Autumn Time is Tasty Time in Radol’ca – Taste Radol’ca!

Autumn, thus far, has been a very mixed bag! There have been some beautifully warm, sunny days, but also some bitingly cold, crisp mornings, with the first frost already on 25th September – the coldest September morning since 1977, whereas last year it was exactly a month later, on 25th October, when it was time to start scraping the ice of the car windscreen!

However, some things about autumn are stalwarts, among them the magnificent colours of nature and tasty food in Radol’ca!

Hiking in the Radol’ca area, and in particular in the Karavanke mountains, is wonderful in autumn, especially if you set off on one of those pleasantly warm days, as was the case on my hike last week to Begunščica (2,060m) from the Draga valley, when the views and visibility were quite astounding.

Even the sheep grazing just beneath the peak looked happy that the sky was so blue – and, trust me, no photo-shopping was required, it really was that blue!

And since all that hiking works up and appetite, on to the subject of food – my other great love!

Restaurant Week takes place bi-annually, in spring and in autumn, and makes dining at some of Slovenia’s finest restaurants accessible and affordable to all.

All restaurants that are part of Restaurant Week are assessed and have to meet strict criteria to be included, therefore, the fact that there are three Taste Radol’ca restaurantsVila Podvin, Gostilna Kunstelj, Lambergh Chateau and Hotel, included in the 19 restaurants in northern Slovenia, is a sure testament to the quality of Taste Radol’ca.

This year 100 restaurants are taking part in Spring Restaurant Week and from 12th – 21st October will offer fixed menus for just €18 per personReservations are essential, and many of the restaurants get booked up early, so don’t delay, book today!

In addition, the whole month of November is a celebration of the best of Taste Radol’ca, with all the nine participating Taste Radol’ca restaurants offering special fixed price menus for just €18.

 

This year’s opening event will take place on Friday 26th October at gostilna Joštov hram in Podnart. The evening will begin at 5pm with a farmers’ market, followed by the opening dinner at 7pm.

As in previous years, all the talented Taste Radol’ca chefs will combine their skills, experience and creativity to create a unique and memorable dinner. Reservations can be made from 8th October at the Radovljica Tourist Information Centre. The price of the opening dinner is €39.00 (drinks excluded).

The theme of this year’s Month of Cuisine is honey. Radovljica, as the beekeeping capital of Slovenia, and in the year when World Bee Day was first celebrated, will also end the year on a culinary-based bee theme.

 

I’m looking forward to seeing what inventive menus the chefs will be cooking up for us this year, and I might, just might, blog about it too!

© Adele in Slovenia

The Begunje Lambergh Trail – Explore Kamen Castle, Archeological Sites and Caves in the Draga Valley

The Lambergh Trail (Lambergova pot) begins at the Krpin recreation area in Begunje na Gorenjskem. It leads through the forest past the ruins of Kamen Castle, passing two small archeological sites, and ending in the lush Draga valley at the Gostišče Draga restaurant, where you can enjoy a drink, snack or slap-up meal to gather your strength for the return journey, or you could even continue further on one of the trails that lead into the Karavanke mountains.

It takes around an hour to walk the almost 8km path (one-way), though if you stop to explore the castle, which is a must(!), then you should allow more time. The terrain is undulating, so good footwear is required. There are information boards along the way where you can find out more.

The Njivice archeological site dates back to the Old Iron Age.

There are vast caves to explore, too, some of which make you feel rather small!

Halfway along the trail you emerge briefly from the forest and are greeted by wonderful views over the upper part of the village.

You then reach the mighty and impressive ruins of Kamen Castle.

The castle was once home to the Counts of Lambergh – hence the name of the trail. It has preserved Gothic and Renaissance entrances and the partial restoration works that were recently carried out have made the castle more accessible.

Kamen Castle was built in the 12th century by the Counts of Ortenburg; later it was owned by the Counts of Celje, and from 1436 the Counts of Lambergh. The counts abandoned the castle in the 18th century when they moved to the more comfortable Katzenstein Mansion in the centre of the village.

The path ends at the Gostišče Draga restaurant at the head of the Draga valley. The restaurant, a member of Taste Radol’ca, is renowned for its game, fresh river trout, and numerous other traditional Slovene dishes.

The štruklji alone, both the sweet and savoury versions, are definitely worth the walk!

You can either return the same way following the signs back to the Krpin recreation centre, or alternatively you could first walk along the valley road beside the stream back to the castle, where you can rejoin the path back to the start.

You could also take time to explore Begunje itself; the Begunje Village Trail is just one of the many theme trails in the Radol’ca area. Click here for more.

© Adele in Slovenia

The Begunje Shepherd’s Trail – My Favourite Hike in Radol’ca!

The Begunje Shepherd’s Trail (Pastirska pot) is one of my favourite of all the hiking trails in the Radol’ca area. The sheer variety of the terrain, the stunning views, and the fact that it is entirely circular all add up to one great hike!

The trail begins at the head of the Draga Valley in Begunje na Gorenjskem, where you can park and set off on foot on the 10.2km trail and where there is an information board showing the route.

The first mini ‘challenge’ that you encounter after just a few hundred metres, is crossing a stream – not advisable after heavy rainfall! Note: if it is impassable, then follow the road uphill for about 15 minutes to where it branches off steeply through the forest towards the Roblekov dom mountain hut, but continue past the next bend and then take a forest road (unmarked) to the right, which, eventually, meets the path coming up from the head of the valley.

The trail begins to lead up through the forest, passing a cascade of the stream.

Next comes a slightly bigger ‘challenge’, as the path leads up a steep gully between two rock faces, but there are iron foot rungs and an iron cable to help, so, with a steady hand (and feet!), it doesn’t present a major obstacle.

Its only a short climb, and the path soon levels out, well, until the next bit anyway! But that is why I love this path, as there’s never a dull moment, it keeps you on your toes – literally!

The path crosses the stream in several places, before reaching a ladder, equipped with a rope to hoist yourself up!

You then cross the stream one last time, before reaching a rest area with a bench, and then continuing up, ever steeper, through the forest.

Next you reach a giant fir tree, so giant, in fact, there was no way or being able to photograph it from within the confines of the trail, so you’ll just have to visit and see it for yourself! The statistics on the signpost below give the facts and figures: circumference 347cm, diameter 110cm, quantity of wood 12.5m3, height 35 metres

After about an hour to 1hr 15 mins, you reach the Preval mountain pasture and the Koča na Prevalu mountain hut, the first of four (yes, four!) mountain huts that you pass on this trail, where you can stop for refreshments (note: the huts are open daily during summer, but out of season some are closed whilst others open at weekends only) and enjoy the views before continuing on your way.

Now follow the road for about 10 minutes, which provides a mini-break from the steep path, before the path branches off to the right and begins to climb up again on the path ‘cez Roza’. But, it’s worth it, as you are soon rewarded with wonderful views of the Radovljica Plains, the Jelovica plateau, Lake Bled, and the Julian Alps.

There are still a couple of mini ‘hurdles’ to overcome, in the form of gullies to be crossed, but here and there, iron rods are provided to assist, and eventually the path levels out to become sheer enjoyment.

Shortly before the end of the path, you reach an abandoned manganese mine shaft with an information board, and the views open up further across the valley.

Click here for more information about the other themed hiking trails in the Radol’ca, and here for the Radol’ca hiking and biking map.

© Adele in Slovenia

Camping or Glamping – Take Your Pick in Radol’ca!

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 natural lake, 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!

© Adele in Slovenia

 

A Celebration of Birthdays and Bees in Begunje!

Sunday 20th May, in addition to being the first World Bee Day, also happened to be my birthday. So plenty of reason for celebration this year, even if it wasn’t a ‘special’ birthday (thank god!).

When deciding where to hold a small gathering for friends that would comprise great food, a beautiful setting, something active, and some beekeeping-related, the choice was obvious, it just had to be the Draga Valley in Begunje na Gorenjskem!

So, I set about making plans and my plans all came together rather well, even if I say so myself!

We began with an introduction to archery on the parkour archery course. Regular readers may recall, however, that I’m not a complete archery novice, as I went to check out the course last year when I spent a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon under the professional guidance of Robert Levstek.

It’s great fun making your way around the course with its 30 life-size animal targets dotted throughout the forest. Those with a competitive nature, and even those without, will enjoy a fun day out surrounded by the wonderful nature of the Draga Valley. Find out more here – https://adeleinslovenia.com/2017/04/10/archery-adventures-and-delicious-draga-delights/

Next came the beekeeping-related part of our afternoon, and for this I contacted the local beekeeper Erik Luznar, who has one of his many hives in the valley.

Since the average age of Slovenia’s 10,000 beekeepers is 57, Erik is certainly bucking the trend in this respect, and his youth, spirit and enthusiasm made listening to him waxing lyrical about his beloved bees both pleasurable and fascinating.

And also in contrast to the majority of Slovenia’s beekeepers, beekeeping is not just Erik’s passion and hobby, it is his livelihood. He offers various types of honey (floral, acacia, forest, linden, chestnut, pine, fir), as well as royal jelly, pollen, propolis and beeswax. He also breeds queen bees, which are then sent throughout the world. So, whilst in the Radovljica area, if you would like to have a tour of his hives – independently or as part of a Taste Radol’ca tour – find out more about Slovenian beekeeping, or buy some of his award-winning honey or other bee products, he’s your man! Contact: cebelarstvo.luznar@gmail.com

Of course, no good celebration is complete without great food, and in the Draga Valley that comes in spades at Gostišče Draga, one of the participating Taste Radol’ca restaurants. If you want to enjoy a drink or three without worrying about getting home, there are rooms available above the restaurant too!

Since the Draga Valley is also an excellent starting point for hikes in the Karavanke mountains, the restaurant is a very popular choice for some post-hiking sustainance, but is equally as popular as somewhere to enjoy great Slovenian cuisine – in summer in the cool of the garden next to the stream, in winter next to the roaring wood burner.

Continuing with the honey theme, we dined well on dishes such as rumpsteak in pepper and honey sauce, štruklji with honey, and other savoury delights, and not forgetting a cake, too!

For an added twist, throughout the evening there was a chance to taste many varieties of honey, with the aim of guessing which was which.

Then, to see how much we had all taken in from Erik’s educational session, I had prepared a quiz about Slovenian beekeeping, too! Of course, this meant a bit of work on my part too. I felt like a school teacher marking tests!

For the perfect end to the evening, I was given some lovely birthday gifts, including vouchers for massages (can’t wait Simona Slegel!) and this hand-embroidered apron that reads ‘Ta prava Radol’canka‘. Radol’canka is the word used for a female from Radovljica, so it reads ‘A real Radol’canka‘!

So, as you can see, the Draga Valley is a one-stop destination for active and tasty outings, and with a bit of added ingenuity and forward planning, a great place for group celebrations and events. Thanks to everyone who contributed to a lovely evening!

® Adele in Slovenia

 

 

Magušar’s House – An Aladdin’s Cave of Clay!

The fruits of the first year of a three year project titled ‘Catalogue of Slovenian Clay‘ are being unveiled today in an exhibition at Radovljica’s Magušar’s House. The official opening of the exhibition begins today at 7pm, so you’ve still got time to get along, but if you don’t make it, don’t worry, the exhibition will be on view until the end of the summer (entrance is free, however, prior notice is required).

Photo: Miran Kambič

For the owner of the house and initiator of the project, Urban Magušar, clay isn’t merely a raw material from which he has been creating for decades – it is his life. “Those that work with clay all the time, are in touch with the origin of the universe”, said Urban in a recent blog post (the English version of the brand new website is coming soon!) for Tourism Radol’ca.

The current finds of Slovenian clay are shown on the map below. Incidentally, is often said that Slovenia, when viewed as a whole on a map, is shaped like a chicken. Do you agree?

After coming up with the idea, Urban set about contacting ceramists throughout Slovenia and over 100 samples were brought to the workshop in Magušar’s House where they were tested for basic physical properties: contraction, porosity, colour and granulation and heated to temperatures of 800-1,300˚C to determine the temperature range of sintering and melting.

Below you can see Urban in his ‘Aladdin’s cave of clay’!

Being a total clay ‘virgin’ it was fascinating to see all the different kinds of clay and how they react and change when heated and treated.

The artist and ceramist Živa Slavec explained to me about the different characteristics of the clays, for example, those from the Gorenjska are lighter in colour as there is more limestone, whereas those from the flat lands in Slovenia’s north-east are darker in colour and also more easy to locate and access.

Magušar House in itself is also worth a look, with its arcaded gothic courtyard, dating from c.1500, and pottery workshop where you can buy Magušar bowls and other pottery items. Occasional exhibitions, workshops and other events are also held there.

You can also find Magušar bowls being used in some of the Taste Radol’ca restaurants, where the focus on local food is further enhanced by serving it in local bowls made just minutes away – certainly no food miles involved here!

Taste Radol’ca at Gostilna Kunstelj

The Visit Radol’ca website has more information about Magusar’s House and the other historic houses in Radovljica’s old town, Taste Radol’ca restaurants, as well as plenty more information on what else to see and do in the town and its surroundings.

Do go and take a look, it sets you thinking and you will probably never look at a clay bowl the same way again!

© Adele in Slovenia

The 7th Radovljica Chocolate Festival: the Most ‘Chocolate’ Weekend of the Year – ON NOW!

The 7th Radovljica Chocolate Festival has just begun, and, being the chocoholic that I am, I’m not known for having a modicum of restraint when it comes to chocolate. Since I’m lucky enough to live on the doorstep, I headed straight down to the opening to check it out for you (ahem!).

This year there are almost 50 chocolatiers showcasing their chocolates and other chocolate-based creations.

 

The festival takes place in Radovljica’s historic old town centre, as well as in the town park, and in Vurnik Square (Vurnikov trg).

As in previous years, there is a jam-packed entertainment programme, which has something for all the family.

Entrance to the festival, as well as (the majority of) the entertainment programme, is FREE. Tasting of chocolates takes place through the purchase of tasting coupons, which cost 0.50 cents, and come in strips of four.

I also like to check out any new and original flavours of chocolates – there are SO many, it’s mind boggling. However, one can always rely on Čokohram to come up trumps. Last year, among the unusual flavour combinations it offered chocolate with mohant cheese (a particularly smelly cheese, available this year too!), new for this year it’s chocolate with nettle. Throughout the festival, at the 50+ stalls, you can try literally hundreds of different flavour combinations.

Below are just some of the highlights of the weekend ahead.

Events taking place throughout the 3-day festival include:

  • House of Experiments – make your own bar of chocolate; From Bean to Bar (Saturday from 10am-6pm and Sunday from 10am-5pm)
  • Cookery workshops with Radovljica College of Catering and Tourism
  • Pumptrack course for bikes and scooters
  • Archery, handball and minigolf corner
  • Chocolate journey with adventures through Radovljica
  • Chocolate face painting
  • Chocolate roulette

Throughout the festival there are also numerous FREE concerts, workshops, cookery shows and other events, including:

SATURDAY

  • Creative dance day with the Waldorf School and Nursery (9am-5pm)
  • Uroš Štefelin, Igor Jagodic and Marko Pavčnik, Three Chefs’ Cookery Show (10am)
  • Beer Belly, Irish band (10am-1pm)
  • A meeting of two clowns and circus workshops with clown Eva Škofič Maurer
  • Veseli Begunjčani ensemble, concert (1pm)
  • Abba Mia, concert (4pm)
  • Small Tokk, concert (6pm)

The Three Chefs’ Cookery Show – Photo: Visit Radol’ca

SUNDAY

  • Napoli Tango, music (10am-1pm)
  • Dixie Flash Mob with the Lesce Wind Orchestra and dancers (12noon)
  • Maček Muri and Muca Maca with Neca Falk, concert (2pm)
  • Uroš Perič, concert (4pm)

And don’t miss the arrival of the vintage steam train on Sunday, which is always a sight to behold. The train leaves Ljubljana at 10.40am, arriving in Radovljica at 12noon. Click here for more information.

And if you are craving something other than chocolate (why would you?!), then visit the food marquee where some of Taste Radol’ca’s restaurants  – Gostišče Draga, Gostilna Tavčar and Joštov hram – are cooking up some treats, too!

Gostišče Draga – something for those who prefer savoury treats!

Try ‘šmorn’, a kind of shredded pancake served with jam, at Gostišče Draga

And there’s even craft beer too, which will no doubt go down a storm in this heat, yes, heat, in April, when just a few weeks ago I was (still!) moaning about the snow!

But that’s far from all. There’s plenty more! Click here for more information and the full programme (in Slovene) and here for the English version.

So, don’t miss out, come on down. A ‘hot’ chocolate weekend awaits indeed, as the weather is, and promises to be, fab, too!

© Adele in Slovenia