the stairways and bridges at Kamen Castle have been repaired. The ruins of the castle are situated at the end of the village of Begunje, at the entrance to the Draga Valley.

This coming weekend, from Friday to Sunday, the Festival of Fish Delicacies will take place in the village of Bohinjska Bela, just a few kilometres from Bled. The festival features a fly-fishing competition, live music, food (fish of course!) and more. Read more about it here – http://www.bled.si/en/events/2014/08/15/1737-Festival-of-Fish-Delicacies-in-Bohinjska-Bela

© AdeleinSlovenia 2014