Visit Tržič and Košuta – A Hike Along the Ridge of Slovenia’s Longest Mountain

At 10 kilometres long, the Košuta ridge, part of the Karavanke range situated above Tržič, is Slovenia’s longest mountain.

Its numerous peaks and mountain pastures make it a paradise both for hikers and mountain bikers. And you certainly won’t go hungry whilst on, or beneath, Košuta, as there are several mountain huts and dairy farms on the mountain pastures.

This blog post is day two of the 2-day hike I did on the ridge, with an overnight stay at the Taborniški dom na Šiji (the Šija Scouts’ Hut) – read about the hike up to the hut, the great food and the friendly hosts here. After breakfast, we took one final look back at the hut where we had spent such a pleasant night, then set off to conquer two of the peaks along the ridge.

From the Šija mountain pasture we walked to the Pungrat mountain pasture.

We passed by the dairy farm on the Pungrat mountain pasture (Planšarija planina Pungrat) – no need for sustenance just yet after having only just set off!

From the dairy farm a path leads up towards the Škrbina saddle. As you gain height, the views just get better; first back down towards the mountain pastures below and the mountains in the distance.

Then, on reaching the saddle, the views – in all directions – are magnificent and accompany you all the way along the ridge.

You can choose the path to the east towards Košutnikov turn or to the west towards Kladivo. We chose the latter, not least because my previous attempt to reach the peak didn’t exactly go to plan!

Regular readers might recall a blog I wrote some years back, titled ‘Kindness in the Karavanke‘ about my attempt to reach Kladivo, which, that time, ended up with me in tears and some friendly strangers being very kind! This time, however, I conquered it with relative ease and, in doing so, realised that last time I was literally a few metres from the top before I bottled it, and also discovered that the path down the other side is much easier, so I could have managed it, but that’s hindsight for you!

And the views are, well, you can see for yourself below, but they are even better when you earn them by hiking up and seeing and experiencing them for yourself!

After descending from Kladivo, we carried on along the wonderful ridge walk to Kofce gora and then on to Veliki vrh (literally ‘Big peak’).

Is it a bird, is it a plane…?

From Veliki vrh we descended to the Dom na Kofcah mountain hut which, at the time of writing is in the running for the title of ‘Best Slovenian Mountain Hut 2019‘.

The hut is famous for its excellent štruklji in a myriad of flavours. For me a visit is now a bittersweet experience and (almost) brings tears to my eyes when I see and smell the excellent štruklji as, sadly, there are no gluten-free ones to be had so my once favourite Slovenian food is now off limits for me – a travesty indeed! But for those who are lucky enough to be able to eat ‘normally’, do try the štruklji, I’m sure you won’t be disappointed, and maybe you will spare a thought for me whilst doing so!

This is just one of the many great hiking routes in the Tržič area, where you are spoilt for choice. See the Visit Tržič website, and you can also click on the ‘Visit Tržič’ tab above to see all the other blog posts I have written about what to see and do in the area.

© Adele in Slovenia

 

Hike Tržič: Košutica (Ljubeljska Baba) – 2 Countries, 1 Great Hike!

Despite being here over 12 years, I still get a kick out of being able to cover two countries in one hike, and the hike from Podljubelj in Tržič to Košutica (also known locally as ‘Ljubeljska Baba’) – part of the Karavanke mountain range – is up there among my favourites, not least because it makes a fab circular hike!

There are various ways of reaching the peak of Košutica; I like to begin from the monument next to the road and opposite the Mauthausen concentration camp in the St. Ana valley, which is located on the road from Tržič towards the Ljubelj pass to Austria.

The Hunters’ path (Lovska pot) winds its way up through the forest towards the Korošica mountain pasture. It is sparsely marked but well trodden, so orientation shouldn’t prove too much of a problem, well, unless the valley is shrouded in cloud as it was last Sunday morning!

Shortly before reaching the mountain pasture, the path to the peak of Košutica veers off to the left up to a junction of paths and the border with Austria, from where you turn left to take the path up to the peak of Košutica (1968m), marked here as ‘Baba’.

Although I try to pick perfect sunny days for my hikes – both for my enjoyment and in order to get good pictures for my blog – the weather doesn’t always play ball, and despite waiting around 20 minutes at the top, sheltering from the wind in the vain hope that the cloud might lift revealing the magnificent scenery below, it didn’t – well not at least until we had descended from the peak!

At least I had a flask of tea to warm me up!

The fog didn’t deter this pair, who obviously know where to find food!. They were so tame it was amazing, almost eating out of our hands!

And then, of course, the inevitable happened. As we began to descend the fog lifted, as did our spirits, the wind died down and the sun began to break through.

We could even finally see the cows that we had previously only been able to hear – these ones are Austrian (can you tell?!), since they are on the Austrian side of the border!

The donkeys we met on the way down, however, were most definitely Slovenian!

From the junction of paths, you can either return the same way, walk down to the mountain hut on the Korošica mountain pasture, and/or follow the path adjacent to the fence that forms a border between Slovenia and Austria – we opted for the latter two, i.e. first down to the hut for some sustenance, then back up to the junction and into Austria.

The hut is only open during the grazing season – usually mid-June to mid-September. It offers typical Slovenian mountain food, such as Carniolan sausages, buckwheat with pork crackling, sour milk, and, if you arrive early enough (we clearly didn’t – not that I would have been able to indulge anyway, sadly), freshly-baked strudel and potica.

Feeling fortified, we walked back up to the junction of paths, then followed the path along the border, from where there are wonderful views back towards Košutica – now looking magnificent in the sun!

The path continues along pastures before descending to an iron ladder. I wouldn’t advise this route when it is, or has recently been, wet, as in places it is rather steep, muddy and slippery when wet.

After a while the path eventually descends to reach a forest road (in Austria!), where we turned left and walked slightly uphill for around 5 minutes before reaching the Ljubelj pass – the oldest road pass in Europe – and returned back into Slovenia.

Prior to the building of the Ljubelj tunnel, the steep pass, which reaches 1,369 metres above sea-level, was the main transport route from Slovenia to Klagenfurt in Austria. Since the building of the Karavanke tunnel in 1991, however, the Ljubelj tunnel is far less frequented, while the Ljubelj pass today is a favourite year-round destination for hikers and in winter it turns into a sledger’s paradise!

You can visit the Koča na Ljubelju mountain hut (1369m) for (more) refreshments, if required, before making the cca. 45 min walk back down to the start.

And that rounds off another great hike in the Karavanke mountains in Tržič! Click here to find out more about what you can see and do in the area.

© Adele in Slovenia

 

Taborniški dom na Šiji – Homely Hospitality and Hiking at the Scouts’ Hut on Šija

Unlike the majority of Slovenia’s mountain huts, the Taborniški dom na Šiji mountain hut (translation: the Šija Scouts Hut) is privately run, and the difference is obvious from the moment you arrive.

The hut lies at an altitude of 1,528 metres under the ridge of Slovenia’s longest mountain. There are numerous mountain pastures beneath the Košuta ridge, where cattle graze in summer, and the Šija hut makes a great place to base yourself for a couple of days to hike the pastures or along the ridge. The hut is also ideal for small groups, clubs, school outings, etc.

Owners Simona and Miha pride themselves on the homely atmosphere and home-cooked traditional food. So, I went to check it out for myself and within minutes of arriving, we were chatting like long-lost friends!

And I soon made friends with Jerry the dog too!

The Šija mountain pasture can be reached from several directions; the easiest and most direct of which is from the village of Jelendol, from where you can either set off on foot (cca. 2 hours) or, if you don’t mind getting a dusty car (I do mind, hence I walked!), then you can take the mountain road.

Whether on foot or by car, continue on the mountain road to the sign as seen in the photo below, from where it takes approx. 45 minutes to reach the hut on foot.

The čez frata (translation: through a clearing) path leads up to reach the Ilovica mountain pasture from where its just a 5 minute walk to reach the Taborniški dom.

Note: the path is well marked, however, when you reach the gate at the top of the pasture there isn’t a sign and it’s not immediately obvious whether to turn left or right; turn right and you reach the hut in around 5 minutes.

After a good old chinwag, I was shown to my room for the night. The hut has 4 bedrooms with a total of 34 beds, and a separate 6-bedded room. It has an indoor toilet (always a bonus when staying in the mountains!) and electricity.

I left it to my hosts to choose what to serve for dinner – albeit with strict instructions that it had to be gluten-free. And they didn’t disappoint with jota (a thick cabbage, potato and Carniolan sausage soup) and bržola, a traditional Tržič lamb stew, which these days is getting harder to find, hence Miha and Simona are keen to try to preserve its presence in the Tržič area.

But the best was still to come. The house special dessert – buckwheat omelette with forest fruits – which was seriously scrummy and, even better, is naturally gluten-free too! Well worth the hike! The only problem is I want another one, or two…!

I was fortunate that the weather was glorious, both on the evening that I arrived and the next morning. What a view to wake up to!

And not a bad view for breakfast either!

Speaking of breakfast, you can opt for a more simple continental-style breakfast, or opt to try some traditional specialities such as masunek (a mixture of flour, eggs, salt, butter) and/or buckwheat žganci (buckwheat flour cooked to a porridge-like consistency topped with pork crackling), all served with a mug of kislo mleko (sour milk).

You can visit the Taborniški dom website here (currently in Slovene only, but expect an English version soon), and the Facebook page here.

There are numerous onward hikes from the Šija mountain pasture, either along the mountain pastures or traversing the peaks of Slovenia’s longest mountain. It was sad to bid farewell so soon, but I was equally looking forward to day two of my adventure. Keep reading and following my blog to find out about my ridge hike – more coming soon!

© Adele in Slovenia

Gorenjska Plaža and Firbc’ okn – Fab Fun and Food at the Gorenjska ‘Beach’!

One wouldn’t usually associate Gorenjska – the Alpine region of Slovenia – with a beach, and, of course, it’s true here the landscape is more about mountains and forests than sand and sea. However, Gorenjska also offers a multitude of places to cool down when the heat is on, such as lakes, rivers, waterfalls and pools. Of the latter, the Gorensjka Plaža (translation: The Gorenjska Beach) in Tržič is one of the best, and newest, around!

The pool complex has been fully renovated and is now a modern and attractive facility featuring a great restaurant too.

There are two pools covering a surface area of 1,000 m2 that are filled with natural water which is heated using solar panels; the average water temperature is 26 degrees celsius.

The perfect way to cool off when the heat is on – like now!

In addition to regular opening hours, in summer night swimming is available on Fridays and Saturdays from 7pm to 9pm, while early risers can take advantage of special early morning recreational swimming sessions from Monday to Friday from 7am to 8.30pm.

Daily entrance tickets cost:

  • children up to 2 years of age – free
  • pre-school children – 2 euros
  • primary school children – 3.50 euros
  • secondary school children, students, and pensioners – 4.50 euros
  • adults 5.50 euros

Family tickets are also available at a discounted price.

Having worked up an appetite, I moved on to the Firbc’ okn restaurant which is part of the pool complex. However, this isn’t your usual swimming pool kind of food!

The restaurant has been divided into two areas – one for those on poolside and the other for those more appropriately attired and looking for something more substantial. Firbc’ okn has also become a firm favourite among locals who are not at the ‘beach’ for a swim. So, ‘beach’ or no ‘beach’ you can dine at Firbc’ okn whenever you fancy as its open year-round!

The restaurant is named after’s Tržič’s characteristic firbec oken window – a window for the nosey. You can see the last remaining original such window in Tržič’s old town centre, which you can read more about in a previous blog post here. The bottom of the window protrudes, thus allowing those looking from the window to be able to look directly out and down at those below them.

The varied menu includes house specialities such as wild game and fish, as well as other staples such as salad bowls, pizzas, pasta, grilled meat and more.

 

Owner Željko and his team are happy to recommend what to try, and were more than accommodating when I request a gluten-free meal.

Unfortunately I couldn’t indulge in dessert, but I can look, drool (and slightly weep) if nothing else!

Photo: Foto Čebron

So, when the heat is on, head to the ‘beach’ in Tržič!

Find out what else you can see in the area at the Visit Tržič website.

© Adele in Slovenia

The Born Trail from Ljubelj to Preval – Don’t Forget a Torch!

The Born Trail (Bornova pot) leads from the top of the Ljubelj pass along an easy, scenic, though in places narrow, path, which includes a section through the Born tunnel. The trail leads mostly through forest (and the tunnel, of course!), so is ideal in summer when the sun is scorching as it remains pleasantly cool.

The trail is named after Baron Karl Born (1876-1957), a politician and entrepreneur and owner of large amounts of forest in the Jelendol area of Tržič. The 3,600 hectares of forest he once owned represented a third of the forest in today’s municipality of Tržič. Born’s influence on the area and its infrastructure at that time was far-reaching; he installed and built numerous facilities in the municipality including an electric sawmill in Jelendol, which used electricity from his own small hydroelectric plant, a facility for producing staves for barrels, and even a 5.5 kilometre railway line.

The trail begins at the large (free) car park at the foot of the Zelenica ski piste, where there is an information board and map about ‘Adventures in Tržič‘. The path begins by crossing an area of boulders before entering the forest.

In a couple of places the path is quite narrow and exposed, however, it is not in any way or anywhere difficult. It takes a little over an hour from the car park at Ljubelj to reach the Koča na Prevalu mountain hut and pasture.

To go through the tunnel you will need a torch, or at least the torch on your mobile phone! It’s freeeeezing in the tunnel, though on a hot summer’s day its bearable for the short length of time it takes to walk through it!

About halfway along the trail, shortly after leaving the tunnel – as well as in one place in the middle of the tunnel – there are wonderful views of St. Ana valley towards Tržič and the surrounding hills and mountains.

The trail leads to the Preval mountain pasture at an altitude of 1,311 metres, where you can stop for a rest and refreshments at the Koča na Prevalu mountain hut.

From the pasture you can also choose to extend your hike, either up the (very!) steep trail that leads directly up to the peak of Begunjščica, or follow the forest road towards the Planinca mountain hut and pasture where you can either branch off to the right after cca. 10 mins to take the ‘čez Roza‘ trail to the Roblek mountain hut (Roblekov dom), or continue on the road which descends to reach the Planinca mountain pasture and hut.

Ljubelj is a great starting point for hikes in the Karavanke mountains year-round, while in winter it becomes a ‘hub’ for ski touring and sledding.

Whilst in the area you can also visit the Mauthausen concentration camp, and, if you are hungry after all that hiking and/or exploring, then Gostišče Karavla is the place to go! You can read more about both these places in my recent blog post here.

© Adele in Slovenia

Visit Tržič: MINFOS and the St. Anne Mine

The Tržič area is known to be one of the most fascinating areas of Slovenia in geological terms.

MINFOS is an annual 2-day exhibition of minerals and fossils, which, together with the Dolina Exhibition and Education Centre* and some fascinating geological trails, showcases the area’s rich geological treasures. The exhibition is held in the Tržič Olympians Arena (the red-roofed building just out of sight to the left of building in the foreground below) in the heart of the picturesque old town.

The event unites visitors and exhibitors from far and wide, from those with a specific interest in minerals and fossils wanting to enrich their knowledge by viewing specialised exhibits, talking to experts, and/or attending creative and educational workshops, to those who just want to take a look and/or maybe treat themselves or their loved ones to some new jewellery or other gifts.

There is a fascinating array of exhibits of almost every shape, colour and size imaginable…

…and you wouldn’t believe how heavy some of them are, despite the relatively small size!

Although this year’s MINFOS took place last weekend – hence its too late to visit this year – you can instead visit the Dolina Exhibition and Education Centre in the hamlet of Dolina located along the valley of the Dovžan gorge** (Dovžanova soteska), just over 3 kilometres northeast of Tržič.

At the centre you can find out more about the picturesque valley that was carved out by the Tržič Bistrica river which laid bare the most complete sequence of rocks from the younger Paleozoic period, ranging in age from 300 to 260 million years.

As part of MINFOS, visitors are offered guided tours of the Dovžan gorge and the St. Anne mine (Šentanski rudnik) I chose to visit the latter. Guided tours can also be arranged at other times via the Tržič Tourist Information Centre.

Whilst in the past Idrija was the hub of Slovenia’s mercury mining industry, a number of miners from Idrija also came to work at the mine at Podljubelj. Regular production of cinnabar began at the mine in 1975 but ceased just a quarter of a century later in 1902 due to the low amount of mercury in the ore. A total of about 110,000 tonnes of ore and almost 300 tonnes of mercury were obtained from the mine.

Our incredibly knowledgeable guide, Luka, enlightened us about the history of the mine. At the end of the 19th century, 75 miners worked at the mine, of which 24 were women. But I won’t divulge all the details and spoil the surprise, instead why not take a tour and see it for yourself!

The tour begins by passing the entrance to the 450 metre-long Avgust mine, which served as a service route.

The Friderik mine was the main export tunnel for tailings.

The Anton mine, which was the most rich in ore and was thus also the most mined, is the only part that is open for visitors on the tour. Before entering we donned hard hats and were given torches, then we were off…into the unknown!

Luka told us many more fascinating facts, demonstrated the depth of the deepest shaft – approx. 35 metres, and pointed out the traces of cinnabar that can still be seen on the walls of the mine as well as beneath foot.

It is a bit nippy in there, so be sure to wrap up well – regardless of the weather outdoors – but it’s certainly worth it for a glimpse into part of Tržič’s history.

© Adele in Slovenia

* In fine weather the Dolina Exhibition and Education Centre is open from May until the end of October at weekends and on public holidays from 11am to 6pm, and at other times by prior arrangement.

** Due to extensive flooding in April this year, part of the path through the Dovžan gorge is closed, but rest assured, once it is open again I will be blogging about that too!

The Poignant Past + Delicious Present in Tržič: Mauthausen and Gostišče Karavla

The tranquil St. Ana valley is squeezed between the Karavanke mountains along the road leading from Tržič to the Ljubelj pass. The valley was named after St. Anne’s church, which can be seen nestled beneath the mountains shortly before reaching the top of the windy road.

The valley has a particularly poignant past, as it was the location of a former World War II Mauthausen concentration camp, also known as the Ljubelj Labour Camp, the remains of which can still be seen today at the preserved and protected cultural site. It was the only World War II camp of its kind in Slovenia.

The concentration camp, which was a branch of the Mauthausen Nazi camp, was established during the time of the construction of the Ljubelj tunnel on the strategically important road between the then Nazi Germany and the southern occupied territories.

Today the remains have been arranged into a memorial park.

Though its not the usual type of tourist attraction, those interested in history, as well as anyone with a sense of respect for the past – myself included – can’t fail to be moved and feel somewhat poignant when strolling through the camp mindful of the dreadful atrocities that took place there.

The first 330 political internees were brought to the camp on 3rd June 1943, and the camp closed on 7th May 1945. There was a maximum of 1,300 internees, the majority were French, whilst there were also Poles, Yugoslavs, Italians, Czechs, Jews, Norwegians, Belgians, and Greeks, among others, the majority of which met their death while interned at the camp.

Click here to take a virtual walk through the camp.

On the opposite side of the road there is a monument with commemorative plaques giving more information (in various languages, though not in English).

From the Mathausen camp you can see a building on the opposite side of the road almost hidden in the forest. This is Gostišče Karavla (formerly known as Gostišče Koren), which I must admit to having overlooked on previous visits to the area.

However, following my recent visit I can attest that a meal here is a ‘must’ – thanks to both the fantastic food and the exceptionally friendly team – and I highly recommend rewarding yourself after a sightseeing visit to the area, or after a hike, bike ride or, in winter, a ski tour, or just ‘because you’re worth it!’

The menu is varied, with a focus on game and Angus steaks, though there are also plenty of other traditional Slovenian dishes and numerous options for vegetarians too.

As the focus is on game, I just had to try the wild boar with cranberries, which is served with homemade curd cheese štruklji, and the black Angus steak was cooked to perfection and ‘melt-in-the-mouth’ delicious!

And although, for a change(!) it was ‘dinner-a-deux’…

…the dessert – the house speciality buckwheat sponge with hot cranberries and cream – was mine, all mine!

Click here to find out more about all this and all the other attractions in the Trzic area, and here to read my previous post about hiking and other activities at Zelenica and Ljubelj.

© Adele in Slovenia