Srednji Vrh: Seeking the Sun and a Stream in the Karavanke!

This ‘summer’ – not that it can really be called that thus far – hasn’t been kind to us outdoor types. This time last year we were basking in 35 degrees, whilst a week ago we had temperatures half that, and since the start of June there have only been a couple of days when there hasn’t been rain somewhere in Slovenia.

Thus, trying to find days with clear blue skies for hiking and getting some good snaps for my blog have been few and far between. Fed up with waiting, I just went anyway, and, though not as gloriously sunny as I would have liked, I managed to get in a good hike in the Karavanke mountains to Srednji vrh and the Dom pri izviru Završnice (mountain hut at the source of the Završnica stream) – and even stayed dry too!

Despite the less sunny photos, I hope you, nonetheless, enjoy this glimpse into just one of the many fantastic hikes in the Karavanke mountains in the Žirovnica area. Join me on my trip to see the source of the Završnica stream and Srednji vrh!

I started my hike from the Završnica valley. How far you go by car is a matter of choice – some choose to drive as far as possible along the valley, whilst I prefer to leave the car and set off on foot along the gravel road. You will want to stop and admire the reservoir (seen below on a sunnier day!), but if you have transport, then do continue along the valley further before parking, as its a long walk from here.

From here the road gets much rougher and it’s best to set off on foot. The area, with its many mountain pastures, is also popular for mountain biking.

The road rises gradually to reach the Tinčkova koca hut, which isn’t actually an official mountain hut, rather a private hut, but somehow the name has stuck!

The Dom pri izviru Završnice hut. which was recently renovated and has new beds and furniture, is situated at an altitude of 1425m above the Smokuč mountain pasture (Smokuška planina) and on the backside of the Zelenica ski piste (sadly, no longer operational).

The hut is open from 1st June to 1st October, and at other times at weekends, weather permitting, and by prior arrangement for groups. From the hut there are numerous options for continuing to explore the peaks of the Karavanke including Vrtača, Begunščica and Stol.

I always find the springs of rivers and streams fascinating. Where on earth does all the water come from? At the source of the Završnica stream, there is barely a trickle of water to be seen – and that despite the abundance of snow and rain this year – yet just a little further down the valley, it turns into a gushing stream.

The beauty of hiking in the Karavanke, particularly in the ‘summer’ (ahem!), is the lack of crowds. I hiked for close to 5 hours and only met around a dozen people in that time – bliss for those who really want to get away from it all.

As I like to make my hikes circular, where possible, I continued from the hut up the ski slope before turning left and heading on the slopes beneath Vrtača. In this area there is a lot of loose rock and scree, so you need to keep your wits about you. As you get higher, you are rewarded with a glimpse of Lake Bled in the distance.

Where the path branches off right to ascend the summit of Vrtača, I took the left fork marked for Stol. On reaching a junction I then descend to the Šija saddle, from where there is certainly no lack of choice of where to go next!

I chose the path to Srednji vrh (1796m), which is just a further 15 minute climb from the saddle. At the top there is a visitors’ book, a solitary bench and fab views!

I then descended back down towards the hut, which is less than half-an-hour from the Šija saddle before returning on the same road.

Click here for more information and this and other hikes in the Žirovnica area.

© Adele in Slovenia

Car-Free and Carefree in Bohinj and Triglav National Park

This summer you can take advantage of the new shuttle system in Bohinj, which enables visitors to leave their cars and cares behind and enjoy the beauty of Triglav National Park.

By parking in the one of the designated car parks and taking a bus, not only does it remove the stress of looking for somewhere to park, but it’s more environmentally-friendly and easy on the wallet too – in fact it’s FREE – so what’s not to like?!

I went to try it out for myself last Friday and it really is as easy as pie. So join me on my journey to Bohinj!

First, park your car in the large FREE car park at Camp Danica in Bohinjska Bistrica.

Next, take a FREE ticket from the machine and display it on your dashboard.

Then just hop aboard one of the FREE buses that run every 15 minutes from 9am to 8pm on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays from Camp Danica to Bohinj lake during July and August, and every 30 minutes in June and September.

The buses have various liveries, some easier to spot than others, but all offer the same FREE journey to/from the camp and the lake.

All that is left is to sit back and enjoy the short, scenic ride! You alight the bus just metres from the lake and the Monument to Four Brave Men – which commemorates the first four men who climbed to the summit of Slovenia’s highest mountain, Mount Triglav (2,864m) in 1778.

The rest of the day is yours to enjoy at your leisure, or to be as active as you like in the knowledge that you can easily and quickly get back to your car at day’s end when you have had your fill. Though, does, or can, one ever really have a fill of somewhere so beautiful?!

Walk or hike to your heart’s content, laze by the lake, do water sports in and on the lake, cycle, visit local attractions, soak up the views…

If, however, you are like me, you might like to consider taking a bus one way and walking the other – you get to see more and burn off a few of the calories ingested in ice-cream, too!

Walking on the traffic-free Bohinj Cycle Route from the lake alongside the Sava River back to the bus stop at Camp Danica (or vice versa) takes around 1.5 hours, though allow more as you will want to stop for photos and soak up (more of) the beauty along the way and at the rest areas.

This is just one of this year’s new additions in the Bohinj area. There are also additional car parks as well as buses running from Senožeta to the Blato mountain pasture, a favourite starting place for hikes in the Seven Triglav Lakes Valley, as well as the Hop-On Hop-Off bus to the Pokljuka plateau.

If you are staying in the Bohinj area for at least two nights, you can also avail of the Summer Mobility Card, which provides visitors with free parking, free bus rides and a whole host of other special offers and discounts.

Click here for more about this and what else to see and do in Bohinj, Triglav National Park and the Julian Alps.

© Adele in Slovenia

Taste Radol’ca at Spring Restaurant Week – The Tastiest Week of Spring!

After the past bitterly cold week, which saw temperatures plummet to around minus 20 and even lower for consecutive days, and the seemingly endless snowfall during the month of February (18 days of snow out of 28), spring can’t come soon enough, believe me!

And a sure sign of spring, other than warmer temperatures (still waiting for those!) and spring flowers (currently buried under metres of snow!) is Spring Restaurant Week!

Restaurant Week takes place bi-annually, in spring and in autumn, and makes dining at some of Slovenia’s finest restaurants accessible and affordable to all.

Photo: Žan Lebe,

All restaurants that are part of Restaurant Week are assessed and have to meet strict criteria to be included, therefore, the fact that there are three Taste Radol’ca restaurants included in the 19 restaurants in northern Slovenia, is a sure testament to the quality of Taste Radol’ca.

This year 101 restaurants are taking part in Spring Restaurant Week and from 16th – 25th March will offer fixed menus for just €18 per personReservations are essential, and many of the restaurants get booked up early, so don’t delay, book today!

Photo: Dean Dubokovic

Kunstelj Inn in Radovljica is known for its solid, traditional Slovenian food. Much of the inn’s produce comes from its own garden and from the local farm shop 18sedem3, which stocks a wide range of produce and products from local farms and other producers.

Two three-course menus are available for Restaurant Week, including main dishes such as oat risotto with smoked trout, baked lemon and sunflower seeds, or roast chicken with red cabbage strudel and apple.

Photo: Žiga Intihar

Photo: Žiga Intihar

Vila Podvin in Mošnje is one of Slovenia’s finest restaurants, winner of the 2017 Slovenian Restaurant Awards ‘Best Restaurant in Northern Slovenia’ and a member of the Jeunes Restaurateurs. Head chef Uroš Štefelin puts a modern twist on Slovenian food with a focus on local and seasonal ingredients and has created ‘His’ and ‘Hers’ three-course menus for Restaurant Week.

Restaurant Lambergh, part of Chateau Lambergh and Hotel, is in the midst of the countryside in the hamlet of Dvorska vas, yet is within minutes of Radovjlica. The hotel restaurant is open to the public and overlooks the beautiful Renaissance Chateau Lambergh. For Restaurant Week, head chef Grega Rozman has created two three-course menus – one meat-based and the other fish-based.

Of course, if you don’t make it for Spring Restaurant Week there’s always Autumn Restaurant Week, and you can also Taste Radol’ca year-round a the nine participating restaurants – apart from the three above, the others are Gostilna Avguštin, Gostilna Tavčar, Gostilna Lectar, Joštov hram, Gostišče Draga, and Gostišče Tulipan.

Taaste Radol’ca will also be cooking up delights at multiple events such as the Radovljica Chocolate Festival (20th-22nd April), the Month of Local Cuisine (the whole month of November), Refreshing Thursdays in the Square (live concerts and street food every Thursday evening in July), or join me for a Taste Radol’ca Food Tour.

I’m looking forward to some good grub to banish the winter blues – cheers to that I say!

 

© Adele in Slovenia

 

A Taste of the Pivka Lakes

The Taste of Pivka Lakes festival last Sunday was definitely among the best food events I have been to since moving to Slovenia! Not only due to the food – though that was delicious, believe me – but mainly because of the atmosphere and good spirit of the event.

Many of the villages that fall within the boundary of the Pivka Lakes Nature Park, a Natura 2000 area in Slovenia’s Green Karst area, come together on an annual basis to showcase their local specialities, some of which even vary quite substantially from village-to-village.

What I particularly liked about the Taste of Pivka Lakes festival is, unlike the majority of foodie events, there was no element of profit-making, no competitiveness, no-one trying to sell or promote their goods; it is just a case of good old-fashioned co-operation, goodwill and home-cooking by people from all walks or life regardless of their status and without any hint of greed or gluttony from either those participating or those attending – a rarity indeed! Whilst all the stalls had a makeshift box for voluntary donations, these were gratefully received but certainly not a necessity.

Those taking part included residents from local villages – Suhorje, Kal, Narin, Palčje, Šempeter na Pivki, Stara Sušica, Selce, Klenik, Trnje, Juršče, Zagorje, Drskovče – as well as the Pivka Tourist Association and the Pivka Park of Military History.

There was all manner of delicious, local, sweet, savoury, hot and cold dishes and delicacies to try; can you imagine what a tough job I had trying to do justice to it all – all in the name of research, of course!

Nettle burek, various kinds of štruklji, biscuits, numerous flavours of potica, strudel, pancakes, flancati, hearty cauldron-cooked soups, stews, goulash, locally produced cheese, etc. – all served with a hefty side order of goodwill!

A brass band from Pivka’s twin town of Durach in Bavaria, provided the entertainment and joined in the fun, too!

The Pivka Lakes themselves comprise 17 intermittent karst lakes which, during and after heavy precipitation, mysteriously fill with water; at other times the water simply vanishes to leave flower-covered meadows.

The largest of the lakes, when it is a lake, that is, is Palčje Lake (Palško jezero).

Photo: Zelenikras.si

The area is known for its biodiversity, with hundreds of species of plants, insects and butterflies, and the territory is also known for its bear, wolf and lynx. More about the lakes can be found here – https://www.naravniparkislovenije.si/en/nature-parks/the-seasonal-lakes-of-pivka-nature-park

You can read more in this blog from last year about my visit to the 2nd biggest lakePetelinsko jezero – and the new Eco-Museum of the Pivka Seasonal Lakeshttps://adeleinslovenia.com/2016/05/05/pivka-pause-ponder-play/

Find out more about what to see, do, and taste in the Green Karst area here – http://zelenikras.si/en/

© 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

Keep Cool in Kropa: The Source of the Kroparica Stream

The recent heat wave across many parts of southern Europe, including Slovenia, has seen temperatures in the mid-high 30s. I LOVE the heat and HATE the cold, so I haven’t been complaining, and since Slovenia is almost 60% covered by forest and there are rivers and streams aplenty, there’s always somewhere to escape the heat.

One such ‘cool’ place is Kropa – the cradle of Slovene iron forging.

Due to its location, nestled into a corner at the foot of the Jelovica plateau, Kropa remains cool even on the most sweltering of days.

The Kroparica stream is one of the two streams that springs from the foothills of the Jelovica plateau. The stream runs through the heart of the village and joins the other stream – the Lipnica – before continuing through the valley to meet the Sava river at Podnart.

In September 2007 the stream, which ironically was once the lifeblood of the village, burst its bank following heavy rainfall causing flooding and significant damage – as can be seen by the video below.

In its heyday of nail-making in the 18th and start of the 19th century, the ironworks in Kropa and nearby Kamna Gorica employed more than 2000 people.  The most important markets at that time were the area of the Republic of Venice and Trieste.

In the lower part of the village you can see the renovated pool which is a remainder of the lower foundry, whilst in the upper part of the village the water cascade, water troughs and barriers are remains of the upper foundry.

The Vigenc vice nail forge, located in the upper part of the village, is the only preserved foundry  for the manual forging of nails with an authentic preserved exterior and blacksmithing equipment inside. It is situated on the left bank of the stream below the dam of the former upper foundry. Next to the stream there is a wheel for driving the bellows, the interior contains three blacksmiths’ fireplaces. Around each fireplace there are six stone stumps for anvils, above the fire in the centre is the ‘kitchen’, the place where blacksmiths’ wives put their pans and cooked whilst working.

When walking around the village you can see some of the preserved technical objects beside the Kroparica stream which are evidence of the former lively ironworking industry. The Slovenian smelting furnace (Slovenska peč), dating from the 14th century, is located on a bend in the winding road that leads from Kropa up to Jamnik. Archeological remains of this important technical monument were discovered in 1953 and a protective building was erected to preserve it. The smelting furnace was 3 metres high and in 10 hours it produced 200 kilogrammes of wrought iron for forging.

Just after passing the furnace, you will see a sign on the right-hand side of the road to Vodice – one of the many hiking paths that lead to the Vodiška planina highland and the Partisanski dom na Vodiški planini  hut. If you would like to see the source of the Kroparica stream take this path but do NOT cross the small wooden bridge, continue instead ahead, slightly uphill on a somewhat overgrown stone path for a few hundred metres to reach the source.

The path isn’t marked but just follow your nose, and the water! The stream makes its way down from its source through the village through artificially constructed water drainage systems and barriers through which water from the stream’s main channels ran to the ironworks and blacksmiths workshops.

You can reach Kropa under your own steam, or until the end of August you can catch the Hop-on Hop-off tourist bus every Tuesday. Find out more about the Hop-On Hop-Off bus here – http://www.radolca.si/en/hop-on-hop-off-radolca/

You can find out plenty more about Kropa’s old village centre, the ironworks, the museum, and its technical heritage on the Tourism Radol’ca website here – http://www.radolca.si/en/kropa/

© Adele in Slovenia

Adventure Mini Golf Panorama – The Name Says It All!

Now I know why the new mini golf course in Gorica, near Radovljica is named Adventure Mini Golf Panorama. Wow, it offers a panorama in the truest sense of the word, and with a heat wave forecast this week, its the ideal place to escape the heat, too.

I run through the village of Gorica regularly and had seen the signs for the new mini golf course, but, if I’m honest, I thought it would probably be nothing that special. Well, I couldn’t have been more wrong – this place really is rather special!

Whether you are a fan of mini golf or not, you simply must visit; be it to play a round or two or just to sit on the terrace with a drink and savour the stunning panoramic views of the Julian Alps and the Jelovica plateau.

The 12-hole mini golf course has been thoughtfully arranged using superior-quality materials and is set in the cool of the forest.

Photos alone don’t do it justice, particularly as it was slightly overcast on the day of my visit. So, just go and check it out, I believe you won’t be disappointed and you’ll hopefully come away as enthusiastic as I was!

The forest setting provides the perfect respite from the heat and the whole ambience makes you instantly feel relaxed and at ease.

The course is suitable for all ages and abilities – from the littlest to the largest – as long as you can hold a club you can play!

Owner Andreja and her husband are there with a warm welcome and don’t take much persuading to join in a round or two!

The first round per visit costs 5 euros for adults, 4 euros for children, each round thereafter during the same visit costs 2 euros for adults, 1.50 euros for children.

During summer the course is open from 10am – 9pm and you can check the latest opening hours on the website here – http://adventureminigolf.si

© Adele in Slovenia