Triglav 240: Hiking The Jubilee Mountain Trail

Of the many thousands of people who enjoy hiking in the Julian Alps and Triglav National Park, and the many who every year climb to the summit of Slovenia’s highest mountain, Triglav, there is probably only a tiny percentage of those who know, or give any thought to, how, when, and by whom, the summit was first conquered.

So, to coincide with the celebrations for the 240th anniversary since the first recorded summit of Triglav, join me to find out more about the four brave men who first conquered Slovenia’s magnificent 2,864m-high three-headed giant – the word Triglav means ‘three heads’!

The Jubilee Mountain Trail has been created to commemorate the first men who climbed to the summit of Triglav. The entire trail takes around 2-3 days. Along the way you can collect stamps at the nine destinations that make up the trail, or just take time to visit individuals sections, whether in the Bohinj valley or high up in the Julian Alps. It matters not, it’s not a competition, it’s a journey – one of discovery, appreciation and respect for the four brave men who first conquered Triglav, and one of personal satisfaction for each individual who undertakes it.

Since there are no actual documented records of the exact trail originally taken by the four friends, the Jubilee Mountain Trail is based on assumptions, according to where the men lived and how and where they gathered along the way.

The trail begins at the birth house of Štefan Rožič in the village of Savica in the Lower Bohinj valley then continues to Zoisova graščina, a mansion belonging to the initiator of the expedition, Baron Žiga Zois, in Stara Fužina. The village was also home to another of the four brave men, Lovrenc Willomitzer, whilst the remaining two, Matevž Kos and Luka Korošec, were from nearby Jereka and Koprivnik respectively.

From there it continues to the Planinska koča na Uskovnici mountain hut on the Pokljuka plateau, which I wrote more about in a recent blog post here . If you are following the entire trail you can get your next stamp here, or just enjoy and standalone trip, suitable for all the family, to this mountain pasture dotted with wooden weekend homes and cute-as-a-button chapel.

After a relatively gentle start, the trail leads up steeply to the Vodnikov dom na Velem polju mountain hut. The location of this hut, in the still green world of the Julian Alps before the rocky giants take over, makes it a worthy standalone trip – for an out-and-back day hike or as part of a longer hut-to-hut hike, even for those not wishing to walk the entire trail.

If you choose to continue your next target is Slovenia’s highest ‘hotel‘ – the Triglavski dom na Kredarici mountain hut (2,515m). The hut sits on a a ridge beneath Triglav and Rjavina. You have to overcome a few areas with steel ropes and foot rungs to reach it, and rarely is one lucky enough to get there when it isn’t shrouded in cloud, but it’s a welcome sight when you get there!

The large and unique hut even has its own chapelwind turbines and meteorological station. It can accommodate over 300 people and, even though it is officially closed in winter, there are meteorologists present 365 days per year.

Now comes Triglav itself, if you choose to undertake it. The final ascent, and of course the descent too, is considered a fixed climbing route, for which a helmet and harness is required. However, you certainly don’t have to hike to its summit to be able to enjoy and appreciate it. You can admire if from afar, get up close and admire it from below or, for those with a head for heights, go for the top to reach the famous Aljaž Tower.

From Triglav the trail continues to the Dom Planika pod Triglavom mountain hut, or for those who choose not to ascend Triglav itself, you can just descend from the Triglavski dom hut directly to Dom Planika.

From the Planika hut the route returns to the Vodnikov dom hut and then steeply down to the Koča na Vojah hut in the Voje valley, with its picture-perfect backdrop and exceedingly good blueberry pie!

The trail ends at the Monument to Four Brave Men in Ribčev Laz, where at the snack bar opposite the monument, you can get your final stamp, and/or just admire the magnificent monument whilst paying homage to the men who made it all possible!

If you intend to complete the entire trail, be sure to pick up a copy of the Jubilee Mountain Trail booklet before setting off and at each destination ensure you seek out the special Triglav 240 stamp. You have until December 2018 to collect all 9 stamps, and those who do will be eligible to receive a special award at the conclusion of the celebration of the 240th anniversary, which will take place on International Mountain Day on 11 December 2018.

There is a full programme of events taking place throughout the year to mark the anniversary, and on 2nd September there will be a special live TV broadcast ‘Doma pod Triglavom‘ at 8pm which everyone is invited to join, followed by the premiere of a new documentary at 10pm. In addition, a two-day guided hike of the Jubilee Trail will take place on 29th and 30th September – bookings are essential. Contact: info:bohinj.si, or tel: +386 (0)4 574 85 90

© Adele in Slovenia

 

Hop-On Hop-Off in Triglav National Park: Bohinj to Pokljuka

Triglav National Park, Slovenia’s only national park, extends over an area of 880km2 and covers almost the entire area of the Julian Alps in Slovenia.

Whilst many visitors to Slovenia, particularly those who visit to hike in the Julian Alps, are familiar with areas such as the ever-popular 7 Triglav Lakes Valley, and Slovenia’s highest mountain, Triglav, another area that is well worth a visit is the oustandingly beautiful Pokljuka Plateau, which during summer you can visit for FREE courtesy of the Hop-On Hop-Off Bohinj to Pokljuka bus.

The Pokljuka plateau is a paradise for lovers of the great outdoors, and offers activities year-round: hiking and cycling in summer, downhill and cross-country skiing, biathlon, snowshoeing and hiking in winter. The forested Karst plateau is around 20km in length and at an elevation of 1,100-1,400 metres.

Since parking charges have this year been introduced for the first time on Pokljuka, taking the Hop-On Hop-Off bus makes even more sense from both a financial and environmental perspective. The FREE bus runs three times per day from the Lower and Upper Bohinj valleys to the Triglav Pokljuka Sports Centre at Rudne polje on Pokljuka. Click here for the timetable.

Since Pokljuka is also a popular destination for cyclists – road cyclists enjoy the challenge of the long road that winds its way up to the plateau from either Bled or Bohinj, whilst mountain bike enthusiasts enjoy the gravel roads that criss-cross the plateau, the buses are also equipped with bike brackets and each bus can accommodate up to six bikes.

Personally, I love hiking on Pokljuka, both in summer and winter, though summer is, and always will be, my favourite time of year! There are walks to suit all levels – from easier, shorter walks to Pokljuka’s many mountain pastures, to more challenging hikes to its peaks.

If you are seeking a walk for all the family, I highly recommend walking from Rudne polje to the picturesque Uskovnica mountain pasture with its numerous small wooden chalets and interesting hummocks.

The route is well-marked and it only takes about 45-50 minutes to reach the pasture and the Koča na Uskovnici mountain hut.

The way there is pretty much all downhill, of course that does mean a bit of uphill on the return trip, but after a stop at the hut for some delicious blueberry strudel or one of the other homemade dishes, you will be raring to go! During summer on Pokljuka you can also buy cheese at one of the working dairies or mountain pastures.

En-route to the pasture you reach an ‘energy field‘, which attracts people from far and wide who come to sit on the various energy points that are believed to be beneficial for various ailments. There is an information board (in Slovene only) giving details of which point is for which ailment and how long should be spent at each point. I must admit to being rather cynical about such things, but if the number of people (and even dogs!) there every time I visit is anything to go by, I’m in the minority! So, why not go and try it out, and let me know the result(s)!

Uskovnica has one of the cutest little wooden chapels around. Here I am with parents on their recent visit!

Those looking for more challenging hikes are spoilt for choice. As you can see below, from Uskovnica, as well as from Rudno polje, there is a wide choice of paths to hike.

Among the most popular are the Zajamniki mountain pasture, Debela peč, the highest point of the Pokljuka plateau at 2,014m, and the peak of Viševnik, 2,050m.

After our walk we returned to the biathlon centre where we enjoyed a(nother!) drink at the hotel, ensuring we timed it right to catch the Hop-On Hop-Off bus back to the valley.

Even when the Hop-On Hop-Off bus ends its run for the season, from wherever you are staying in the Bohinj area you are never more than a 30-45 minutes drive from Pokljuka, and you can visit year-round.

Click here for more information and some interesting facts about Pokljuka.

© Adele in Slovenia

Car-Free and Carefree in Bohinj and Triglav National Park

This summer you can take advantage of the new shuttle system in Bohinj, which enables visitors to leave their cars and cares behind and enjoy the beauty of Triglav National Park.

By parking in the one of the designated car parks and taking a bus, not only does it remove the stress of looking for somewhere to park, but it’s more environmentally-friendly and easy on the wallet too – in fact it’s FREE – so what’s not to like?!

I went to try it out for myself last Friday and it really is as easy as pie. So join me on my journey to Bohinj!

First, park your car in the large FREE car park at Camp Danica in Bohinjska Bistrica.

Next, take a FREE ticket from the machine and display it on your dashboard.

Then just hop aboard one of the FREE buses that run every 15 minutes from 9am to 8pm on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays from Camp Danica to Bohinj lake during July and August, and every 30 minutes in June and September.

The buses have various liveries, some easier to spot than others, but all offer the same FREE journey to/from the camp and the lake.

All that is left is to sit back and enjoy the short, scenic ride! You alight the bus just metres from the lake and the Monument to Four Brave Men – which commemorates the first four men who climbed to the summit of Slovenia’s highest mountain, Mount Triglav (2,864m) in 1778.

The rest of the day is yours to enjoy at your leisure, or to be as active as you like in the knowledge that you can easily and quickly get back to your car at day’s end when you have had your fill. Though, does, or can, one ever really have a fill of somewhere so beautiful?!

Walk or hike to your heart’s content, laze by the lake, do water sports in and on the lake, cycle, visit local attractions, soak up the views…

If, however, you are like me, you might like to consider taking a bus one way and walking the other – you get to see more and burn off a few of the calories ingested in ice-cream, too!

Walking on the traffic-free Bohinj Cycle Route from the lake alongside the Sava River back to the bus stop at Camp Danica (or vice versa) takes around 1.5 hours, though allow more as you will want to stop for photos and soak up (more of) the beauty along the way and at the rest areas.

This is just one of this year’s new additions in the Bohinj area. There are also additional car parks as well as buses running from Senožeta to the Blato mountain pasture, a favourite starting place for hikes in the Seven Triglav Lakes Valley, as well as the Hop-On Hop-Off bus to the Pokljuka plateau.

If you are staying in the Bohinj area for at least two nights, you can also avail of the Summer Mobility Card, which provides visitors with free parking, free bus rides and a whole host of other special offers and discounts.

Click here for more about this and what else to see and do in Bohinj, Triglav National Park and the Julian Alps.

© Adele in Slovenia

Winter Hiking and Snowshoeing in Slovenia’s Julian Alps

I’ve had quite a few enquiries recently via my blog regarding winter hiking in Slovenia. So, I thought I would put together a new blog post with some ideas about where to hike here in winter, and also about another alternative winter sport – snowshoeing.

Before I go on, however, one thing I would like to emphasise – and cannot emphasise enough – is that you MUST be properly prepared and equipped for winter hiking. In the past couple of weeks there have been a number of deaths in our mountains, and, as is so often the case, among them are tales of people going to the mountains in trainers or other such inappropriate attire. Proper equipment is essential year-round, but particularly so in winter, as is knowing the terrain. Personally, during winter, particularly when hiking alone, I stick to routes that I know and that I know are well-trodden.

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As I’m not a skier – never have been and never will be – snowshoeing provides great exercise and (can be!) great fun too, provided the conditions are right. Putting on a pair of snowshoes for the first time is a slightly strange experience. One feels rather awkward and clumsy walking around with, what look and feel like, tennis racquets strapped to your feet, though the modern versions, as seen below, are somewhat sleeker in their design.

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Once you get used to walking with a wider and slightly ungainly gait, you soon get used to it, though a pair of hiking poles is a requisite. Walking with snowshoes enable you to access places on foot that would otherwise be inaccessible during winter. However, snowshoes aren’t suitable for scaling high peaks, but rather for traversing wider, flatter snow-covered terrain.

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One of the best, and one of my favourite, places for winter activities is the Gorenjska region, where I live in the northwest of Slovenia, is the Pokljuka plateau. The entire forested Karst plateau, 20kms in length, is within Triglav National Park, and reaches an elevation of 1,400m. The highest peak is Debela peč (2014m), which, together with the peaks of Brda, Mrežce and Viševnik, are among the most popular with hikers year-round.

As can be seen below – me en-route to Debela peč – winter hiking, when at times you can be waist deep (or deeper!) in snow, can be exhausting at times, so isn’t for the faint-hearted!

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But the rewards can also be fantastic, provided you are well-equipped, sensible, know the terrain, and are fit enough!

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Pokljuka is approximately 15kms from Bled. Other than for a few months during summer, there is no regular, scheduled public transport to the plateau, so a car is essential. The plateau can also be reached from the road which turns off near Bohinjska Bistrica and leads up towards Gorjuše.

This year on 8-11th December Pokljuka hosted the annual BMW Biathlon World Cup. The plateau is a favourite training destination for many winter sports people from across Europe as well as for the Slovene military who have a barracks at Rudno Polje, which is also home to the Pokljuka Sports Centre and the Hotel Center http://www.center-pokljuka.si/en.html

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Pokljuka is a very popular destination with fans of cross-country skiing. I have tried it, on a few occasions, but me and skiing – of any kind – are never going to get along! Here’s me trying to ‘play it cool’ whilst a group of Slovenian military recruits go whizzing by!

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I’ve been there at times when the weather is less than favourable too, though once home in the warm with a cuppa, all is forgiven and forgotten!

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With its wide, open pastures and traditional wooden huts, the beautiful Planina Zajavornik highland is among the most popular parts of Pokljuka. The highland is also equally stunning during summer. You can cross the highland on foot and then head further up to the Blejska koča mountain hut, where you can enjoy hearty, traditional Slovenian food such as Carniolan sausage or a stew such as ričet, or, if the road is clear of snow, you can drive a little further by taking the road to the right from Mrzli studenec then park on the opposite side of the highland before continuing on foot up to the mountain hut.

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There are so many lovely parts of Pokljuka, it’s hard to choose a favourite and it’s equally beautiful, if not more so, during summer. Below you can see the Kranjska dolina highland, which you pass if you take the road as described above. I particularly like cycling in this area in summer.

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It’s fairly easy to navigate your way around Pokljuka, but a map of the Julian Alps will certainly aid you in planning routes.

I hope this has provided some ideas and inspiration for winter hiking in Slovenia. I wish you happy, and above all, safe, hiking!

© Adele in Slovenia

New Year’s Eve in Slovenia – How, Where and Hangover Cures!

Generally speaking, Slovenes love New Year’s Eve and really go to town when it comes to celebrating! So, if you are going to be, or are thinking about, celebrating New Year’s Eve in Slovenia, here are some ideas of how, and where, to see in the new year in style.

You won’t have to go far to find new year’s celebrations, since pretty much every village, town, and city has some kind of celebration. And even if you don’t see them, you will certainly hear them!

The biggest crowds gather in the Slovene capital, Ljubljana, where numerous events take place, the highlight being the fireworks display launched from the Ljubljana Castle hill. Find more information about New Year’s Even in Ljubljana here – https://www.visitljubljana.com/en/visitors/events/page-12848/

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There are New Year’s Eve concerts held in several of the city centre squares from 9pm onwards.

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Lake Bled is another popular place to spend New Year’s Eve. I saw in the new year there a few years back; first taking a (brisk!) walk around the lake, then settling down with a friend and a mug of mulled wine to watch the fireworks display above the lake.

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There are New Year’s Eve celebrations in all the major cities, including Maribor, Celje, Novo Mesto, Nova Gorica, Piran, Kranj, Velenje etc., as well as smaller local events.

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New Year’s Eve in Maribor, Photo: http://www.maribor-pohorje.si (Profoto studio)

A more unique way to see in the new year is to visit the mountains. Quite a few of Slovenia’s mountain huts hold house parties on New Year’s Eve. Expect hearty food alongside the wood-burner, plenty of schnapps, and obligatory singing! Of course, don’t forget that the next morning – yes, the one after the night before – you will have to hike back down!

You might find the hut half buried in snow, as I did here on the Pokljuka plateau, but that’s all part of the fun! A pair of snowshoes, as seen below, definitely aids access when conditions are like this.

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If it’s a nice sunny New Year’s Day, what better hangover cure can there be than this!

If you prefer a ‘hair of the dog’ style hangover cure, then be sure to try out one of numerous kinds of Slovenian homemade fruit schnapps, but beware, the homemade versions are often strong enough to blow your socks off!

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I have to admit to being a bit of a killjoy when it comes to New Year’s Eve. I can take it or leave it, preferring Christmas and time spent with family to loud parties and – as we all know – the world is always still the same the next day, despite all the new year’s resolutions! However, since I’ve been in Slovenia, I have tried to embrace New Year’s Eve a little more, and have tried a number of different ways of celebrating.

If you’ve been a good girl or boy, then Old Man Winter (Dedek Mraz) may visit on New Year’s Eve! I met him at Vila Podvin on New Year’s Eve 2014/2015, whilst enjoying a gourmet dinner prepared by one of Slovenia’s top chefs, Uroš Štefelin. Families with young children especially enjoy the New Year’s Eve celebrations at Vila Podvin. This year the fun begins at 7pm – reservations essential.

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New Year 2015/2016 was spent at another local restaurant, Kunstelj Inn, whilst other years I have just walked from home into the heart of my hometown of Radovljica where the celebrations are focused around the historic old town centre, with live music and merriment. This year in Linhart Square, the heart of the medieval old town, there will be live music and merriment with the Gašperji Ensemble from 11pm – 2am.

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There have been a couple of times when temperatures having been well below freezing and I couldn’t face going out in the cold and the appeal of staying home in the warm won over! If you do venture out in the cold at midnight, be sure to wrap up well!

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Wherever and however you choose to celebrate, I wish you a very HAPPY NEW YEAR and a healthy and prosperous 2017!

© Adele in Slovenia

Christmas 2016 in Slovenia – Christmas Markets, Food and Traditions

In February next year I will have been living in Slovenia for 10 years – gosh how time flies! My first Christmas here in 2007 was a bit of a culture shock as, at that time, Christmas wasn’t, or at least to me didn’t seem to be, such a big deal – no roast turkey and all the trimmings, no crackers and wearing of silly paper hats (though some might say that’s a bonus!), no shops crammed with Christmas merchandise in September and blaring Christmas jingles for months on end, and just a few low-, or at least lower-key Christmas markets.

Well, things have definitely changed and Christmas is most definitely here in a big(ger) way! With an increasing number of people choosing Slovenia as a destination for a short-break over Christmas/New Year, this blog has a run down of just some of things you can see and do.

Christmas in Ljubljana, Photo: http://www.slovenia.info

As in many other countries in Europe, the evening of the 24th is when most families celebrate and get together for a special meal, to exchange gifts and/or attend midnight mass. It’s worth noting that many restaurants are closed on Christmas Eve, 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. No Boxing Day Sales – hooray!

Christmas markets take place in all the major cities – the largest being in Ljubljana, where there are numerous markets throughout the city, the main one being alongside the banks of the Ljubljanica river. The festivities kick-off on 25th November with the official switching on of the lights at 5.15pm. There are also numerous concerts and other events taking place throughout the festive period. More here – http://bit.ly/2eBfQhk

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Christmas in Ljubljana, Photo: http://www.slovenia.info

My home town of Radovljica, one of the three best-preserved historic towns in Slovenia, has a small Advent Market and also looks magical! More information here – http://tinyurl.com/zxczvsg

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The cute little Alpine Village in the ski resort of Kranjska Gora is a winter wonderland. More information here – http://tinyurl.com/jbntrpl

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Slovenia’s 2nd biggest city, Maribor, switches on its Christmas lights on Friday 25th November. The Christmas programme includes a Christmas market, St. Nicholas fair, Artmar fair, city ice-rink, concerts and parties. More information here – http://bit.ly/1I8qXL0

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Festivities in Bled begin on 2nd December. A Christmas market takes place on the promenade at the south end of Lake Bled. If there’s snow, the island looks even more fairy tale-like! More information here – http://bit.ly/2eDpZZj

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Bled Island, Photo: http://www.slovenia.info

There are also Christmas markets in Celje and Portorož, as well as smaller local ones in many other towns throughout the country, though these tend to only be open for a few days rather than for the entire advent period.

Throughout Slovenia you will find a host of other festive events and activities, where you can be a spectator or join in, including live nativities, outdoor ice-rinks, parades and concerts.

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Outdoor ice-rink in Maribor – Photo: Produkcija80

The last two years, Christmas has not been ‘white’. However, if it is a white Christmas, then there are a whole host of other possibilities, such as sledging, skiing, snow-shoeing, hiking etc. My parents often spend Christmas here and we have had some memorable Christmas Days, including this one below, spent hiking on the Pokljuka Plateau.

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And Christmas isn’t Christmas (and Easter not Easter!) without home-baked potica! You can read plenty more about my potica journey here – https://adeleinslovenia.com/2016/03/03/easter-in-slovenia-my-potica-journey/

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So, if you are considering Slovenia’s for a Christmas break, then rest assured, you will find plenty to see and do. You can also be safe in the knowledge that you won’t have to pull a cracker and wear a silly hat!

© Adele in Slovenia

Summer 2016 in Radol’ca – Hop-On Hop Off Tourist Bus

Regular readers will know that I usually publish my blogs on Mondays. However, I decided to purposely delay this one since yesterday it was raining, again, and I couldn’t face writing, and subject you to reading, yet another blog moaning about the rain!!!

Today, thankfully, is much better and we also had 4 glorious summer days of blazing sunshine last week. So, let’s just focus on more of those to come and not on the other 24 rainy days thus far in June! Woops, there I go again…

There are lots of things to look forward to this summer in Radol’ca*. Here are just a few of the events taking place in July to whet your appetite.

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  • The Hop-On Hop Off Tourist Bus begins operating again from 1st July until 31st August. The bus runs on Tuesdays (Bled-Radovljica-Kropa) and Thursdays (Bled-Radovljica-Begunje-Brezje), as well as at weekends to Bohinj and the Pokljuka plateau. Tickets, which are valid for the whole day, cost just 5 euros for adults, children up to the age of 10 travel free. More information here (click where it says Vec o Hop-On Hop Off to see the timetable) – http://radolca.si/kaj-poceti/dogodki/hop-on-hop-off-radolca-2016/83/904/

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  • FREE guided tours of the old town centre – Tuesdays at 9am in July and August, other months at 10am. Meet at the Radovljica Tourist Information Centre at the entrance to Linhart Square.

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Radovljica SLO 2011

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I always attend this event as I love the quaint iron-forging village of Kropa, nestled snuggly into a corner of the Lipnica Valley under the Jelovica plateau, where the tradition of iron-forging is still much in evidence. You can also try some local food, visit the village museums, and have a general nose about the narrow lanes.

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* In case of any confusion, Radol’ca is  the name used in the tourism slogan ‘Radol’ca, Honestly Sweet’. The Radol’ca area comprises the main town of Radovljica, as well as the surrounding towns and villages including Begunje na Gorenjskem, Brezje, Kropa, Kamna Gorica, Lesce, Mosnje and other smaller hamlets.

© Adele in Slovenia