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

Winter Activities in the Završnica Valley

Winter has now really shown its teeth and the recent couple of heavy snowfalls rapidly brought an end to the unusually mild and green January. So, those that love winter, and with it winters sports, are now in their element enjoying all manners of snow-based activities.

As there is also plenty of snow this year in the valley, not just in the mountains, you don’t have to go far from home (or from your holiday home!) to find cross-country skiing trails, sledging tracks and winter walking and hiking trails – all of this, and more, can be found in the Završnica Recreation Park in the Završnica valley.

For lovers of sledging the 5km road that begins near the reservoir in the valley and leads to the Valvasorjev dom mountain hut is a paradise, and this year almost the entire length of the road has been prepared as a sledging track. Of course, you do first have to drag your sledge uphill…

There is also a small sledging track and a 1.5km circular cross-country ski trail opposite the Zavrh bar just a few hundred metres further along the valley from the reservoir. Here you don’t have to drag your sledge too far to enjoy the rewards!

So you can have multiple attempts – however you choose to get down!

If you prefer your winter sports on ‘two legs’, then you can hike the cca. 1 hour path up to the Valvasorjev dom mountain hut – twice the winner of the title of Slovenia’s Best Mountain Hut – where you can be sure of a warm welcome and delicious home-cooked food; soups, stews, strudel etc.

I would, however, advise having a pair of lightweight crampons in your rucksack for the descent, as the lower parts of the path can tend to get very icy at this time of year.

Or you could opt for a shorter, easier walk around the reservoir and along the trim trail to the Zavrh bar.

Once you reach the Zavrh bar, you can cross the bridge, turn left and continue on the right side of the stream, or turn left to follow the trim trail back to the reservoir.

So, don’t delay, get out there and enjoy it today – while the snow lasts!

Click here to find out more about the Završnica Recreation Park (in Slovene only) or here for the Visit Žirovnica website where you can find more information about all the other facilities and attractions in the Žirovnica area.

© Adele in Slovenia

 

 

 

Hop-On Hop-Off This Summer: Radovljica, Bled, Brezje, Kropa, Kamna Gorica, Begunje, Žirovnica

The Radol’ca Hop-On Hop-Off tourist bus will begin operating on Tuesday 4th July and will run every Tuesday and Thursday during July and August. This year there is an even wider range of places to visit and more things to see and do.

As in previous years a day ticket is great value at just 5 euros. You can get on and off the bus to visit sights of interest along the way, or just enjoy the ride!

On Tuesdays the route is Bled – Radovljica – Kropa, with additional stops at the Šobec Camp, Lesce, Lancovo and Kamna Gorica.

On Thursdays the route is Bled – Vrba – Žirovnica – Begunje – Brezje, with additional stops at Breznica, Spodnji Otok and Podvin.

To whet your appetite here’s a preview of just some of the things you can see and do along the way.

For the first time, this year the bus route includes Žirovnica, where you can visit the new Ajdna Museum Room to find out more about the Ajdna archeological site beneath Mt. Stol where remains were found from a Late Antiquity village dating back over 1400 years.

On especially hot days, a trip to the Završnica valley is an ideal way to seek some tranquillity and shade.

The valley is also a start point for great hikes and bike trips in the Karavanke range, including to the highest peak, Mt. Stol.

You can also visit Noč Beekeeping, where you can see some of the hives belonging to the president of Slovenia’s Beekeeping Association and his family, purchase honey and honey products, and try and buy the exclusive ‘Medena noč’ perfume made with Slovenian honey. You can read more about this in one of my previous blog posts here – https://adeleinslovenia.com/2016/06/06/perfume-made-with-slovene-honey-not-just-an-idea-a-reality/

In Brezje you can see the Basilica of Mary Help of Christians, and the Nativity Museum, or take a walk on the Path of Peace to the Peračica waterfall.

In Kamna Gorica you can walk through the village to see its many waterways, and walk up to the Sextons’ House Museum, which contains an original black kitchen. Its position offers great views over the village and towards the Karavanke mountains.

In Kropa you can visit the Iron Forging Museum, take a stroll through the village to see the former ironworkers houses, or visit the Vigenc Vice Blacksmith to watch a demonstration of manual nail forging.

In Radovljica itself there are numerous things to see and do including a visit to the Lectar Gingerbread Museum and Workshop, the Museum of Apiculture, the Šivec House Gallery, or simply enjoy a stroll through the well-preserved medieval old town and sit at the viewpoint and enjoy the views of the Sava river, the Jelovica plateau and the Julian Alps.

Or why not take the chance to find out more about Slovenian food and wine by enjoying a meal at one of the Taste Radol’ca restaurants or take a Taste Radol’ca Food Tour. More information here – https://adeleinslovenia.com/taste-radolca-tours/

Further information about the Hop-on Hop-off route and timetable can be found here – http://www.radolca.si/en/hop-on-hop-off-radolca/

© Adele in Slovenia

 

 

A Sunny Saturday on Ajdna!

It’s not exactly something to boast about, in fact it’s a rather unenviable fact that as of today, 20th June 2016, there has not yet been a single day in June when there hasn’t been some kind of precipitation. Even on Saturday, which was a glorious, sunny day, there was a short, sharp shower. However, looking at the forecast, it seems we could be in for plenty of hot, sunny days for the week ahead (didn’t I say that last week too?!).

So, back to last week’s glorious Saturday. I couldn’t decide whether to hike or bike, so in the end did a combination of the two! Or I should say ‘we’, since I had a friend visiting for the weekend from the U.K, so it was lovely to have some company for a change.

We began by cycling from home in Radovljica to the Završnica reservoir then hiked up to Smolnik, beneath Stol in the Karavanke mountains. More here – https://adeleinslovenia.com/2016/04/25/spring-in-the-karavanke-mountains/

We then continued to the Ajdna archaelogical site, which I have blogged about previously, though it was some years back – https://adeleinslovenia.com/2014/01/13/fascinating-ajdna/

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We took the steep route up, which involves a little climbing but is secured with iron rope and footholds.

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And the easier route back down!

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At the top there are well-preserved buildings and remains of buildings that are thought to date back to 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. Ajdna is thought to be the highest lying settlement of its kind in Slovenia. Read more here – https://adeleinslovenia.com/2014/01/13/fascinating-ajdna/

 

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By lunchtime the clouds were beginning to gather but the views down the valley towards Jesenice and Kranjska Gora were still more than worth the effort!

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With the (promised) sunny days ahead, hopefully there will be plenty more of this to come!

© Adele in Slovenia

Spring in the Karavanke Mountains

After all the excesses of the Radovljica Chocolate Festival, last week was all about my other great love – Slovenia’s great outdoors!

Spring has arrived in the Karavanke mountains and, particularly on the south facing slopes, the snow is melting at a pace, or rather ‘was’. When I started writing this blog last week, it certainly was ‘Spring in the Karavanke Mountains’. Now, however, looking out of my window at the fresh snow, and digging out my gloves and warm clothes again, it feels anything but spring-like! Nevertheless, the blog below remains ‘as was’ and hopefully spring-proper will return very soon.

It is, however, a different matter on the north facing slopes of the Karavanke, so it’s still a bit too soon in the season for any serious hiking above 1,500 metres, and it’s an entirely different matter in the Julian Alps, where there is still a significant amount of snow, even at lower levels.

It’s still a little nippy early morning, especially for cycling, but wrapped up well I cycled from Radovljica to the Završnica reservoir then headed on foot to Smolnik (1002m). What I particularly like about Smolnik is that despite it being near the Valvasor mountain hut (Valvasorjev dom) – a very popular destination for hikers, Smolnik itself is relatively unknown as the path is not marked, thus only those ‘in the know’ frequent it – until now perhaps!!!

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Though I also often hike up to the Valvasor hut at this time of year, what sets Smolnik apart is the view, since the views from the hut are rather restricted. The path up through the forest is very steep, so I consider a pair of hiking poles a must – though there is an option to approach it from the opposite direction, via the road that leads to the Ajdna archeological site, which is a far less steep option. In places it little more than a mass of tangled tree routes, however, the path is clear and easy to follow.

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On reaching the top of Smolnik there are wonderful views across the valley and towards Bled Lake, a great reward for my effort.

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There is a bench for resting weary limbs if required, with Stol, the highest peak in the Karavanke range, dominating the backdrop, and looking very ‘moody’ on this occasion.

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From the peak of Smolnik it’s easy to reach the Valvasor mountain hut, from where you can continue to one of the mountain highlands as I did – in this case the Žirovniška planina highland, for marvellous views of the snow-capped Julian Alps, or continue towards Ajdna, which is well worth a visit. You can read more about that in a previous blog here – https://adeleinslovenia.com/2014/01/13/fascinating-ajdna/

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It’s just the start of the season, so plenty of this, and more, to come!

© Adele in Slovenia 2016

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