The Karavanke Mountains – Majestic Mt. Begunščica

At 2060m, Begunščica is amongst the highest mountains in the Karavanke range, and a favourite destination among locals and those looking for a moderately challenging and very scenic hike.

The approximately 120-kilometre-long Karavanke mountain range forms a natural border between Slovenia, to the south, and Austria, to the north. Thus, in late-spring it’s not uncommon for there to be snow on the northern facing slopes of the Karavanke, whilst it’s green on the sunny Slovenian side!

Green and sunny to the south, snowy to the north!

There are several ways to reach the summit; the most popular among them is to start from the Draga Valley in Begunje na Gorenjskem. If coming from Radovljica, drive through the village and continue in the direction of Tržič, then on the left you will see the road towards the valley. The valley is a popular starting point for hikes in the Karavanke range. The routes are well-marked and signposts show approximate walking times.

I recommend taking time to stop in the village of Begunje na Gorenjskem to have a stroll around the park, and also at the entrance to the Draga Valley to see the ruins of Kamen Castle.

Continue to the end of the valley to the parking area and from there you set off on foot. You can choose to either go via Preval on the first part of the Shepherd’s Trail, which is the more direct, short, but steeper route, or hike first up to the Roblekov dom mountain hut (1657m), where you can stop for refreshments either on the way up or down – or of course both ways! You can find more information about the Shepherd’s Trail here – http://www.radolca.si/en/shepherds-trail-begunje/

Looking down on the Preval mountain hut on the path up towards Begunščica

If you choose the route to Preval, it takes a good hour from the valley to reach the Koča na Prevalu mountain hut, again an optional break for refreshments here – then prepare yourself for the very steep path directly up to the summit. Here you leave the Shepherd’s Trail and take the marked path to Begunščica which, at times, can feel like an almost vertical ascent. However, apart from one small rocky section, it isn’t overly exposed and is manageable for competent and experienced hikers.

As you approach the summit you can’t fail to notice the ‘carpet’ of sheep droppings from the sheep that are taken to graze on the slopes of Begunščica during summer! I always wonder how on earth so few sheep manage to produce so many droppings! At the summit there is an orientation table which provides assistance when you are gobsmacked by the stunning views and don’t know where to look first!

Personally I prefer to do the hike in the direction as I have described it: Draga – Preval – Begunščica – Roblek – Draga, as the descent from the summit to Roblek is easier and more ‘knee-friendly’ than the steep path from the summit down to Preval. I also like doing it this way as it makes it an entirely circular route.

The path from the summit down towards the Roblekov dom hut

Whilst there is no hut at the summit, there’s no shortage of huts to visit; in addition to the aforementioned Koča na Prevalu and Roblekov dom huts, there is also the Tomčeva koča hut (1180m) on the Poljška Planina highland and the hut on the Planina Planinca highland (1136m), both of which are found at approximately the halfway point between the Draga Valley and the Roblekov dom hut.

The hut on the Planina Planinca highland

You can find out more about this and other hiking routes nearby on the Tourism Radol’ca website here – http://www.radolca.si/en/hiking/

© Adele in Slovenia

Slovenia’s Historic Towns and Cities

Statistics show that the large majority of people who visit Slovenia tend to do so for just a few days, either as just a mini-break or as part of a longer trip taking in some of the neighbouring countries. And for those limited in time, the focus is usually on the ‘usual’ tourist hot-spots i.e. Bled Lake, Ljubljana, Postojna Caves, Piran... However, in visiting just these, admittedly marvellous, places, you miss – in my opinion – a large swathe of the country and the chance to see the ‘real’ Slovenia.

Granted, I might be a bit biased since I’m fortunate to live in Radovljica, which has one of Slovenia’s best-preserved medieval old town centres and is a member of the Association of Historical Towns and Cities of Slovenia, but since Slovenia is a perfectly compact country, it is very easy to get around and make detours to other places of interest. So, sure, go to the usual tourist hotspots to tick them off the list, but do take time to see more of Slovenia’s countryside, culture and history too!

Looking over Radovljica and beyond to the Karavanke mountains

For example, if you are visiting Bled, then turn off the motorway (or get off the train or bus) just one stop early, and within minutes you will be in the historic old town centre of Radovljica where you can see, amongst others, the frescoed townhouses, the Baroque St. Peter’s Church, and the Šivec House Gallery.

Vidic House, just one of the frescoed buildings in the old town

The Radovljica Mansion is home to the Museum of Apiculture, the Municipal Museum, and a music school. During daylight hours the building is always open and visitors are welcome to go in and look at the photographic exhibitions in the entrance foyer.

The Radovljica Mansion

Don’t miss a visit to Lectar Inn where you can try traditional Slovenian food and downstairs visit the workshop with it’s 250-year tradition of making red-iced and decorated gingerbread hearts.

The Lectar gingerbread workshop

Radovljica also offers a wealth of great places to stroll, hike, cycle, do water sports, or partake in other active or less active pursuits. Or you can just sit on one of the benches at the viewing area and and soak up the views of the Julian Alps, the Jelovica Plateau and the Sava River.

Looking back at the old town with majestic Mr. Stol in the background

And be sure to come hungry as you won’t want to miss the chance to taste some of the delicious locally-produced food at the 13 restaurants that collaborate in the Taste Radol’ca project.

In addition to Radovljica , there are a further 13 towns and cities included in the Association of Historical Towns and Cities of Slovenia – Idrija, Kamnik, Koper, Kostanjevica na Krki, Kranj, Metlika, Novo Mesto, Piran, Ptuj, Slovenske Konjice, Škofja Loka, Tržič and Žužemberk.

More information about Radovljica can be found here – http://www.radolca.si/en/radovljica-area/ and more about the association here – http://www.zgodovinska-mesta.si/eng/index.php

© Adele in Slovenia

 

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!

CIMG2132

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.

CIMG2129

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!

CIMG2107

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.

CIMG2117

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.

CIMG2125

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!

CIMG2128

© Adele in Slovenia

 

The Rosary Bead Path (Rožnovenska pot)

Thank goodness that week is over. It was wet, wet, and, for good measure, a bit more wet! Even on Monday, which the forecasters said would be “sunny, so make the most of it as it will be the only dry day of the week”, it drizzled, and we were enshrouded in low cloud all day. Then the heavens opened and stayed open for 4 days – non stop. Rivers were swollen and, at least in my case, cabin-fever began to set in.

Fortunately, the weather redeemed itself somewhat at the weekend and we finally saw the sky and a few hours of much needed sunshine, which allowed for a jaunt out. Since many places were waterlogged I decided to investigate and walk part of the Rosary Bead Path (Rožnovenska pot) which I had stumbled upon during the summer and vowed to return to investigate further. The path, which leads to some of the key religious edifices and sights in the municipalities of Radovljica and Tržič, is shaped like a rosary bead, as seen below, hence the name.

phoca_thumb_l_004%20-%20Skriti%20zaklad

Although the path has religious connections – there are pilgrimage walks here a couple of times a year – it also takes in some great countryside and sacral architecture, so even those not interested in the religious side will enjoy walking some, or all, of the path.

The path officially begins in Brezje, at Slovenia’s national sanctuary, the Basilica of Mary Help of Christians. However, since its circular, you could actually begin it anywhere along the 12.2km route.

phoca_thumb_l_025%20-%20bazilika%20marija%20pomagaj

The path is split into five sections and marked with green way-markers as well as being equipped with information boards and newly installed stone markers showing additional information.

CIMG9727

phoca_thumb_l_023%20-%20Zadnja%20skrivnost%20pred%20razpotjem

The path links four churches – in Kovor, Brezje pri Tržiču, Leše and Brezje – and is very scenic throughout with views of the Karavanke mountains . The terrain is a mixture of fields, meadows, forest and short sections of (quiet) roads, There are also benches, toilets (I was more than astonished to see a new-looking wooden toilet block in the middle of the forest!) and two places where drinking water can be obtained. Those completing the whole route are also invited to sign in the walk record books which are found in the village of Hudo (number 12), and at the shrine in Brezje pri Tržiču. It was here, at number 42, that I met a very kind and friendly lady, who is one of those who maintains the path and who gave me a leaflet and told me more about the path, and is happy to offer advice or information to anyone passing en-route.

Useful Links:

Basilica of Mary Help of Christians – http://www.radolca.si/en/brezje-basilica/

Rosary Bead Path (Rožnovenska pot) – only available in Slovene OR http://www.radolca.si/roznovenska-pot-brezje/

© AdeleinSlovenia 2015

Historic (and nosey) Tržič!

in 1985, the old town centre of Tržič was designated the status of a cultural and historical monument. Though, as with so many town centres these days – and not only in Slovenia – the old town centre itself is not the thriving hub it once was. It is, however, still home to some interesting and unique buildings and features, particularly the portals embellished with flowers, and the windows, known as ‘firbec okno’ – the word ‘firbec’ refers to a nosey person – from where nosey residents could look at the goings-on in the town by looking through the glass pane at the bottom of the protruding window, without the need to lean out of the window. Today, just one of these remains and can be seen on display on the main road through the old town, Koroška cesta, as seen in the photo below. CIMG8695 Another of the features of the town are the red roofs on the buildings in the historic part of the town.

CIMG8697     CIMG8699

Tržič is most known for its shoemaking industry; it is home to the company Peko which, in its heyday, was a major player in the industry. Though the company still exists, it is sadly no longer the force it once was and many of the town’s residents have lost their livelihoods but the firm’s products can still be brought throughout Slovenia. Tržič also gets somewhat overlooked in terms of tourism, which is a shame, as it does contain some architectural and cultural treasures, as well as many sights of natural interest in the surroundings.

CIMG8698     CIMG8702

The Dovžan Gorge, which I wrote about in a previous blog ( https://adeleinslovenia.wordpress.com/2013/09/) is one such place and, in the past few years, has been ugraded with a new walking path and renovated bridges. The gorge is located a few kilometres north of Tržič where the waters of the Tržiška Bistrica river have carved out their path through the gorge, which is particularly known for its rich geological conditions and palaeontologic sites. One of the biggest events in Tržič is Shoemaker’s Sunday (Šuštarska nedelja), held annually on the first Sunday in September. At this time the streets of the old centre come to life as up to 10,000 visitors descend on the town. The event was originally intended to showcase shoemaking in the area, with demonstrations and sales of products at bargain prices. These days however, since the shoemaking industry is all but lost, the event continues but with a wider range of other products and stalls, together with local food and an accompanying programme of entertainment. Talking of food, which I do like to do – and especially about food in the Radovljica area, particularly the restaurants that participate in Taste Radol’ca – it seems I’m not the only one singing the praises of Slovene food these days as can be seen in this article which mentions one of the Taste Radol’ca restaurants too – can you guess which one? http://www.afar.com/magazine/is-slovenia-the-worlds-next-great-food-destination © AdeleinSlovenia 2015