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

 

Discover Brežice and the Bizeljsko Wine Road

The town of Brežice, in the south-east of Slovenia, is framed by the Gorjanci mountain range, is the location of the confluence of the Sava and Krka rivers, home to the magnificent Brežice Castle and other sights of interest, as well as being close to Bizeljsko and the Bizeljsko-Sremič Tourist Wine Route and the Čatež Thermal Spa.

During my stay at the Čatež Thermal Spa, I took time to ‘Discover Brežice’ – as the town’s tourism slogan goes. I set off by bike and first headed to the Brežice Castle and Museum, which is without doubt the jewel among the town’s historic buildings.

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The Renaissance castle was turned into a residential castle by the aristocratic Attems family in the late 17th/early 18th century. The Baroque painted Knights’ Hall is most definitely the pièce de résistance and really has to be seen to be able to appreciate its full magnificence and the vibrancy of colours.

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The 46 metre-high Brežice Water Tower was built in 1914 in order to provide the town with water. It no longer serves its original purpose but remains the most visible and well-known of the town’s landmarks. Today you can sit in the café on the ground floor and look up to enjoy the view!

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Whilst in the area you simply must drive, cycle, or walk, along part of the Bizeljsko-Sremič Tourist Wine Road and pay a visit to a ‘repnice‘ – quartz sand caves which are nowadays used for storing wine.

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From Brežice it took around 45 minutes by bike to reach the Najger repnice. The area’s landscape has an almost Tuscan feel to it and, although I was cycling on main roads, traffic was light and it was a pleasurable and scenic ride. The area is part of the Kozjanso Nature Park – one of the oldest and largest protected areas in Slovenia.

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Not really knowing what to expect, I found the Najger repnice absolutely fascinating. Repnice caves were originally used for storing turnips (‘repa‘ in Slovene, hence the name ‘repnice‘) during winter, at the time when turnips were the main fodder for livestock.

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These days, the caves, made from dug out quart sand, are used for storing wine and visitors have a chance to taste and buy some of the excellent home-made wines, accompanied by a plate of home-produced cheese and dried meats, or other homemade delights.

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The rooms inside the caves are at a constant temperature, offering perfect conditions for storing wine. To really understand the marvel of these caves it is necessary to understand how much work went in to digging them out; for each small room it took around 3 months of working 8 hours per day. Now if that isn’t hard labour and dedication I don’t know what is. The results, however, were well worth it!

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If you look closely at the sandstone you can make out various natural shapes and patterns. Which animal can you see here?

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Following the tour of the cave there was also the chance to buy some of the home-produced wine, at more-than reasonable prices, which makes an idea gift or a treat for yourself – it was sweet muscat wine for me!

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The vast Terme Čatež Thermal Spa is one of the main attractions in the area and offers year-round water-based fun for all the family. You can read a full account of my visit here – http://wp.me/p7jQx9-8y

In bygone days, boats and ferries regularly transported people and goods from one side of the Sava river from the Čatež Thermal Spa to the village of Mostec and back. Nowadays, the special ‘brod’ ferries offer short pleasure trips along the river.

 

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The 7-day Brežice My Town Festival, the largest festival in the Posavje region, takes place annually at the end of June and attracts thousands of visitors from Slovenia and neighbouring countries. The festival programme includes a wide range of concerts, performances, activities for children, sports challenges and a chance to sample some of the best local cuisine.

For more information about all the above visit the Discover Brežice website – http://www.discoverbrezice.com/EN/

© Adele in Slovenia

Love Swimming, Love Slovenia!

It’s always lovely to hear from, and meet, readers and self-professed ‘fans’ of my blog. In the past 3 years I have received hundreds of emails, comments, messages on Facebook etc., some wanting ideas and advice, others just writing to say ‘thanks’, and have also enjoyed many a wonderful Taste Radol’ca meal together with readers generously wishing to show their appreciation.

It was particularly nice, then, when I recently met a whole group of readers! Patricia, a regular reader of my blog, has shared it with many of her group of fellow Americans, who were staying in Radovljica for a family swimming camp. She told me how helpful my blog had been in planning excursions and activities for the swimming camp and invited me to join the group for their final night’s banquet dinner at Kunstelj Inn – one of the Taste Radol’ca restaurants and just one of the venues where members of the group stayed during their visit.

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Maja and her team at Kunstelj Inn cooked up a delicious meal, using locally-sourced ingredients, and, as ever, the views from the terrace provided the icing on the cake!

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This was the 4th consecutive year that the Piranhas Swimming Club from Stuttgart chose Radovljica as the base for its summer family swimming camp. This year’s group totalled 108, comprised of 40 swimmers, with their families and friends, and, in some cases, 3 generations of the same family.

During their time staying in Radovljica, they certainly packed in a lot of sightseeing and activities, which just goes to show, as if proof were needed, what a wonderful place Radovljica is to base yourself for a holiday in Slovenia.

Radovljica’s Olympic-size swimming pool was the venue for the daily pool-based training and fun sessions. More information about Radol’ca’s swimming pools here – http://www.radolca.si/en/swimming/

Slovenia Swim Camp 2016 - Radovljica

They swam in Bled Lake.

Slovenia 2016 - Swimming Lake Bled

And did an open-water swim in the Adriatic sea in Piran Bay.

Slovenia 2016 - Open Water swim in Piran Bay

When not swimming, and for the non-swimmers among them, there was a whole host of other organised activities including cookery classes at Kunstelj Inn.

Slovenia 2016 - Cooking Class at the Kunstelj

Rafting on the Sava and Soča rivers.

Slovenia 2016 - Rafting the Soca River

Other activities included a visit to the iron-forging village of Kropa, a ride in the cable car to Vogel, kayaking on Bohinj Lake, hiking to the Savica waterfall, a visit to the Škocjan Caves, fishing, playing golf, making the famous Lectar gingerbread hearts at Lectar Inn in Radovljica, and more!

Patricia told me that they have all ‘fallen in love with Slovenia and Radovljica’ and are already planning the 2017 camp. So, I look forward to seeing you all back here next year. In the meantime, I’ll keep writing and providing ideas for some more activities for next year, so, stay tuned!

© Adele in Slovenia

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!

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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.

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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!

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

 

Sevnica: So Much to see and Do!

One of the aims of my blog is to draw attention to lesser-known areas of Slovenia, or at least those that are lesser-known to those visiting Slovenia from abroad. Places that, on first glance, you, and indeed I, might not give a second glance and by doing so I myself have discovered, and am still doing so, so many wonderful parts of the country that are ripe for exploring.

This time it’s Sevnica in the southeast of Slovenia in the Posavje region which is the country’s most forested areas – 68%, has two wine roads and is one of the main wine growing regions in Slovenia, and has numerous beautiful castles and churches and other sights of interest.

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The new town of Sevnica was developed with the building of the railway line and is the main residential and shopping area and is on the main line from Ljubljana so even for those without their own transport it’s easy enough to visit. The town’s star attraction is undoubtedly Sevnica Castle, set on top of a small hill above the old town centre. It’s worth taking a tour of the castle as it contains much of interest including the Castle Puppet Theatre, Wine Cellar, Baroque Salon, School Museum and several galleries and exhibitions, and the Castle Café, the terraces of which offer fabulous views.

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Sevnica is the starting point of the Bizeljsko-Sremiška wine road, as well as being on the Gornjedolenjska wine road, hence the whole area is awash with rolling green hills, vineyards and beautiful vistas. Tourist farms and vineyard cottages, called zidanice, are popular options for sampling some of the local wine and food, and also provide accommodation, so you can enjoy more than just a taste!

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I timed my visit to coincide with the Sevnica Mountain Marathon (Sevniški planinski maraton) which was organised for the first time this year to mark the 110th year of the Sevnica Mountain Association. The marathon takes place along the Sevnica Mountain Route (Sevniška planinska pot) which can also be walked independently as it is very well-marked throughout. The day of the marathon was a sweltering 33 degrees but fortunately much of the route is through the forest which provided welcome shade. The event was very well run and I have nothing but praise for the organisers. There were a choice of 6 routes ranging from 6km to 67km. Surprisingly, the most popular route was the longest one, I hasten to add that I didn’t opt for that one! I instead chose the 30km Ajdovska route which covered a total of just under 8,000 metres of incline and just over 8,000 of decline. Along the way there were water, feed stations and we were even greeted at one stop by accordion music.

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The route passed the Ajdovski gradec Archaelogical Park, where a short guided tour was available, and later ascended to the peak of Lisca, home to the very popular Tončkov dom mountain hut where a hearty dish of goulash was on offer for hikers. The site was discovered by locals in 1811 when a Roman tombstone and sarcophagus was found and later more detailed excavations took place. Today the remains of the foundations of a late Roman or early Christian settlement from the 5th or 6th century can be seen.

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The Sava River runs through the heart of Sevnica and acts as a border between the regions of Dolenjska and Štajerska. It is popular with anglers as due to the slow flow of the river there is an unusually high number and variety of fish in this part of the river and access to the river is also easy here due to well-maintained paths. it is also here that the Sava rivers makes its biggest bend as it heads onwards towards Croatia. Beside the river there are a group of stones, which form a Geopuncture Circle, created by the distinguished author Marko Pogačnik.

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Another speciality in Sevnica is the annual Salamijada (Salami Festival) which has been running for over 50 years and takes places at the popular restaurant Gostilna Vrtošek in the old town.  During my tour of Sevnica Castle I also had a chance to sample some of the delicious local salami (and that comes from someone who doesn’t even usually like salami!) produced by the Grajske mesnine butchers, who also produced other local specialities available at the town’s Farm Co-operative (Kmetijska zadruga).

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So, as you can see, there’s plenty to see and do in Sevnica. Way too much for just one blog! Information about all the above, and more, can be found on the very comprehensive Tourism Sevnica website – see below.

Useful links:

Tourism Sevnica – http://www.dozivljaj.si/

Sevniska planinska pot – http://www.pd-lisca.si/sevniska-planinska-pot.html

Fishing on the Sava River – Sevnica – http://www.ribiskekarte.si/en/rd-sevnica/sava-18

© AdeleinSlovenia 2015

All About Mošnje

After last year’s record washout of a summer, this year couldn’t be more different. Records are again being broken but this time for the number of consecutive day where the temperature is above 30 degrees. Currently, it looks like more of the same to come for the next week too.

If you are thinking of seeking water-based refreshment then currently the ever cool Sava river is a mere 15 degrees. the Soča river slightly warmer at 17 degrees and the Adriatic Sea at the Slovene coast a balmy 30 degrees.

I prefer to seek shade in the forest so, when I paid a visit yesterday to the newly renovated and remodelled Village Museum in Mošnje, I went via the Radovljica Forest Nature Trailhttp://www.radolca.si/en/radovljica-forest-educational-trail/

For its size, the village of Mošnje packs in quite a number of sights of interest and things to do. The first place reached on entering the village is Vila Podvin where one of Slovenia’s top chefs, Uroš Štefelin, works his culinary magic. In addition to the usual culinary delights on offer, every Thursday during the summer Vila Podvin hold a Summer Steak and Chocolate evening, where, in the tranquil garden with a view of Podvin Castle, you can eat the finest steak and accompaniments, followed by chef Uroš’ heavenly signature chocolate dessert,

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Vila Podvin also hosts a local market on the first Saturday of each month where the focus is on local products and produce.

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Continuing through the village, passing Podvin Castle – which has sadly been abandoned for quite some time now – you pass the fire station and a pizzeria, before reaching the Church of St. Andrew, one of the oldest churches in Slovenia. http://www.radolca.si/en/mosnje-church/

Opposite the church is the Mošnje Village Museum which contains an ethnological collection and was recently refurbished. The museum can be visited by prior arrangement or, every Thursday during the summer, as part of the programme of the Hop-On Hop-Off tourist bus. For further information contact – tdmosnje@gmail.com or damjanapangerc@gmail.com

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The best way to see the village and the sights of interest is to walk around the Mošnje Archeological Trail which leads around the village and to the Villa Rustica Archeological Sitehttp://www.radolca.si/en/mosnje-archaeological-trail/

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After leaving Mosnje, the next village reached is Globoko, home to the Barbana Lipizzaner Stud Farm, (http://www.barbana.si/en) where Lipizzaner horses are bred, and the Globočnik Excursion Farm, a traditional farmhouse – also a member of Taste Radol’ca – that offers home cooking which can be enjoyed in the authentic black kitchen.

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By prior arrangement, you can also arrive in Globoko by train, as the station is on the main line between Ljubljana and Jesenice, and be met by a horse and carriage from the stud farm for a ride to Mošnje and around the local area.

There are also several events that take place throughout the year in the village including the Midsummer’s Eve celebration, Mošnje Days Fete in September and Easter Games and Exhibition.

© AdeleinSlovenia 2015

The Karavanke and the Čepa Gorge

I know my blog is named ‘Adele in Slovenia’ so it may seem somewhat odd that this week I’m writing about Austria, but let me explain…

The Karavanke mountains form a natural border between Slovenia and Austria, and here in Radovljica we are fortunate to have part of the Karavanke range right on the doorstep. Particular favourites among locals, in which I include myself, are Stol (the highest in the Karavanke range) and Begunščica, whilst just slightly further afield there are other popular peaks such as Golica, Dovška baba and others.

Some of the territory which lies just the other side of the Karavanke, though these days geographically in Austria, was formerly Slovene and thus, even today, many Slovenes remain living in these areas and therefore places names and all official documentation etc. is found written in both Slovene and German languages. One of such places is the area just on the other side of the Ljubelj pass (more about this in a previous blog here – https://adeleinslovenia.wordpress.com/2014/09/01/zelenci-pools-ljubelj-pass-and-forever-young/), near Ferlach/Borovlje. Once through the tunnel and into Austria, its just a few minutes drive to the Čepa Gorge (Tscheppaschlucht in German – no idea how to pronounce that!). In addition to the gorge itself, there is also an Adventure Park within its grounds – run by a Slovene company!

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The gorge has been very well arranged with wooden walkways, steel ladders and bridges. The walk involves quite a lot of going up and down but the amazing sights of the rushing water and canyons ensures it doesn’t feel like hard work, and also there are a number of choices of routes that can be taken in one direction with a bus journey (included in the entrance price) for the return journey. Be sure to pick up a bus timetable at the start so avoid a long wait, but fortunately, the bus stations are mostly sited at, or near, restaurants/inns, so even if you have a while to wait you have somewhere to wait and enjoy a drink, piece of strudel etc.

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The new Sava River Trail (Pot ob Savi) will be officially opened this week on Thursday with a guided walk beginning at the Fux footbridge (Fuxova brv). This path is a great addition to the numerous paths available in Radovljica and the surroundings and will be a particularly pleasant place to walk in the heat of the summer as much of it runs through the forest and beside the Sava River.

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More information about the Sava river can be found here – http://www.radolca.si/en/the-sava-and-its-tributaries/ and maps of the Sava River Trail are available from the Radovljica Tourist Information Centrehttp://www.radolca.si/en/

© AdeleinSlovenia 2015