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

 

 

Highlights of the Škofja Loka Historial 2017

The annual Škofja Loka Historial (Festival of History) took place last weekend in the well-preserved medieval old town and its surroundings.

I attended the festival and managed to dodge (most of !) the afternoon showers which are so often a feature at this time of year. And the spirits of all the dancers, actors, stallholders, and other performers and guests weren’t dampened either!

Below you can see some of the highlights of the festival, as well as see more of this charming town on the Sora river which should be on your list of places to visit whilst in Slovenia.

The fair and the majority of events took place in the main town square (Mestni trg) where visitors  had a chance to try some typical dishes from the area, part of the Taste of the Škofja Loka Countryside project (Okusi loškega podeželja).

One of the foods most synonymous with this area is Visoška pečenka – roast pork from nearby Visoko, studded with carrots, lemon, parsley garlic and laurel.

On the main stage there were performances from, amongst others, the Lonca Dance Society performing historic dances.

A display of flag throwing and sword play was performed by the Taboršti Kupci historic group from the twin town of Tabor in Southern Bohemia.

They certainly weren’t just play fighting! It was pretty brutal, raw fighting which, in addition to swordplay, seemed to involve a lot of bashing each other over the head with (real!) hammers!

In Rotovž, the former town hall building and one of the most prominent buildings in the square with its baroque frescoes and three-storey gothic arcaded courtyard, the main event took place at intervals throughout the day. The drama ‘The Devil’s Footbridge’ (Hudičev brv) tells the story of the devil, the Puštal frogmen and a stone bridge.

From the main square, I headed down through the narrow streets and alleys to the other main town square, Lower Square (Spodnji trg) where there were also various workshops and performances.

Next it was up to Loka Castle and the 16th century Škopar’s House (Škoparjeva hisa) where I had a chance to sample Loška medla, cooked in the original black kitchen; a simple peasant-style dish made of cooked millet which, according to some sources, originates from the Škofja Loka area.

Outside the house there were workshops and puppet shows for children, as well as weaving workshops. Unfortunately I haven’t got so much as a creative bone in my body when it comes to such things, but I’m always willing to give them a try! Weaving on a loom and using a weaving board; the latter, as I discovered, also requires a fair bit of patience!

Even when there aren’t any particular events happening in the town itself, there’s no shortage of things to see and do in and around it, as well as further afield in the Selca and Poljana valleys, about which I’ve already written quite a bit this year, but I’m certainly not finished yet!

And there’s no need to wait until next year’s Historial if you’d like to try your hand at some traditional handicrafts as this can be done all-year round at the DUO Arts and Crafts Centre (more here https://adeleinslovenia.com/2017/01/13/loka-honey-breads-and-handicrafts-at-the-duo-arts-crafts-centre/); you could also take a guided tour of the town to find out more about its history and listen to some of the many local legends, try some of the suggested experiences, or explore the pristine countryside on foot or by bike. More about all this can be found on the Visit Škofja Loka website – http://www.visitskofjaloka.si/en/

© Adele in Slovenia

The Pri Andrejevih Tourist Farm: Fab Food, Family and Fortifications!

Staying at a tourist farm offers a unique experience in every sense. Each of them are different – some of them are working farms with vast with acres of land, others small, simple but homely. Whatever the size and the facilities on offer, you can be sure of a friendly welcome at family-run tourist farms with copious helpings of home-made and home-produced food.

There are over 800 tourist farms in Slovenia spread through the country, so deciding where to stay can be a minefield.

I’ve visited quite a few in my 10 years of living here and, of those that I’ve visited so far, Pri Andrejevih in the village of Narin, stands out.

The village of Narin is situated midway between Pivka and Ilirska Bistrica and is ideally located for exploring all the area has to offer. In this previous blog, you can read much more about what to do and see in Pivka including the Park of Military History, which is well worth a visit – http://wp.me/p3005k-1w8

The family-run Pri Andrejevih farm comprises a working farm, where organic farming is practiced, simple, well-appointed rooms in the upper part of the house, an outdoor swimming pool, and great Slovene home-cooked food, which is available for guests or, upon prior arrangement, also for day visitors.

Immediately upon arrival, I couldn’t help but notice the imposing church on a hill directly above the farm, and I couldn’t wait to set off to explore it!

The church is located in the small settlement of Šilentabor, which, though there is nothing left today to suggest so, was once the largest fortification complex in Slovenia. You can reach the settlement on an easy path which is part of the Circular Trail of Military History which runs almost past the door of the Pri Andrejevih farm.

From the farm you cross the railway line – observing the stop sign, of course!

Then, just keep following the green signs! Here the path leads up to Šilentabor, or you can continue on the circular path.

You pass the family’s pastures where their horses graze.

Once there the views over the entire Green Karst area are breathtaking, so much so you may need to take a lie down!

From the viewpoint continue past the bear (!) onwards towards the church. Shortly before reaching the church the return route to Narin leads down to the left, but it’s worth making the extra few minutes detour to St. Martin’s church.

It takes about 1.5 hours for the route from Narin to Šilentabor and back, or, for the entire 11.3km circular path allow 3-4 hours.

Of course, by now, hunger had set in and it was time for a delicious dinner, which I had been looking forward to ever since my previous visit to Pri Andrejevih, as they cook and serve the most natural and delicious food – simplicity at its best.

They also produce and sell their own honey, vinegar, juices and fruit liqueurs.

When not out walking and exploring, there’s a chance to relax in the farm’s outdoor swimming pool and to ‘get to know’ the family pets.

Then watch the sun setting from the terrace. A perfect end to a perfect day!

After a good night’s rest and more farm products at breakfast, I set off on another day of exploration of the Green Karst, about which you can read here – https://adeleinslovenia.com/2017/05/07/sneznik-and-slivnica-witches-and-castles-in-the-karst/

Find more details about the Pri Andrejevih Tourist Farm here – http://www.andrejevi.com/ and about the Green Karst region here – http://zelenikras.si/en/

© Adele in Slovenia

http://www.andrejevi.com/

 

The UNESCO-Listed Škofja Loka Passion Play

When UNESCO deems something important enough to be included in its List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, you know it’s something of great value and importance, as is the case with the Škofja Loka Passion Play.

Staging of the play is based on the oldest preserved text in Slovenian language, written by Father Romuald, a Capuchin monk who lived for a time in the monastery in Škofja Loka.

Staging of the Passion Play, Photo: Andrej Tarfila Photography

Where better, then, to start my journey of discovery of the Passion Play, than with a look around St. Anne’s Church and the Capuchin Monastery – where the original manuscript is preserved – in the heart of the medieval old town of Škofja Loka.

I was greeted by the sprightly 80-year monk Father Bernard who is a good testament to the benefits of clean living. It was a pleasure and a privilege to get an insight into life in the monastery and hear some of this tales of the various Capuchin monasteries where he has lived in Slovenia.

The church and monastery date back to 1707 when the foundation stone was laid, with regular church services beginning on New Year’s Day 1710.

Photo: Tomaž Sedej

Photo: Tomaž Sedej

Father Bernard first showed me around the monastery’s gardens and courtyard and was particularly keen to point out the two sundials.

Photo: Tomaž Sedej

We moved on to look at the monastery church. Its layout is simple – a single nave with three chapels – however the fittings, altars and paintings are opulent. Mass takes place twice daily on weekdays at 6am and 8am, and three-times per day on Sundays and public holidays, at 8am, 11am and 6pm (at 5pm during winter) and is open to everyone.

Photo: Tomaž Sedej

The pride and joy of the monastery, however, is undoubtedly the library on the first floor which contains 25,000 items, among them are 21 incunabula – books printed before 1501, the oldest of which dates from 1473, and the original manuscript of the Škofja Loka Passion.

The precious original manuscript. Photo: Tomaž Sedej

The library in itself is a work of art, featuring intricate hand-carving work by the acclaimed local carver Petra Podlogar Plestenjak. I met Petra and witnessed her work up close earlier this year when she taught me how to make Loka honey breads using her hand-carved moulds at the DUO Arts and Crafts Centre. Read more here – https://adeleinslovenia.com/?s=Loka+honey+breads

Carving by Petra Plestenjak Podlogar, Photo: Kati Sekirnik

Conditions in the library are maintained at a constant level of light and humidity to ensure preservation of the centuries-old precious books. I was almost afraid to breathe, such are the pristine conditions of the books in the library and the sense of history they convey.

There is also a separate exhibition area which includes copper reliefs of scenes from the Passion Play, and historical photos of the Capuchin monasteries in Slovenia.

Copper reliefs of scenes from the Passion, Photo: Tomaž Sedej

The Passion Play was originally performed on Good Friday each year until 1751. Almost 300 years later it was again held in 1936, before being revived in 1999. The play is now staged every 6 years, with the last full performance being held in 2015. So, we may have to wait until 2021 for the next performance, but, as they say “All the best things are worth waiting for!”

Around 800 people, including actors, volunteers, dressmakers etc., are involved in the staging of the largest open-air theatre production in Slovenia (and surely further afield too).

There is currently an exhibition of pictures of the Passion Play on view in the Sokolski dom building in the centre of Škofja Loka’s old town. The exhibition by Jože Štukelj is based on the UNESCO session in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, held from 27.11-2.12.2016, where the Passion Play was officially inscribed into the afore-mentioned UNESCO List. Entry to the exhibition is free and it is open until 17th April.

The current exhibition in Sokolski Dom, Photo: Tomaž Sedej

More information about the Škofja Loka Passion Play can be found here – http://www.pasijon.si/en/ and about the Capuchin Library on the Visit Škofja Loka website here – http://www.visitskofjaloka.si/en/experiences/culture-and-art

2021 will come around before you know it, so mark the date now!

© Adele in Slovenia