Snowy Hikes and Winter Bites!

It was a very chilly start to 2015 with temperatures midweek well into minus figures. Babno polje, which regularly measures the coldest temperatures in Slovenia, was minus 24 degrees, whilst Celje wasn’t far behind with minus 19. Here in Radovljica it was a (balmy!) minus 15! Fortunately, on Friday the polar temperatures subsided a little and the temperatures in some parts of the country even got into positive numbers during the day.

Having not strayed too far from home for a few days, due to the cold, snow and bitter wind, I was itching to get out and therefore was mighty pleased to be able to make the hike up to one of my favourite winter destinations, the mountain hut Roblek dom, located on the western slopes of mount Begunščica, part of the Karavanke range. The route up to the hut is popular all year round and can be approached from several directions, however, the safest and only really viable route when there is heavy snow, is to begin from the Draga valley and continue up to the hut at 1672m.

During the winter you may share the lower part of the path, the part which is on the road, with sledgers, before the path veers off, steeply in places, into the forest. Probably the reason it is such a popular destination is also the relative wideness and safeness of the path as it is not in an area prone to avalanches (I’m of course touching wood as I write this!), the path is well-trodden and you are rarely alone en-route or at the top; there’s always someone to pass the time of day with. However, it should be noted that at present the path is treacherously icy in places and a pair of small crampons really are a must. On reaching the hut, the thermometer showed +4 degrees, which is almost 20 degrees warmer than it had been in the valley during the previous few days so actually felt remarkably warm. I’m not usually the greatest at taking pictures but, if I say so myself, this one below (on the left) isn’t a bad effort – though of course these days the camera does most of the work and I can just ‘point and click’!

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During the festive season, it is a tradition in many households in Slovenia to construct nativity scenes made out of various materials such as wood and moss. In the village of Rodine, just a few kilometres from Radovljica, more precisely in Jalnova hiša (Jalen’s House), the birthplace of the Slovene writer and priest, Janez Jalen (1891-1966), an impressive displays of nativity scenes of all shapes and sizes is set up each year. These days the house also operates partly as a museum with an exhibition about his life and work, and it also forms part of the Žirovnica Route of Cultural Heritagehttp://www.zirovnica.eu/dozivetja/tematske-poti/pot-kulturne-dediscine/znamenitosti-na-poti/ (Slovene), OR http://en.zirovnica.eu/ (English).

The owner is more than happy to greet visitors and show them around. During this period, the exhibition is open daily for visitors, this year until 10th January (daily from 10am-6pm), so there is still time to visit. There is also a traditional black kitchen. Entrance is free.

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People often ask me if I ever run out of ideas for what to write about in my blog. Well, thankfully so far that hasn’t happened and I hope it won’t for a while yet. So, its onwards into another year and I hope you’ll continue to join me on the journey….

© AdeleinSlovenia 2015

 

The Draga Valley: The Lamberg Trail and the Draga Inn

The Draga Valley lies at the far end of the village of Begunje na Gorenjskem. The valley is little more than a couple of kilometres in length yet is a very popular destination, particularly as it is the start point for hiking to numerous destinations in the Karavanke mountains. The road through the valley has a monument and cemetery in remembrance to hostages of the second world war who were held in the Gestapo prison in the nearby Katzenstein Mansion in Begunje.

The Draga Inn (Gostišče Draga) is situated at the end of the valley alongside the Begunščica stream, making it an oasis of calm and tranquillity. During the summer months its position affords welcome relief from the heat, thanks to the freshness of the stream, whilst in the winter the Inn is toasty warm thanks to the log-burning fire –  just perfect for me! The Inn is particularly popular with weary hikers looking for some sustenance after a long hike. However, it also offers a more gourmet experience for those looking for something finer.

One of the most popular destinations to visit from the Draga valley is the Roblek mountain hut. From the valley it takes around 2 hours to reach the hut at 1672m and since it was dark when I went for dinner, and since the valley was shrouded in pesky low cloud most of the weekend and I just knew that the sun had to be up there somewhere, I returned over the weekend to take some photos and to hike up to Roblek in search of the sun. I didn’t have to go for as it was sunny up above 800metres, so I was rewarded for my efforts with fantastic views and warm sunshine up above the clouds. Other than the final 10 minutes, most of the path was free of snow but, as you can see from the picture below, winter has already arrived in the mountains.

 

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You can visit the valley by car, by bike or on foot, and a great way to reach the Draga Inn is via the Lamberg Trail which officially begins at the car park opposite the Avsenik Restaurant and Museum in Begunje. However, you can also park, as I usually do, at the Krpin Recreation Ground in Begunje and begin the walk from there. The trail runs behind the ruins of Kamen Castle and ends at the Inn, passing several information boards and sights of interest. The path is a little undulating but not difficult and takes about 45-1 hour minutes each way. More about the trail can be found here – http://www.radolca.si/en/lamberg-trail-begunje/ Keep your eyes pealed for wildlife though, who knows what you might encounter!

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As it is still November, and therefore the month of Taste Radol’ca, my friend and I decided we just had to take the chance to sample the Taste Radol’ca menu, and in fact because Gostišče Draga are offering 2 Taste Radol’ca menus, we plumped for one of each so we could try each others too (don’t we all do that?). However, since I don’t eat fish and menu 2 is predominantly fished-based, I lost out a bit there! The food was thoughtfully presented, tasty, and with generous, but not over-the-top, portion sizes, which was just as well as there were 4-courses to try.

We began with game pate with cranberries (menu 1) and smoked trout (menu 2). This was followed by pumpkin soup with toasted pumpkin seeds.

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Next came fillet of deer (in my case substituted for beef) in a honeyed-pepper sauce, cheese strukelj and, one of my favourite things on their menu, house dumplings filled with cranberry sauce. Menu 2 was trout fillet in cornmeal with buckwheat and mushrooms.

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Dessert was apple strudel (menu 1) and hot-chocolate soufflé (menu 2).

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Oh, and of course all capped off with a little glug of one of the myriad flavours of schnapps on offer!

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In addition to the Taste Radol’ca menu, Gostišče Draga offer a full and varied menu with an emphasis on game and fresh fish. Their philosophy is based on traceability of ingredients; many of the ingredients used, such as fruit, vegetables and flour, are home-grown and produced. More information can be found here – http://www.gostisce-draga.si/

So, I have now completed the (arduous!) task of reviewing this year’s new additions to Taste Radol’ca and am no doubt a few kilogrammes heavier for having done so! More information about all the participating restaurants can also be found under the Taste Radol’ca heading at the top of the blog.

With the festive season rapidly approaching, this week Radovljica’s residents are invited to help decorate the old town to help make it into a festive winter wonderland. Decoration, and the making of decorations, will take place on Wednesday (9am – 1pm), Thursday (9am – 1pm and 3pm – 7pm) and Friday (3pm – 7pm) in the atrium of the Radovljica Mansion. Come and join us and get in the festive spirit!

© AdeleinSlovenia 2014