Gourmet Fare at Gostilna pri Bajdu and Merriment in Medieval Žiganja vas

Last weekend in Tržič was a busy one, with, among others, a medieval day in the village of Žiganja vas, and Tržič Trail Days – a weekend of guided mountain bike rides. It was a toss up between the two, but I opted to first visit the former – perhaps I have a secret penchant for medieval torture, or perhaps because it meant there was then time to go on to a nearby inn I had heard good things about!

Though only small, the village of Žiganja vas has a number of interesting attractions; the village church, the Three Bells Trail (which I wrote about in a previous blog post here), and the giant village linden tree, which is so huge – and partly hollow – that you can actually go inside it.

The recently renovated St. Ulrich’s church stands in the centre of the village. The first written mention of the church dates back to 1327; its present day appearance dates largely from extensive rebuilding work in 1693, as well as recent renovations to both the exterior and interior.

The medieval day featured plenty for visitors to see and do; guided tours of the renovated church, archery, the chance to dress up in medieval costume, theatrical and musical performances, and more.

It was very well attended and its nice to see such events in small villages; it helps to bring the community closer as well as attracting visitors from further afield. Next year Tržič will be celebrating a special anniversary and many more such events are planned, so, keep your eyes peeled for more!

From Žiganja vas we drove the short distance to the village of Senično and the Gostilna pri Bajdu inn. Since being diagnosed with coeliac disease going to restaurants isn’t the experience it used to be, and in fact can be quite stressful never knowing exactly how a dish has been prepared and if it could have been ‘contaminated’ during preparation. I had been told that they do things “somewhat differently” at Gostilna pri Bajdu, so I decided it was time to boldly go and check it out for myself!

The family-run inn dates back to 1871, as is attested to by the year above the main entrance. It originally served as a stopping point for wagon drivers on long journeys, where their horses could rest for a while and the drivers could get some sustenance. The inn has remained in the hands of the same family since its establishment and throughout the years has become increasingly popular for its excellent home-cooked food, service and hospitality.

It is now being run by the fourth generation of the family, Jani Ribnikar, who, time permitting, is more than happy to take time to talk about the history of the inn and to recommend which of its many dishes to try.

The bar area is reminiscent of an English pub, complete with various humorous pub-like signs too!

And almost every detail in the restaurant has a story behind it, from the pictures and wood carvings to the trophies and other quaint touches.

The huge pork and veal shanks are also a favourite among diners – though do call to order in advance to avoid disappointment!

When Jani said we wouldn’t leave hungry, he wasn’t wrong! We were first treated to pumpkin soup and beef soup.

Followed by two huge platters – one meat-based, the other with vegetables and side dishes made from buckwheat flour, which I can eat, yippee! The  meat-based platter was packed with pork ribs, roast pork and venison – that latter is a popular choice, and at Gostilna pri Bajdu where they serve game with prunes rather than the usual cranberries, thus giving a nod to the tradition of plum-growing in the area.

With so much choice it was hard to know where to start – but we managed…and found room for dessert too!

It’s satisfying to know that not only are you eating a meal made with from scratch and with passion, but also you are eating in a restaurant full of pride and tradition. From the outside Gostilna pri Bajdu is nothing to look at, and it would be easy to pass by the inn without even noticing it, however, now I have discovered it, I shan’t be in any hurry to pass by without stopping, and, if/when you are in the area, recommend that you drop in too! Dober tek!

© Adele in Slovenia

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!