Though a bit cooler, early autumn can be a great time to go cycling in the Gorenjska area, as the majority of tourists have gone home, hence the roads are quieter, and the landscape is still lush and green, with just a hint of the beginnings of autumn.
There are cycle routes in the Tržič area to suit all levels and desires, from gentle family-friendly rides along country lanes to more demanding road bike tours, and from mountain bike tours along mountain pastures to more adrenaline-fueled descents.
The cycle routes are generally well marked, though there is the odd crossroads where one (well I!) might dither over which way to go, so it’s a good idea to pick up a copy of the map of all the major cycle routes in the area at the tourist information centre, and GPX tracks of all the routes are also available to download.
A good route to start with to get a feel for the area is the Udin Boršt trail, which skirts around, and also in a short section through, the Udin Boršt woods. The 26 kilometre circular and relatively flat route starts and ends at the Tržič Tourist Information Centre, from where, after just a short ride, you are soon off the main road and cycling along tracks and country lanes.
This ride through the countryside beneath Kriška gora and Storžič leads through villages, past churches, shrines and farms…
…and to hidden places you – well certainly I – didn’t even know existed!
If your water bottle is empty, then you can stop at the spring in Strahinj to refill it, before continuing your ride. The tarmac road soon becomes a track, which you follow towards Tenetiše, before joining the main road.
Fortunately, its only a short ride on the main road until you turn off to the left again, this time towards Letenice, and back to more pleasant country lanes.
You soon reach the second of the three bells that makes up the Three Bells Trail, which I wrote about in a previous blog here.
So, now’s the time to get active and discover more of Tržič – this time on 2 wheels!
These days I mostly make my living from translating – from Slovenian into English – which, like every job, has its ups and downs. The pluses, among others, are that I’m my own boss, I work from home and can set my own working hours (to some extent), while the minuses, among others, is that often clients have very short (and unrealistic!) deadlines! And that, too, was the case when I began to work on the translation of a new book on beekeeping, however, in this case it transpired that the interesting content and efforts of all those involved made it all worthwhile.
And so, the book titled ‘Living Together. About Bees and Mankind‘ has now been published, and herewith a brief story of its creation, the author behind it, and its importance.
Petra Bole, the director of Radovljica Municipal Museums, which include the Museum of Apiculture, is the brains behind the book, which was published to coincide with the newly renovated museum and as a protocol gift on the occasion of Slovenia’s Presidency of the Council of the EU in 2021.
The 300 page book contains stunning photos and covers beekeeping-related topics such as art, bees and the past, bees and mankind, and nature.
On the occasion of its publication, Petra invited us – the team behind the book (from left to right: Barbara Bogataj – designer; me(!) – translator; Ivan Esenko – photographer; Petra Bole – author; Mihaela Pichler Radanov – editor) to a little gathering in the garden of the Šivec House Gallery to celebrate.
It is, of course, fitting that such a book has been written here in Radovljica – home to the Museum of Apiculture with its brand new exhibition, the Beekeeping Education Centre of Gorenjska, and numerous beekeepers and their colourful apiaries, and the Follow a ‘Bee’ Through Radovljica Family Adventure – and by a local resident, who, since becoming director of Radovljica Municipal Museums, has also taken up beekeeping herself!
Find out more about beekeeping in the Radovljica area here, and, if you are planning a visit to the Radovljica area this autumn, be(e) sure to do, or see, something bee-related, and in doing so play your part in recognising the importance of, and helping to preserve, our precious bees!
I believe that every visitor to Slovenia who wants to get a real sense of the country, rather than just visiting the usual tourist attractions, should visit at least one of the numerous mountain pastures, where you can enjoy some simple, hearty, homemade food, enjoy the peace and views, and soak up the atmosphere of pasture life.
And there’s no better place to do so than on the mountain pastures beneath Košuta – Slovenia’s longest mountain – above Tržič, particularly as they are easily accessible even for those who don’t enjoy, or are unable to take part in, long hikes. The options are almost limitless; you can opt to go on a full day walk from the valley, or drive part of the way for easier access, you can just walk from pasture to pasture, or you can tackle one of the peaks along the length of Košuta, or even stay the night so you can see and do even more!
Having previously blogged about our overnight stay at the Scouts’ Hut on the Šija mountain pasture and hike to Kladivo, this time we picked up the walk where we left off – at the Pungrat mountain pasture – from where we walked to the Dolga njiva alpine dairy farm.
Since we wanted to do a partly circular walk, we started at the Zali potok hidroelectric station and took the unmarked path. However, it is a little difficult to find the trail in a few places, so for first timers and those wanting a longer walk, I would recommend instead starting your walk from Medvodje, which is reached by driving through Tržič then past the Dovžan gorge (it’s well worth stopping for a walk through the gorge) to Jelendol and onwards on the forest road.
Alternatively, you can drive, or even cycle, further up the mountain road and park just 20 minutes from the Dolga njiva alpine dairy farm, which is a particularly favourable option for families with young children, and/or those wanting to hike further and higher.
It was one of those summer days that was forecast to be sunny, but the clouds were very persistent and didn’t lift until well into late afternoon, but the scenery, and the four-legged friends, made up for the lack of sun.
On reaching Dolga njiva, you can try some really typical mountain food, such as masovnik – a hearty mixture of flour and sour cream. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to try it (coeliac disease and wheat flour = a big NO!), so I asked one of the hikers if I could take a photo of her food before she tucked in!
Buckwheat topped with pork crackling is another popular dish, often served with sour milk.
Kids will love the mini farm with its curious cows, snoring pigs, donkeys, turkeys and geese.
You can then set off for a circular walk on the Eagle Trail (Orlov pot), where you can see golden eagle nesting sites, the source of the Košutnik stream, and the flora and fauna of the area, while opposite the dairy farm you can see a chest used by allies to drop supplies to the pasture in World War II in the occupied area of the German Reich.
Dolga njiva is also an excellent starting point for hikes onwards to other mountain pastures or upwards to reach the highest point of the municipality of Tržič – Košutnikov turn.
If you want to stay longer you can stay over and sleep in a hay loft then next morning, after a hearty breakfast, head off to explore more of the pastures beneath Slovenia’s longest mountain – all 10 kilometres of it!
On what was – if I remember correctly – my second visit to Radovljica back in 2006, prior to moving here in 2007, I called in at the Radovljica Tourist Information Centre to enquire about where I could go for a walk without needing a car.
I was given a map of the area and directed to the Forest Nature Trail and/or the Lipnica Castle Trail. I’ve written about the latter previously, however, it wasn’t until I recently read in the local paper that the former has now been equipped with new signage, that I realised that I have never actually written a blog about it. So, now is the time to right that wrong!
Do like me and pop into the Tourist Info Centre to pick up a map, then, if you have a car, you can drive to the start, or, like me, cycle there!
There is an information board at the start (unfortunately it’s only in Slovene), and from there just follow the trail through the forest. You can’t (really) go wrong!
The trail is equipped with signs showing the species of tree (in both Slovene and Latin) as well as signs with footprints showing the way.
It first leads through the forest on a terrace above the Sava river…
…before descending to a beautiful, tranquil, forested part of Radovljica, which makes you feel like you are a million miles away from civilisation. There is a tree trunk showing the rings of wood and significant national and international events that occurred based on the presumed age of the tree.
In one of the quieter areas, away from the road, we even spotted deer in the forest in broad daylight when we were there last week, though you’ll have to trust me on that since I wasn’t quick enough with my camera to catch them!
Additionally, if you are in the area from now until the end of August, why not try the Hop On and Discover tourist bus – a reincarnation of the Hop-On Hop-On tourist bus – which connects interesting sites and attractions in the municipalities of Radovljica, Tržič and Jesenice, thus giving you a chance to see, and do, even more!
The Zijavka (505m) viewpoint above the village of Kamna Goricain the Lipnica valleyis an ideal destination for an easy family walk (and for any unfortunate souls like me who are plagued by balance, or similar, problems, and can’t hike up to lofty heights!).
If you are arriving by car, then park your car at, or near, the sports ground in Kamna Gorica, then cross the main road towards the shrine.
Then past some cute, friendly sheep – though I can’t guarantee they will be there (or that they will be so friendly!) at the time of your visit!
After cca. 150 metres you reach a junction of paths, where there is an information board showing the various onward routes.
For the best views, take the path to Zijalka, which leads up to the right through the forest. After just a few hundred metres you reach a junction of paths, where you can make a quick diversion to see an interesting rock formation (photo opportunity!), before returning to the junction and taking the path straight ahead.
Continue on the path, which gently ascends through the forest. You don’t really need hiking poles for this walk, as it’s easy and short, however, my current lack of balance (read my previous blog post here to find out more) means they are (almost literally!) a lifesaver for me right now.
After about 15 minutes you reach the Zijalka viewpoint, from where there are magnificent views over the village of Kamna Gorica with the Jelovica plateau in the background.
You can see the Church of the Holy Trinity, the Sextons’ Museum House (the building to the left of the church), the linden tree in the centre of the village, and the houses in this former iron forging village. And, after having seen them from above, why not head back down for a stroll through the village to check out what they look like up close!
To end, just a brief update on the COVID situation here. The tourist season is in full swing, with the majority of camps and other accommodation facilities in the area full, or almost full (mostly with people driving here from other parts of Europe). There are, however, still some restrictions in place, primarily the ‘tested/recovered/vaccinated’ requirement to enter Slovenia, and masks are still required in some enclosed places. Virus numbers are beginning to creep up again, however, so do ensure you check ahead of your visit if anything has changed.
Due to an ongoing vestibular problem (more on that later), for the past five months I haven’t been able to do the kind of adventurous hikes that I’m accustomed too. Fortunately, there are plenty of hikes of all levels in the hills and mountains in the area where I live. So, this time, I decided that, since I can’t scale the dizzy heights of Mt. Storžič itself, I can at least walk to the Dom pod Storžičem mountain hut (1,123m) beneath it and gaze up longingly at it, hoping that one day I might again be able to make it to the top of this, and other, mountains.
The walk from Grahovše to the Dom pod Storžičem mountain hut makes an ideal family walk. It only takes around an hour and isn’t strenuous.
To reach the starting point in the village of Grahovše, drive through Tržič in the direction of the Dovžan gorge (Dovžanova soteska) until you reach a road on the right that leads up to the hamlet of Slap. Note: if you don’t have a car, you can start the walk here, and you should allow an extra hour or so to reach the mountain hut.
Follow the road up to the idyllic village of Lom pod Storžičem, with its imposing church.
Drive onwards to reach the village of Grahovše, where you will see a large gravel parking area on the left-hand side. Although it is possible to continue further by car, the tarmac road turns into a track, and there is also a notice opposite the aforementioned parking area, requesting that visitors kindly park in the allocated parking area, thus respecting life for the villagers and helping to preserve nature.
After just a few hundred metres you reach a junction and a signpost to the left marked Dom pod Storžičem. Follow the dirt road and you will soon get your first glance of majestic Mt. Storžič (2,132m) – the highest mountain in the western part of the Kamnik-Savinja Alps.
Continue on the road adjacent to the stream for around 10-15 minutes, passing a source of fresh water (on the left) and a somewhat hidden shrine (on the right).
On reaching a junction, you can either continue on the road (the longer, less scenic route) or take the right fork uphill (the more direct, scenic route). The latter soon leads up over a pasture with a few scattered wooden huts.
A short, steep incline awaits then, before you know it, you’ve reached the mountain hut.
From the hut, those wanting a longer, full-day hike, have several options. You can hike to the top of Storžič (cca. 3 hours from the hut), but note that part of the route is considered demanding, so only experienced and well equipped hikers should tackle it, or up to Tolsti vrh (cca. 2 hours from the hut), among other options.
If, however, the hut itself is your destination, then sit back and enjoy a drink and/or snack before heading back to the valley. The strudel looked delicious, though, of course, not gluten free so I could only look on. Note: in order to be able to sit indoors the hut, you must have proof of being double vaccinated, or have a negative COVID-19 test, or proof that you have recovered from the virus in the past 6 months. There are no restrictions on sitting outside the hut.
Click here for more information about this and other walks in the Tržič area.
Finally, as I mentioned above, without wishing to whinge in public, I feel I owe it to regular readers and followers of my blog, particularly those that use it as a source of reference/inspiration for hiking in Slovenia, to write a short word about my current ‘problem’ (since I’m not even sure what to call it). At the end of February this year my world changed, when I thought there had been an earthquake, but it turns out it was something going on in my head, i.e. my inner ear. Since then I have felt as if I’m on a boat on rough seas 24/7, with the world swaying and rocking around me, and the accompanying feeling of sea sickness. I’ve seen 7 doctors/specialists, had scans and various tests, and even tried several types of alternative medicine, but all to no avail. To the outside world I look fine, but, believe me, inside my head it’s a living nightmare, which I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy, and it’s something no one can possibly understand unless they have had vestibular-type issues. Therefore, with little to no balance, my adventurous outdoor pursuits are currently resigned to those of someone twice my age, but I’m trying (though not always succeeding) to remain optimistic, and keep as active as I can. And on that note, until next time…
While I can’t be certain whether the claim of the Rosary Bead Trail that it is “the largest natural rosary bead in the world” holds true, it certainly is a lovely walk that connects four churches and leads through remote villages and countryside. Be sure to add it to your list of things to see and do while exploring the Gorenjska area!
Though originally designed as a pilgrimage trail, this 12km circular trail is also a great way to escape the crowds and appreciate the beauty of the unspoilt countryside between Tržič and Radovljica.
The trail begins in Brezje at the Basilica of Mary Help of Christians – Slovenia’s national pilgrimage sanctuary – from where in five stages it follows a route through the forest, across streams, through villages and along country lanes, and all in the shape (when viewed from above) of a rosary bead.
Below is an overview of, and a few insights into, the trail.
The first part leads from the basilica to the junction for Peračica. The first trail marker is at the rear of the basilica, from where you should set off in an easterly direction for 100 metres towards the yellow roads sign for Peračica and Dobro polje. Follow the road towards Peračica steeply downhill, passing a sign for the Path of Peace (Pot miru), until you reach a junction and the next trail marker with a map of the trail.
The trail is well marked throughout with green markers on trees as well as cement posts with plaques showing where you are on the trail.
Turn right and follow the country lane, passing another trail marker (on the right) and a colourful, traditional Slovenian apiary (on the left). The road leads down to cross a stream and then later, at a sign for Kovor, the trail branches off from the road into the forest.
Unless otherwise marked, keep straight ahead ignoring any paths that branch off to the left or right. You will reach a small wooden bridge over a stream with a bench, which is an ideal place to take a break.
The trail now leads slightly uphill to reach another fork where you take the path uphill to the left, which eventually emerges in the village of Kovor.
From Kovor the path continues towards Brezje pri Tržiču, not to be confused with the village of Brezje where the walk begins! This part of the route is on quiet country lanes with beautiful views of the countryside and hamlets beneath Mt. Dobrča.
On reaching Brezje pri Tržiču, there is a shrine and an information point with a visitors book.
I thought I knew the area pretty well, but from here I was in unknown territory and discovered a few villages in the municipality of Tržič, such as Vadiče, that I didn’t even know existed!
The final part of the trail leads to the village of Leše, from where it leads back to the start at the basilica in Brezje.
Click here to read more about this and other footpaths, hiking trails and other natural and cultural attractions in the Tržič area. The Tržič area, as well as the rest of the country, is now slowly reopening to tourists. There are various requirements for entry, depending on whether the country you are coming from is on Slovenia’s green, orange, red or dark red list. Click here for the latest information, but note that it can literally change overnight – as it did yesterday.
After a renovation that began in autumn 2020, the Museum of Apiculture is due to officially re-open tomorrow – Saturday 22nd May. I went for a sneak preview of the new exhibition yesterday on World Bee Day, which just also happens to be my birthday! So, what better way to celebrate (especially since we are still fairly restricted in terms of what we can do and where we can go) than by going to see the new exhibition.
It would be fairly impossible to live in Radovljica and not acquire an interest in, and affection for, bees. Not only is it home to the Museum of Apiculture, but it is also home to the ‘Follow a bee through Radovljica‘ family beekeeping adventure through the town, an annual honey festival, the Beekeeping Education Centre of Gorenjska, and the landscape is dotted with numerous brightly-coloured painted apiaries.
Lately, I’ve also learnt even more about bees, since I translated all the material for the new exhibition at the Museum of Apiculture, so visiting and being able to see the final result was even more satisfying.
Even if you’ve never paid that much attention to bees, I recommend a visit to the museum; you will be amazed by some of the facts and figures attesting to the importance of bees in our daily lives, and you can get ‘up close and personal’ with a bee family in the observation hive, which is a real highlight.
I won’t give too much away, since you simply must visit for yourself, but here are just a few of the fascinating facts about bees and an insight into the newly renovated museum, which is housed in the beautiful Radovljica Manor in the old town centre of Radovljica.
Did you know, for example, that the Slovenian indigenous bee is the Carniolan honey bee (Apis mellifera carnica) and it is the second most widespread honey bee in the world. The Carniolan bee is protected by Slovenian law and it is the only species allowed in the country. It is known for its exceptional calmness and tameness, while at the same time it provides good yields from pastures and is disease-resistant.
The new exhibition features numerous interactive points and video content, and there’s plenty to keep kids amused too – whether young or old!
Slovenia is known for its beehives, the frontal panels of which are painted with various colourful motifs, folk art telling old myths and stories. Slovenia is thought to be the only country in the world that follows this age-old practice. You can learn more about this and see an exhibition of various painted panels, including the oldest known of its kind in the world.
You can also learn about where in the world the Carniolan bee is present, all thanks to Slovenia’s great and prolific beekeepers!
Click here to find out more about this museum, as well as the other museums and galleries in Radovljica’s old towns and the surroundings of Radovljica.
As our thoughts are slowly beginning to turn to planning holidays, this year – more than ever – it makes sense to choose a destination for your holiday that is ‘far from the madding crowd’.
Slovenia, fortunately, has plenty such destinations (my tip is to be sure to avoid the overcrowded places during the height of summer – Bled, in particular, as well as to some extent Piran, the Postojna caves, Ljubljana…). Radol’ca, where I live and about which I wrote last week, is one such uncrowded place, while Tržič, which is just a stone’s throw away, is another.
So, this time I’ve put together plenty of reasons why you should consider visiting Tržič, whether for a few hours, a day or two, or even as somewhere to base yourself for your entire stay in Slovenia.
Tržič is located in the Gorenjska (alpine) region of Slovenia and is separated from Austria by the Karavanke mountains, hence it’s a hiker’s paradise.
…and Šija, which lies beneath the ridge of Slovenia’s longest mountain.
On a side note, the equally relevant, the Slovenian tourist board has also stepped up its activities to promote the country as one with responsible travel standards under the label GREEN & SAFE and Tržič is one of the Slovenia GREEN destinations.
If you are looking for somewhere to stay, why not choose a stay at the Šlibar organic farm or glamping at Glamping Mountain Fairytale – both ideal places for some r&r – though there are numerous other choices of accommodation, too.
The Gorenjska plaža (Gorenjska beach) swimming pool is the ideal place to cool off during the heat of the summer, while the Trziška bistrica stream and the area’s waterfalls are other places to ‘chill’!
With all those mountains, mountain pastures and forests, there’s also plenty of cycling to be done – particularly for fans of mountain biking – while the Dovžan gorge is an adventure as well as a(nother) ideal place to cool off in the heat of summer.
Hooray, I am finally the bearer of some good news…it feels like a while since I’ve been able to say that!
Writing this feels a bit like groundhog day, as it was around this time last year that Slovenia began to exit its first lockdown and I published a similar blog on the subject. And here we are today, almost a year later and only now Radovljica, as well as the rest of Slovenia, is slowly beginning to re-open after three, seemingly endless, lockdowns.
Unfortunately, the vaccination programme is still going slowly – to date around one-fifth of the country’s 2 million residents has received at least one shot of a vaccine – but, notwithstanding, things are steadily moving in the right direction and finally, after 6 long months, the terraces of restaurants/bars etc. were able to re-open last week and as of yesterday (Monday 26 April) hotels and other accommodation facilities are able to open up to 30 rooms (regardless of the size of the property). Note, however, that a negative test or proof of vaccination is required to stay in an type of accommodation (camps included).
So, now you, well we if I include myself, can actually begin to start thinking about planning holidays, something that has seemed unthinkable for a long time now. And since most of us will no doubt – sensibly – prefer to avoid places overrun by mass tourism, it is destinations such as Radol’ca that come into their own with its boutique accommodation and numerous hiking trails and other off the beaten track attractions. So, here are a few ideas to help you in planning your visit to Radovljica – whether for a few hours, a few days, or even longer!
After record snowfall in some places, it’s still very much winter in Slovenia’s high mountains, fortunately here in Radol’ca there are plenty of hiking trails at lower altitudes. I’ve written about such trails on numerous occasions, so a quick search back through previous blog posts using key words will turn up plenty of info on hikes to, for example, Suharna, the Vodiška planina mountain hut, the Roblekov dom mountain hut, St. Peter’s church above Begunje na Gorenjskem, and more.
Of course, after all that fresh air and activity you will be in need of some sustenance, and you certainly won’t go hungry at Taste Radol’ca restaurants, the ethos of which is using seasonal, locally sourced, ingredients. At the time of writing, some of the restaurants have yet to re-open, since they are currently only allowed to serve customers outside on the terrace and for those with smaller terraces it is not worth their while re-opening. However, it is to be hoped that it won’t be too long until they are able to fully re-open. Radol’ca even has a Michelin-starred restaurant – Vila Podvin – as well as several other fine dining restaurants and numerous rural inns.
In terms of accommodation, there’s plenty to choose, from river-side camps to apartments, guest houses and other boutique accommodation.
In terms of events, it’s still a bit early to say what will and won’t take place this year. The Radovljica Chocolate Festival, which was cancelled last year and postponed this year, is provisionally scheduled to take place on 11th and 12th September this year, while the organisers are hoping that others events, such as the Craft Beer Festival and live music and food on Thursdays evenings in the square, will be able to go ahead in summer, in some form or another. But at the moment it’s a case of watch this space to see how things pan out.
Of course, all the above-mentioned are in the Radol’ca area itself, meaning there’s still a whole host of other places waiting to be explored in the surrounding areas; the Julian Alps and Triglav National Park are on the doorstep, Lake Bled and Lake Bohinj are close, Slovenia’s capital Ljubljana is just a cca. 40 minute drive, and even places such as the Postojna caves, the Soča valley, and Slovenia’s coast are all within a 1-2 hour drive – nothing is that far away in Slovenia!
So, I hope I have provided you with some food for thought and ideas to help your holiday planning and, as and when there is (even) more news about more things opening up, I’ll be in touch with more up-to-date info, or, in the meantime, do feel free to drop me a line if you need more info. Always happy to help, well, within reason that is!