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