Sorica: Super Skiing and Slovenia’s Most Beautiful Mountain Village

The well-kept village of Sorica is considered to be one of most beautiful mountain villages in Slovenia. As the tourism writer Rudolf Badjura wrote ‘It would be necessary to travel some distance around the world to see such a beautiful village.’ And even though it didn’t look its best on a slightly overcast February afternoon when I visited, when nature’s hues are still somewhat subdued after the winter slumber, one can easily imagine how glorious it must be here in the warmer months when nature is at its vibrant best.

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Sorica is known as Grohar’s village (Groharjeva vas) as it is the birthplace of one of Slovenia’s most esteemed impressionist painters, Ivan Grohar (1867-1911).

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The best way to get acquainted with the village is by walking the theme path ‘Path through Sorica’, which begins in the centre of the village between the Gostilna Macesen restaurant with rooms and Grohar’s House (Groharjeva hiša) – Ivan Grohar’s birth house.

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With views like this, it’s easy to see where Grohar got his inspiration! The 18th century Baroque parish church of St. Nicholas contains a ceiling fresco of ‘The Last Supper’ by another of Slovenia’s esteemed painters, Janez Šubic from Poljane.

Tone Logonder, the sculptor of the statue of Ivan Grohar which was placed here in 1981, received the Gorenjska Prešeren Award for his work.

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Rather than just being a museum, locals wanted Grohar’s House to once again come to life and a winning formula was found in making it into a kind of one-stop cultural centre which has become particularly popular for school field trips, and visits for private groups can also be arranged. The ground floor features a gallery.

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On the first floor you can indulge your creative side and take part in a workshop in the music room.

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And then head up to the upper floor to the artists’ workshop to have a go at creating one of your own pictures to rival that of Grohar!

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You can choose to just soak up the views of the village and its surroundings, set off on one of the many paths in the hills and mountains or, for those with a thirst for more active pursuits, head up to Soriška planina where in winter you can ski and in summer there are numerous scenic and interesting hiking trails.

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Soriska planina can be reached from several directions; from Škofja Loka via Železniki, from Bohinjska Bistrica or from Most na Soči via Baška Grapa.

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Facilities at the Soriška planina ski resort consist of a two-person chairlift, 3 drag lifts, a children’s drag lift, a snow park, a sledging track, cross-country ski trails and a restaurant.

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I had previously hiked in this area in the summer, but prior to last week had never seen it in its winter glory. Even for non-skiers like me, there’s still snowy fun to be had! Here I am at the highest point of the ski resort looking back down over the village of Sorica.

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One of the most interesting features of this area are the numerous bunkers, barracks and other fortifications remaining from the time of the Rapallo Border – a former border that existed during both world wars between Yugoslavia and Italy.

Below you can see the bunker on Lajnar, and you can also continue to others including on Možic, Slatnik and Dravh.

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Find out more about the Soriška planina ski resort here – http://www.soriska-planina.si/en/hiking/ and more about other theme paths and trails along the Rapallo Border here – http://www.visitskofjaloka.si/en/experiences/theme-paths/rappalo-border

© Adele in Slovenia

Sunny Skiing, Stunning Views and Romance on Stari Vrh!

The Stari Vrh ski resort is located in the middle of the Selca and Poljane valleys, just a ten minute drive from Škofja Loka. It’s proximity to Ljubljana makes it a popular destination; in winter for skiing, snowboarding and other winter sports, and in summer for hiking and cycling.

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Stari Vrh offers 10kms of slopes (1km difficult, 5kms medium, 4kms easy), together with a snowboard park, night skiing, a toboggan run and a children’s snow playground.

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Even for a non-skier like myself, it’s well worth donning your winter gear and taking the chairlift up to the top for the stunning panoramic views.

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Once at the top, you will be blown away (hopefully not literally!) by the views over the Škofja Loka hills and further to the Kamnik-Savinja Alps.

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The peak of Stari Vrh is at an altitude of 1217m.

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At the top you can visit the cosy Stari Vrh Restaurant and Guest House, where you can enjoy a drink and/or snack, indulge in one of the Slovene specialities – all the while gazing at the stunning views – or stay overnight in one of the inn’s comfortable rooms and warm up in the sauna!

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And since February is the month of romance, you might be interested to know that one of the ski pistes at Stari Vrh is named Valentine’s piste, after the nearby St. Valentines church in Jarčje Brdo. Additionally, the very scenic Valentine’s Path (Valentinova pot) begins at the lower station of the Stari Vrh chairlift. Note, however, that you will need to wait until at least spring before setting out to walk this path, as it runs on part of the ski piste, so can’t be walked when the ski centre is open.

The circular path is marked with green circles with a yellow inner and runs along old cart tracks and forest paths. It takes about 2 hours to complete, has a total height difference of 280 metres, and leads past the Žgajnar Tourist Farm, a 200-year old farmhouse in the hamlet of Zapreval, where in 1970 the Stari Vrh Tourist Association was founded. During winter there is a marked detour to reach Zapreval, since the ski pistes run almost literally past the front door, hence making it an excellent base for those on multi-day trips.

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Today the tourist farm offers accommodation and delicious home-produced and home-cooked food year-round. You can read more about the tourist farm here – http://zgajnar.starivrh.si/presentation/Presentation.html

The path begins at the lower station of the chairlift at the Stari vrh ski resort and continues beside the Valentine ski piste to reach the exact boundary of the municipalities of Gorenja vas-Poljane and Škofja Loka, before rising up to the Stari vrh Restaurant and Guest House. It continues through the village of Mlaka past the Jejlar homestead (Jejlarjeva domačija), the famous house where the film Cvetje v jeseni (Blossoms in Autumn) was filmed. On reaching the village of Jarčje Brdo you will catch sight of the imposing St. Valentine’s parish church and return to the start of the walk.

Photo: TD Stari Vrh

Photo: TD Stari Vrh

Every year on 31st October there is an organised hike on Valentine’s Path, arranged by the Stari Vrh Tourist Association, beginning at 9am from the car park of the lower station of the 6-person chairlift at the Stari vrh ski resort.

The Association also arranges other events, including the popular Charcoal Makers Day, which has been held annually on the first Sunday in August since 1972.

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Photo: TD Stari Vrh

Having seen how beautiful Stari Vrh is in winter, and the numerous opportunities the area offers for hiking and cycling in summer, I now can’t wait to go back and explore more of the area on foot or by bike. And when I do, you will be sure to read about it here!

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You can find out more about all the above on the Visit Skofja Loka website here – http://www.visitskofjaloka.si/en/about-us/tourism-board-skofja-loka

© Adele in Slovenia

 

 

 

Loka Honey Breads and Handicrafts at the DUO Arts & Crafts Centre

There is a long and rich tradition of making Loški kruhki (little honey breads) in the Škofja Loka area. It dates back to the 14th century when the Clarissa nuns ran a girls school in the town in the building seen below. The nuns introduced and taught locals how to make the honey breads, which they baked mainly for festivals, blessings and other celebrations.

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The DUO Arts & Crafts Centre, located in the heart of the medieval old town, showcases the rich handicraft tradition in the area by offering local craftspeople a place to showcase their handicrafts for visitors to browse and/or purchase, and an opportunity for them to present and transfer their skills to future generations.

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Among the items on show at the DUO Centre are carved wooden products made by the carver Petra Plestenjak Podlogar, who today is the only master craftsperson in Slovenia keeping alive the tradition of making wooden moulds for Škofja Loka honey breads.

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Curious to learn more, and always keen to get hands-on, I recently spent a very pleasant afternoon with Petra at the DUO Centre, learning her insider tips on making the dough for the honey breads and using her wonderfully ornate handcrafted moulds to make my own honey breads to take home.

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The basic recipe contains a mixture of flours, lashings of Slovenian honey, and selected spices such as cinnamon, pepper and cloves.

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Making the dough is a fairly simple and quick process, then begins the fun part of pressing it into the moulds and choosing which of the many ornate hand-carved moulds to use. Petra also makes moulds ‘to order’ for special birthdays, anniversaries and other celebrations.

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The little honey breads, and indeed the hand-carved moulds, make ideal gifts or souvenirs.

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Once baked, the breads are glazed with (more!) honey to give them a nice sheen.

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Then, well, I couldn’t resist any longer! The best bit – time to taste them!

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I know, after all that hard work I/we should take some time to admire the little honey breads before wolfing them down, but we made plenty so a few won’t go amiss. And, as Petra said ‘Poglej in pojej’ – Look then eat! A great motto I say!

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When visiting Škofja Loka be sure to drop into the DUO Centre to browse the range of products available, all of which make excellent gifts or a treat for yourself, and take a piece of Slovenia’s handicraft tradition home. Products include: wooden games and other unique wooden products, clay reliefs, lace products from the A. Primožič House of Bobbin Lace, basketware and wickerwork, tools and other forged-iron implements, felted items, items made from wool and recycled paper, dyed wool, silk and other knitted woolen products, Dražgoše honey breads, crocheted pieces, knitware, products made from rawhide, wood and other raw materials, bags, shoes, hats and other items made using wet-felting, patchwork and glassware.

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Upon prior arrangement, various workshops can be organised with any of the master craftspeople, where you can learn a new skill, or brush-on existing ones!

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More information about the DUO Center can be found here – http://www.visitskofjaloka.si/en/experiences/864

© Adele in Slovenia

 

A Spotlight on Škofja Loka

So, it’s 2017, a new year and a new(ish) start for me too. Having spent the last 4 years extolling the wonders of my home town of Radovljica, this year, whilst I will still be writing plenty about Radovljica, I’m also turning my attention to another of my favourite historic towns in Slovenia – Škofja Loka.

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When I was choosing where to live it was a toss-up between Radovljica and Škofja Loka, as both towns are my kind of place i.e. historic and picturesque medieval old towns with wonderful surrounding nature, opportunities for outdoor activities and conveniently located.

So, I hope you will join me in the coming weeks, months, and maybe even years, on my adventures in the Škofja Loka area, including the surrounding Poljane and Selca valleys, where there is a wealth of natural beauty, cultural and heritage sites, traditional and unique cuisine and a wealth of things to see and do.

The obvious place to start is with the area’s crowning glory – Škofja Loka Castle. The castle stands on a small hill above the main old town square and dominates the view as you arrive into the town. Whichever angle you see it from, and whether from near or far, its a mighty impressive building.

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Even the uphill approach to the castle is scenic!

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The original castle was built in 1202 by the Freising Bishops, who, during the period from 973-1803, owned the Loka Estate. The castle was completely renovated following an earthquake in 1511 that almost entirely destroyed it.

Loka Museum – among the most popular and visited of Slovenia’s museums. The museum is bursting with rich and varied archaeological, historical, cultural, ethnological, art and natural history collections.

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Exhibits are housed in numerous rooms, galleries and corridors including Grohar’s Room – dedicated to one of Slovenia’s most important painters, Ivan Grohar – the Castle Chapel, the Round Tower and a special place in the collection is dedicated to the writer Ivan Tavčar, who hailed from nearby Visoko in the Poljane valley and wrote many of his greatest works at Tavčar Manor.

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Space is utilised to the full and the walls of the ground floor corridors are adorned by paintings and frescoes, mostly based on religious themes from the baroque period.

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One of the highlights is undoubtedly the preserved original drawbridge – one of the only of its kind in Slovenia – which was the original and only entrance to the castle.

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As well as the glass-floored area where you can walk over part of the castle’s original foundations. A slightly unnerving but different experience!

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There are great views from the castle over the town and the Sora river.

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You should set aside at least a few hours to stroll up to the castle, browse the exhibits in the museum, take in the views and stroll around the castle park, where you can also visit the Škopar House (Škoparjeva hisa) open-air museum, a typical 16th dwelling that was moved from nearby Puštal and features an original black kitchen.

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You can find out more about Škofja Loka Castle and Museum here – http://www.loski-muzej.si/en/ and visit the official Visit Škofja Loka website here – http://www.visitskofjaloka.si/en/

I can’t wait to discover more and hope you will accompany me along every step of the way!

Happy New Year to you all!

© 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

 

To Jamnik and Beyond!

As you might have noticed, there are many hilltop churches in Slovenia. When visiting the Gorenjska region in the northwest of Slovenia one of the most prominent is the Church of St. Primus and Felician, which stands proudly atop a hill, beneath the slopes of the Jelovica plateau, and can be seen from far and wide.

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The church is located in Jamnik, a small settlement above the traditional iron-forging village of Kropa. It’s a great place to go for stunning panoramics views; the wide Radovljica plains and the Karavanke mountains to the north and the Škofja Loka hills and beyond to the south.

You can reach Jamnik by several means. My favourite, in the summer at least, and as I did this Sunday, is to go by bike. The effort put in on the 5km windy road leading up from Kropa is more than rewarded by the views. Jamnik and Kropa can be destinations in themselves, or you can continue onwards and visit other areas and sights of interest including Dražgose, Škofja Loka and Železniki.

You can also reach Jamnik on foot through the forest from Kropa (cca 1 hour), or by car. To reach the church take the path from the layby at Jamnik and just follow your nose – you can’t miss it!

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The small settlement of Jamnik is nestled snuggly into the slopes beneath the Jelovica plateau.

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Whilst there take some time to look around the quaint iron-forging village of Kropa where, amongst other things, you can wander around the village and see the impressive iron work that adorns many of the village houses, visit the Museum of Iron Forging, and enjoy a meal at the Pr’Kovaču restaurant.

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However you choose to go, Kropa and Jamnik should be on your list of places to visit when in the Radol’ca area.

This Sunday, 31st July, its the annual Medieval Day in Linhart Square in Radovljica. There’s a medieval market, music, dance and other performances, archery, and more. Find out more here – http://www.radolca.si/en/what-to-do/events-1/medieval-day-in-linhart-square/83/310/

© Adele in Slovenia

World Bee Day: The Anton Janša Honey Route

Much of the history of beekeeping in Slovenia can be attributed to Anton Janša (1734-1733) and still today barely a word is said about Slovenian beekeeping without his name being mentioned. Perhaps it was fate then that I moved to Slovenia, and particularly to the Gorenjska region, from where more than 150 prominent beekeepers hail, including Anton Janša, with whom I also share a birthday – 20th May – which is now (hopefully) to become World Bee Day! I live in Radovljica, home to the Museum of Apiculture and close to the village of Breznica where Anton Janša, was born.

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Slovenia is the only EU member state that has protected its indigenous bee, the Carniolan bee, which means that no other bee can be bred here. The Carniolan bee is the 2nd most widely used breed of bee in the world and originated in this region of the country.

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The initiative for a World Bee Day was started by the Slovene Beekeeping Association, who, rightly so, believe there should be a World Day in recognition of something that is of such vital importance to the world. I whole-heartedly support this movement, after all, there are World Days for pretty much everything these days, so bees more than deserve to be recognised.

To mark this, I went on my own little ‘bee adventure’, following part of the Anton Janša Honey Route, which takes in Radovljica, Bled, Vrba, and Škofja Loka.

I began by visiting Janša’s beehive in Breznica which is part of the Žirovnica Path of Cultural Heritage that connects the birth places of many notable Slovenes including Dr. France Prešeren, Matija Čop, Franc Saleški Finžgar and Janez Jalen. More information here – http://bit.ly/1T26zxe

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As with the majority of hives in Slovenia, Jansa’s features original painted beehive panels, unique to Slovenia, each of which depicts a humorous or satirical story – this one shows animals taking over the role of humans.

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I also visited the Kralov med hives in the hamlet of Selo, near Bled, where beekeeper Blaž Ambrožič oozed enthusiasm when showing and telling me about the wonders of bees.

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I thought I knew a reasonable amount about beekeeping, however, Blaž told me so many astonishing facts about beekeeping that I can but recommend that you go and find out more for yourself! After all, it seems that barely a day passes when there isn’t more astonishing evidence about the importance of bees and the benefits of honey. It really is one of the best foods of nature as well as being credited with alleviating a range of medical conditions and lately has also become the latest trend in beauty products. You can also read about my recent experience of a bee sting facial here – http://bit.ly/1Spm1o2

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The star of the show at Kralov med is undoubtedly the hive that was painstakingly transplanted from a tree trunk and transported, bees and all, to where it sits today, and where the bees are still working diligently.

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As a measure of the calm characteristics of the Carniolan bee, Blaž encouraged me to put my hand inside the hive and the bees were completely unperturbed by my presence.

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I had a chance to try some of the honey and learn about the various characteristics and properties of the different kinds of honey and propolis.

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At the time of my visit a brand new hive had just been built which will also be available for apitherapy and visitors will even be able to sleep there, all the while inhaling the intoxicating scents of the bees, which is known to have beneficial effects, particularly for those suffering from respiratory diseases.

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Can you find out more about Kralov med here – http://www.kralov-med.si/en/home/

The Anton Janša route also includes:

  •  The Carniolan queen mating station in the Završnica valley
  • The Museum of Apiculture in Radovljica, which features, amongst other exhibits, hundreds of beehive front panels including the world’s oldest – http://www.radolca.si/en/radovljica-apiculture-museum/
  • The hamlets of Combe and Bitnje in Bohinj, where the internationally renowned bee merchant Jan Strgar kept his bees and who, together with Mihael Ambrožič, was responsible for the spread in popularity of the Carniolan bee

You can also visit the Beekeeping Education Centre of Gorenjska in Lescehttp://www.cricg.si/angleski-jezik/ and follow developments regarding the World Bee Day Initiative here – https://www.facebook.com/worldbeeday/?fref=ts

So, come on, let’s unite to support World Bee Day and Save the Bees!

© Adele in Slovenia