Adventures on Kum – Slovenia’s Best Mountain Hut and Mountain Dessert!

Hiking is very popular in Slovenia. There are over 170 mountain huts spread across the hills and mountains of the Julian Alps, the Karavanke, the Kamnik-Savinja Alps, the Pohorje, Jelovica and Pokljuka plateaus and all the other areas. The huts range in facilities, in general the higher you go the more basic they become. Some, particularly the higher lying ones, are only open in the high season (July-September), others are open year-round though, out of season just at weekends, whilst a small handful, including this one, are open all year round, regardless of the season.

Every year in Slovenia the public votes for their favourite mountain hut to win the title of ‘Best Mountain Hut’. This year the competition was won by the mountain hut on Kum (Koča na Kumu) and since I’d never been there, and since the warm autumn weather we’ve been experiencing of late has meant the hills and mountains beckoning for hiking, I visited Kum last weekend and, well – wow – now I know why!

Dom na kumu

At 1220m Kum is the highest peak in the Posavje region. It can be reached from a number of places, including from Trbovlje, Radeče and Zagorje ob Savi. However, having read about the mini-cabin used to cross the Sava river at Zidani most, where one of the routes begins, I decided that sounded like an adventure with my name on it! This little cabin (for want of a better word) is also used by locals wishing to cross the river to avoid an otherwise lengthy detour.

CIMG0151

As I wanted to make an early start on Sunday morning, and also because I wanted to suss out the cabin in advance, I decided to stay the night before at my new favourite hotel, Rimske terme in Rimske Toplice. I say ‘favourite hotel’ because I visited once and liked it so much, and there was so much to see and do, that I returned a week later, hence there’ll be much more about that in a coming blog.

Zidani most is one of Slovenia’s most important railway junctions, and is also known for its 3 bridges – two railway and one road – as well as being at the confluence of the Savinja and Sava rivers. Though surrounded by wonderful nature, to be honest, from what I saw of the place, there’s not really an awful lot else to see or do there, though I might be doing it a disservice since I only used it as a base for my walk.

If arriving by train, on exiting the station turn left then walk along the road for about 1km to where the road crosses the railway. If arriving by car then you can park on the dirt road beside the Sava river. Then, its a quick hop into the cabin to wizz (ahem!) over the river to begin the hike. Well, at least that was the plan! If there is a group of you, it would be far easier as those on the opposite side of the river bank can help by winching the cabin if (and when!) it doesn’t quite make it over the river!

CIMG0153

So, just get in, take the obligatory photo, close the ‘door’ and let gravity do its thing!

CIMG0174     CIMG0175

The cabin is just big enough for 2 people. If, however, you are alone, you might want to ask a friend to help (or flutter your eyelids at a friendly local – though you could have a bit of a wait, there aren’t many!) when you (inevitably) get stuck halfway across the river and don’t have the strength to pull yourself the rest of the way!

The path leads up alongside a stream, steeply at first, crossing the stream in several places (I’d advise against taking this path after heavy rainfall as imagine it gets pretty slippery and treacherous). It emerges to meet a road then continues up along a sunny balcony, passes weekend houses from where the endless and rewarding views begin.

CIMG0177

The panoramic views are breath-taking and, despite not being that high, you really do feel on top of the world. On a clear day, you can see all of Slovenia’s mountain ranges and Slovenia’s highest mountain, Triglav, as well as peaks in neighbouring Croatia and Austria.

CIMG0188

On the top there is a large antenna, the mountain hut and St. Neža’s church. There is also a small play area for children, farm animals and an orientation table.

964548_179870262178927_522267212_o

Inside the hut, where I was warmly greeted, the first thing that caught my eye was the chiller cabinet full of cakes! That in itself is a rare sight as most mountain huts have the usual fare of soups, stews and strudel. It’s not surprising then that the hut’s kremšnita (a cream slice, otherwise known as ‘Bled cake’) was declared the best mountain dessert of 2015. Of course there’s plenty of other tasty food on offer too.

kremsnita naj sladica

 

Kum is also popular destination during the winter and the hut is open all-year round, so, what are you waiting for?!

Useful links – Kum Mountain Hut – http://bit.ly/1kEitRE

 

The ‘Kriva jelka’ Path and sweet treats ahead!

As regular readers of my blog will know, I love being outdoors; hiking in the mountains, cycling, running etc. Having lived here for over 6 years now, and spent a large part of that time outdoors,  some might say I know a lot of the paths and the terrain around Radovljica and the surrounding areas better than some of the locals. Indeed,  its not been unknown for me to be taking a friend or two along with me to places they have never been before. I’m told I’d make a good guide – tour guide that is, not a Girl Guide!

I was therefore delighted when, for a change, a friend recently told me about a path which I’d never even heard of before – the circular walking path ‘Kriva Jelka‘, which is part of the ‘Udin Boršt’ forest. Of course, I immediately took it to task to check it out. The path is named after the bent over (kriva) fir tree (jelka), planted by the local tourist association, which replaced the original tree around which bandits used to gather.

The path begins in Zgornje Duplje at Camp Trnovc, which is just a fifteen minute drive from Radovljica. Previously I had never been to, or even heard of, this small family run campsite so it was a great find. It is set in a peaceful location, in the middle of a large meadow, with space for up to 50 campers, tents or trailers and is surrounded by woods and a river. Next door, the owners also run the Trnovc Tourist Farm (Turistična kmetija Trnovc) where, upon prior reservation, home-cooked meals can be enjoyed. There is also a small reception area, with a pleasant shady seating area, where drinks and ice-creams can be bought – a welcome reward after the walk, and where you can get further information and a map for the walk. More information about the Camp and Tourist Farm can be found here – http://www.trnovc.com/ and about the walk here (only in Slovene – http://www.grascina-duplje.si/zz%20kriva%20jelka/

CIMG6683

CIMG6684

There is an information board at the start showing several options to make a longer or shorter route and path is well marked throughout with a small fir tree on the wooden markings (as seen below). In addition to the Kriva Jelka itself, the path also passes a number of points of interest including the Manor House (graščina) and Vogvar’s House, a heritage protected monument, in Spodnje Duplje and the Kras Cave entrance (kraška jama) in Zadraga.

CIMG6686

CIMG6693

This coming week, time permitting, I plan to attend a concert by the Carmen Manet Choir, which will take place on Tuesday 17th September at 7pm in the Radovljica Mansion House. Entrance is free. I previously attended a concert by the same choir back in …….. and thoroughly enjoyed their renditions and mixture of classic and modern songs with a twist. You can also listen to a clip of them on my previous blog from January 2013 entitled ‘Shovels Ahoy!’.

I also intend to visit the 2nd Festival of Honey, taking place on Saturday 21st September, at the Gorenjska Beekeeping Centre( http://www.cricg.com/) in nearby Lesce. The event programme kicks off at 10am and includes lectures, presentations, honey themed cookery workshops and a market – ideal for someone with as sweet a tooth as I have!

Actually, it’s going to be a busy one because next weekend its also the Sweet Festival (Sladka Istra) at the coast in Koper. This is one of the largest events of its kind in Slovenia and is a heavenly mixture of all things sweet. Ok, its a bit of a drive to get there but I usually make a day of it – stop somewhere enroute to walk, probably Nanos, weather permitting, take a stroll along the coast to Izola and enjoy the more temperate coastal climate for a change. To be followed by lots of sweet delights! More information can be found here and of course I will be writing about it next week too  – http://www.sladka-istra.si/sl/

Rainy day activities in Radovljica

It seems I have finally found a silver lining to the long, ghastly (well at least for me!) winter. As it went on so long, spring lasted all of 2 weeks and the past week it felt like summer was here already, yippee, shorts and t-shirts all round! However, one mustn’t get too carried away as the view out of my window today is distinctly more spring-like than summer (hopefully it’s just a temporary hiccup), but who cares, as long as its not snowing!!

This past week there were two public holidays – the 1st and 2nd of May. On the eve before the 1st of May Labour Holiday, it is a tradition in Slovenia to hold bonfire parties (kresovanje). Most towns and some villages have a bonfire – either somewhere in the town or many are also held atop a hill or at mountain huts and people gather in their masses to socialise and raise a glass (or two) beside the bonfires. In Radovljica, the bonfire party is always held next to the SPAR supermarket, at the entrance to the town, and there was live music to accompany the festivities. One of the biggest events is held on the Rožnik hill in Ljubljana (which I wrote about in the post entitled ‘A change of scenery’), where up to 40,000 people attend. On the 1st May numerous other events, such as organised walks, also take place across the country. Kres 31 april  2013 002Today’s weather got me thinking about the problem of what to do on rainy days when on holiday. Therefore, I thought I might add a new section to my blog entitled ‘Rainy Day Activities’. If you are visiting the Radovljica area, from abroad or from elsewhere in Slovenia, there are still things to do even on wet days and therefore through the course of my blog, I will aim to provide some ideas for rainy day activities as well as of course ideas for hiking and other outdoor activities. By the way, if anyone in the local area has any activities, ideas etc. to add to this list, please do get in touch. I’m open to ideas and willing to add additional links to my blog.

So let’s begin with museums – they are always a good rainy day activity aren’t they?! Although not a large town, Radovljica and its surroundings, have more than their fair share of museums. In Radovljica itself, in the old town centre, there is the Museum of Beekeepingebelarski muzej), the Town Museum (Mestni muzej) and Šivec Houseivčeva hiša). In nearby Begunje there is the Museum of Hostages (Muzej Talcev) and in Kropa the Blacksmith’s Museum. (Kovaški muzej). I have added links to all these museums in the Tourist Information section of this blog.

If you are fortunate enough to be in or near Radovljica on Saturday 18th May, you could visit any of these museums (and also elsewhere throughout Slovenia) for free to mark International Museum Day.

As the snow gradually melts, I’ve been able to start to walk a little further and higher. This week I made my first trip of the year to the Preval mountain pasture (Planina preval). From home I cycled to the start of the walk from the Draga valley. However, Preval can also be reached from other directions too. Although I didn’t visit it on this occasion, the mountain hut Koča na planini Preval-a, reopened this week after the winter closure. The Preval pasture lies on the 1311m high Preval saddle between the Draga and Šentanska valleys and was originally the property of the Lords of Kamen. The hut serves delicious food (try the štrukli!) and is always very popular during the summer months.

 Preval

Here’s a bit of interesting history about the Preval hut. According to the first written sources, the first herdsmen’s hut on the Preval pasture was built in 1808 and stood on the sunny side of the slope, approximately 300 metres from the current hut. Due to the ever present danger of avalanches, the co-owners of the pasture built a new hut during the period from 1936-1938. This new hut was subsequently burnt down just before the end of World War II and in 1952 the hut was restored to its original design.

There are a number of options for walking onwards from Preval, especially to Begunjščica (2060m). However, on this occasion I didn’t go any further because at this time due to the snow, it is sensible to wait a little longer before making trips higher into the mountains (unless you are very experienced and well-equipped for winter hiking conditions).

From Radovljica to Kamnik and Beyond…

After the excesses of last weekend’s Festival of Chocolate in Radovljica, I was planning to be virtuous this week, and on the whole I was but I’ve never professed to be a saint and never intend to – I like my food too much! Fortunately I also love hiking, running and cycling – activities which allow me some indulgences!

It was a rather soggy start to last week, but since Tuesday afternoon it’s been beautifully warm and sunny. I’ve been taking full advantage of this and have been on my bike a few times and have also done a couple of walks – once to Valvazor and also to Smokuški vrh.

At the weekend I did another walk, which I have been meaning to do for a while, and can now finally say that I’ve done it. After driving to Kamnik, about 40 minutes from Radovljica, the path (Koželjeva pot) starts from Iverje (although I failed to locate this on my map and therefore parked a little further away and walked to the start) and continues to the source of the Kamniška bistrica river and the mountain hut Dom v Kamniški bistrici (600m). The path undulates through the forest, at times right at the water’s edge and occasionally climbing higher into the forest. It is pleasantly shady and cool by the water so would probably be an ideal walk on a hot summer’s day when shade is sought. In places some of the bridges have certainly seen better days and it was a little precarious however I’m told plans are afoot to repair these.

Pot ob kamniski bistrici 21 april 2013 001          Pot ob kamniski bistrici 21 april 2013 006

The most fascinating part of the walk is at the bridge, less than a kilometre before the mountain hut, where the Veliki (big) and Mali (little) Predaselj gorges are found at the narrowest section of the Kamniška bistrica riverbed. My photos don’t really do it justice as the depth and narrowness of the gorge made it difficult to photograph – so best you go and see it for yourselves!

Pot ob kamniski bistrici 21 april 2013 008                       Pot ob kamniski bistrici 21 april 2013 010

I couldn’t believe my luck when I discovered the Kamnikbus, which would return me to the car, was due in 5 minutes – what luck – although it left little time for taking photos and exploring – but rather that than a 3 hour wait for the next bus or a long walk back again! The source of the Kamniška bistrica river is a typical karst spring and is springs to the surface from beneath moss covered rocks creating the stunning, clean colour of the small lake opposite the mountain hut.

Pot ob kamniski bistrici 21 april 2013 012          Pot ob kamniski bistrici 21 april 2013 018

The Kamnikbus runs along the length of the valley, is such a great idea, it’s a shame there aren’t more services like this in the beautiful mountains valleys in this area. It would be great to encourage people to leave their car behind and take the bus, which would result in less traffic, less pollution to the environment and a more pleasant experience all-round.

On the way back, I stopped at the Arboretum in Volčji potok. I didn’t actually go into the park on this occasion, but stopped for a look around the garden centre which is huge and well stocked. It took me back to many a rainy Sunday in England spent wandering around Garden Centres for want of something to do!

Now is the perfect time to visit the Arboretum as its spring flower show means it is even more awash with colour – http://www.arboretum-vp.si/lang/index.php/en

To compensate for all that activity, a good dinner was in order and I certainly found it at the Lake House Inn (Jezerska hiša) at Bled Golf Course. There are 2 restaurants at the golf course and the Lake House Inn is the less formal of the two. The meal was delicious and in fact I enjoyed it so much, I’ve just booked to have my birthday celebration there later this month!

© Adele in Slovenia

It’s Spring and Radovljica is Alive!

Winter seems to have finally lost its vice like grip and spring has courageously battled through and taken over – yippee! Walking around Radovljica this week has been a pleasure – seeing people sitting outside cafes for their morning coffee, children (and some adults too!) eating ice-cream, people playing various sports in the sports park and generally people emerging from the long winter spent cooped up indoors – much like bears awaking from their winter hibernation – and enjoying feeling the warmth of the sun. Never have I been so pleased to see that large, round, yellow, warming object in the sky on Tuesday – it’s got some making up to do so let’s hope it’s here to stay. I also hope it will get to work on melting some of the metres and metres of snow in the mountains so I can get up high hiking again asap.

Although I’m not entirely adverse to winter walking in the fresh snow during the winter ‘proper’, by this time of year the novelty of walking in the snow has long since worn off am I’m longing to be able to start walking to some of the higher lying areas. However, in the meantime, its time to get resourceful and find places to walk which are a little lower and south facing, where the snow has already begun to melt. I co-wrote a guidebook about Slovenia some time back and from the time when I was researching it and gathering information, I have a folder full of brochures and leaflets which, at times like these come in very handy. So a rummage through the folder led me to deciding on walking the Ostroverhar Trail on Saturday, and a good choice it was too!

Podgrad pri Lj 13 april 2013 004

The circular trail starts in the village of Podgrad, near Ljubljana and leads over Kašelj hill (Kašeljski hrib) and past the remains of two medieval castles, both of which were a part of the Osterberg property, home of the Ostrovrhar knights. The Old Castle (Stari grad) is thought to date back to 1256 and first belonged to the Spanheim family. Over the years it has had numerous owners but since 1930, it has been the property of the Kansky family, manufacturers from Podgrad. Another interesting feature of the path is the millstone quarry beneath the castle. Here, since the Middle Ages until production ceased, millstones were cut (like the one I’m sitting on below), with a diameter of about one metres and a thickness of 20 centimetres, and you actually still see where they were cut from the rock. The path is well-marked and it took about 2.5 hours to walk the entire trail.

Podgrad pri Lj 13 april 2013 005

Podgrad pri Lj 13 april 2013 012

Sunday was a beautiful, warm, spring day so it was time to dust off my bike and get the cogs turning once again. I haven’t cycled properly since October so it was a tentative start but as they say, you never forget how to ride a bike, and once I got going it felt great. I cycled to the Završnica valley where, at the start of the valley, there is a small reservoir. This is also the start point for many hikes in the surrounding Karavanke Alps – more about which I will be writing as soon as the snow has melted!

Zavrsnica

Preparations are in full swing for next weekend’s Festival of Chocolate in Radovljica – if you are anywhere near the area, don’t miss it, it’s sure to be a delicious weekend! Last year’s event was so popular that this year it has been extended to two days. This year, there will be a new system in place whereby coupons can be purchased which can then be exchanged for tastings of the chocolate goodies on offer at all the stalls. More information about the festival can be found here – http://www.festival-cokolade.si/  As probably the world’s biggest chocoholic, I will definitely be paying a visit!

© Adele in Slovenia