So, having read the title of this blog, you’re intrigued, right?
Well, let me fill you in!
The reason for this quick ’emergency’ blog is that just a short while ago I spoke to the mayor of Radovljica, who was over the moon as yesterday Radol’ca won three (yes, three!) first places at the prestigious annual Moja dezela – lepo in gostoljubna (My Land – beautiful and hospitable) competition, which is run by the Tourist Association of Slovenia.
The town of Radovljica itself was awarded 1st place among all the tourist destinations in Slovenia, followed by Izola in second place and Bled in third place.
The village of Begunje na Gorenjskem was awarded 1st place among all the excursion destinations in Slovenia, followed by Štanjel and Marizege.
And finally the Šobec Camp was award first place among all of Slovenia’s campsites, followed by Camp Danica and Camp Koren.
I told the mayor that I’d share this news with you – dear readers – as soon as possible and he asked me to convey how proud he is of this achievement.
Here’s just a teaser of what to expect when you visit, whether for the first time or for repeat visitors, of which there are many!
Hooray, I am finally the bearer of some good news…it feels like a while since I’ve been able to say that!
Writing this feels a bit like groundhog day, as it was around this time last year that Slovenia began to exit its first lockdown and I published a similar blog on the subject. And here we are today, almost a year later and only now Radovljica, as well as the rest of Slovenia, is slowly beginning to re-open after three, seemingly endless, lockdowns.
Unfortunately, the vaccination programme is still going slowly – to date around one-fifth of the country’s 2 million residents has received at least one shot of a vaccine – but, notwithstanding, things are steadily moving in the right direction and finally, after 6 long months, the terraces of restaurants/bars etc. were able to re-open last week and as of yesterday (Monday 26 April) hotels and other accommodation facilities are able to open up to 30 rooms (regardless of the size of the property). Note, however, that a negative test or proof of vaccination is required to stay in an type of accommodation (camps included).
So, now you, well we if I include myself, can actually begin to start thinking about planning holidays, something that has seemed unthinkable for a long time now. And since most of us will no doubt – sensibly – prefer to avoid places overrun by mass tourism, it is destinations such as Radol’ca that come into their own with its boutique accommodation and numerous hiking trails and other off the beaten track attractions. So, here are a few ideas to help you in planning your visit to Radovljica – whether for a few hours, a few days, or even longer!
After record snowfall in some places, it’s still very much winter in Slovenia’s high mountains, fortunately here in Radol’ca there are plenty of hiking trails at lower altitudes. I’ve written about such trails on numerous occasions, so a quick search back through previous blog posts using key words will turn up plenty of info on hikes to, for example, Suharna, the Vodiška planina mountain hut, the Roblekov dom mountain hut, St. Peter’s church above Begunje na Gorenjskem, and more.
Of course, after all that fresh air and activity you will be in need of some sustenance, and you certainly won’t go hungry at Taste Radol’ca restaurants, the ethos of which is using seasonal, locally sourced, ingredients. At the time of writing, some of the restaurants have yet to re-open, since they are currently only allowed to serve customers outside on the terrace and for those with smaller terraces it is not worth their while re-opening. However, it is to be hoped that it won’t be too long until they are able to fully re-open. Radol’ca even has a Michelin-starred restaurant – Vila Podvin – as well as several other fine dining restaurants and numerous rural inns.
In terms of accommodation, there’s plenty to choose, from river-side camps to apartments, guest houses and other boutique accommodation.
In terms of events, it’s still a bit early to say what will and won’t take place this year. The Radovljica Chocolate Festival, which was cancelled last year and postponed this year, is provisionally scheduled to take place on 11th and 12th September this year, while the organisers are hoping that others events, such as the Craft Beer Festival and live music and food on Thursdays evenings in the square, will be able to go ahead in summer, in some form or another. But at the moment it’s a case of watch this space to see how things pan out.
Of course, all the above-mentioned are in the Radol’ca area itself, meaning there’s still a whole host of other places waiting to be explored in the surrounding areas; the Julian Alps and Triglav National Park are on the doorstep, Lake Bled and Lake Bohinj are close, Slovenia’s capital Ljubljana is just a cca. 40 minute drive, and even places such as the Postojna caves, the Soča valley, and Slovenia’s coast are all within a 1-2 hour drive – nothing is that far away in Slovenia!
So, I hope I have provided you with some food for thought and ideas to help your holiday planning and, as and when there is (even) more news about more things opening up, I’ll be in touch with more up-to-date info, or, in the meantime, do feel free to drop me a line if you need more info. Always happy to help, well, within reason that is!
The village of Ljubno might be small but its numerous beautifully frescoed houses and ‘miraculous’ church are a real feast for the eyes!
When driving along the Gorenjska motorway from east to west, just before reaching the Ljubno tunnel, to the left you can see the village and its closely-packed houses. However, its not until you get up close and take a walk among the houses, that you get a true sense of this small village.
There is an interesting story of how Ljubno was transformed into an important pilgrimage place in the 17th century. During renovation of Ljubno’s village church – the Church of Mary Help of Christians, also known as the Church of the ‘Stricken’ Mary – a builder struck the statue of Mary and blood poured out of the ‘wound’ and wouldn’t stop. The story quickly became known throughout the land and attracted ever more pilgrims. Today it is not as popular as nearby Brezje, however, when in the area, it is still worth a visit.
A visit to Ljubno can be an extension of a walk along the Brezje Pilgrimage Trail (Božja pot), which today runs along the once most commonly used pilgrimage trail from Otoče to the Basilica of MaryHelp of Christians in Brezje. There is an information board (in Slovene) about the trail adjacent to the church.
The path in Otoče begins at the railway station, hence making it ideal for those reliant on public transport.
Immediately on leaving the station you will find the first information board about the trail (in Slovene).
First walk along the village road to the junction with the main road and turn left. After just a few metres you can choose to follow the marked path to make a detour to Ljubno, or take the direct route to Brezje. If you opt for the latter, which is cca. 5kms one-way, continue along the verge of the road for a further cca. 5 mins until you reach the shrine of St. John of Nepomuk (kapelica sv. Janeza Nepomuka).
After crossing the bridge over a stream take the wooden steps to the right of another shrine that lead up steeply on a forest path.
On emerging from the forest head towards the underpass under the motorway. Shortly thereafter you will see the sign for the village of Brezje. Follow the road up a short incline into the village and then just ‘follow your nose’ to the basilica, you can’t exactly miss it!
In 1988 the then Church of St. Vitus was elevated to the status of minor basilica by Pope John Paul II, who also visited in 1996. The basilica has become a popular pilgrimage destination to where people flock from all over Slovenia and further afield, too, particularly on Assumption Day, which is celebrated on 15th August and is a public holiday in Slovenia.
Opposite the basilica there is a small park where you can sit in peace and admire the basilica, read the information boards about Brezje’s history, and soak up the views of the surrounding countryside and mountains.
You don’t need to be a pilgrim, or even to be particularly religious, to enjoy a walk along the trail; it’s just one of the many attractions in the Radol’ca area. Click here to see even more, oh and by the way, if you happen to be in the area in April, or are planning a visit and are pondering when to come, don’t miss the Radovljica Chocolate Festival from 12th-14th April, about which I will, of course, be writing (and eating!) more soon!
The Radol’ca area is synonymous with Elan – the world-famous producer of skis, and now you can find out more about the company’s history and innovative products whilst enjoying some interactive fun at the new Elan Alpine Skiing Museum.
The museum is located at the company’s production unit in Begunje na Gorenjskem, just a short distance from Radovljica. It was opened in 2018 by the legendary Swedish skier Ingemar Stenmark, who competed using Elan skis throughout his entire career. The first pair of skis on which Stenmark competed in World Cup races is among the museum’s exhibits.
Elan was established in 1945 upon the initiative of the ski jumper and ski maker Rudi Finžgar (1920-1955) who in 1941, despite being young and inexperienced, became the first Slovenian ski jumper to jump over 100 metres. The company quickly became known for its innovative and trend-setting designs.
The museum showcases Elan’s 70-year history and its sources of inspiration for the future,
There are also exhibits showing some of the achievements of the company’s other divisions, including boats, aeroplanes, sports equipment and wind turbines.
The exhibits are spread over two floors in the small museum. Upstairs you can get a glimpse into a workshop…
…test your balance on skis and a snowboard – not as easy as it looks…
…and there is a chance to test your skills and get interactive on the ski simulator. Needless to say, I didn’t score top marks but it was fun having a go nonetheless and a pretty good workout too!
The museum is open Tuesdays – Saturdays from 10am-6pm and offers a great experience for all the family, even for non-skiers like me!
Adjoining the museum is the Elan Sports Shop, which is crammed with sports apparel, both Elan’s own-brand products and other brand names, which you can access from outside or alternatively once you make it past the finish line!
In addition to being home to one of the most beautiful and popular campsites in the whole country, Camping Šobec in Lesce, there is a wide range of camping and glamping facilities in the Radol’ca area, with more springing up by the year – just as well considering that these days, camping, and particularly glamping, is all the rage!
The forested Camping Šobec is situated next to the Sava river – Slovenia’s longest river – and features a naturallake, ideal for a refreshing dip on a hot summer’s day. During summer, day visitors to the camp can also use the facilities and swim in the lake (entrance fee payable during the peak tourist season).
If I didn’t live so close, I’d stay there myself as I love the place!
There are 400 camping spots available, as well as 10 timber chalets.
The newly-opened building combining a restaurant and supermarket is a great addition.
The camp also features mini-golf, tennis, Thai massage, children’s play areas, water games and more. Even when full, which it usually always is during summer, Camping Šobec offers a tranquil break in nature. There are also numerous walking and hiking trails accessible directly from the camp, including to Talež and along the Sava River Trail.
Fans of glamping are catered for at Pr’Matic in Kamna Gorica, where wooden cabins are situated on a peaceful, green meadow, and there is an outbuilding containing a shared bathroom, kitchen and dining area. There are currently three cabins, but I noticed earlier this week when I went for a stroll, a further two are being constructed and look near ready.
Camping Radovljica is located next to Radovljica’s olympic-size swimming pool and offers 80 camping spots. A big added bonus is free entrance to the swimming pool for those staying at the camp.
The Hribar Tourist Farm on the outskirts of Brezje features apartments, shared dormitories and a small camp site for those looking for a more ’boutique’, albeit basic, camping experience away from the crowds.
Click here for more information about the above and the full range of other accommodation – hotels, guest houses, tourist farms, private rooms, bed and breakfasts – available in the Radol’ca area.
But, as they say, ‘Don’t delay, book today!’ because, believe me, last year during the height of summer there was barely a room, a bed or a camping spot to be had in the area!
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.
I had been mulling over the idea of offering Taste Radol’ca Food Tours for quite some time, and now, at last, I’ve found the time to bring it to fruition!
Until now Taste Radol’ca had largely been concentrated on the main event – the month-long special menus and events in November. However, since all the restaurants offer special Taste Radol’ca dishes year-round, I figured why not open up the opportunity for visitors to Radovljica to also have the opportunity to Taste Radol’ca year-round.
So, I set about arranging a get-together with restaurant owners and acquainting them with my idea, which they were all very enthusiastic about, and getting my head together with Iva from Ljubljananjam, who offers food tours of Ljubljana http://www.ljubljananjam.si/ and, hey presto, Taste Radol’ca Tours is go!
Wine Tasting at the Sodček Wine Bar
A Taste Radol’ca Tour is for you if:
You’d like to find out more about Slovenian food and wine
You would like to see AND taste Radol’ca
You can’t decide which of the great Taste Radol’ca restaurants to try
You are short of time and would like to taste a bit of everything
You would like a local, native English guide to show you round and give you some insider knowledge
You just love eating and drinking!
Štruklji at Gostilna Kunstelj
I’ve put together 4 suggested itineraries, which you can see below. However, all tours can also be custom-made according to your wishes. So just get in touch and we’ll take it from there.
A Classic Taste of Radol’ca
Wine Lovers’ Tour
Music, Mountains and a Taste of Tradition
Honey and Chocolate Tour
Chef Uroš’ magnificent chocolate creation at Vila Podvin
There’s been quite a lot happening in Radovljica of late. Well, in itself that’s nothing new, since there’s always something happening here even where there aren’t any major events – you just have to know where to look!
So, here’s a round-up of the latest news and information, including news about three exciting new additions to Radovljica’s range of boutique accommodation.
The 6th Radovljica Chocolate Festival was as roaring success. During the 3 days, over 50,000 people visited the festival and tasted tonnes of chocolate of all shapes, sizes and tastes.
Photo: Miran Kambič
There were so many highlights and novelties that it’s hard to single out one – the chocolate fashion show, the chocolate roulette, chocolatesculptures, entertainment for all the family, oh, and of course, eating (ok, in my case, gorging on) chocolate too! Seeing (and hearing!) the vintage steam train arrive on the Sunday of the festival was certainly among the highlights – both for the passengers and onlookers.
Photo: Miran Kambič
So you can plan ahead and be sure you don’t miss out on next year’s festival, Tourism Radol’ca have already revealed the date for the 7th Radovljica Chocolate Festival:20 – 22nd April 2018.
The new family-run Linhart Hotel recently opened in the old town centre. This charming boutique hotel and coffee shop is located in the heart of the medieval old town centre. I went to check it out for myself yesterday and was seriously impressed! Original stone staircases, wooden beams, tastefully-decorated rooms, period furniture, not to mention delicious looking cakes in the coffee shop! More information here (note: website currently under construction) – http://www.linharthotel.com/ I’d stay there myself if I didn’t live just 5 minutes away!
A new hostel – Life Hostel Slovenia – opened its doors on 1st May. The hostel is situated in the heart of Radovljica in the Grajski dvor building. It is opposite the bus station and the town park and offers simple, comfortable rooms that are reasonably priced and more akin to a hotel than a hostel. Ideal for those looking for a budget-friendly option in a convenient location. More information here (note: website currently under construction) – http://www.life-hostel-slovenia.com/
The recently renovated and newly-opened Vila Sejalec in Lesce is ideal for families and/or groups of up to 8 people. The house is a unique example of a Gorenjska artistic villa and is available for short- or long-term stays. Among its unique features, Vila Sejalec has a well-stocked larder with products from the ethical shop 18sedem3, as well as period fixtures, fittings and art including works by one of Slovenia’s most renowned painters.
For details of all the accommodation available in the Radovljica area – boutique hotels, bed and breakfasts, apartments, private rooms, tourist farms – you can view the accommodation catalogue here – http://www.radolca.si/en/accommodation/
So, it’s that time again. Chocolate Time! It’s hard to believe that this year marks the 6th year-in-a-row of the Radovljica Chocolate Festival and, of course, I’ve been to every one!
Last year the festival attracted around 55,000 visitors, and this year those numbers could even be exceeded, which is quite astounding for a festival which began as a humble one-day event back in 2012 and has since grown to become one of Slovenia’s main foodie events.
This year the festival is on for 3 days, beginning today on Friday 21st April at 3pm, and continuing on Saturday from 9am to 8pm and on Sunday from 9am to 7pm, so there’s still plenty of time!
In addition to the regular sales and tastings of chocolate, this year there are some new highlights and treats to look forward to.
This evening there is a premiere 6-course dinner at Vila Podvin, prepared by 3 of Slovenia’s top chefs and in collaboration with 20chocolate.
In the Chocolate Beauty Marquee the Roz’ca massage salon is offering chocolate hand massages using their own handmade cocoa butter cream using all natural ingredients. I couldn’t stop sniffing my hands, it really does smell good enough to eat! Those who have a hand massage during the festival are also entered into a prize draw to win a full body massage (the non-chocolate version!). More information here http://masaza-rozca.si/ and here https://www.facebook.com/Masaže-Rožca-Simona-Šlegel-sp-278814295512819/?fref=ts
A chocolate roulette, bet with chocolate and win chocolate – that’s got to be worth a flutter!
New to the festival this year is Čokoladni Hram which produces some unusual flavours of chocolate using speciality Slovenian ingredients, among them zaseka (minced lard), mohant (a very smelly cheese), and tarragon. Go on, be daring and give them a try, you’ll be pleasantly surprised!
As well as new, intriguing flavours of chocolate infused with tea at the Čajna Soba Tea Room. among them chocolate with black masala chai, honeybush caramel tea chocolate, dark chocolate with earl grey green tea…
On Saturday at 2pm students from the Maribor Design School will be putting on a Chocolate Fashion Show, and on Sunday at 12 noon Gorenjka’s giant 95kg chocolate bar will be smashed and shared among the crowd.
Other highlights of the packed entertainment programme include culinary workshops with contestants on this year’s Slovenian Masterchef, jugglers, magicians and other street entertainment, free concerts, a canine corner, chocolates and chocolate products for everyone, including for allergy suffers, organic chocolate, raw chocolate, chocolate scooter races – all this and much more! See the full programme here – http://www.festival-cokolade.si/program-2017/
Congratulations to Tourism Radol’ca for another fantastic job organising the festival. The weather, for now at least, couldn’t be more perfect for such an event so, don’t miss out, there’s enough chocolate for everyone – even after I’ve had my fill!
Yes, finally, after the coldest winter for over 30 years, spring is finally springing here in the Radovljica plains. And spring in Radovljica has come to mean chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate, due to the now annual Radovljica Chocolate Festival – this year taking place from Friday 21st – Sunday 23 April. How lucky I am that it takes place in my home town!
Though summer will always be my favourite season, spring isn’t far behind as it’s a time of blooming flowers, Easter, new-born lambs, longer days, warmer temperatures and, in case I haven’t already mentioned it, chocolate!
Photo: Adele in Slovenia
To whet you appetite, and in case you missed it, here’s a recap of some of last year’s festival fun!
A Guinness record was broken for the world’s largest chocolate bar by area. The chocolate bar was made by the Cukrček chocolatier and measured over 140 square metres, smashing the previous record of 102 square metres. It took over 300 hours to piece together the 28,000 pieces of chocolate.
There was also a record number of chocolatiers and visitors to last year’s festival, and I have a feeling that this year, the 6th Radovljica Chocolate Festival, could be even bigger and better.
Photo: Aleš Košir
For the first time last year visitors were able to travel to/from the festival by vintage steam train from Ljubljana.
Photo: Adele in Slovenia
The packed programme also includes chocolate-related entertainment for all the family.