By Bike to Žirovnica and the Završnica Valley

The Završnica valley, located in Žirovnica, is crammed full of interesting natural sights and attractions. It is best explored on foot or by bike, so join me on my bike to discover (just) some of the highlights!

It is a pleasant ride from Radovljica, where I live, along quiet, mainly traffic-free roads through Lesce and Hraše, where you can join the Imperial Road. In the past, the road, which is mostly untarmacked, was used by carriages for the transport of various goods. Today it makes a great traffic-free cycle route between Begunje na Gorenjskem and the villages under Mount Stol – the highest peak in the Karavanke mountains – that form the municipality of Žirovnica.

Along the way, and/or by making short detours, you can stop to see the many sights, particularly cultural, among them the Alley of Famous Men, and the birth houses – now museums – of famous men hailing from Žirovnica,

Those interested in beekeeping should make a beeline for Anton Janša’s apiary and Bee Paradise.

On reaching Žirovnica itself you can continue through Moste and then slightly uphill towards the Završnica valley and reservoir, where you can just ‘chill’, or continue further along the valley to the Zavrh bar and the Završnica Recreation Park, or even further if you want in the direction of Tito’s Village; for the last part, however, you will have dismount your bike and set off on foot.

Can you spot me?!

This is just one of the many options for cycling in the Žirovnica area; there’s something for everyone, from short, easy rides suitable for families to longer, more challenging mountain bike trails – such as the Predigra adrenaline ascent.

The 2 kilometre-long descent is rated as ‘very demanding’ and is therefore only suitable for experienced mountain bike riders with suitable equipment. It is therefore recommend that you book a guide to take you on the descent, and who can also guide you along the numerous mountain pastures beneath Mount Stol or to other parts of the Završnica valley. Contact the Žirovnica Cycling Club (KK Žirovnica) for more information: kkzavrsnica@gmail.com, +386 (0)41 474 984.

Photo: KK Završnica

Watch the video below to find out more about cycling in Žirovnica and/or click here for more information.

© Adele in Slovenia

Visit Žirovnica and Dine Hunter-Style at Lovski dom!

Lovski dom (Hunters’ Lodge) in the Završnica valley has long been a favourite place to dine among locals from the Žirovnica area as well as those from further afield. It has a reputation for its great wild game dishes, among others, as one would expect from a Hunters’ Lodge!

The restaurant was originally established by hunters, hence the name, and has now been under the same ownership for 27 years. Its winning recipe for success is a combination of great, traditional Slovenian food, hearty portions, friendly service and reasonable prices.

In fine weather you can sit outside and enjoy the views of both the surroundings and the restaurant’s own menagerie of animals, including Mici the bear.

…while during the colder months you can join the array of animal indoors – not live ones though!

Mici, originally from Kočevje, has been at ‘home’ at Lovski dom for 16 years now, and seemed more than happy to show off her climbing skills to get a treat of oranges and apples. The merits of keeping a bear in captivity are for some, obviously, questionable, however owner Ingrid explained to me that Mici has been in captivity all her life and would likely be unable to survive now in the wild.

Now, on to the food! Being somewhat limited in what I can order these days, I was unable to indulge, as I would have liked, in the huge meaty platters laden with Wiener schnitzel and other such traditional delights for which Lovski dom is known, including venison goulash, river trout and homemade štruklji.

Fortunately, however, I was able to indulge – and did – in the delicious and humungous pork ribs, the mixed grill, buckwheat with crackling, sauteed potatoes and salad, so, for a change, I didn’t feel short changed by being unable to eat anything containing gluten.

Reservations are recommended at weekends. Call 041 945 347 or email okrepcevalnica.stol@gmail.com

There is plenty to see and do in the vicinity of Lovski dom to build up an appetite for your hearty meal. You can hike in the Karavanke mountains, for example to Stol – the highest mountain in the Karavanke range – and/or visit the Valvasorjev dom mountain hut, which is the three-time winner of the title of Slovenia’s Best Mountain Hut (2014, 2016, 2018).

For a less strenuous option, you can visit the Turkish Cave or just take a leisurely stroll around the Završnica reservoir and recreation park – the choice is yours!

Find out more about what to see, do, and taste in Žirovnica here.

© Adele in Slovenia

 

Visit Žirovnica – A Ridge Hike to Tito’s Village via Mali vrh

When choosing what to blog about, sometimes a look at my blog statistics can help to provide inspiration. So, having seen that there has been significant interest in the blog I wrote last year about Tito’s Village (Titova vas), I thought I would write another blog on the theme, though this time describing an alternative, more interesting/challenging, way of reaching it; a hike along the ridge from Mali vrh and onward to Tito’s Village.

Mali vrh can be reached by taking the aptly-named Sunny Path (Sonča pot) from Žirovnica to St. Lawrence’s church (sv. Lovrenc). You can join the path and reach the church from several places. I like to park in Žirovnica then take the path that leads towards the steps that go up towards the distinctive water surge tank. Don’t go up the steps but just to the right the path, though not marked, is easily visible as it traverses the grassy meadows above the villages of Žirovnica.

Follow the path towards the church and, just a hundred metres or so before reaching the church, you will see a sign pointing upwards to the left marked Brin vrh.

If you want to visit the church, do so first, then return to the sign and head up the steep path to reach Mali vrh. At the top there is a small rest area…

…complete with a visitors book…

and, somewhat bizarrely, a broom! I’m guessing it must be to brush the snow off the benches in winter!

From Mali vrh continue along the ridge before descending to a saddle where you can either descend steeply down to the Završnica reservoir and recreational park (this makes a great circular route if you walk back past the reservoir and continue on the path back to the water surge tank), or you continue towards Tito’s village, or even further!

In a couple of places there are iron pegs and rungs, but there’s nothing too scary – fortunately – and it adds to the adventure!

The path is very well marked throughout, and there are a couple of strategically placed benches where you can take a breather and soak up the views of the surrounding villages and countryside, as well as Lake Bled and the Julian Alps on one side…

…while on the other you can see the lush Završnica valley beneath Mt. Stol – the highest peak in the Karavanke mountain range.

The path continues it way along the ridge, with a few nooks and crannies to explore along the way!

On reaching the sign for Titova vas, you can follow the forest road down to visit the secret World War II partisan camp that was hidden deep in the forest in a remote, hidden and relatively inaccessible location beneath the peak of Smokuški vrh. The camp had its own newspaper, a choir, butchery and everything needed for everyday life at that time.

The camp provided partisans with shelter from the German occupiers. Considering its location, in close proximity to German strongholds in nearby Žirovnica, Bled, Koroška Bela, Javornik, Jesenice, Lesce, Radovljica, Brezje, Poljče and Begunje, the existence of the camp from 21 November 1944 – 31 January 1945 – though only 2 months – was considered long for those times.

You can either return along the outward route described in my previous blog about Tito’s Village, or return by the same route, or, at the junction of paths, take the wide stony path downwards to the right, which leads down to the village of Smokuč, from where you can either walk back to the start along the road, or, to avoid having to walk along the road, follow the signs for the Žirovnica Path of Cultural Heritage (Pot po kulturni dediščini).

If you want a great base for a hiking holiday in Slovenia, why not consider Žirovnica; there’s a wealth to see and do, it’s off the main tourist trail – and therefore you get a more genuine experience of Slovenia than one does in the main tourist towns – there are plenty of places to eat, and it’s great value too!

© Adele in Slovenia

Sports and Entertainment at the Završnica Recreation Park

The Završnica Recreation Park, with its reservoir, trim trail, and beautiful backdrop of the Karavanke mountains, is a great place to visit whether you want to be mega active, moderately active, or to just chill! The park, and the entire Završnica valley, offers something for everyone, and even more so last weekend at the ‘Day of Sport and Entertainment‘.

The day included a chance to try out activities including climbing, beach volleyball, 9-pin skittles, football, summer sledging and more.

Live music contributed to the fun atmosphere, too!

Some of the activities are available throughout the year, such as a children’s playground, horse riding, and a trim trail, where, on the latter, you can test your strength and balance…

…of which it seems I have neither!

There’s no shortage of hiking, cycling and mountain bike trails. in the valley and the surrounding peaks of the Karavanke mountains.

If all these activities aren’t your cup of tea, or if/when you’ve had your fill of being active, head for the Zavrh bar, where you can sit beside the Završnica stream, enjoy a cup of something hot or a glass or something chilled, or even have a light meal (burgers, stews, salads etc.).

It is possible to hire the entire sports park, or part of it (e.g. the volleyball court, football pitch) for private events, school groups, team building events, etc., which includes an area for picnics/barbecues, plus sports activities and ample parking, and there are also organised school summer camps.

For further information and prices contact TVD Partizan or the Žirovnica Institute for Tourism and Culture.

But it’s not just summer, there’s fun to be had in the Završnica valley during winter too, so it’s a real year-round leisure destination!

© Adele in Slovenia

Picerija pri Daretu, Žirovnica – My Go-To (and gluten-free) Pizza Place!

It will come as no surprise to regular readers of my blog when I say that I have always enjoyed eating out. Not just for the food itself but also for a change of scenery; working at home has many advantages, but when one’s home is also one’s office – and hence the place you spend the most time – going out becomes even more of a treat.

However, having recently been diagnosed with coeliac disease, I now find myself in a kind of period of ‘mourning’ for all the delicious things that, literally overnight, have become off limits for me. And then there was the realisation that a lot of my blogs are also food-related, so how am I going to square blogging with coeliac disease. Therefore, I was more than delighted when I discovered that Picerija pri Daretu in Selo pri Žirovnici offers gluten-free pizzas, and good ones too!

My first taste of gluten-free pizza in a local pizzeria was, well, a total disaster; it was barely big enough to feed a small child and the dough was all-but raw. So, to be honest, I wasn’t holding out my hope. But, what a revelation, this places does excellent pizzas – the regular kind and the gluten-free ones too – my ‘pizza partner’ for the evening confirmed that his regular (gluten-full!) pizza was also delicious!

It can’t be denied that, from the outside at least, Picerija pri Daretu doesn’t look like a pizzeria per se, and one could easily pass by without noticing it, in fact, I confess that I have been past hundreds of times without giving it much thought. However, as well all know, looks can be deceptive, and, from now on, this will definitely be my ‘go-to’ pizza place!

I got lucky as, following a week of unseasonably cool and wet weather, on Friday afternoon the skies suddenly brightened and it was even warm enough to sit outside and soak up the view!

So, I took the opportunity to ask the owner, Darko Noč, a bit more about the pizzeria and how, and why, he and his team decided to offer gluten-free pizzas.

He told me that since taking over the pizzeria around five years, there has been a noticeable increase in requests for gluten-free pizzas. Therefore, around two years ago the team decided to find out more and undertook some education about the requirements. They then spent the next two years or so perfecting a recipe for gluten-free dough and, as you can see below, it actually looks like – and tastes – like a regular pizza! And, trust me, anyone who has tried gluten-free pizza or bread will know that producing something like this is a major achievement!

And the salads are pretty good too!

I should stress, however, for those with severe symptoms of coeliac (fortunately I’m not among them), as the pizzeria is only small, they do not have a separate area for preparing gluten-free food, so those worried about cross-contamination should chat to the friendly team if they are unsure.

Picerija pri Daretu is open daily from 11am – 10pm, oh and, by the way, they offer delivery too, yippee! And for gluten-free pizzas, it’s recommended that you call in advance as the dough is made fresh to order and therefore takes a little longer to prepare. Click here for more information about this, and other places to eat in the Žirovnica area.

If you want to work up an appetite prior to eating, or even burn off some calories after your meal, I recommend the short hike up to St. Lawrence’s church (725m). There are a number of paths to reach the church, one of which starts almost opposite the pizzeria from where you can follow the road up through the village, past St. Cantius’ church, then follow the sign (to the right) for sv. Lovrenc.

A church was first built here during the time of the Turkish invasions, but was later abandoned in 1821 when a new parish church was built in the village of Breznica. In the 1990s volunteers built a new church on the foundations of the original one.

A particular feature of the church is its presbytery which has painted pictures of the flowers that are found in the area surrounding the church.

On the outside wall there is an unusual mosaic of St. Christopher.

The path to the church is just one of the 16 trails included in the new map of hiking and mountain bike trails in the Žirovnica area, which you download here or pick up a copy (available in Slovene and English) at the Žirovnica Tourist Information Centre in Čop’s House (Čopova hiša).

© Adele in Slovenia

Discovering the Taste(s) of Žirovnica – Gostišče Osvald

Regular readers of my blog will know that I have written numerous posts about the fantastic hiking opportunities the Žirovnica area offers, among them an ascent of Stol, the highest mountain in the Karavanke range. And now, since all hungry hikers (as well as cyclists and those pursuing other active pursuits) need plenty of sustenance and a ‘reward’ for their efforts, I have now set about delving more deeply into what is on offer at Žirovnica’s restaurants and inns – all in the name of research, of course!

So, let’s begin with a popular and traditional Slovenian restaurant – Gostišče Osvald, which is located on the main road through Žirovnica in the hamlet of Selo pri Žirovnici and is the oldest restaurant in the area.

One of my desires when writing such blogs is to try and uncover and share with readers any particular dishes that are a real speciality of a particular restaurant or area. Hence I left it to owner Anže to dish me up his specialties!

I hit gold with this giant buckwheat ‘krap’! ‘Krapi’ are usually smaller, individual dumplings, filled with curd cheese. This giant one, however, has a small amount of yeast mixed into the buckwheat dough to allow it to rise, is filled with a mixture of curd cheese and millet, and topped with pork crackling – ingenious and delicious!

Another speciality of the Žirovnica area is buckwheat with porcini mushrooms. It’s not dissimilar to a mushroom risotto, albeit it with grains of buckwheat instead of rice, with onion, herbs and sour cream to finish. It can be a hearty and filling dish on its own or a side dish.

Served together with a roast, I left fit to burst!

Anže then showed me around the other parts of the deceptively large building, which features two additional rooms for functions.

The restaurant was built in the mid-19th century. In bygone days there was a barn next door for the horses of horsemen who stopped in Selo pri Žirovnici on their onward travels and stayed in rooms above the barn.

Today you too can stay there – though above the restaurant rather than in the barn! – in the recently refurbished attic rooms, which are simple but make a bargain place to stay and ideal base for exploring the area.

Gostišče Osvald is in close proximity to Čopova hisa (Čop’s House), the birth house of Matija Čop, the first Slovenian philologist, literary historian and librarian, one of the greatest European scholars of his time and a good friend and mentor of France Prešeren.

His birth house is now also home to the Žirovnica Tourist Information Centre as well as the Ajdna Museum Room, featuring an exhibition of artefacts found during archeological excavations at Ajdna. Read more about hiking to Ajdna in one of my previous blog posts.

Also close by is the Avenue of Famous Men, located in front of the primary school in Žirovnica, and part of the Žirovnica Path of Cultural Heritage. You can take a horse and cart ride along the path every fourth Saturday in the month from March to October.

The ‘avenue’ features bust statues of five of the most famous and influential men from the Žirovnica area –Anton Janša, France Prešeren, Fran Saleški Finžgar, Janez Jalen and Matija Čop.

Click here for more information about what to see and do in Žirovnica and here for more about what, and where, to taste Žirovnica, and keep an eye out for more ‘tasty’ blogs to come too!

© Adele in Slovenia

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