Slovenia’s Historic Towns and Cities

Statistics show that the large majority of people who visit Slovenia tend to do so for just a few days, either as just a mini-break or as part of a longer trip taking in some of the neighbouring countries. And for those limited in time, the focus is usually on the ‘usual’ tourist hot-spots i.e. Bled Lake, Ljubljana, Postojna Caves, Piran... However, in visiting just these, admittedly marvellous, places, you miss – in my opinion – a large swathe of the country and the chance to see the ‘real’ Slovenia.

Granted, I might be a bit biased since I’m fortunate to live in Radovljica, which has one of Slovenia’s best-preserved medieval old town centres and is a member of the Association of Historical Towns and Cities of Slovenia, but since Slovenia is a perfectly compact country, it is very easy to get around and make detours to other places of interest. So, sure, go to the usual tourist hotspots to tick them off the list, but do take time to see more of Slovenia’s countryside, culture and history too!

Looking over Radovljica and beyond to the Karavanke mountains

For example, if you are visiting Bled, then turn off the motorway (or get off the train or bus) just one stop early, and within minutes you will be in the historic old town centre of Radovljica where you can see, amongst others, the frescoed townhouses, the Baroque St. Peter’s Church, and the Šivec House Gallery.

Vidic House, just one of the frescoed buildings in the old town

The Radovljica Mansion is home to the Museum of Apiculture, the Municipal Museum, and a music school. During daylight hours the building is always open and visitors are welcome to go in and look at the photographic exhibitions in the entrance foyer.

The Radovljica Mansion

Don’t miss a visit to Lectar Inn where you can try traditional Slovenian food and downstairs visit the workshop with it’s 250-year tradition of making red-iced and decorated gingerbread hearts.

The Lectar gingerbread workshop

Radovljica also offers a wealth of great places to stroll, hike, cycle, do water sports, or partake in other active or less active pursuits. Or you can just sit on one of the benches at the viewing area and and soak up the views of the Julian Alps, the Jelovica Plateau and the Sava River.

Looking back at the old town with majestic Mr. Stol in the background

And be sure to come hungry as you won’t want to miss the chance to taste some of the delicious locally-produced food at the 13 restaurants that collaborate in the Taste Radol’ca project.

In addition to Radovljica , there are a further 13 towns and cities included in the Association of Historical Towns and Cities of Slovenia – Idrija, Kamnik, Koper, Kostanjevica na Krki, Kranj, Metlika, Novo Mesto, Piran, Ptuj, Slovenske Konjice, Škofja Loka, Tržič and Žužemberk.

More information about Radovljica can be found here – http://www.radolca.si/en/radovljica-area/ and more about the association here – http://www.zgodovinska-mesta.si/eng/index.php

© Adele in Slovenia

 

Wacky and Wonderful Rainy Day Ideas in Slovenia – The Sunny Side of the Alps!

Autumn can be one of the nicest times of year here in Slovenia. The heat of the summer has subsided, and with it the risk of afternoon showers, the roads and tourist hotspots are less crowded, and the leaves falling from the trees are a wonderful kaleidoscope of autumn gold and russet colours.

However, although Slovenia is often called ‘The Sunny Side of the Alps’, let’s face it, it does also rain at times!

Bohinj Lake in Autumn – Photo: Dunja Wedam_3099_orig

Much of Slovenia’s natural beauty lies in the great outdoors. So, as I know only too well, it can be frustrating when it isn’t possible to get out there and enjoy it. But, it doesn’t have to spell disaster! There are still plenty of things to see and do, whatever the weather. So, in this blog, I’ve listed a few ideas for what to do on those gloomy, rainy, and maybe even snowy, days!

MUSEUMS – There are hundreds to choose from, thus it’s nigh-on impossible to single one out, so I’ve whittled down the choice somewhat, though, of course, the list is far from exhaustive. Below are just a few of the largest and most popular.

The Park of Military History in Pivka – even those who don’t consider themselves fans of military history, will find something here. The highlight is the chance to go inside the P-913 Zeta submarine. Read more about my recent visit here – http://goo.gl/nWm3Mq and find more information here – http://parkvojaskezgodovine.si/en/

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Photo: Simon Avsec http://www.slovenia.info

The UNESCO-listed Anthony’s Shaft Idria Mercury Mine – more than 700kms of tunnels, and 500 years of mercury mining. More information here – http://www.antonijevrov.si/index.php/en

Photo: Visitidrija.si

Photo: Visitidrija.si

The Museum of Apiculture in Radovljica – housed in the magnificent Baroque Radovljica Mansion. Learn about beekeeping in Slovenia and see the oldest beehive panel in the world.

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Photo: Tourism Radovljica

Škofja Loka Museum – housed in Loka Castle, one of Slovenia’s finest castles in the heart of the historic medieval old town. It boasts extensive and impressive museum collections. More information here – http://www.loski-muzej.si/en/

Photo: Jana Jocif

Photo: Jana Jocif

The Ptuj-Ormož Museum – housed in Ptuj Castle, in Slovenia’s oldest city. Highlights include the collections of traditional carnival masks, musical instruments and glass paintings, as well as the Castle Gallery. More information here – http://pmpo.si/en/

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Bistra Castle and the Technical Museum of Slovenia. The castle was originally a Carthusian monastery during the period from 1260 – 1782 and was later changed into a manor house. It houses an eclectic mix of exhibitions including the Slovenian Hunting Museum and a collection of ex-President Tito’s cars. Read more here – http://wp.me/p3005k-NM and find more information here – http://www.tms.si/index.php

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Ljubljana’s museums and galleries – being the capital city, there is a wide choice, among them the National Gallery, the Museum of Modern Art, the City Art Museum, and the Railway Museum. Find out more here – http://goo.gl/WCnyYn

EAT, DRINK AND BE MERRY! – It certainly doesn’t have to be bad weather to ‘Eat, Drink and Be Merry’, but a dose of traditional hearty Slovene food on a cold damp day is sure to lift your spirits!

Suggested traditional dishes and foods include; bograč, štruklji, jota, ričet, žlikrofi, kremšnita, gibanica. Read more in this previous blog entitled ‘Love Food – Love Slovenia: 10 Must Try Foodshttps://adeleinslovenia.com/2016/02/18/love-food-love-slovenia-10-must-try-slovene-foods/

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WINE or CRAFT BEER TASTING – Take your pick! There is plenty to choose from! You could head to one of the many wine-growing areas, such as Goriška Brda and the Vipava Valley, or, if you are in the capital, leave the choice to an expert and set off on a Ljubljananjam guided food walk, which can be tailored to suit. Read more here http://goo.gl/KqwmVo and find more information here – http://www.ljubljananjam.si/

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EXPLORE A CAVE OR TWO – With a constant temperature year-round, a visit to one of Slovenia’s tourist caves isn’t weather dependant. The Postojna Caves and the UNESCO-listed Škocjan Caves are the most popular, though there are also hundreds of other smaller caves.

Photo: Iztok Medja for Postojnska jama

SOMETHING DIFFERENT – Not necessarily ‘wacky’ but here are a few ‘out there’ ideas for a different way to spend a rainy day.

Cycle through a mountain! Just because it’s not cycling weather, it doesn’t mean you can’t cycle! For a unique experience try mountain biking through the former lead, zinc and iron ore mines under the Peca massif in Koroška. Read more here – http://goo.gl/DOvjXl

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Try and escape the Enigmarium Escape Rooms – Literally lock yourself in (or rather someone else locks you in!) a room, or even an igloo, and try to escape by solving clues before the time runs out. Don’t get locked in! Find out more here – http://escape-room.si/?lang=en

Photo: Enigmarium.si

Photo: Enigmarium.si

And finally, if its wet outside, how about some pampering and/or water-based enjoyment at one of Slovenia’s thermal spas. This year I have been on a journey of discovery of them all – well almost all, just one to go! You can follow my journey here – https://spasinslovenia.com/

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© Adele in Slovenia

 

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

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

More Rainy Days Ideas – Radovljica and Studor

Most of July was blissfully hot and dry, and indeed records were being broken left, right and centre, until, that is, last week when a new, less than remarkable, record was set of just 20 minutes sunshine over a 5 day period. Let’s hope that record is consigned to the history books and not repeated any time soon! Fortunately, by Friday the sun had worked its way back and it was immediately hot again. The consequence, however, is that there wasn’t much in the way of hiking and cycling for me for the whole of last week, instead just endless trudges with my umbrella.

Once such ‘trudge’ – though in fairness the remarkable scenery means it can’t be described as a ‘trudge’ – was around the quaint village of Studor. The moody skies and the mountains of the Julian Alps rising up from Bohinj Lake only served to somehow make it even more scenic.

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Though only tiny, Studor it is known for its double height ‘toplar’ hayracks.

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The Mrcina ranch with its Icelandic horses.

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and also the Oplen House Museum (Oplenova hiša) which represents a typical 19th century home where various crafts were carried out and includes a black kitchen – http://www.slovenia.info/en/muzej/Studor-in-Bohinj,-Oplen-House-.htm?muzej=914&lng=2

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Meanwhile, in Radovljica, it is noticeable how rain actually attracts visitors to the area. On rainy summer days, the old town centre is often at its liveliest as people flood here from Bled, and the surrounding areas, seeking things to do on a rainy day. Popular attractions include:

The Museum of Apiculture, housed in the Radovljica Mansion, where you can learn all about the history and importance of beekeeping in Slovenia and see the collection of painted beehive panels, each one tells its own story, including the oldest one in the world.

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The Gingerbread Workshop at Lectar Inn, where you can see gingerbread hearts being made and decorated, pick up some souvenirs and/or enjoy a delicious meal in the restaurant.

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There’s also the Šivec House Gallery, St. Peter’s Church and, a little further afield, the iron-forging village of Kropa, the village of Kamna Gorica with its many bridges and streams, the ruins of Kamen Castle and the home of Avsenik music in Begunje, and the Vila Rustica archeological site and Village Museum in Mošnje.

All of the above mentioned are also accessible on the Hop-On Hop Off Tourist Bus which runs on Tuesdays and Thursdays throughout the summer – http://www.radolca.si/en/hop-on-hop-off-radolca/

Of course, on rainy days food and drink is usually top of most people’s list and Radovljica doesn’t disappoint on this score either with a plethora of cafes, and tasty homemade food at the Taste Radol’ca restaurants including Kunstelj Inn, Lectar Inn, Joštov hram, Vila Podvin. More information can be found here or click on the Taste Radol’ca heading at the top of this page – http://www.radolca.si/en/taste-radolca/

© 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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Carnival Time in Radovljica

The inaugural Shrovetide Carnival (Pust) Dance took place on Saturday in Radovljica and I was fortunate to be invited. The theme of the dance was ‘Sanitising Slovene Banks’ – bringing a lighthearted note to the otherwise serious problem of the financial crisis and trying to restore the hole in the Slovene banking sector. Since fancy dress was obligatory, and in keeping with the financial theme, I decided to go as Mickey Mouse’s new friend ‘Money Mouse‘!

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Guests were greeted in the lobby of the Radovljica Mansion, photographed on the red carpet and given the 10,000 euro banknote, which was specially printed for the event. After an aperitif, ‘Money Mouse’ together with the various nuns, cats, nurses, policemen, lynx (in a nod to the one which is still on the run from Ljubljana Zoo following the destruction caused by the recent ice storm) and others, made their way up to the Baroque Hall where the evening’s entertainment began.

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It was impressive to see the efforts everyone had gone to with their costumes and a fun evening was had by all. There was live music, provided by the band Medik and delicious food, provided by the 7 restaurants involved in the Taste Rado’ca project (see http://wp.me/p3005k-8s) ably assisted by students from the Radovljica School of Hospitality and Tourism. Such was the deliciousness of the food, ‘Money Mouse’ rather overindulged but still managed a shuffle and a wiggle of the tail on the dance floor! Let’s hope this event becomes another staple on the Radol’ca Events Calendar.

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 Earlier in the day the annual Shrovetide Carnival Parade (Pustni sprevod) travelled through Radovljica and even the rain showers didn’t dampen the spirits. The parade was awash with colour as the floats and accompanying costumed participants, with a special tribute to the successful Slovene winter Olympians, proceeded through the town ending in Linhart Square in the old town centre.

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As of this week ‘Adele in Slovenia‘ now has its own Facebook page too. Having avoided it thus far, I finally succumbed, or rather was persuaded, in order that I am able to post news and information in between my weekly blogs. You can find a ‘Like’ box towards the bottom right-hand corner of this page, so be sure to ‘Like’ it, if you want access to more news and regular updates. More pictures from this week’s carnival events can also be found on Pinterest.

Earlier in the week the Slovenian Forestry Institute issued the first official estimates of the damage caused by the recent ice storm and it made sombre reading. Up to 660 hectares of forest will require clearing and 7 million cubic metres of wood will have to be cut, twice as much as initially thought. Some 2 million seedlings will be required for replanting and there is now a drive to hire foresters, several hundred are needed. When driving and walking around, there is visible evidence of the destruction but I was particularly shocked and saddened this week, when I went for a walk around Lake Bled, for the first time since the storm, as the path had been closed since. A part of the path was still closed to allow foresters to clear the most affected area, under Bled Castle, which now appears almost barren. Elsewhere entire trees lie in the lake but the great clean-up is already underway and in general the damage is somewhat localised with paths at lower altitudes, where deciduous trees are dominant, being particularly affected.

I have slowly been discovering where is and isn’t safe to walk as many of the paths still remain closed and impassable. There were a couple of days of glorious winter sunshine during the past week and I managed hikes to both the Roblek Mountain Hut (1672m) and the Hut on Dobrča (1478m). It is interesting to note that Roblek, part of the imposing Begunščica mountain, is part of the Karavanke range, the mountains that form the border between Slovenia and Austria in this part of the country, whilst neighbouring Dobrča is actually part of the Kamnik-Savinja Alps. The former was without problem whilst the latter, beginning from Slatna, involved a little negotiating of fallen trees to begin with, but was ok once some height had been gained.

© AdeleinSlovenia 2014