Kindness in the Karavanke

In this often turbulent world we live in, the kindness of strangers is something to be valued and cherished, as I discovered on my latest adventure in the Karavanke mountains last weekend!

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Those of you who also follow me on my Adele in Slovenia Facebook page are likely to have already read my (mild) rant last week about the queues of people and two hour wait to ascend to the top of Slovenia’s highest mountain, Triglav, on a busy Bank Holiday weekend in August.

I have often waxed lyrical here about the Karavanke mountains, which seem to get so overlooked by those visiting Slovenia who automatically head for the better-known Julian Alps. The Karavanke form a natural border between Slovenia and Austria so, in addition to offering myriad possibilities for day and multi-day hikes, there are the added bonuses of less crowds and far-reaching views across 2 countries.

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My home town of Radovljica is in a perfect location to base yourself to explore the Karavanke mountains, being in close proximity to Stol – the highest peak of the Karavanke, as well as Begunščica and numerous other peaks, many of which I have written about previously. Note: you can use the search facility on this blog to find previous posts by using keywords and/or visit the Tourism Radol’ca website for more information – http://www.radolca.si/en/hiking/

So, back to my latest adventure. This time I headed slightly further from home to hike in the Karavanke mountains, first to Tržić, then to the village of Dolina, near Jelendol, from where I hiked up to the ever-popular Kofce highland and mountain hut (1488m). The sky really was that perfectly blue – no photo-shopping required!

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From there I continued to the Šija highland and hut and past grazing cattle, of which there are plenty on the highlands along the length of the range.

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Next I continued along an old unmarked path to the Pungrat highland before joining the path up to Škrbina ridge (1869 m) from where there were bird’s eye views across both Slovenia and Austria.

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As much as I hate crowds (as per the Triglav rant), there was barely a soul to be found here so I was more than elated to encounter two kindly, gallant strangers who came to my rescue when I got myself into a spot of bother just beneath the peak of Kladivo (2094m). They were passing in opposing directions but didn’t hesitate to help, which served as the wonderful reminder of how such altruistic acts of simple kindness can make the world a much better place.

So, thank you once again Olga and Anže for for your help and part in a (mostly!) wonderful, and certainly unforgettable, day. As was well that ended well and new acquaintances were made to boot. So, all in all, despite my little ‘moment’, it was a(nother) great day in the Karavanke!

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© Adele in Slovenia

 

Spring in the Karavanke Mountains

After all the excesses of the Radovljica Chocolate Festival, last week was all about my other great love – Slovenia’s great outdoors!

Spring has arrived in the Karavanke mountains and, particularly on the south facing slopes, the snow is melting at a pace, or rather ‘was’. When I started writing this blog last week, it certainly was ‘Spring in the Karavanke Mountains’. Now, however, looking out of my window at the fresh snow, and digging out my gloves and warm clothes again, it feels anything but spring-like! Nevertheless, the blog below remains ‘as was’ and hopefully spring-proper will return very soon.

It is, however, a different matter on the north facing slopes of the Karavanke, so it’s still a bit too soon in the season for any serious hiking above 1,500 metres, and it’s an entirely different matter in the Julian Alps, where there is still a significant amount of snow, even at lower levels.

It’s still a little nippy early morning, especially for cycling, but wrapped up well I cycled from Radovljica to the Završnica reservoir then headed on foot to Smolnik (1002m). What I particularly like about Smolnik is that despite it being near the Valvasor mountain hut (Valvasorjev dom) – a very popular destination for hikers, Smolnik itself is relatively unknown as the path is not marked, thus only those ‘in the know’ frequent it – until now perhaps!!!

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Though I also often hike up to the Valvasor hut at this time of year, what sets Smolnik apart is the view, since the views from the hut are rather restricted. The path up through the forest is very steep, so I consider a pair of hiking poles a must – though there is an option to approach it from the opposite direction, via the road that leads to the Ajdna archeological site, which is a far less steep option. In places it little more than a mass of tangled tree routes, however, the path is clear and easy to follow.

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On reaching the top of Smolnik there are wonderful views across the valley and towards Bled Lake, a great reward for my effort.

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There is a bench for resting weary limbs if required, with Stol, the highest peak in the Karavanke range, dominating the backdrop, and looking very ‘moody’ on this occasion.

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From the peak of Smolnik it’s easy to reach the Valvasor mountain hut, from where you can continue to one of the mountain highlands as I did – in this case the Žirovniška planina highland, for marvellous views of the snow-capped Julian Alps, or continue towards Ajdna, which is well worth a visit. You can read more about that in a previous blog here – https://adeleinslovenia.com/2014/01/13/fascinating-ajdna/

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It’s just the start of the season, so plenty of this, and more, to come!

© Adele in Slovenia 2016

The Radovljica Festival / Završnica Recreation Park

The Radovljica Early Music Festival began on Saturday 8th August and runs until Sunday 23rd August. There is a rich programme of concerts, workshops and masterclasses which take place in Radovljica Mansion and St. Peter’s Church. More details can be found here – http://www.radolca.si/en/what-to-do/events-1/radovljica-festival/83/260/ and also here – http://www.festival-radovljica.si/en/

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Leila Schayegh

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Phoenix Munich Ensemble

As much as I love hiking and cycling in the hilly and mountainous surroundings of Radovljica, there are the occasional times – such as when I’ve already hiked for 5 hours and am tired but don’t want to be at home when the weather is so beautiful – when a nice leisurely bike ride is called for. Fortunately, we have that here too!

So, on Friday, after the aforementioned 5 hour hike (more about that another time), I cycled to the Završnica Recreation Park in the Završnica Valley which, from home, takes less than 45 minutes, taking the route Radovljica – Lesce – Hraše – Rodine – Zabreznica – Žirovnica – Moste – Završnica, and then to the Zavrh bar which has lately become one of my favourites places to sit and enjoy a drink beside the cool of the Završnica stream.

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Chilling by the stream!

The reservoir is also the start point of the 2km-long Završnica Trim Trail which leads beside the stream to the Zavrh bar and onwards, making it perfect for these sultry hot days when the cool of the forest offers some respite from the heat.

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The Zavrsnica reservoir (and me!)

The Recreation Park also comprises a football field, a natural climbing wall and beach volleyball courts. The Završnica Valley is also an excellent starting point for mountain biking, and for hikes in the Karavanke mountains, such as to Stol, the highest mountain in the Karavanke, or to the ski slopes and the spring of the Završnica stream at Zelenica. Fishing and horse-riding are also popular activities in the valley.

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The new bridge connecting the trim trail

In winter there is a cross-country skiing area and, if the snow conditions are right, the road which leads up to the Valvasor mountain hut is turned into a sledging track. More information about the valley can be found here – http://www.zavrsnica.si/?id=50 (Slovene) or http://en.zirovnica.eu/home/ (English)

But it’s not time to be thinking about winter yet. Still more good weather ahead this week to enjoy….

© AdeleinSlovenia 2015

gostilna Walking Pokljuka’s Highlands / Radovljica Ceramics Festival 2015

I’ve had a bit of a cold hanging around for the past few days, maybe the weather is to blame due to a week of temperatures in the mid-twenties followed by half a week of rain and temperatures barely reaching 10 degrees. This week, however, with the exception of a blip yesterday, it looks set to warm up again and hopefully I, and the weather, are now on the up!

I’m not good at being ill so, unless I’m really at death’s door, I still prefer to get outdoors in the fresh air rather than be cooped up indoors. Though, since I was feeling a bit lacklustre I needed a more gentle alternative and therefore a trip to the Pokljuka plateau was just the ticket. The vast plateau really does offer something for everyone. I usually go for longer hikes and baulk at the thought of driving part of the way, but this time I did let the car take some of the strain! There are endless places to walk of all lengths and difficulties, though, it is best to stick to marked paths and forest roads as one could very easily get lost in the great swathes of forest. Nevertheless, it doesn’t really matter where, how far, or how high, you go on Pokljuka, every path offers its own magic.

I began by driving past the Kranjska dolina highland, from where Stol, the highest peak in the Karavanke, can be seen in the background.

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Next I set off, on foot, towards Lipanca and the Blejska koća mountain hut. However, instead of continuing up to the hut, I took another path back down to rejoin the road, reaching one of my favourite highlands, Planina zajavornik. The whole of Pokljuka lies within Triglav National Park, which means there are certain rules to abide to protect nature and, as can be seen below, there are bears in the area, though the chances of meeting one are probably one in a million!

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I then enjoyed a rest in the sun among the wildflowers. The sun was lovely and warm though the wind was a bit nippy hence why I’m wrapped up in an old bivvie bag! There are a smattering of small wooden houses on the highland and, during the summer months, cheese, yoghurt and sour milk can be bought direct from the herdsmen.

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On Saturday it was the main day, Market Day, of this year’s Ceramics Festival in Radovljica. Aside from the monster of a hail storm early afternoon, it was a fine day that drew visitors – locals and tourists alike – to browse and buy from the stalls where they could chat directly with the ceramists themselves. There were also workshops, for adults and children, for those interested in having a go at making something for themselves. The Festival was officially opened on Thursday at an event attended by Radovljica’s Mayor and the ceramist Grainne Watts from Ireland whose exhibits could be seen in the lobby of the Radovljica Mansion.

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As a collector of elephants, though I don’t actually recall when or why I started collecting them, these colourful ornaments caught my eye.

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Later on Saturday, as part of Vurnik Days (Vurnikovi dnevi), the event ‘Pozdrav trti’ (A Toast to the Vine) took place at Kunstelj Inn in Radovljica. The vine is in the garden at Kunstelj Inn which offers great local food and one of the finest views in town. The vine, of the original variety Žametna črnina, is a descendant of the world’s oldest vine (as recorded in the Guiness Book of Records) which is found in Slovenia’s 2nd biggest city, Maribor.  More information about Kunstelj Inn can be found here – http://www.kunstelj.si/

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The Karavanke and the Čepa Gorge

I know my blog is named ‘Adele in Slovenia’ so it may seem somewhat odd that this week I’m writing about Austria, but let me explain…

The Karavanke mountains form a natural border between Slovenia and Austria, and here in Radovljica we are fortunate to have part of the Karavanke range right on the doorstep. Particular favourites among locals, in which I include myself, are Stol (the highest in the Karavanke range) and Begunščica, whilst just slightly further afield there are other popular peaks such as Golica, Dovška baba and others.

Some of the territory which lies just the other side of the Karavanke, though these days geographically in Austria, was formerly Slovene and thus, even today, many Slovenes remain living in these areas and therefore places names and all official documentation etc. is found written in both Slovene and German languages. One of such places is the area just on the other side of the Ljubelj pass (more about this in a previous blog here – https://adeleinslovenia.wordpress.com/2014/09/01/zelenci-pools-ljubelj-pass-and-forever-young/), near Ferlach/Borovlje. Once through the tunnel and into Austria, its just a few minutes drive to the Čepa Gorge (Tscheppaschlucht in German – no idea how to pronounce that!). In addition to the gorge itself, there is also an Adventure Park within its grounds – run by a Slovene company!

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The gorge has been very well arranged with wooden walkways, steel ladders and bridges. The walk involves quite a lot of going up and down but the amazing sights of the rushing water and canyons ensures it doesn’t feel like hard work, and also there are a number of choices of routes that can be taken in one direction with a bus journey (included in the entrance price) for the return journey. Be sure to pick up a bus timetable at the start so avoid a long wait, but fortunately, the bus stations are mostly sited at, or near, restaurants/inns, so even if you have a while to wait you have somewhere to wait and enjoy a drink, piece of strudel etc.

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The new Sava River Trail (Pot ob Savi) will be officially opened this week on Thursday with a guided walk beginning at the Fux footbridge (Fuxova brv). This path is a great addition to the numerous paths available in Radovljica and the surroundings and will be a particularly pleasant place to walk in the heat of the summer as much of it runs through the forest and beside the Sava River.

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More information about the Sava river can be found here – http://www.radolca.si/en/the-sava-and-its-tributaries/ and maps of the Sava River Trail are available from the Radovljica Tourist Information Centrehttp://www.radolca.si/en/

© AdeleinSlovenia 2015

Hiking, cycling and strolling in sunny Slovenia!

After the excesses of the Easter weekend (see last week’s post), this weekend was devoted to my number one passion i.e. being outdoors, and as a bonus the whole weekend the country was bathed in fabulous warm sunshine. It was certainly a far cry from last weekend’s snowy/windy/cold and very changeable weather and, as you will see below, I managed to squeeze in quite a lot!

  • A stroll amongst the spring flowers in Ljubljana’s Botanic Gardens where even the terrapins were basking in the sun.

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  • A walk up to Ljubljana Castle.

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  • A hike up to the Potoška highland (Potoška planina).

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As you can see, in places there was still some snow. In fact, it is quite difficult at the moment to choose where to hike because the sunny slopes, up to around 1200-1300m, are now free of snow, however, any higher, and particularly in shaded areas, there is still a lot of snow and ice to contend with, so hikes into the higher mountains will have to wait a while yet. These past couple of days though, due to the high temperatures, it is beginning to melt fast so hopefully it won’t be too much longer until I can begin to start venturing further and higher.

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I began from the reservoir in Žirovnica, which I had cycled to from home, then followed the path up towards the Valvasor mountain hut (Valvasorjev dom). On reaching the road forest road, which is crossed in order to continue towards the hut, there is a sign for Ajdna and Potoška planina to the left. I had actually intended to go to Ajdna but there was a training course for mountain guides taking place there all weekend so I instead continued on the forest road up to the Potoška highland (1270m) from where there are far-reaching views across the Julian Alps and along the Upper-Sava valley towards Kranjska Gora, however, it was rather hazy sunshine so the photos don’t really do the views justice on this occasion. From the highland I turned right to continue towards the Valvasor hut but, rather than going to the hut itself, I continued on to the next highland, Žirovniška planina. There are several such mountain highlands that lie on the slopes beneath Stol, the highest mountain in the Karavanke range.

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  • A ride on the new bike path in Jesenice. I love this new path as its traffic-free and now joins up with the bike path from Mojstrana towards Kranjska Gora and onwards into Italy.

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Next weekend, of course, its the Radovljica Chocolate Festival so will once again be dedicated to my other passion i.e. chocolate! All the chocolately fun kicks off on Friday 17th April at 3pm and continues all weekend. The full festival programme is now available here – http://www.festival-cokolade.si/en/programme/

© AdeleinSlovenia 2015

At the top of the Karavanke / ‘Kremšnita’ cream cake in Bled

Despite the mountain of work awaiting me, and despite my best intentions to spend the day tackling it, when I woke up on Sunday morning to see the perfect blue, cloudless sky above Stol, theI lure of the mountain ‘proper’ won out over the lure of the mountain of work – and so off I went.

At 2236m, Stol, meaning ‘chair’ due to its shape, is the highest peak in the Karavanke range, is a landmark in the Gorenjska region. Luckily for me, I can see it from my bedroom window. It is quite common for its peak to be shrouded in cloud and often accompanied by a strong wind too. However, this Sunday there wasn’t a cloud in sight other than a few whispy ones that disappeared as quickly as they appeared. There was also no wind blowing, not even a breeze, and also neither searingly hot nor unpleasantly cold – in short, a perfect day for it. Many people choose to drive up and start their hike from the Valvasor mountain hut (1181m), cutting about an hour off the time needed for the ascent. I however prefer to begin from the valley floor in Završnica. Setting off from the car park next to the small reservoir, I followed the path, first to the Valvasor hut, then onwards and upwards via the (slightly steeper and shorter) Žirovniška path, descending via the (slightly longer and less steep) Zabreška path – this making it a circular route. As can be seen in the photos below, there’s still a little snow up there, in the gully between the top of Stol, to the left, and the Prešeren mountain hut (Prešernova koca), to the right. However, as the route up is on the sunny, southern facing, side it has almost all gone. The same cannot be said of the Julian Alps, where there is currently still a lot of snow remaining. As the Karavanke form a natural border between Slovenia and Austria, Stol can also be climbed from the Austrian side, though the ascent is more exposed, more rocky and, at this time of the year, more snowy than the southern facing Slovene side. Of course, with it being such a lovely day, I certainly didn’t have the place to myself. You can probably just about make out the ant-like looking line of people on the top in the photos below.

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On Saturday afternoon, I popped to Bled to the opening of the summer season programme of the Sava Bled Hotels group, on the terrace at Hotel Park overlooking Lake Bled. The hotel is famous for its Bled cream cake ‘kremšnita’, which it has been producing for over 60 years. The cake comprises a thick layer each of cream and custard between two sheets of thin pastry. As well as the ever popular cake, this year some new flavours of the cake have been created, including chocolate and forest fruits. Not one to turn down such an opportunity, and seeing as they were on a special 2-for-1 offer, I, of course, indulged and, being the chocoholic that I am, can confirm they are both equally delicious with the chocolate one perhaps just edging it for me! You can read more about the Bled cream cake here – http://www.bled.si/en/what-to-see/symbols-of-bled/cream-cake

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The Bled Sava Hotels also have a packed programme of musical events throughout the summer including traditional Slovene evenings, music and dance nights by the lake, acoustic music evenings, a cappella performances and more – and even better they are free to attend too (though of course some form of eating and/or drinking will be encouraged!).

Talking of hotels, last week, coincidentally on the same day, saw the official opening of 2 new exciting additions to Slovenia’s range of hotels.  In Ljubljana, the Four Points by Sheraton Ljubljana Mons opened. This was quite a major event as it is the first globally branded hotel to enter Ljubljana for over a decade. Meanwhile, in Bled the new eco-tourist green resort – Garden Village Bled – also opened. I have yet to go and take a peek (its on my ‘to-do’ list) but it looks pretty exciting and unique and I will write more about it once I’ve had a chance to get there in person.

Schools in Slovenia officially break up today (24.6.). Yes, the school summer holidays here are very long! Tomorrow, 25th June, is a public holiday – Statehood Day (dan državnosti).

With the holidays here there are now even more events happening around the Radovljica/Bled areas, just some of which I have picked out and listed below:

Wednesday 25th June – Free Guided Tour of the Path of Peace (Pot miru) in Brezje – Meet at the restaurant Pr’Finžgarju – 9am

Thursday 26th June – Slovene Evening with Live Music at the restaurant Gostilna Tulipan in Lesce – 7.30pm

Friday 27th June – Free Guided Walk of the new Bled Fitness Promenade – 5pm

Friday 27th June – Open-Air Cinema at Linhart Hall, Radovljica (and every Friday throughout the summer) – French comedy film ‘9 mois ferme’ (9 mesecev šoka) – 9pm

From 1st – 17th July – The 19th International Music Festival Bled – A variety of music; classical, jazz, cross-over in different locations around Bled. More information can be found here – http://www.bled.si/en/events/2014/07/01/1329-19th-Festival-Bled-2014

© AdeleinSlovenia 2014