The Vodice Highland (Vodiška planina) from Kropa

To say the weather last week the past two weeks has been awful would be a gross understatement so best not to mention it! Fortunately, yesterday and this morning the sun finally made a brief, but very welcome return. I even managed a short bike ride this morning which was a bonus as I thought the cycling season was all but over, though I probably looked something more like Michelin Man, wrapped up as I was in copious layers.

Yesterday a friend and I made a short trip up to the Vodice highland (Vodiška planina), which is at 1118m above the village of Kropa. Vodiška planina is a popular destination for hikers and cyclists, who also like to visit the Partizan hut (Partizanski dom) for refreshments. The hut, and its predecessor which stood in the same place, have had a long history. During both World Wars it served as a gathering place for communists from the Gorenjska region and nearby, in 1936, was the location of the first partizan conference of the Jesenice district. It was also here that in 1941, that a resolution was passed for the beginning of the Gorenjska uprising and on a nearby highland the Cankar Batallion was founded. Vodiška planina and other parts of the Jelovica plateau played an important role in the formation of organisations against the enemy occupators. Every year, on the first Saturday in August, a gathering is held at the Partizan hut, in memory of the Yugoslav Front, otherwise known as the National Liberation War (Narodnoosvobodilni boj), with a memorial service and accompanying entertainment programme.

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It is also possible to continue from the hut towards one of the highest points of the Jelovica plateau, Črni vrh (1304m). Just a few minutes further, there is a viewpoint which offers far reaching views across the broads Radovljica plains, to the east and west along the valley and to the facing Karavanke mountains and further towards the Kamnik-Savinja Alps.

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Since living in Slovenia I have undertaken a number of things to keep myself afloat. These days I mostly work doing translating (from Slovene to English) and proofreading. However, I have also done a number of other things including, some time ago, writing a new tourist guidebook about Slovenia, ‘SLOVENIA IN YOUR HANDS‘ which has recently been published and, even if I say so myself, looks great! The book is available in English and German and will soon be on sale in the Tourist Information Centre in Radovljica and elsewhere. If anyone is interested in seeing/ordering it, just get in touch (favourable discounts may apply!).

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 The Chopin Golden Ring competition (Chopinov zlati prstan) will soon be returning to Radovljica. The international competition, which takes place annually at the end of October and is now in its 9th year, transforms the old town centre of Radovljica into a lively, creative centre for young musicians from all over the world. This year’s competition will take place from the 26th – 30th October. In addition to the piano competition, there are concerts and events which can be attended by the public. More about the events and tickets, can be found here – http://www.chopin-goldenring.si/koncerti.html. As an event opener, there will be an introductory concert taking place this week, on the 15th October, an Evening of Spanish Music and Poetry, to be held in Radovljica Library at 19.30, entry is free.

Stol – The Karavanke

So this week I made it to Stol! I usually go at least a couple of times a year but I’d been waiting (and waiting…..) for a day when it didn’t look as if it was going to rain at any time. Stol is notorious for having a little ‘cap’ of cloud on its top, and it can also be get very windy up there, so it’s wise to carefully choose the day for an ascent. However, I gave up waiting and went on Thursday anyway and I’m pleased to say I did make it up and down before the rain appeared though there were literally only seconds to spare as within half a minute of getting back to the car it started raining – phew! Alas, as I was rather rushing, and since it was cloudy at the top, I wasn’t able to take any great photos on this occasion but here are a few from previous trips.

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At 2236m, Stol is the highest mountain in the Karavanke range and is visible from far and wide (including from my bedroom window!). The mountain is so named due to its shape which resembles a chair – Stol being the Slovene word for ‘chair’. Some people drive the first part of the route and start their walk from the mountain hut Valvasorjev dom (1181m). However, I like to take the route up from the valley floor, starting from the small reservoir in the Završnica valley and walking to Valvasorjev dom then on to the Žirovniška planina. From here there are a choice of two routes up to Stol – the Žirovniška pot or Zabreška pot. The former is a slightly shorter but steeper and harder ascent and I therefore prefer to take this route up and then return via the Zabreška pot – a slightly longer but easier descent – which also avoids having to take the same route there and back and makes for a partly circular route. Stol can also be climbed from the Austrian side however, as can be seen from this photo below, the northern face is more exposed and rocky than on the southern facing Slovene side.

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The path is fairly relentless with hardly any level parts. It begins in the cool shade of the forest then in parts traverses open ground until the final section of the ascent which follows a broad rock gulley where it’s not unusual to find patches of snow, even in the height of summer.

The Prešernova koca mountain hut is perched in an idyllic location, about 20 minutes beneath the peak of Stol at 2174m, where you can rest and enjoy the stunning views across Slovenia and the Julian Alps. During the summer months it is open daily and offers food and drink plus overnight accommodation for those making longer tours or not wishing to do the entire trip in a day. From the mountain hut a rocky path leads straight up to the summit of Stol where you are rewarded with stunning views across Slovenia, along the Karavanke range and over Austria.

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Meanwhile, back on terra firma, on Thursday evenings during July, there is live music in Linhart Square in Radovljica. The square comes to life with locals and tourists alike enjoying the lively atmosphere in the medieval old town centre. This past week we were entertained by the jazz group Papir. This coming Thursday 18th July its the Zebra Dots and then on the 25th July, Nula Kelvina – http://www.radolca.si/en/what-to-do/events-1/concert-zebra-dots/83/344/

Also this past week a friend and I went to see the simply amazing Slovene vocal group Perpetuum Jazzile. It was in fact the third time I have been to see them and they never disappoint. This time they were performing at the open-air theatre at Khislstein Castle and Mansion in Kranj. In contrast to some of their larger concerts, this was a smaller venue but it was perfect as it created an intimate feeling with great accoustics. Perpetuum Jazzile have now achieved world recognition and are touring venues far and wide. The group has a wide repetoire which includes some Slovene classics, modern popular disco and pop and thanks to their new Music Director, who is Swedish, they have also recently begun performing a medley of Abba songs, some of which can be heard here – http://perpetuumjazzile.si/ I’d also recommend checking out their version of Toto’s song Africa (Youtube) – it’s my favourite!