Taste the Treasures of the Forest with Taste Radol’ca 2019!

Yes, it’s that time of the year again, the tastiest time of the year in Radol’ca – the Taste Radol’ca Month of Local Cuisine!

Photo: Boris Pretnar, Source: http://www.radolca.si

As in the past, for the whole month of November you can visit any (or all!) of the nine participating Taste Radol’ca restaurants to try their special menus created using ingredients sourced and grown locally by local suppliers in the Radol’ca area.

The theme of the menus this year, of course in addition to local ingredients, is the forest, which offers an abundance of ingredients, some of them rather unusual. The talented Taste Radol’ca chefs have been hard at work coming up with new flavour combinations using the wealth of ingredients readily available in the forest during autumn. You can try dishes such as rosehip soup, fillet of white fish with spruce tip salt, venison occo bucco with juniper berry sauce, forest honey and spruce tip ice-cream…

Image may contain: 1 person, sitting, food and indoor

Every year the opening Taste Radol’ca event is held at one of the participating restaurants, and this year it was the turn of Gostišče Draga in the Draga valley in Begunje na Gorenjskem to host the event. It began with a market featuring local and guest suppliers and the chance to try their products…

…as well as the chance to meet the chefs and taste some of their creations.

And of course there was plenty of entertainment too!

The evening continued (or rather is continuing as I write!) late into the night with the opening dinner where diners were treated to a five-course feast.

Photo: Boris Pretnar, Source: http://www.radolca.si

Photo: Boris Pretnar, Source: http://www.radolca.si

There are two changes to the line-up of restaurants this year, with Jostov hram and Restavracija Lambergh exiting the fold, while Restavracija Center and Restavracija Tabor have joined the happy Taste Radol’ca family!

The other significant addition this year is supplier open days. On Fridays, Saturday and Sundays during the month of November you can visit some of the suppliers in the Radol’ca area where you will have an opportunity to meet the producers and taste their products.

Local Taste Radol’ca November menus will be available from 26th October to 30th November at a price of €19 for (a minimum of) three courses. So, don’t miss the ‘tastiest’ month of the Radol’ca year and the chance to treat your taste buds and support local suppliers too! And, in addition to treating yourself, you can now also treat your friends/loved ones by buying them a Taste Radol’ca gift voucher.

© Adele in Slovenia

Gourmet Fare at Gostilna pri Bajdu and Merriment in Medieval Žiganja vas

Last weekend in Tržič was a busy one, with, among others, a medieval day in the village of Žiganja vas, and Tržič Trail Days – a weekend of guided mountain bike rides. It was a toss up between the two, but I opted to first visit the former – perhaps I have a secret penchant for medieval torture, or perhaps because it meant there was then time to go on to a nearby inn I had heard good things about!

Though only small, the village of Žiganja vas has a number of interesting attractions; the village church, the Three Bells Trail (which I wrote about in a previous blog post here), and the giant village linden tree, which is so huge – and partly hollow – that you can actually go inside it.

The recently renovated St. Ulrich’s church stands in the centre of the village. The first written mention of the church dates back to 1327; its present day appearance dates largely from extensive rebuilding work in 1693, as well as recent renovations to both the exterior and interior.

The medieval day featured plenty for visitors to see and do; guided tours of the renovated church, archery, the chance to dress up in medieval costume, theatrical and musical performances, and more.

It was very well attended and its nice to see such events in small villages; it helps to bring the community closer as well as attracting visitors from further afield. Next year Tržič will be celebrating a special anniversary and many more such events are planned, so, keep your eyes peeled for more!

From Žiganja vas we drove the short distance to the village of Senično and the Gostilna pri Bajdu inn. Since being diagnosed with coeliac disease going to restaurants isn’t the experience it used to be, and in fact can be quite stressful never knowing exactly how a dish has been prepared and if it could have been ‘contaminated’ during preparation. I had been told that they do things “somewhat differently” at Gostilna pri Bajdu, so I decided it was time to boldly go and check it out for myself!

The family-run inn dates back to 1871, as is attested to by the year above the main entrance. It originally served as a stopping point for wagon drivers on long journeys, where their horses could rest for a while and the drivers could get some sustenance. The inn has remained in the hands of the same family since its establishment and throughout the years has become increasingly popular for its excellent home-cooked food, service and hospitality.

It is now being run by the fourth generation of the family, Jani Ribnikar, who, time permitting, is more than happy to take time to talk about the history of the inn and to recommend which of its many dishes to try.

The bar area is reminiscent of an English pub, complete with various humorous pub-like signs too!

And almost every detail in the restaurant has a story behind it, from the pictures and wood carvings to the trophies and other quaint touches.

The huge pork and veal shanks are also a favourite among diners – though do call to order in advance to avoid disappointment!

When Jani said we wouldn’t leave hungry, he wasn’t wrong! We were first treated to pumpkin soup and beef soup.

Followed by two huge platters – one meat-based, the other with vegetables and side dishes made from buckwheat flour, which I can eat, yippee! The  meat-based platter was packed with pork ribs, roast pork and venison – that latter is a popular choice, and at Gostilna pri Bajdu where they serve game with prunes rather than the usual cranberries, thus giving a nod to the tradition of plum-growing in the area.

With so much choice it was hard to know where to start – but we managed…and found room for dessert too!

It’s satisfying to know that not only are you eating a meal made with from scratch and with passion, but also you are eating in a restaurant full of pride and tradition. From the outside Gostilna pri Bajdu is nothing to look at, and it would be easy to pass by the inn without even noticing it, however, now I have discovered it, I shan’t be in any hurry to pass by without stopping, and, if/when you are in the area, recommend that you drop in too! Dober tek!

© Adele in Slovenia

Kunstelj Inn – A True and Tasty Tale of Tradition!

Kunstelj Inn in Radovljica is a family-run restaurant with rooms that has a long tradition and a great reputation. It is also one of the participating Taste Radol’ca restaurants, takes part in other culinary events such as Slovenian Restaurant Week and is featured in the Gault&Millau restaurant guide.

Five year’s ago, Maja Buden (nee Štiherle), daughter of Toni and granddaughter of Tone and the fourth generation to head up the family business, took over as manager of the inn. To mark this anniversary, as well as a certain ‘big’ birthday with a zero at the end, she threw a celebratory gathering last Friday! Happy Birthday and congratulations Maja!

And, of course, a Slovenian celebration wouldn’t be complete without accordion music and traditional entertainment!

Having recently translated a special edition newsletter to mark this special anniversary, I was keen to be able to share with readers of my blog some of the highlights and photographs of the inn’s long and fascinating history, and, fortunately, Maja gave me the nod to do so!

Kunstelj Inn was opened by Franc Kunstelj in 1873 and some years later handed it over to his son Rudolf. Rudolf was very ambitious and had a vision and belief that the small family inn could become the heart and soul of social life in Radovljica.

The Rudolf Kunstelj Inn in 1906. Photo: 110 years of the Radovljica Tourist Association

He set to work building a large lounge with a stage for celebrations, a wine cellar, a freezer and a veranda with views of the Julian Alps. The renovations placed Kunstelj Inn on the map of the most popular local restaurants in Slovenia.

Grandmother Jerica later took over the running of the inn. She had a reputation as a fearless woman who always knew exactly what she wanted and was not afraid to tell people to their face what was on her mind! She survived two wars, became a widow at a very young age, raised two sons, and took over and managed Kunstelj Inn all by herself.

Many of the dishes Jerica introduced onto the inn’s menu can still be found today, albeit with a modern ‘Maja twist’, as well as other traditional Slovenian food, including blood sausages, Carniolan sausage with sauerkraut or turnip, buckwheat polenta, homemade štruklji and more.

Meanwhile, grandmother Maria left home at the age of 14 to work at the Roblek dom mountain hut. Tone and the now legendary Slavko Avsenik – the founder of Slovenian folk music – used to visit the hut as rumour had it that there were a lot of pretty girls there! And it turned out to be true, since Tone and Maria met and later married, and Slavko Avsenik even played at their wedding!

Grandmother Maria (second from left) doing washing at the Roblek dom mountain hut

A particularly amusing tale is that of Grandad Tone and his golf ‘caddy’ Grol. Tone didn’t start to play golf until he was 62, when, due to his weak heart he gave up hunting as well as skiing and golf became a form of relaxation and enjoyment.

As the doctors had instilled in him that he must strictly avoid all forms of exertion, for some time Tone thought about how he could lighten the load of carrying his heavy golf clubs from one hole to the next and he hit on the idea that his faithful companion Grol could help!

Uncle Ivan made Grol a special trolley for transporting Tone’s golf clubs, and Grol adapted really well to his role as ‘caddy’.

Maja’s father Toni regularly went on exchange to Switzerland to “learn from the best”. It was there that he learnt skills from one of the most well known Swiss patisserie chefs, Hans van den Klinkenberg, in Hotel Eden in Lugano. Toni brought all the tricks and secrets he learnt from the patisserie chef to Kunstelj Inn’s kitchen, which led to Kunstelj’s strudels, pies, ice-cream and other cakes soon gaining a reputation as the best desserts in Gorenjska.

Like her father, Maja also has a passion for desserts and, also like her father, she went to Austria to learn her patisserie skills. Her role model, who she met on one of her culinary travels, is Lea Linser; at that time Lea was running an acclaimed restaurant in Luxembourg and was the first ‘tv chef’ on German television. To this day Maja turns to Lea’s cookery books for inspiration for her signature desserts.

Some year’s back Maja created the first Kunstelj ‘grizike’ (cake pops), which later became – and still are – one of the star attractions of the Radovljica Chocolate Festival!

You can also visit during the time of Slovenian Restaurant Week, which takes place twice per year for 10 days in autumn and spring, when you can take advantage of a 3-course menu for just 19 euros per person, the next edition will take place from 11th – 20th October (note: the website is currently only available in English, but menus will soon also be available in English and by next year the entire website too – working on that one too!).

Kunstelj Inn is also part of Taste Radol’ca and for the whole month of November all nine participating Taste Radol’ca restaurants offer special menus based on local ingredients also for a set price of 19 euros  per person.

So, now you know (some of) Kunstelj Inn’s history, why not visit to find out (and taste!) more!

© Adele in Slovenia

Visit Žirovnica and Dine Hunter-Style at Lovski dom!

Lovski dom (Hunters’ Lodge) in the Završnica valley has long been a favourite place to dine among locals from the Žirovnica area as well as those from further afield. It has a reputation for its great wild game dishes, among others, as one would expect from a Hunters’ Lodge!

The restaurant was originally established by hunters, hence the name, and has now been under the same ownership for 27 years. Its winning recipe for success is a combination of great, traditional Slovenian food, hearty portions, friendly service and reasonable prices.

In fine weather you can sit outside and enjoy the views of both the surroundings and the restaurant’s own menagerie of animals, including Mici the bear.

…while during the colder months you can join the array of animal indoors – not live ones though!

Mici, originally from Kočevje, has been at ‘home’ at Lovski dom for 16 years now, and seemed more than happy to show off her climbing skills to get a treat of oranges and apples. The merits of keeping a bear in captivity are for some, obviously, questionable, however owner Ingrid explained to me that Mici has been in captivity all her life and would likely be unable to survive now in the wild.

Now, on to the food! Being somewhat limited in what I can order these days, I was unable to indulge, as I would have liked, in the huge meaty platters laden with Wiener schnitzel and other such traditional delights for which Lovski dom is known, including venison goulash, river trout and homemade štruklji.

Fortunately, however, I was able to indulge – and did – in the delicious and humungous pork ribs, the mixed grill, buckwheat with crackling, sauteed potatoes and salad, so, for a change, I didn’t feel short changed by being unable to eat anything containing gluten.

Reservations are recommended at weekends. Call 041 945 347 or email okrepcevalnica.stol@gmail.com

There is plenty to see and do in the vicinity of Lovski dom to build up an appetite for your hearty meal. You can hike in the Karavanke mountains, for example to Stol – the highest mountain in the Karavanke range – and/or visit the Valvasorjev dom mountain hut, which is the three-time winner of the title of Slovenia’s Best Mountain Hut (2014, 2016, 2018).

For a less strenuous option, you can visit the Turkish Cave or just take a leisurely stroll around the Završnica reservoir and recreation park – the choice is yours!

Find out more about what to see, do, and taste in Žirovnica here.

© Adele in Slovenia

 

Taborniški dom na Šiji – Homely Hospitality and Hiking at the Scouts’ Hut on Šija

Unlike the majority of Slovenia’s mountain huts, the Taborniški dom na Šiji mountain hut (translation: the Šija Scouts Hut) is privately run, and the difference is obvious from the moment you arrive.

The hut lies at an altitude of 1,528 metres under the ridge of Slovenia’s longest mountain. There are numerous mountain pastures beneath the Košuta ridge, where cattle graze in summer, and the Šija hut makes a great place to base yourself for a couple of days to hike the pastures or along the ridge. The hut is also ideal for small groups, clubs, school outings, etc.

Owners Simona and Miha pride themselves on the homely atmosphere and home-cooked traditional food. So, I went to check it out for myself and within minutes of arriving, we were chatting like long-lost friends!

And I soon made friends with Jerry the dog too!

The Šija mountain pasture can be reached from several directions; the easiest and most direct of which is from the village of Jelendol, from where you can either set off on foot (cca. 2 hours) or, if you don’t mind getting a dusty car (I do mind, hence I walked!), then you can take the mountain road.

Whether on foot or by car, continue on the mountain road to the sign as seen in the photo below, from where it takes approx. 45 minutes to reach the hut on foot.

The čez frata (translation: through a clearing) path leads up to reach the Ilovica mountain pasture from where its just a 5 minute walk to reach the Taborniški dom.

Note: the path is well marked, however, when you reach the gate at the top of the pasture there isn’t a sign and it’s not immediately obvious whether to turn left or right; turn right and you reach the hut in around 5 minutes.

After a good old chinwag, I was shown to my room for the night. The hut has 4 bedrooms with a total of 34 beds, and a separate 6-bedded room. It has an indoor toilet (always a bonus when staying in the mountains!) and electricity.

I left it to my hosts to choose what to serve for dinner – albeit with strict instructions that it had to be gluten-free. And they didn’t disappoint with jota (a thick cabbage, potato and Carniolan sausage soup) and bržola, a traditional Tržič lamb stew, which these days is getting harder to find, hence Miha and Simona are keen to try to preserve its presence in the Tržič area.

But the best was still to come. The house special dessert – buckwheat omelette with forest fruits – which was seriously scrummy and, even better, is naturally gluten-free too! Well worth the hike! The only problem is I want another one, or two…!

I was fortunate that the weather was glorious, both on the evening that I arrived and the next morning. What a view to wake up to!

And not a bad view for breakfast either!

Speaking of breakfast, you can opt for a more simple continental-style breakfast, or opt to try some traditional specialities such as masunek (a mixture of flour, eggs, salt, butter) and/or buckwheat žganci (buckwheat flour cooked to a porridge-like consistency topped with pork crackling), all served with a mug of kislo mleko (sour milk).

You can visit the Taborniški dom website here (currently in Slovene only, but expect an English version soon), and the Facebook page here.

There are numerous onward hikes from the Šija mountain pasture, either along the mountain pastures or traversing the peaks of Slovenia’s longest mountain. It was sad to bid farewell so soon, but I was equally looking forward to day two of my adventure. Keep reading and following my blog to find out about my ridge hike – more coming soon!

© Adele in Slovenia

Discovering the Taste(s) of Žirovnica – Gostišče Osvald

Regular readers of my blog will know that I have written numerous posts about the fantastic hiking opportunities the Žirovnica area offers, among them an ascent of Stol, the highest mountain in the Karavanke range. And now, since all hungry hikers (as well as cyclists and those pursuing other active pursuits) need plenty of sustenance and a ‘reward’ for their efforts, I have now set about delving more deeply into what is on offer at Žirovnica’s restaurants and inns – all in the name of research, of course!

So, let’s begin with a popular and traditional Slovenian restaurant – Gostišče Osvald, which is located on the main road through Žirovnica in the hamlet of Selo pri Žirovnici and is the oldest restaurant in the area.

One of my desires when writing such blogs is to try and uncover and share with readers any particular dishes that are a real speciality of a particular restaurant or area. Hence I left it to owner Anže to dish me up his specialties!

I hit gold with this giant buckwheat ‘krap’! ‘Krapi’ are usually smaller, individual dumplings, filled with curd cheese. This giant one, however, has a small amount of yeast mixed into the buckwheat dough to allow it to rise, is filled with a mixture of curd cheese and millet, and topped with pork crackling – ingenious and delicious!

Another speciality of the Žirovnica area is buckwheat with porcini mushrooms. It’s not dissimilar to a mushroom risotto, albeit it with grains of buckwheat instead of rice, with onion, herbs and sour cream to finish. It can be a hearty and filling dish on its own or a side dish.

Served together with a roast, I left fit to burst!

Anže then showed me around the other parts of the deceptively large building, which features two additional rooms for functions.

The restaurant was built in the mid-19th century. In bygone days there was a barn next door for the horses of horsemen who stopped in Selo pri Žirovnici on their onward travels and stayed in rooms above the barn.

Today you too can stay there – though above the restaurant rather than in the barn! – in the recently refurbished attic rooms, which are simple but make a bargain place to stay and ideal base for exploring the area.

Gostišče Osvald is in close proximity to Čopova hisa (Čop’s House), the birth house of Matija Čop, the first Slovenian philologist, literary historian and librarian, one of the greatest European scholars of his time and a good friend and mentor of France Prešeren.

His birth house is now also home to the Žirovnica Tourist Information Centre as well as the Ajdna Museum Room, featuring an exhibition of artefacts found during archeological excavations at Ajdna. Read more about hiking to Ajdna in one of my previous blog posts.

Also close by is the Avenue of Famous Men, located in front of the primary school in Žirovnica, and part of the Žirovnica Path of Cultural Heritage. You can take a horse and cart ride along the path every fourth Saturday in the month from March to October.

The ‘avenue’ features bust statues of five of the most famous and influential men from the Žirovnica area –Anton Janša, France Prešeren, Fran Saleški Finžgar, Janez Jalen and Matija Čop.

Click here for more information about what to see and do in Žirovnica and here for more about what, and where, to taste Žirovnica, and keep an eye out for more ‘tasty’ blogs to come too!

© Adele in Slovenia

The Poignant Past + Delicious Present in Tržič: Mauthausen and Gostišče Karavla

The tranquil St. Ana valley is squeezed between the Karavanke mountains along the road leading from Tržič to the Ljubelj pass. The valley was named after St. Anne’s church, which can be seen nestled beneath the mountains shortly before reaching the top of the windy road.

The valley has a particularly poignant past, as it was the location of a former World War II Mauthausen concentration camp, also known as the Ljubelj Labour Camp, the remains of which can still be seen today at the preserved and protected cultural site. It was the only World War II camp of its kind in Slovenia.

The concentration camp, which was a branch of the Mauthausen Nazi camp, was established during the time of the construction of the Ljubelj tunnel on the strategically important road between the then Nazi Germany and the southern occupied territories.

Today the remains have been arranged into a memorial park.

Though its not the usual type of tourist attraction, those interested in history, as well as anyone with a sense of respect for the past – myself included – can’t fail to be moved and feel somewhat poignant when strolling through the camp mindful of the dreadful atrocities that took place there.

The first 330 political internees were brought to the camp on 3rd June 1943, and the camp closed on 7th May 1945. There was a maximum of 1,300 internees, the majority were French, whilst there were also Poles, Yugoslavs, Italians, Czechs, Jews, Norwegians, Belgians, and Greeks, among others, the majority of which met their death while interned at the camp.

Click here to take a virtual walk through the camp.

On the opposite side of the road there is a monument with commemorative plaques giving more information (in various languages, though not in English).

From the Mathausen camp you can see a building on the opposite side of the road almost hidden in the forest. This is Gostišče Karavla (formerly known as Gostišče Koren), which I must admit to having overlooked on previous visits to the area.

However, following my recent visit I can attest that a meal here is a ‘must’ – thanks to both the fantastic food and the exceptionally friendly team – and I highly recommend rewarding yourself after a sightseeing visit to the area, or after a hike, bike ride or, in winter, a ski tour, or just ‘because you’re worth it!’

The menu is varied, with a focus on game and Angus steaks, though there are also plenty of other traditional Slovenian dishes and numerous options for vegetarians too.

As the focus is on game, I just had to try the wild boar with cranberries, which is served with homemade curd cheese štruklji, and the black Angus steak was cooked to perfection and ‘melt-in-the-mouth’ delicious!

And although, for a change(!) it was ‘dinner-a-deux’…

…the dessert – the house speciality buckwheat sponge with hot cranberries and cream – was mine, all mine!

Click here to find out more about all this and all the other attractions in the Trzic area, and here to read my previous post about hiking and other activities at Zelenica and Ljubelj.

© Adele in Slovenia