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

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

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

A World of Winter Sports in Tržič: Ljubelj and Zelenica

The for many (not me, I hasten to add!) long-awaited first significant snow of the year arrived last Friday and, following a cloudy day on Saturday, Sunday’s sunshine and gorgeous blue skies saw almost half, if not more, of Slovenia heading out to pursue their beloved winter sports!

Among the most popular destinations in the Gorenjska region for sledging and other winter sports is Ljubelj, from where you there is a choice of going to either Zelenica or the old Ljubelj pass, or, like me, why not visit both in one day!

The Ljubelj pass is the oldest road pass in Europe. 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!

It takes about 45 minutes to walk up to the top where the border is marked by two stone obelisks.

Having walked up in beautiful blue skies, a wave of fog suddenly swept in when I reached the top. Luckily, its pretty quick to get back down by sledge!

The Koča na Ljubelju mountain hut is located just metres from the border.

Photo: Visit Tržič

The Ljubelj pass road has long-since been closed to traffic other than for one day every year in September when the Hrast Memorial takes place. The event sees hundreds of motorbikes, motorbikes with sidecars, and old-timer cars competing up the 33% gradient.

Photo: Visit Tržič

But Ljubelj isn’t just a winter destination, there are plenty of hiking trails to explore during summer too, on both the Slovenian and Austrian side. However, many of these routes are not suitable for hiking during winter, so be sure to check the conditions, plan carefully and have the correct equipment – which, it goes without saying, applies to all such winter sports.

The Slovenian hiking routes are marked by red signs and the trails marked by red circles with a white inner, whereas the Austrian routes are marked by yellow signs and the trails along the border by green circles with a white inner.

From the large car park just in front of the Ljubelj tunnel the trail to the Ljubelj pass goes to the right, whilst to the left is Zelenica.

Despite no longer being an ‘active’ ski piste, Zelenica was very much ‘alive’ on Sunday with hikers, ski tourers, snowboarders, a mountain rescue team practicing winter mountaineering skills, sledgers, and I even saw one guy carrying a bike on his shoulder up the snow-covered ski piste!

For many the target destination, year-round, is the Dom na Zelenici mountain hut (1,536m) whilst others continue onward to the surrounding peaks such as Triangel (1,704m), Begunščica (2,060m), Vrtača (2,181m) and Na Možeh (1,784m). The hut is open daily in the summer (1.6 – 30.9) and during the rest of the year at weekends and public holidays (1.10-31.5).

In addition to being a ‘regular’ mountain hut offering warm food and drinks for visitors, the hut is also a Mountaineering Education Centre and hosts numerous events, courses, lectures etc. It has 50 beds and can be hired for group events, training sessions etc.

I will be writing plenty more about hiking in Tržič over the course of the year, and Ljubelj, when it isn’t snow-covered, is among the destinations I plan to visit as part of some longer tours to the surrounding mountains. So, keep reading and, in the meantime, you can find more ideas and inspiration on the Visit Trzic website. Happy sledging (or skiing, hiking…)!

© Adele in Slovenia

 

Srednji Vrh: Seeking the Sun and a Stream in the Karavanke!

This ‘summer’ – not that it can really be called that thus far – hasn’t been kind to us outdoor types. This time last year we were basking in 35 degrees, whilst a week ago we had temperatures half that, and since the start of June there have only been a couple of days when there hasn’t been rain somewhere in Slovenia.

Thus, trying to find days with clear blue skies for hiking and getting some good snaps for my blog have been few and far between. Fed up with waiting, I just went anyway, and, though not as gloriously sunny as I would have liked, I managed to get in a good hike in the Karavanke mountains to Srednji vrh and the Dom pri izviru Završnice (mountain hut at the source of the Završnica stream) – and even stayed dry too!

Despite the less sunny photos, I hope you, nonetheless, enjoy this glimpse into just one of the many fantastic hikes in the Karavanke mountains in the Žirovnica area. Join me on my trip to see the source of the Završnica stream and Srednji vrh!

I started my hike from the Završnica valley. How far you go by car is a matter of choice – some choose to drive as far as possible along the valley, whilst I prefer to leave the car and set off on foot along the gravel road. You will want to stop and admire the reservoir (seen below on a sunnier day!), but if you have transport, then do continue along the valley further before parking, as its a long walk from here.

From here the road gets much rougher and it’s best to set off on foot. The area, with its many mountain pastures, is also popular for mountain biking.

The road rises gradually to reach the Tinčkova koca hut, which isn’t actually an official mountain hut, rather a private hut, but somehow the name has stuck!

The Dom pri izviru Završnice hut. which was recently renovated and has new beds and furniture, is situated at an altitude of 1425m above the Smokuč mountain pasture (Smokuška planina) and on the backside of the Zelenica ski piste (sadly, no longer operational).

The hut is open from 1st June to 1st October, and at other times at weekends, weather permitting, and by prior arrangement for groups. From the hut there are numerous options for continuing to explore the peaks of the Karavanke including Vrtača, Begunščica and Stol.

I always find the springs of rivers and streams fascinating. Where on earth does all the water come from? At the source of the Završnica stream, there is barely a trickle of water to be seen – and that despite the abundance of snow and rain this year – yet just a little further down the valley, it turns into a gushing stream.

The beauty of hiking in the Karavanke, particularly in the ‘summer’ (ahem!), is the lack of crowds. I hiked for close to 5 hours and only met around a dozen people in that time – bliss for those who really want to get away from it all.

As I like to make my hikes circular, where possible, I continued from the hut up the ski slope before turning left and heading on the slopes beneath Vrtača. In this area there is a lot of loose rock and scree, so you need to keep your wits about you. As you get higher, you are rewarded with a glimpse of Lake Bled in the distance.

Where the path branches off right to ascend the summit of Vrtača, I took the left fork marked for Stol. On reaching a junction I then descend to the Šija saddle, from where there is certainly no lack of choice of where to go next!

I chose the path to Srednji vrh (1796m), which is just a further 15 minute climb from the saddle. At the top there is a visitors’ book, a solitary bench and fab views!

I then descended back down towards the hut, which is less than half-an-hour from the Šija saddle before returning on the same road.

Click here for more information and this and other hikes in the Žirovnica area.

© Adele in Slovenia

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

Zelenica – The Karavanke

Slovenia’s Karavanke mountains are, without a doubt, at their most beautiful during the autumn months, and this year is no exception, especially when the autumn weather is as glorious as it has been these past couple of weeks. It doesn’t exactly make-up for the dreadful “summer” we encountered this year, and is all set to end tomorrow with temperatures forecast to plummet, but it has at least provided a welcome respite from battling the elements.

So on Sunday morning, after a particularly busy week spent largely working at the computer, I decided it was time for a bit of ‘me time’! However, seeing as I knew I still had a mountain of work awaiting me at home, I needed to go somewhere not too far from home, yet far enough to make me feel I’d had a few hours away from the usual environment. This is one of the pitfalls of being self-employed and working from home. Of course it has its upsides too but, as with all jobs, there are the inevitable downsides and for me isolation and constantly being in one room are the predominant ones.

Anyway, fortunately I’m surrounded by the most stunning scenery so when moments of calm and respite are needed from time-to-time, they are never far away. Totting up all the options and taking into account the limited time, the position of the early-morning sun, and where I hadn’t been for a long while, I decided to head to Ljubelj for a walk up the Zelenica ski piste and onward to the peak of Srednji vrh.

The Zelenica ski slopes are set between the mighty north-walls of Begunščica and Vrtača to the south (at 2060m and 2181m respectively, the 7th and 5th highest of the Karavanke range). There are stunning views across the Podljubelj valley to the east and the Završnica valley to the west.

Due to unfavourable snow conditions, and the consequent financial implications, unfortunately the ski resort has not been in regular operation for the past couple of years. However, the mountain hut Dom na Zelenici was renovated a few years back and regardless of the season, or whether the ski piste is operating, this is still a very popular area year-round with hikers and also ski tourers who simply put their skis on their backs and walk up to one of the surrounding peaks before skiing back down. Ski touring is popular in Slovenia and it also means, as in this case, that the lack of operational chairlifts needn’t present a problem.

Ljubelj is one of the border crossings (though nowadays obsolete) from Slovenia into Austria. There is still a duty-free shop, a restaurant and a large parking area, just as well, as by the time I returned to my car, the car park and all the surrounding parking areas were absolutely rammed – I don’t think I’ve ever seen it so busy, again a reflection of people’s desire to make the most of the little sunshine that we have been afforded this year.

My morning began with the steep slog up the ski piste, passing the Vrtača koca hut, where interestingly the sign, as seen below, tells us to ‘BEWARE OF APPLE STRUDEL’! Note the cloudless blue sky – not many of my photos have looked like that this year – hence I ended up taking a lot of photos, too many to be shown here, so I will post the rest on my Pinterest page.

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Continuing onwards the Zelenica mountain hut (Dom na Zelenici, 1536m) is reached in less than an hour from the carpark, and for some people this popular hut is a destination in itself. However, there are still many beauties awaiting ahead so I continued, first in the direction of Vrtača, crossing its steep scree-covered lower slopes, before branching off on the route signed towards Stol, and again branching off to the Šija saddle. It was great to see that since I was last here, quite some considerable effort has been made to update and renew the signage and, as can be seen below, there’s no shortage of choice!

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From the Šija saddle, I took the path up to the peak of Srednji vrh (1796m) for a quick photo stop and the amazing far-reaching views across the valley towards Bled lake and the Julian Alps. On returning to the saddle I then took the path down to the picturesque mountain hut ‘Dom pri izviru Završnice’– so named as it sits very close to the spring for the Završnica stream. Don’t expect to see rushing waters though, in fact if you didn’t know it was there, blink and you’d miss it!

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The week ahead looks like being another busy one, not least because I have been asked to be a plenary speaker at an international tourism and hospitality conference taking place this Friday. My presentation is entitled ‘Blogging for Tourism’ – Wish me luck!

Meanwhile, don’t forget that Taste Radol’ca begins next week (http://www.radolca.si/en/taste-radolca/) and also from 25th October – 1st November, the Radovljica Manor will host the 10th Chopin’s Golden Ring Competition. This is an international competition which sees 40 young pianists compete in three categories. More information can be found on the organiser’s website – http://goo.gl/90EygY or Radol’ca’s website – http://goo.gl/IkErne

© AdeleinSlovenia 2014