Winter Activities in the Završnica Valley

Winter has now really shown its teeth and the recent couple of heavy snowfalls rapidly brought an end to the unusually mild and green January. So, those that love winter, and with it winters sports, are now in their element enjoying all manners of snow-based activities.

As there is also plenty of snow this year in the valley, not just in the mountains, you don’t have to go far from home (or from your holiday home!) to find cross-country skiing trails, sledging tracks and winter walking and hiking trails – all of this, and more, can be found in the Završnica Recreation Park in the Završnica valley.

For lovers of sledging the 5km road that begins near the reservoir in the valley and leads to the Valvasorjev dom mountain hut is a paradise, and this year almost the entire length of the road has been prepared as a sledging track. Of course, you do first have to drag your sledge uphill…

There is also a small sledging track and a 1.5km circular cross-country ski trail opposite the Zavrh bar just a few hundred metres further along the valley from the reservoir. Here you don’t have to drag your sledge too far to enjoy the rewards!

So you can have multiple attempts – however you choose to get down!

If you prefer your winter sports on ‘two legs’, then you can hike the cca. 1 hour path up to the Valvasorjev dom mountain hut – twice the winner of the title of Slovenia’s Best Mountain Hut – where you can be sure of a warm welcome and delicious home-cooked food; soups, stews, strudel etc.

I would, however, advise having a pair of lightweight crampons in your rucksack for the descent, as the lower parts of the path can tend to get very icy at this time of year.

Or you could opt for a shorter, easier walk around the reservoir and along the trim trail to the Zavrh bar.

Once you reach the Zavrh bar, you can cross the bridge, turn left and continue on the right side of the stream, or turn left to follow the trim trail back to the reservoir.

So, don’t delay, get out there and enjoy it today – while the snow lasts!

Click here to find out more about the Završnica Recreation Park (in Slovene only) or here for the Visit Žirovnica website where you can find more information about all the other facilities and attractions in the Žirovnica area.

© Adele in Slovenia

 

 

 

Experience Prešeren’s Day Along the Žirovnica Path of Cultural Heritage

Despite only living to the tender age of 49, the legacy of France Prešeren (1800-1849), Slovenia’s most famous poet, remains as strong today as ever. In fact, Prešeren was, or rather is, so important to Slovenian culture, that a national holiday is dedicated to him annually on 8th FebruaryPrešeren’s Day. 

Find out more about the life and times of Prešeren, as well as that of some of Slovenia’s other great literary writers, along the Walk along the Žirovnica Path of Cultural Heritage.

Although you can visit the attractions along the path year-round, it is a particularly special experience to do so on Prešeren’s Day, when you can join hundreds of others visitors, locals and those from further afield, to walk the path, find out more about life in Prešeren’s time, and feel a part of Slovenia’s cultural heritage.

The 10km circular path leads through the villages beneath Mt. Stol – the highest peak in the Karavanke range – taking in Prešeren’s birth house in the village of Vrba, where there is a car park and information board about the path.

Opposite the car park there is a bust statue of the great man.

In addition to visiting Prešeren’s birth house, you can continue to the birth houses of Prešeren’s friend, the linguist and literary historian Matija Čop in Žirovnica, the writer Fran Saleški Finžgar in Doslovče, and the writer and priest Janez Jalen in Rodine. All the houses offer a unique insight into life in bygone days and you can see exhibits including an original black kitchen.

For many a particular highlight is a visit to the apiary of Slovenia’s greatest beekeeper and the pioneer of modern apiculture, Anton Janša (1734-1773)in Breznica. It’s easy to find, just follow the brown signs marked with a bee!

The apiary was carefully reconstructed in 2017 and this year will be the focal point of this year’s first ever World Bee Day, which will take place in Breznica on 20th May.

At the time of writing, there’s no snow here in the valley, but that could, of course, change by 8th February! Either way, there’s never a shortage of people joining the walk on 8th February, and there is also a rich accompanying programme on the day for all – regardless of whether you take part in the organised walk or not. It includes free entrance to all the birth houses, stalls along the way offering local food and drink, a honey market in Vrba and small farmer’s market in Rodine, entrance to exhibitions, and more! Find the full programme here (in Slovene only) – http://visitzirovnica.si/pohod-po-poti-kulturne-dediscine-zirovnica-8-februar/

But don’t worry – if you can’t make it on 8th February, you can visit the birth houses and walk, all or some of, the trail independently or, to get the most out of it, on a guided tour. The best time to do so is every fourth Saturday in the month from March to October when guided visits to all four houses are available between 10am and 5pm. For a really special experience on this day you can visit the houses by taking a ride on a traditional horse and cart which begins at the car park in Vrba at set times.

The Visit Zirovnica website has more information about this and all the other attractions in the area.

Come and find out more about why France Prešeren is Slovenia’s equivalent to Shakespeare!

© Adele in Slovenia

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