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

 

The Four Seasons of Spring!

Last week we really did have all the four seasons within the space of four days. It began with a few snowflakes on Wednesday morning, which later became heavy snowfall,  and certainly made a bit of a mockery of last week’s blog entitled ‘Spring in the Karavanke’. It’s now anything but spring in the Karavanke!

Though it had been forecast that it could snow in places at around the 700 metre level, Radovljica, where I live, is at 496m, so no-one, forecasters included, was quite expecting the snow to reach the valley – and certainly not so much of it – considering the previous week we had had temperatures in the twenties.

So this is what spring in the Karavanke now looks like!

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It wasn’t just in Gorenjska in the north-west of Slovenia either, it also snowed in other lower-lying regions of the country. I spent 2 days in Dolenjska, in the south-east, and it even snowed there too.

Hiking at the moment isn’t advisable as the late-spring snow is very wet and heavy, and has caused a lot of damage with branches and trees down, whilst the danger of avalanches is at level 4 – the highest level being 5. Instead however, those who are die-hard fans of winter and skiing once again took to the slopes as the Vogel ski resort re-opened for the extended holiday weekend.

On Saturday it was a return to temperatures of 18 degrees and the valley was bathed in sunshine and the Sava river at Radovljica was looking its sparkling best when I went for an early morning walk.

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However, it was a different matter when I got into the forest as I tried, and in places failed, to pick my way under and over fallen trees on the path up to Talež. It’s amazing the devastation just 24 hours of snow caused – more than in the whole of last winter.

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I was amazed and saddened at the number of fallen trees and branches, almost reminiscent of the damage caused by the glaze ice two winters ago, though, thankfully, nowhere near to that extent.

Some trees, such as this one below, had literally been torn apart under the weight of the heavy snow.

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It’s been over 20 years since there has been such heavy snowfall this late in the year, so this prompted me to try and uncover some historical snowy spring facts:

  • In 1907 40cm of snow fell on 29th April in Bohinjska Bistrica
  • In 1974 in Nomenj it snowed on the 10th of June
  • In 1985 it snowed on 3rd May
  • In 1988 it snowed on 24th April
  • The earliest snowfall of the year was recorded in 1972 on 11th September in Kotlje

Unfortunately it has also caused a huge amount of damage to crops and vines – in places its reported that up to 90% have been destroyed. This year’s honey production is also expected to be severely affected. Over one-third of honey produced in Slovenia is acacia honey, and a large number of the blooms have been destroyed. It’s all such a shame and another reminder of the equal wonders and cruelty of nature.

Roll on summer!!!

© Adele in Slovenia

 

 

Kunstelj Cooks & Draga Delights!

We’ve been spoilt with another week of warm autumn sunshine which was perfect for hiking and even a bit of cycling too. Unfortunately it looks set to end this week but it was certainly nice while it lasted!

In addition to the month-long of special menus at participating Taste Radol’ca restaurants, this year there are also a number of accompanying events which are open to everyone and FREE to attend.

These days there is ever more interest in where the food on our plates actually comes from. Knowing exactly where our food comes from is not only good for our health – food direct from the farm isn’t stuffed full of E numbers and the like – but it also helps support local farmers, producers and small businesses.

Since moving to Slovenia, and in particular since the launch of Taste Radol’ca, where the focus is on local food, I too have very much begun to embrace this style of buying and eating.

This week I visited two of the restaurants, this time not to indulge in the special menus – as delicious as they are – but to see the opening of a new mini-shop at Draga Inn and to participate in a culinary workshop at Kunstelj Inn.

The Draga Valley, at the far end of the village of Begunje na Gorenjskem, is the starting place for a number of hiking paths in the Karavanke mountains. The valley is also home to the restaurant with rooms Draga Inn (Gostišče Draga).

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The inn has now expanded its offer by opening its own mini-shop stocked with products exclusively from the valley or the family farm; a range of pickled vegetables grown in the Inn’s garden, home-cooked jams, honey from the valley’s beekeeper and these rather attractive hand-painted and produced rucksacks, which are apparently ‘flying off the shelves’.CIMG0144

On Saturday the first Kunstelj Cooks (Kunstelj kuha) workshop took place at Kunstelj Inn in Radovljica. The fine autumn weather was a bonus and meant that the workshop could be held outside on the terrace, which just happens to be one of my favourite places in Radovljica, to sit and admire the views of the Julian Alps, the Jelovica plateau, and the lush Lipnica valley.

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At this first workshop, to coincide with the celebrations for St. Martin’s Day, Kunstelj’s talented head chef, Maja Buden, used ingredients that are typical for St. Martin’s meals and showed how they could be used in a novel way.

A traditional St. Martin’s Day meal in Slovenia comprises roast goose or duck, served with mlinci, as seen below (a kind of thin dried pastry that is prepared by boiling over liquid – water, stock or soup, over then ), and red cabbage.

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Maja used all these traditional ingredients to create these delicious bite-size St. Martin’s mouthfuls!

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Next Saturday, 21st November, there will be another Kunstelj Cooks workshop. This time Maja promises she will be rustling up desserts. Do come, it’s tasty, interesting and FREE!

More information:

Taste Radol’ca – http://www.radolca.si/en/what-to-do/events-1/taste-radolca/83/380/

Kunstelj Inn –

Draga Inn – http://www.gostisce-draga.si/

The Katzenstein Mansion – A Chilling Reminder of the Past

The imposing Katzenstein Mansion, which stands in the heart of the village of Begunje na Gorenjskem, has had a long and interesting past. The mansion was built in the 14th century; renovations in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries contributed to its current Renaissance and Baroque appearance.

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The mansion’s setting and surroundings are idyllic and I always enjoy a walk around the park, particularly in this beautiful autumn weather we are currently enjoying, to admire the mansion and gaze up at the surrounding mountains of the Karavanke range. A great way to see more of the village is to walk the marked Begunje Village Trailhttp://radolca.si/en/begunje-village-trail/

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The park is particularly known for its pavilion and the Chapel of St. Joseph, designed by the most famous Slovenian architect, Jože Plečnik, and is also home to a small cemetery where 457 hostages and 18 World War II combatants are laid to rest. The bronze statues of a hostage and a prisoner, as well as the karst marble sculpture of a female hostage are the work of the sculptor, Boris Kalin.
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1n 1875 Katzenstein Mansion was sold to Austro-Hungarian judicial authorities and a prison, holding 300 female prisoners, was established. During the German occupation, it became a Gestapo prison and political prisoners were incarcerated in the mansion; after the war it again reprised its role as an all-female prison.
Since 1953, the main part of the mansion has been operating as the Begunje Psychiatric Hospital, whilst since 1961 in the building at the north-western end of the residential wing – annexed in 1875 – the Museum of Hostages (Muzej Talcev) has been housed since 1961.

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I must confess that until last week I hadn’t actually visited the museum, though had walked past it countless times. Somehow it seemed a bit depressing, however, following a recent chat with the director of Radovljica’s museums I realised that it was time to actually go and though the museum is only small its historic importance shouldn’t be overlooked. It doesn’t hurt for one to take a moment of quiet reflection to consider the suffering of the hostages held here.

Inside, on the walls of the former prison cells, you can see written records left by the prisoners and announcements by the occupiers concerning executions.

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Read more about the Museum of Hostages, opening times etc. here – http://radolca.si/en/begunje-museum-of-hostages/ AND here – http://www.muzeji-radovljica.si/3m_talci/_predstavitev.html
Read more about Katzenstein Mansion here – http://www.radolca.si/en/katzenstein-mansion/

Autumn Hiking in the Karavanke

After a less than promising start to autumn, it finally arrived in style last week with nature offering a palette of the most resplendent autumnal hues. This, together with the warm, sunny days – which lasted all weekend too – made it perfect weather to enjoy the great outdoors. As the Karavanke mountains are right on my doorstep, that’s where I most often head to get my hiking fix!

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On Sunday morning I headed off on my bike from home in Radovljica to the Draga valley, then on foot – initially up to the Preval highland and the Preval mountain hut (Koča na Prevalu) – part of the Karavanke range.

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From the hut there are a number of paths; steeply (very!) up through the forest to the top of Mt. Begunščica; through the Baron’s Tunnels to Ljubelj, back down to the Draga valley – either through the forest or via the road – or across Roža (čez Roža) to the Roblek mountain hut (Roblekov dom). I chose the latter, as it is one of my favourite walks, particularly as it is circular and offers wonderful views across the Radovljica plains, the Jelovica plateau, and onwards towards the Julian Alps.

As can be seen below, with such perfect weather and views across to the snow-capped Julian Alps, no photo-shopping is required!

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It’s always a particularly wonderful feeling being in the mountains and looking across at other parts of the country which are shrouded in low cloud, as was the case on Sunday morning!

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The opening event of this year’s month-long Taste Radol’ca is drawing nearer. Reservations are being taken for the opening event this Friday and participating restaurants have finalised their special Taste Radol’ca menus for the month of November – all available at just 15 euros for 3 courses and with the key focus on local ingredients.

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Additionally this year there are a range of accompanying events during the month of November. Below are some of the highlights, the whole list can be seen here –  http://radolca.si/kaj-poceti/dogodki/okusi-radolce/83/930/

  • Every Wednesday: Live accordion music evening at Lambergh Château & Hotel
  • Every Friday: Live music evening at Vila Podvin
  • Every Sunday at 1pm: Presentation of the Zupan Fish Farm at Vila Podvin
  • Saturday 7.11: Podvin Local Food Market at Vila Podvin
  • Sunday 8.11 from 12 – 5pm: Presentation and tasting of honey from the Draga valley at Draga Inn
  • Saturday 14.11 & 21.11 at 11am: Cookery workshop with tastings of St. Martin’s dishes at Kunstelj Inn
  • Friday 27.11: Culinary Evening with Sartori wines and live music at Grajska Gostilnica
  • Friday 4.12: Taste Radol’ca Closing Party at Joštov hram (tickets can be obtained by participating in this year’s 2 prize competitions)

@AdeleinSlovenia 2015

Kamna Gorica: Langus Days / The Sextons’ Museum House

After a 30km hike on Saturday (more about that soon!) in 30+ degree temperatures, I was pretty out for the count by early Saturday evening, that was until I was suddenly awoken with a start, though it wasn’t until the next morning that I found out why. There was an earthquake, measuring 4.1 on the richter scale, the centre of which was in the Bovec area in the Soča valley, and was felt throughout the west of the country.

In fact, earthquakes are not an entirely uncommon occurrence here, there have been four recorded this year and in April 2014 there was a 4.4 magnitude quake in South-West Slovenia. However, the majority of them are almost undetectable. The biggest earthquake, 6.1 magnitude, struck Ljubljana in 1895 on Easter Sunday. Seventeen years ago one of the strongest quakes of this century, 5.6 magnitude, caused considerable damage in the Soča valley area, but fortunately no lives were lost.

The annual Langusovi dnevi (Langus Days) event begins this week in the village of Kamna Gorica. The event is held on the first weekend of September in memory of the painter Matevž Langus (1792-1855). Various artistic, creative, social and recreational events, for adults and children alike, take place during the course of the celebration.

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For its size the small village of Kamna Gorica, in the Lipnica valley, crams in a number of sights of interest. The Sextons’ Museum House, dating from 1803, stands perched on a small hill above the village, next to St. Trinity’s church, and affords wonderful views across the village and to the mountains of the Karavanke range.

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In 2014 the house, which had previously lain derelict for years, was re-opened after thorough restoration. Visitors can see the original black kitchen and preserved living areas which offer an insight into life in Kamna Gorica in the past. Together with nearby Kropa, Kamna Gorica was formerly one of the main iron working villages in the area of what is the present day Slovenia. It is also known for the many water canals that run through the village which previously served the needs of the forges and led to the village also being known as ‘Little Venice’. Entrance to the museum house is free, though voluntary donations towards its upkeep are appreciated. More information can be found here – http://www.radolca.si/en/the-sextons-museum-house

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The main events of this year’s Langus Day take place on Saturday 5th September and include:

  • 10am – 2pm – Creative Workshops for All Generations
  • 10am – 5pm – Open Day at the Sexton’s Museum House
  • 2pm – Free Guided Tour of Kamna Gorica
  • 4pm – Children’s 200m, 400m & 1100m Run
  • 5pm – Adult’s 5km Run

More information about these and other Langus Day events can be found here – http://www.radolca.si/en/langus-days/

Finally, as summer slowly draws to an end (boohoo!) it’s official that this has been the 2nd hottest summer ever since records began in 1900, with 42 days being above 30 degrees C.

© AdeleinSlovenia 2015

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