The Path to Pustal – Combs, Frogs and the Devil’s Footbridge!

The Puštal area of Škofja Loka is just a stone’s throw from the historic, medieval old town centre and the imposing, hilltop Loka Castle.

Puštal is largely a residential area that has had an interesting history and offers numerous sights of interest. Join me here on a stroll along the Path to Puštal to see some of the highlights and find out more about combs, frogs and the Devil’s footbridge!

The path starts at the far end of Town Square (Mestni trg). From here cross the road to the area of the town known as Karlovec. Continue along Kopališka ulica where, at number 8, you can see Firbar’s House (Firbarjeva hiša), formerly home to Jurij Pokorn, a painter and an ex-mayor of the town. If you look at the left, upper part of the house, you can see the rather unusual ‘rake’ which was used for drying coloured flax linen.

Continuing along the street you can see the birthhouse of Fran Jesenko, a famous botanist and geneticist, and also one of the founders of Triglav National Park.

At the intersection of the streets Kopališka ulica in Fužinska ulica stands a shrine known locally as ‘Lepo znamenje’ (The Beautiful Shrine).

Photo: Marko Plesko

From here it is just a short walk, following the path markers on the ground, to the Devil’s footbridge (Hudičev brv). This footbridge over the Sora river has to be one of the most scenic places in the whole town, and in summer it is an open-air, natural area for a quick refreshing dip!

Legend has it that the footbridge got its name after reputed visitations from the devil. When locals built shrines on both sides of the bridge, they drove the devil away for some time. However, his visitations then began in the middle of the bridge, until they finally managed to drive him away under the Šturm rock by building a shrine in the middle of the footbridge dedicated to St. John Nepomuk – the patron saint of bridges.

Cross the bridge then continue on the right bank of the Sora river towards the 16th century Nace’s House (Nacetova hiša). This preserved townhouse was thoroughly renovated in 1755 and is the only house in Škofja Loka whose appearance has not significantly changed since the mid-18th century and is considered the best-preserved rural building in the Škofja Loka area and the Ljubljana hinterland.

Upon prior arrangement it is possible to view the house and its objects and equipment, which bear witness to the life of many generations and, despite being museum objects, are still usable today. You can read more about this and other historic houses and museums in the Škofja Loka area here – http://www.visitskofjaloka.si/en/experiences/cultural-sights-of-interest/historic-houses-and-museum-collections

Next you will walk past Puštal Castle (Puštalski grad). The castle was first mentioned in the 13th century but its present-day appearance dates from the 16th century. The Chapel of St. Cross in the castle contains a fresco of ‘The Descent from the Cross’, painted by Guilio Quaglio in 1706, and is considered one of the most valuable works of art in the town. Today the castle houses a music school.

So, where do combs and frogs come into the equation in connection with Puštal? Well, in bygone days, many of the residents of Puštal made their living through non-agricultural activities, of which comb-making was one of the most widespread, and one of the most unusual was by catching and selling frogs, which were in abundance in Puštal at that time. Fascinating stuff, hey!

Another highlight, and a spectacular end to the Path to Puštal, is the hill Hribec and the Church of the Holy Cross. The path leads uphill past the 18th century chapels of the Stations of the Cross. Not only is it a scenic walk up to the church, but the view over Škofja Loka and the castle is really quite special, as I discovered earlier this year when I took a guided cycled around the area as part of my discovery of the Loka Cycle Route – read more here – https://adeleinslovenia.com/2017/06/11/active-and-historic-loka-the-skofja-loka-cycle-trail/

You can pick up a brochure about the Path to Puštal at the Škofja Loka Tourist Information Centre and/or find more information about this and other theme paths in the area here – http://www.visitskofjaloka.si/en/experiences/theme-paths

© Adele in Slovenia

 

Križna Gora above Škofja Loka – Hiking, Cycling, Great Views and Heavenly Food, Too!

Križna Gora is a hill that rises to 681m in close proximity to the centre of Škofja Loka and is a very popular hiking and cycling destination among locals and visitors to the area. It is also home to an excellent restaurantGostilna pri Boštjanu, which I can highly recommend from first-hand experience. Read on to find out more!

At the top of the hill stands the Church of the Holy Cross (Sv. Križ), built around 1500, and the area is also the site of a mass grave and an unmarked grave from World War II. The church contains well-preserved frescoes. At the time of my visit (late October 2017), access was limited as the church is currently undergoing restoration work to repair the roof that has been leaking water for the past few years. Should you wish to see the interior of the church, contact the Škofja Loka Tourist Information Centre.

To reach Križna Gora on foot the path begins opposite the Mercator supermarket in Podlubnik, near Trnje, where there is a parking area. From the car park cross the main road and continue ahead along the fairly narrow tarmac road through the village of Trnje. After a short distance take the right fork that leads slightly downhill where the tarmac ends and becomes a gravel track where there is a red sign showing 1 hour to Križna Gora. The path first crosses a field before reaching a fairly steep path up through the forest.

Hereafter, the path is well marked with the usual Slovenian system of signs – a red circle with a white inner – which are found in various places – on trees, rocks, and, as seen below, even on shrines.

After around 15 minutes of hiking, you emerge from the forest for a great view back over the town of Škofja Loka.

Then ahead in the distance you catch sight of the church and your destination – Križna Gora!

However, people don’t just flock to Križna Gora for recreation and the great views, oh no, they also know where to go for some of the tastiest local Škofja Loka food, and now I do too!

Gostilna pri Boštjanu is part of the project ‘Tastes of the Škofja Loka Countryside’ (Okusi loškega podeželja), the aim of which is to acquaint visitors with traditional foods and dishes from Škofja Loka and the surrounding valleys, and in doing so preserve them for generations to come. The focus is on homemade, local food with an emphasis on tradition and innovation – past and present.

There are wonderful views from the terrace of the restaurant – with something to keep the whole family amused! – whilst inside there are multiple dining areas to choose from including the conservatory for great views and the snug room with wood-burning stove.

On the recommendation of the owner, Boštjan, I plumped for the Tasting Menu which comprises a choice of two 5-course menus of homemade delights. Cold starters are pheasant pate with homemade bread – fresh from the clay oven, or venison carpaccio. For the hot starter I chose buckwheat ravioli with porcini mushrooms.

Garlic or beef soup was followed by roast pork or foal (can’t quite bring myself to eat the latter!), and the dessert – chocolate dream – was a triumph, and certainly something to dream about!

Gostilna pri Boštjanu is also particularly known for it’s St. Martin’s Day feast (Martinovanje). In November every year St. Martin’s Day, when grape juice matures into wine, is celebrated throughout Slovenia – even in non-wine growing areas (any excuse for a celebration!), with, of course, wine, and typical dishes such as roast goose or duck with red cabbage and mlinci (a kind of thin, shredded flatbread). Reservations, especially at weekends, are essential – this place is hugely popular, for good reason, too!

You can find more about Gostilna pri Boštjanu on the Facebook page here – https://www.facebook.com/Gostilna-pri-Boštjanu-138860049611989/ and find out more about Škofja Loka cuisine, traditions, hiking paths and more on the Visit Škofja Loka website here – http://www.visitskofjaloka.si/en/

© Adele in Slovenia

Zali Log and the Path to Suša: Miraculous Wonders and Water

It might be quite a way to go to reach the village of Zali Log in the Selca valley (though, of course, that’s relative depending on where you live or are coming from!), however, the scenery along the way, the picturesque village and its houses with their prominent blue-grey slate roofs, and the Path to Suša – leading to the Church of Our Lady of Loreto – are among the reasons it is worth making the effort.

The village of Zali Log lies at the foot of Ratitovec, the highest mountain in the Selca valley, and is the last village in the level plain of the valley. The appearance of the village as it is seen today has changed little from when it was established in the 19th century.

Interestingly, the name of the village doesn’t come from the word ‘Zali‘, meaning ‘beautiful‘, but rather from the word ‘Zli‘, meaning ‘ugly’ or ‘bad’. This most likely originates from the position of the village in the narrow upper-part of the valley, surrounded by steep banks and with little cultivable land and sunlight.

Zali Log is also known for its slate roof tiles. In the 18th century, a special hard blue-grey slate was found on the slopes of Bintek (1000 metres above sea-level). The production of tiles for covering roofs from this slate began and replaced straw and shingle roofs, first in Zali Log and later throughout the valley. The tiles from Zali Log slate were of very high quality and were able to withstand the weather conditions for generations.

The Path to Suša theme path begins at the parking area at the entrance to the village. Although there are a couple of other paths that lead to the same destination, I recommend beginning here as there is ample parking and an information board with leaflets and brochures about the path and other sights of interest in the valley.

The path is very well marked throughout – in places with theme path signs, and/or with yellow circles painted on trees, rocks etc.

It only takes around half-an-hour to reach the church and there’s plenty to see along the way!

You can also see one of the many preserved bunkers of the Rupnik line that are dotted around the area – more about which you can read in a previous blog post here – https://adeleinslovenia.com/2017/08/06/a-recce-of-the-rupnik-line/

The pleasant forest path leads over ‘Galetove lajte’ to the pilgrimage Church of Our Lady of Loreto in Suša, which was built in 1877 and is included in Ema’s Pilgrimage Route. According to tradition, the origins of the church are linked with miraculous events. Throughout the years, a lot of people have sought the help of Our Lady of Loreto in Suša and have had their wishes granted, as is witnessed by the many pictures of thanks that are hung in the church, and today the church is still a popular place for pilgrims and others to visit.

If you peer down over the forest at the back of the church you will see beneath it a chapel with the statue of the Virgin Mary. Within the chapel there is a rock under which a spring rises which, according to local tradition, has healing properties, as has been confirmed in numerous stories.

One such story goes that when a mother brought her blind daughter to the spring, after washing her eyes with the water from the spring, she was able to see. The speciality of the water is that it contains no bacteria, thus it can be stored for several months, or even longer, if stored in a clean air-tight container, and is still as fresh as the day it sprung!

Locals, and people from further afield, regularly come here to get water and to enjoy the peace and energy that is present. A local lady I met whilst there told me about one particular special stone which, apparently, if you stare at it, emits “special energy”. I can’t say I felt any different after staring at it, but who am I to question a theory that has stood the test of time!

Should you feel the need for some extra luck – and let’s face it, who among us doesn’t – you can ring the wishing bell!

 You can download the theme path brochure and find out more on the Visit Škofja Loka website here – http://www.visitskofjaloka.si/en/experiences/theme-paths/path-to-susa

© Adele in Slovenia

The Path Along the Rapallo Border

The Rapallo Border Theme Path has been designed to acquaint those who walk along all or part of it with the period between the 1st and 2nd World War and the effect the Rapallo border had on the towns and villages along its length. Armed with a copy of a leaflet giving details of the route and its history, I set off to explore!

The theme path begins at Žiri Museum – more about which, as well as the area itself, you can read in one of my blogs from earlier this year – https://adeleinslovenia.com/2017/04/17/discovering-the-most-ziri-things/

There is an information board opposite the museum. With your back to the board, head steeply – and I mean steeply! – uphill to Tabor and continue to follow the usual Slovenian hiking trail markers – a red circle with a white inner.

After just a few minutes you are already rewarded with a fantastic view over the town and valley.

The Rapallo Border was established as a result of the Treaty of Rapallo that was signed on 12th November 1920 in the Italian town of Rapallo. The treaty required a third of the territory of Slovenia to be handed over to Italy.

The effect on those living in the border areas was dramatic with neighbours, relatives and friends overnight becoming citizens of two separate kingdoms – the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (later the Kingdom of Yugoslavia), and the Kingdom of Italy.

The entire border was 244km in length and was divided in 70 sections. At the start of each section there was a main boundary stone, with smaller boundary stones in between.

The Rapallo Border Theme Path covers the area of five main boundary stones numbered from 35 – 39.  The path is rather, or very, sparsely marked in places, so do keep your eyes peeled for the red and white circles (on trees, stones, buildings, behind you, in front of you, etc.) as well as the odd yellow theme path sign. Alternatively, you could contact Visit Škofja Loka and arrange to arrange a guide, thus eliminating any such worries, and getting the added benefit of the chance to find out more interesting facts and figures from a local expert.

You could choose to walk its entire length (46km, 9-10 hours), or for a shorter, easier version, take the circular path from Žiri to Mrzli vrh and back, which is 13km and takes approximately 4 hours, with optional extensions to additional boundary stones.

Shortly after leaving Tabor and emerging from the forest you are rewarded with another great view.

If you’ve got kids in tow, or in fact even if not, trying to spot the border stones can be treated as something of a treasure hunt! No. 39 was easy to spot…

..whereas as first I walked straight past no. 38 as it is somewhat concealed by a tree and undergrowth!

If you choose to continue to Mrzli vrh, at the village of Breznica the path descends a little on the road, before continuing upwards, at first on the road then again leading into the forest, towards the peak of Mrzli vrh and the Koča na Mrzlem vrhu mountain hut. The hut is open on Friday, Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays.

From here you could opt to return by the same route, or alternatively take the circular route via Ledenica to return to Žiri; the latter, however, means quite a few kilometres, though a pleasant walk, back through the valley to return to the museum.

The views that accompany you along the ridge of Mrzli vrh aren’t half bad either!

There is also an alternative start for the route which begins in Sovodenj and leads to Mrzli vrh (14km, cca.4 hours – one way), or you could walk a shorter circular route from Sovodenj to Nova Oselica and back (6km, cca. 2 hours).

For more information, see the Visit Škofja Loka website or visit the Škofja Loka Tourist Information Centre to pick up a leaflet – http://www.visitskofjaloka.si/en/experiences/theme-paths/rappalo-border

© Adele in Slovenia

The Path to Crngrob and the Pri Marku Tourist Farm

The Church of the Annunciation in Crngrob near Škofja Loka is among the most notable of Slovenia’s 800+ churches.

Photo: Jana Kuhar, Visit Škofja Loka

You can easily reach the church by car, however, if time permits I suggest setting off on foot or by bike from the centre of Škofja Loka along the Path to Crngrob theme path, where along the way you can see numerous shrines and admire the pleasant Škofja Loka countryside.

The 5km path starts at the information board opposite the bus station in front of the Nama department store. You can pick up a leaflet about the path from the Škofja Loka Tourist Information Centre or find more information about this and other theme paths in the area here – http://www.visitskofjaloka.si/en/experiences/theme-paths

The path, which is marked with a yellow circle with a white inner, is relatively level and mostly on quite country lanes.

You can also go by bike, as I did when exploring part of the Škofja Loka Cycle Route earlier this year. Read more in a previous blog here – https://adeleinslovenia.com/2017/06/11/active-and-historic-loka-the-skofja-loka-cycle-trail/

You first pass the shrine of Pieta, the work of the well-known Slovenian impressionist painter Ivan Grohar.

The Red Shrine, which was erected at the beginning of the 16th century as a reminder of the plague, is one of the oldest shrines in Slovenia.

A few minutes on you reach the village and church. Though from afar the outside of the church doesn’t look particularly remarkable, other than the fact it is a particularly large church for a village with just a handful of houses – the reason for this is that it was intended for pilgrims – as you get closer and glimpse the large fresco of St. Christopher on the exterior, and another of Holy Sunday in the shelter of the neo-gothic porch, you begin to get a sense this is no ordinary church.

Then you step inside and see the full beauty of the ornate interior, particularly the gold baroque altars and magnificent painted ceiling, you will soon realise why it is considered among the most valuable churches in the country.

It was originally built in the 13th century and extended over time with the bell tower dating from 1666 and the neo-gothic porch being added in 1858.

As befits something of such value, the church is kept locked, therefore to arrange to a guided tour of the interior you should contact Tourism Škofja Loka by email (info@skofja-loka.com) or by calling +00386 45 170 602 or +00386 41 424 776.

I recommended combining a visit to Crngrob with a stay or a visit to the Pri Marku tourist farm, which is situated just a few hundred metres from the church. The farm’s setting is idyllic, surrounded by rolling green hills, the church as a backdrop, and though only 5kms from Škofja Loka, it has a real air of being far from the hustle and bustle of life.

Pri Marku has 10 well-appointed rooms, or for a different experience you can also stay in the farm’s hayloft. All rooms come with a view!

You can get to know the farm’s animals – this one seemed very keen to get to know me!

Of course no Slovenian tourist farm is complete without delicious home-made, home-produced food and drink! Those staying at Pri Marku have half-board, but you can also drop by for a snack or a hearty lunch at weekends (prior booking essential) and try some other traditional Slovenian dishes and house specialities.

More information about the Pri Marku tourist farm can be found here – http://www.pri-marku-porenta.si/ANG/

© Adele in Slovenia

 

 

The Škofja Loka Hills and Caves: Lubnik and the Kevderc Cave

Lubnik (1025m) stands prominently above the town of Škofja Loka and is a favourite, and very accessible, hiking destination.

There are a number of paths to the top. You can start directly from the old town centre and take the marked path via Loka Castle and Gabrovo, from where it takes about 2 hours to reach the Dom na Lubniku mountain hut or, for a shorter hike, drive up the windy road to the village of Breznica pod Lubnikom, from where it takes just 40 minutes to reach the top and where the views are already inspiring.

As regular readers of my blog will know, I have a penchant for taking the longest possible hiking routes to reach my destination, and much prefer to walk or cycle rather than drive – anywhere and everywhere! However, I had an ulterior motive, or rather two, for choosing the shorter route in this case, namely to visit the Okrepčevalnica Malina snack bar and to find out more about the nearby Kevderc cave.

Whichever path you choose to Lubnik, you will find that they are all very well-marked with the usual red circle with a white inner painted on trees, rocks etc., so orientation isn’t a problem. The path is almost entirely through the forest, so even on the hottest of days it is pleasantly cool.

On a clear day, from the hut there are far-reaching views of the Karavanke mountains, the Kamnik-Savinja Alps and the surrounding Škofja Loka hills.

Dom na Lubniku is open year-round; during winter on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays; from the end of April to the end of October daily except Mondays.

Also in the vicinity of the path to Lubnik is the fascinating Kevderc cave. Though nowhere near as well-known as Slovenia’s main tourist caves (Postojna, Škocjan, the Križna cave…), those who take time to visit the Kevderc cave will be captured by its beauty, perhaps even more so as it is so pristine, mysterious, and less-trodden.

Photo: Simon Primožič

From the entrance to the cave it is just a few metres to the first large hall which passers-by are free to access, providing you have sturdy footwear and a headlamp.

Photo: Simon Primožič

Some sections of the cave, however, can only be explored by experienced cavers.

Photo: Simon Primožič

During periods of heavy rainfall, all the water from the surface runs into the cave, creating a unique fairytale-like scene.

Photo: Simon Primožič

If you would like to explore the cave further, for safety reasons it is recommended that you contact the Škofja Loka Association for Exploring the Underworld (Društvo za raziskovanje podzemlja Škofja Loka) to arrange a guided tour. Just a few metres away is the Lubnik cave, which can mostly be explored without a torch as natural light floods into its interior. For more information contact DRP Škofja Loka: +386 51 244 244, info@drp-drustvo.si.

After your hike and/or exploration of the cave, or for those cycling past on the Škofja Loka Cycle Route, I recommend stopping at the Malina snack bar (tel: 041 809 900), which is just metres from the path to Lubnik in Breznica pod Lubnikom, where you can enjoy refreshments with a view!

Traditional Gorenjska snacks, soups and stews are always available, and, upon prior arrangement, for special occasions you can enjoy a real feast!

In fine weather the view from the terrace is a winner, but, whatever the weather, you can be sure of a friendly welcome!

As my visit coincided with a group celebration, I had a chance to see how the food is cooked outdoors over hot coals.

So, as you can see, on this occasion letting the car take the strain was worth it, but you can also see more of this area by bike as it is part of the Škofja Loka Cycle Route. More information can be found on the Visit Škofja Loka website here – http://www.visitskofjaloka.si/en/

© Adele in Slovenia

Hike Blegoš and Dine at Pr’ Andrejon – A Winning Combination!

At 1562m Blegoš is among the highest of the peaks surrounding Škofja Loka and, together with the Koca na Blegošu mountain hut, is one of the area’s favourite destinations for lovers of hiking and nature.

Blegoš can be reached from many directions, but whichever you choose, I recommend that you also take time to visit the Pr’ Andrejon Open Door Farm, where you can buy home-produced cheese and reward yourself with some fantastic, traditional, home-cooked Slovene food.

If you would like to take the shortest route to the peak, and the one which puts you in easiest reach of the Pri Andrejon farm, then you should begin your hike from Črni Kal, from where it only takes around an hour to the top of Blegoš.

I, however – not being prone to ever taking the ‘shortest’ or ‘easiest’ way! – opted to take the route from the hamlet of Volaka which leads past the Mountain Guards’ Shelter on Jelenci (Planinski zavetišče na Jelencih), which, rather oddly, is only open at weekends during winter.

The path, which leads up through the forest, is never overly steep but at the same time is challenging enough to work up a sweat!

The path is very well marked; at times the usual red circle with a white inner is on rocks and/or trees, at other times there are more prominent markings.

It took me exactly 2 hours to reach the summit, having first passed the mountain hut, where I didn’t pause on the way up, but did stop briefly on the way back down to check out their legendary ocvirkova -a kind of savoury potica made using pork crackling.

Although it was one of those mornings when the weather couldn’t quite make up it’s mind, the views were still stunning, and in fact perhaps even more so for the dramatic cloud cover.

Despite the cloud, it was still hard to choose where to look first, such were the panoramic views. An orientation table assists with getting one’s bearings.

Although not the easiest of places to reach, a narrow winding road that seems to go on and on… when you do eventually reach the Pr’ Andrejon farm in the hamlet of Gorenja Žetina above the Poljane valley, the warm welcome and excellent food means all is soon forgotten!

Whilst it is not a tourist farm, i.e. there are no rooms available for overnight accommodation, they consider themselves an ‘Open Door Farm’, meaning, as the name implies, they are pretty much always open. However, despite its relatively remote location, this place is hugely popular, so advanced booking, particularly for large groups, is a must.

Despite my arrival coinciding with that of 2 large pre-booked groups (hence, heed my advice to book in advance!), Anka still managed to rustle up some home-produced cheese and cold cuts and the most amazing bread, fresh from the wood-burning oven. I’d travel a long way for bread that good – oh yes, I actually did – so I had to get some to take home too!

During my brief visit, I was amazed at how many people stopped by to buy cheese direct from the farm.

Pr Andrejon is also a popular stop for cyclists, as part of the Loka Cycle Route goes right past the door. More information here – https://adeleinslovenia.com/2017/06/11/active-and-historic-loka-the-skofja-loka-cycle-trail/

The farm’s website has more information (only in Slovene), or you can contact Anka by email or phone to make reservations and find out more – anka.vodnik@gmail.com, tel: 045 188174 or 051 389108 – http://www.freeweb.siol.net/mvodnik6/default.htm

You can find more information about the wide range of hiking paths in the Škofja Loka on the Visit Škofja Loka website here – http://www.visitskofjaloka.si/en/experiences/active-breaks/hiking/hiking-trails-in-loka

© Adele in Slovenia