Valvasorjev dom – Voted Slovenia’s Best Mountain Hut for the 3rd Time in 5 years!

So, it’s official, Valvasorjev dom is the winner of the title of Slovenia’s Best Mountain Hut – making it the third time it has won this prestigious title!

Last year, due to the rules of the competition which state that huts cannot be nominated two years in-a-row, Valvasorjev dom wasn’t in the running, but this year it once again breezed to become the holder of the title ‘Slovenia’s Best Mountain Hut 2018’. Congratulations to Aleš Štefe and the team!

Having already won the title in 2014 and 2016, this is a pretty impressive feat for a hut that doesn’t even have much of a view! But what it lacks in views, it makes up for with its great food, friendly team and welcoming atmosphere – all of which have proved to be a winning combination.

Valvasorjev dom (1,181m) lies beneath Stol (2,236m) – the highest peak in the Karavanke range. For those looking for a short hike, the hut can be a destination in itself – you can reach it in a little over an hour from the car park at the Završnica reservoir, or you can visit as part of a longer hike to Stol itself or numerous other destinations – as can be seen from the signs (below) in front of the hut.

During summer, you can also visit the other mountain hut on Stol, Prešernova koča – just a short distance from the summit – from where there are also numerous choices of onward routes.

The fascinating Ajdna archaelogical site is just a 30-minute walk from Valvasorjev dom.

Or you can visit one or more of the numerous mountain pastures beneath Stol such as the Zabreška planina highland (1,225m), or the Zirovniška planina (1,200m) highland.

Valvasorjev dom is also a popular destination for mountain bike enthusiasts, who can ride up the 5km forest road before heading off to traverse some of the afore-mentioned mountain pastures.

The fact that it is one of the few huts that is open year-round is also an added bonus, and Valvasorjev dom is as popular in winter as it is in summer.

When conditions permit, the 5km road from the valley is turned into a sledging track, too.

So, as you can see, there are more than enough reasons to visit the Valvasorjev dom mountain hut and to find out for yourself why it is a three-time winner!

Click here to find out more about hiking and other activities in the Žirovnica area beneath Stol.

© Adele in Slovenia

A Spectrum of Sports and Culture Beneath Stol!

Stol, the highest mountain in the Karavanke range, which presides majestically over the Žirovnica area, together with the villages that lie beneath it, offer a whole spectrum of sporting activities with something for everyone – from challenging hikes to summits and family-friendly meanders along the many mountain pastures, to horse riding, cycling, running and even an adrenaline-filled zipline over the Sava Dolinka river.

Zipline Dolinka is a new, exciting way to get some adrenaline whilst marvelling at the stunning scenery around and below you. Its 5 cables offer a total of 2,371 metres of descent over the Sava Dolinka river.

For those who prefer to have both feet on solid ground, the Žirovnica area offers walks and hikes for all the family.

For example, if you looking for a more level walk, you could drive the 5km mountain road up to the Valvasorjev dom mountain hut and then set off on foot, first passing the Žirovniška planina mountain pasture and then on to one of my favourite spots – the Zabreška planina mountain pasture.

Though not an official mountain hut, in fine weather at weekends you may be able to get refreshments at the pasture hut, where you can take a seat on the wonderful, unique wooden furniture and soak up the views!

Kids – big and small – will love it too!

You can even continue further to the Doslovška planina mountain pasture and towards the Dom pri Izviru Završnice mountain hut, which I wrote about in a previous blog here.

Those wanting more challenging hikes are well catered for too, with trails to the summit of Stol itself, as well as, among others, to the Valvasorjev dom mountain hut and the Ajdna Archaelogical Site. Find more information here about this and other hikes in the Žirovnica area.

For those that like running, why not take part in the popular ‘Run Under the Free Sun‘ (Tek pod svobodnim soncem) on Saturday 1st September. The 10.7km route, which begins at 10am, leads past the important sights along the Path of Cultural Heritage. There are also shorter 200m, 400m, 600m and 900m routes, beginning at 9am, for children. Hurry with your registrations by 28th August. Find more here about this event and running in the Žirovnica area.

Cyclists are also well catered for in the Žirovnica area. From short, easy rides on the flat Imperial Road, and along the Path of Cultural Heritage, to longer, more challenging rides in the Završnica valley and onwards to the numerous mountain pastures beneath Stol. More information and route descriptions can be found here.

So, as you can see, there really is something for everyone and lovers of sports, culture and, not forgetting, beekeeping, should make a beeline for Žirovnica! There’s a fair chance you will find me there on my bike or on foot too!

© Adele in Slovenia

Summit Stol and Take a Seat Atop the Karavanke!

If I crane my neck, I can see Stol, the highest mountain in the Karavanke range, from my desk. Thus, it’s an ever-present feature in my life and, accordingly so, I can’t resist hiking to its top at least a couple of times per year, and yesterday it was time for the first hike to the summit this year!

The word ‘stol’ in Slovenian means ‘chair’, since when viewed from its western side (not the side I can see from here!), its summit forms a kind of ‘back’ for the flatter slightly lower summit which is home to the Prešernova koča mountain hut.

At 2,236 metres, Stol, along with the other mountains in the Karavanke range, forms a natural border between Slovenia and Austria, hence, on a clear day, there are always stunning views to be had in all directions.

Though quite a large percentage of those who hike to the summit of Stol do so by driving the 5km forest road to the Valvasorjev dom mountain hut and from there setting off on foot, I always opt to do the entire hike from the valley, as otherwise it just feels a bit like cheating to me!

After parking at the Završnica reservoir, I set off on the first part of the trail to the Valvasorjev dom hut (cca. 50 mins) from where, as you can see below, there are numerous paths leading in various directions.

Regular readers will know that I have a penchant for circular walks, and this time was no exception! I took the shorter, steeper Žirovniška pot (Žirovnica path) up, and the longer, less steep Zabreška pot (Zabreznica path) down, which is always my preferred route.

If you are feeling somewhat gallant, you might opt to not walk past the pile of logs without putting one in your rucksack or on your shoulder – the staff at the Prešernova koca mountain hut will be very grateful for your assistance in keeping the stove burning! Whether or not I was gallant enough to carry one up or not, I will leave you to decide!

It was somewhat overcast for the majority of the hike up, the story of this ‘summer’, but in actual fact a bit of cloud cover was welcome on the long, steep hike up, and on reaching the top, the clouds majestically began to part to reveal blue skies and warming sunshine, and, for a change, it wasn’t blowing a gale up there, as can so often be the case!

Before the final ascent to the top, the path leads up a steep stony gully, from where there is a real bird’s eye view of the Upper Sava Valley and the Julian Alps in the background. The path is distinct and well-marked throughout.

As you reach the summit, you will notice that the typical red and white Slovenian markers change to red and white with a green outer circle, denoting that the path is on the border with Austria – always a kind of exciting feeling, even after 11 years here!

It took me just over 3hrs 15 minutes to reach the summit. And, as is the tradition, don’t forget to sign the visitors’ book as you take your ‘seat’ at the top of the Karavanke!

Once at the top, among the magnificent sights, you can see Lake Bled on one side, whilst on the other Lake Worthersee in Klagenfurt.

You won’t be alone, since even if there aren’t many other hikers (on Sunday, there were!), there are always some brazen birds that don’t seem in the slightest bit scared of humans as they sit in wait for some tasty tit bits!

After descending from the summit, there was time for a quick bit of sustenance at the Prešernova koca mountain hut, where there is simple, but tasty mountain-type food and refreshments on offer, a(nother) visitors’ book to sign, and then it was time to begin the descent – more about which you can read in my next blog about the myriad of mountain pastures beneath Stol, coming soon…!

Click here for the Visit Žirovnica website where there is more information about this and other hiking trails in the Žirovnica area.

© Adele in Slovenia

The Forgotten Village on Ajdna – A Fascinating Archeological Site and a Great Hike Too!

Ajdna is the name of a tooth-shaped peak that lies beneath Mt. Stol, the highest mountain in the Karavanke range. A hike to Ajdna is fascinating, interesting and, if you take the steep way up, also a little challenging – but don’t worry, there’s an easier route up there as well!

The site was first discovered by the field archaeologist Andrej Valič, who climbed to Ajdna with hunters in the 1970s. He identified the remains of an ancient village and archaeological excavations began in 1977. What they uncovered was, or rather is, truly fascinating. Below is an artist’s impression of the village on Ajdna.

Ajdna provided locals with an excellent refuge from the troubles taking place down below in the valley, though one can only imagine what conditions must have been like that led people to flee to somewhere so inaccessible and, particularly in winter one would imagine, inhospitable. Mind you, they certainly found a place of peace and with stunning views!

Ajdna was settled during the crisis times of the collapse of the Western-Roman Empire in 476 AD. Extensive, expensive and exceptionally complex conservation work was carried out and today there are well-preserved buildings and remains of buildings that are thought to date back to the late Antiquity, though some evidence shows that it may even have been inhabited far earlier.

It is estimated that Ajdna was destroyed at the end of the 6th or beginning of the 7th century. The desecration of the church points to the destruction most likely being the result of it being pillaged and set alight by attackers of other religions.

There are several ways to reach Ajdna, depending on which direction you are coming from and also depending on how far you want to walk. I took the path that leads from the reservoir in the Završnica valley. It first follows the path towards the Valvasor mountain hut, where, about 15 minutes before reaching the hut, you turn left onto a gravel road. From here its along the road for approximately 15-20 minutes until the junction with the turn off marked for Ajdna. The path at first goes downhill, through the forest, until reaching the base of the peak. From here there is a choice of the harder, climbing path (15 mins) or the easier path (20 mins). It is well marked throughout.

I chose the harder path up and the easier path down. The path up, though not technically difficult, does require sturdy footwear, a steady hand, concentration and no fear of heights as it leads directly up the rock face – but it is well-equipped with steel cable and rungs. For those not so keen on such ascents, or those with small children, take the slightly longer and easier path to the right. Whichever way you reach Ajdna, you will be richly rewarded for your efforts!

All the information boards at Ajdna are in both Slovenian and English (I should know, I translated them as part of the exhibition catalogue!), so you can read more about the finds and the history of the site.

In addition, to complement a visit to Ajdna, you can visit the Ajdna Museum Room in Čop’s Birth House (Čopova hisa) in Žirovnica, where you can learn more about the site and see exhibits of the many fascinating finds including tools, earthenware, jewellery and weapons.

The house is also the seat of Tourism Žirovnica, thus you can also find out more about what to see and do in the area and/or click here for more information.

© Adele in Slovenia

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

Snowy Slovenia Facts and Figures

Allow me to start this week’s blog by giving myself a small pat on the back. Why? Well, because last Friday my blog achieved its 50,000th view – something I’m really rather proud of. Ok, granted, it’s not up there matching the figures of some of the world’s ‘supper bloggers’, some of whom probably achieve that many views in a day, but for somewhat lesser-known Slovenia, and little old humble me, I think/hope/believe it’s quite an achievement. The greatest number of readers are actually in Slovenia, as often Slovenes themselves tell me that they turn to my blog for ideas and inspiration; this is followed by readers from the UK, USA, Australia, Canada, Germany, Austria, the Netherlands…… and as far away as Bangladesh, Mongolia, Senegal, Ghana, Martinique and more; a total of 110 countries to date.

It’s now been 3 weeks since my fall and, hopefully, that means I’m at least halfway through the healing time. Unfortunately, the fresh, and heavy snowfall on Friday, and again on Sunday afternoon, meant that I couldn’t get out much at the weekend as I’m just too scared at the moment in case I fall on ice again, particularly as I currently only have one arm for balance.

As I was sitting watching the snowfall from my window on Friday, and the snow was growing higher by the minute, I was wondering what the actual record snowfall figures are for Slovenia and set about finding out. Here, instead of a blog about MY latest snowy adventures, are some rather fascinating Slovenia snowy facts and figures:

  • The most amount of snowfall in 24 hours – 125cm – Dom na Komni mountain hut, 1951 & 1970
  • The most amount of snowfall at less than 500m above sea level – 105cm – village of Soča, near Bovec, 1970
  • The most amount of snow in one place – 700cm – Kredarica, below Mt. Triglav – 2001
  • The most snowfall in one season – 1662cm – Kredarica, winter 2000/2001
  • The longest lasting snow cover – 290 days, Kredarica – 1976/77 & 1984/85
  • The earliest snowfall in a place below 500m above sea level – Kotlje, Šmartno pri Slovenj Gradcu, 11 September 1970
  • The latest snowfall in a place below 500m above sea level – Nomenj – 10 June 1974

So, instead of being out there enjoying snowy hikes, I’m resigned to looking back wistfully at photos of previous ones and looking forward to future ones. With that in mind, and for those looking for somewhere to enjoy the snow, and/or those who are maybe thinking about a winter visit to Slovenia, I offer below a few ideas for some of my favourite winter hikes and other snowy activities in and around the Radovljica area:

  • The Pokljuka plateau is a haven for all things ‘snowy’ – there’s the biathlon centre, cross-country ski tracks, skiing, and hiking. A very popular destination is to the hut ‘Blejska koča’, which can be a destination in itself, or the more hardy can continue onwards towards Mrežce (as seen below), Brda or Debela peč, the highest peak of the plateau.

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  • The Dom na Komni hut is one of the few huts that is open all-year round and the route up, beginning from the car park by the Savica waterfall at Lake Bohinj, is usually well-frequented and trodden. From the hut there are also a number of other options to continue onwards on the Komna plateau.

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  • The Koča na Taležu hut (725m) is popular with locals from around the Radovljica area as it is easily accessed, offers fantastic views for relatively little effort, and offers good food and a warm welcome

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  • The Valvasor dom hut is another popular winter destination for hikers and sledgers. The path begins at the Završnica reservoir.

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There are also currently tracks prepared for cross-country skiing in Radovljica, behind the Spar supermarket, and in Kamna Gorica.

It should of course be remembered that during winter anyone visiting the mountains must be well-prepared, equipped, and experienced in such conditions. The current fresh snowfall means the risk of avalanches is high, currently level 4 out of 5 on the avalanche danger scale, and unless you are familiar with the terrain and the conditions its not recommended to take on anything too adventurous at this time of the year, hence I tend to stick to (relatively) easy and well-trodden routes.

You can also find out more about these destinations in previous posts by using this blog’s search facility (top right corner).

The week ahead looks like being snow all the way, so until next week……

© AdeleinSlovenia 2015

 

 

Fascinating Ajdna!

No, the title of this week’s blog isn’t a reference to the British cabaret act of (almost) the same name (Fascinating Aida), but in fact a reference to the fascinating archeological site of Ajdna.

Ajdna is a peak, located at an altitude of 1064m, high above the village of Potoki. It is part of the Karavanke range, on the slopes of Stol which is the highest mountain in the Karavanke. On a clear day, as it was when I went this week, the views along the Upper Sava Valley, as well as across the Julian Alps, are magnificent and far reaching.

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As well as being an interesting place to walk and to admire the views, there was another reason for my visit since last year, for my birthday, two friends gave me a necklace with a bird (as seen below), the symbol of Ajdna. Following that, we all planned to go together for a walk there but for a variety of reasons i.e. too hot, raining, busy etc. our trip never quite came to fruition. So this week, with the perfect (spring) winter weather we have been having, I decided that now was the time to go. Who would have thought that it would be possible in mid-January!

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Today the site has been designated an archeological monument of great importance and has a protected status. The settlement that stands here is thought to be from the late Antiquity, though evidence, some of it dating back as far as the collapse of the Roman Empire (476 AD), shows that it may have been inhabited far earlier. The peak provided locals with an excellent refuge from the troubles taking place down below in the valley, not to mention with excellent views too! Ajdna is also thought to be the highest lying settlement of its kind in Slovenia.

Excavations didn’t begin here until 1976 and since then remains of weapons, jewellery and other household objects, as well as many graves, have been found, some of which are now on display in the Gorenjska Museum in Kranj. It is thought the site was home to around 100 people. Today many well-preserved buildings still remain and there are photographs and posters documenting the finds.

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There are several ways to reach Ajdna, depending on which direction you are coming from and also depending on how far you want to walk. There is a path which leads directly up from Potoki or from Završnica, in the direction of the Valvasor mountain hut.

Since it was a lovely day and I fortunately had time on my side, I started from Žirovnica and made a long walk of it. First, I climbed the stairs adjacent to the water tower, through the tunnel and continued on the path to reach the Završnica reservoir. From here I followed the marked path as if going to Valvasor dom, turning left on the mountain road approximately 15 minutes beneath Valvasor dom. From here its along the road for approximately 15-20 minutes until the junction with the turn off marked for Ajdna. The path at first goes downhill, through the forest, until reaching the base of the peak. From here there is a choice of the harder, climbing path (15 mins) or the easier path (20 mins). I chose the harder path up and the easier path down. The path up, though not technically difficult, does require sturdy footwear, a steady hand, concentration and no fear of heights as it leads directly up the rock face – but it is well-equipped with steel cable and foot and hand holds. For those not so keen on such ascents, or those with small children, take the slightly longer path to the right, which though easier, also requires a degree of concentration as the area is quite exposed and prone to rockfall. Whichever way you reach it, you will be richly rewarded for your efforts! I will gradually be adding more photos of this, and some of my other trips, on my Pinterest profile too, just click here – http://www.pinterest.com/adeleinslovenia/

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So, as you can see from the photos, there is still no snow here in the valley. For the first part of this week, some rain is forecast, with snow at around the 1,000 metre level. For anyone booked to ski at Kranjska Gora, I’m afraid to report that it is pretty green there. However, I’ve heard that some of the hotels are arranging shuttles to alternative ski resorts either within Slovenia or to nearby Austria or Italy so all is not lost. At Vogel and Krvavec however, there is plenty of snow and they are having a great season and with Slovenia being such a small country, its quite easy to get from resort to resort, without long distances involved.

If you are visiting the area, whether to ski or not, there are of course plenty of other things to see and do to. Take a look back through some of my previous posts for some ideas. I’ve covered a pretty wide spectrum about Radovljica, where I live, but also about many other areas around the region and even further afield.

This week there will be a FREE guided tour of the medieval old town of Radovljica on Tuesday 14th January at 10am. There is also an outdoor ice rink in Radovljica, open weekdays from 3-6pm, weekends from 10-6pm. Entrance is free for children up to the age of 18 (with their own skates) and just 2 euros for adults. On Thursday 16th there will be a public production by the Avsenik Music School in Begunje beginning at 6.30pm at the Avsenik Museum – entrance is free.

© AdeleinSlovenia 2014