Gostilna Kunstelj – Taste Radol’ca

In my personal quest to help promote Radovljica’s great restaurants and ‘Taste Radol’ca‘, and having already written about three of the seven restaurants involved, last week I turned my attention to another – Gostilna Kunstelj - (http://www.kunstelj.si/). I had already visited the restaurant previously to attend a birthday/anniversary celebration, which began in the wine cellar, for the obligatory schnapps and other aperitifs, followed by dinner and live music in one of the halls, as well as having attended the launch event of Taste Radol’ca here too (more about that can be read here – http://adeleinslovenia.wordpress.com/2013/11/17/radolca-taste-the-best/ ). However, until recently I hadn’t ever actually been just for a regular meal. Now however, I’ve been twice in as many weeks – once for ‘Restaurant Week’ and, since it was offering a special chocolated-themed menu to coincide with last weekend’s Chocolate Festival, well, it would have been rude not to…..!

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The family run restaurant, located just a few metres from the entrance to Radovljica’s medieval old town, has been in operation since 1873 and still retains the name dating back to its first owner, Rudolf Kunstelj. It later changed hands before the Stiherle family took ownership in 1926 and today the restaurant is still run by the fourth generation of the family.

Gostilna Kunstelj is ideally located within just a few minutes walk of the train and bus stations. Its position affords marvellous views towards the Jelovica Plateau and the Julian Alps, with Slovenia’s highest mountain, Mount Triglav, dominating the skyline. In my seven years of living here, I cannot fail to still admire the view on a daily basis, and I hope that I never will.

The place is huge, with lots of different cosy rooms such as the Hunter’s Room, the Poet’s Room or the Golfers’ room, yet despite its size it still retains a homely, friendly ambience, something which can also be attributed to the warmness of the staff and owners, and it is popular with locals and visitors alike. During the winter I can recommend one of the tables next to the wood burner, whilst in the summer a table on the terrace looking over at the magnificent views, is the place to be.

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Gostilna Kunstelj is also a favourite place for group celebrations and events such as wedding receptions, anniversaries, team building, themed events, cookery events and more; it has two halls and a wine cellar which can be adapted to cater for a wide variety of functions.

In addition to the restaurant, there are also 10 guest rooms, each individually and tastefully furnished and, of course, complete with those jaw-dropping views. Bikes are available to hire and its just a quick 2 minute walk to the Radovljica Tourist Information office where you can find a whole wealth of information, maps etc. of the town and surrounding areas.

A speciality of note at Gostilna Kunstelj is the vine in the small Wine Square area which is a descendant of Slovenia’s oldest vine, which isover 400 years old and listed in the Guinness Book of Records, located in Slovenia’s second biggest city of Maribor – http://maribor-pohorje.si/the-old-vine–the-oldest-vine-in-the-world.aspx

The restaurant menu is wide and varied, with an emphasis on local, seasonal produce and traditional Slovene food. As far as possible all the ingredients are local and the delicious chocolate-themed menu I sampled consisted entirely of food locally sourced:

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* Herb curd cheese, from the Podjed dairy in nearby Olševek, with wholemeal bread with chocolate pieces – Gorenjka chocolate from the factory in Lesce.

*Roast pork fillet, from the local butcher in Lesce and a farm in Bitnje

*Baked trout – from the Mošnje fish farm

* Chocolate Mousse and grizike* from the 18sedem3 Farmer’s Market shop

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Mmm, grizike, otherwise known as cake-pops, I must confess that these are one of my favourite cakes around, although one is never enough so its just as well that they produce a range of 3; white, milk and dark chocolate, each with a different flavoured centre. Though cake-pops are nothing new in the US and UK, they are still something of a novelty here and the Gostilna Kunstelj grizike have been trademarked and they were, almost literally, flying off the shelves at last weekend’s Chocolate Festival. I will certainly be going back for more, again, and again…….. How lucky then that I live just a stone’s throw away.

Radovljica – A calendar ‘chocful’ of events

The long awaited 3rd Chocolate Festival took place in Radovljica this weekend. Since its beginnings in 2012, the Festival has been going from strength-to-strength with the number of exhibitors increasing every year as they get wind of the popularity of the event and want to be a part of the success. This year the number of visitors also exceeded all expectations with more than 35,000 visitors over the two day event and over 80,000 tasting coupons purchased which, doing the maths, makes for an awful lot of chocolate having been consumed and just goes to prove, as if proof were needed, how popular chocolate really is, and that I’m not alone in my cravings for the stuff! One thing is for sure – this event is here to stay on the Radovljica Events Calendar and looks set to just keep getting bigger and better every year.

 

In addition to the exhibitors, there were plenty of activities going on for both adults and children including a Chocolate, Cigars and Cognac workshop (strictly adults only!), a Chocolate Fashion Show, the Three Chefs’ Cooking Show – featuring three of Slovenia’s top chefs, the 92kg giant Gorenjka chocolate bar – shared out among visitors, chocolate body painting and so much more….

 

Below are a few photos from the Festival and there are plenty more on Pinterest – http://www.pinterest.com/adeleinslovenia/radovljica-chocolate-festival-2014/

* Radovljica’s Mayor taking his hand to the giant Gorenjka bar

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* Everything imaginable made out of chocolate – even cameras and violins.

3. festival čokolade v Radovljici, 12. 4. 2014.

*Chocolate painted god and goddess

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*A familiar face sampling a treat or two!

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I don’t know about you, but when I’m planning to visit somewhere on holiday I always like to see if there are any special events happening that coincide with my visit such as markets, festivals, fairs or concerts. I find these type of events are a great way to get a feel for the local area, taste the local food, mingle with the locals, savour the atmosphere and perhaps find out a few insider snippets too. I also like to do this at home to so I have a few events and things planned in the diary, things to look forward to. The best way to do this these days is of course by scouring the net for information and usually the local tourist information website is the best place to start. However, since I entered the realm of blogging myself, I have also noticed how popular a source of information blogs have become these days, particularly those written by locals that offer an insider’s perspective into life in their city/town/village as well as providing invaluable information about where to go, what to see and do etc. I hope through this blog about my (adopted) home town of Radovljica, I am also able to provide such information and inspiration for potential visitors, both from Slovenia and abroad.

 

My parents visited from the UK last weekend and, since my father is also a chocolate lover, their visit was well-timed. It was, as it always is, lovely to spend time with them, especially as our time together these days is limited to just a few weekends, either here or in the UK, a few times a year so it makes it even more precious and we certainly packed a lot into the weekend including dinner at Gostilna Kunstelj, to taste their special chocolated-themed menu, two visits to the Chocolate Festival (one was never going to be enough!), a walk on the circular Kriva Jelka path and a visit to the UNESCO listed Skocjan Caves for the annual Pohod ob ponoru reke Reke (Walk along the river River sinkhole – that’s not a typo, the actual name of the river is ‘The river River‘!). More about Gostilna Kunstelj and the Skocjan Caves in the coming days….

 

In the meantime I’m pleased to be the bearer of good news that the Kriva Jelka path is once again walkable in its entirety, without the need for too much tree ducking and diving – something that has become a fairly regular necessity since the devastation of February’s ice-storm bought down so many trees throughout the country. Since the path runs almost entirely through the Udin Boršt forest, I was wondering if it would be passable but a quick email to the President of the local Tourist Association confirmed that the path had been in the main cleared, (a superhuman feat considering the scale of the work required). I wrote in greater detail about this path last autumn (http://adeleinslovenia.wordpress.com/2013/09/16/the-kriva-jelka-path-and-sweet-treats-ahead/).


There is also currently a colourful Easter themed exhibition in the Manor House in the village of Spodnje Duplje, created by students from the nearby Biotechnical Centre in Naklo, which makes an ideal stopping-off point as the path goes literally past the door of this handsome building.

Lectar Inn, Radovljica – Taste Radol’ca

In the seven years since I’ve been living here, the range and quality of the cuisine on offer in Radovljica, and the surrounding towns and villages collectively known as Radol’ca, has always been solid, based on traditional, plentiful and flavourful food. However, since the creation of the Taste Radol’ca project last year, together with the opening of new venues such as Vila Podvin and Chateau Lambergh, the choice, quality and innovation of the cuisine on offer has rocketed and with new ideas and ventures being added to the events calendar all the time, its certainly an exciting time to be a foodie, as I am, in the Radol’ca area.


The Taste Radol’ca collaboration has certainly bought strength in numbers, led to new initiatives and inspired creative juices among the already talented chefs who work in the area. To this end it has meant all the restaurants involved have upped their game and are offering food which deserves to be shouted about. And since they are so modest, I decided to offer a gentle nudge and to be the one to begin the shouting! It is with this in mind that I will be adding a new section to my blog entitled ‘Taste Radol’ca’ where I will write a series of shorter blogs about the restaurants I have visited and will also be able to keep readers updated about forthcoming events. I will also post more information and updates on my Adele in Slovenia Facebook page (use the ‘LIKE’ button opposite to stay up-to-date).


So it seemed fitting to start this week with the Slovene institution that is Lectar Inn. The family run Lectar inn, which is right in the heart of the medieval old town of Radovljica, comprises a restaurant, live gingerbread museum and accommodation (incidently some of my family have stayed there in the past when visiting me, and were more than satisfied with the accommodation, service and food). The Inn has a tradition dating back over 180 years and a justifiably proud reputation which attracts locals, visitors from across the land and tourists. The waiting staff are dressed in tradition clothing, the food hearty, traditional and locally sourced. and the atmosphere always warm and never stuffy.


In conjunction with the Radovljica Chocolate Festival (http://www.festival-cokolade.si/), which will take place this weekend on Saturday 12th and Sunday 13th April, the restaurants in the Taste Radol’ca project are offering special chocolated-themed menus all this week and weekend so obviously, being the chocoholic that I am, it was with no hesitation that I plumped for that option without so much as the need to look at the menu.


All the restaurants involved are offering 3 courses for just 13 euros. So if you are planning on visiting the Festival this weekend, live in, or near the area, or planning a visit, Lectar Inn should be on your list be it just for a drink, a hearty meal, a visit to the Gingerbread Museum or to stay overnight.


Here’s a look at the chocolate themed menu:
To start – Tarragon struklji with strawberries and chocolate

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Followed by – Žlikrofi with goulash and chocolate pears

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And for dessert – The original house dessert ‘Linhartov cukr’

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You won’t leave hungry, I didn’t! More information about Lectar Inn can be found here – http://www.lectar.com/_en/index.html


Oops, my ‘mini-blog’ isn’t quite as ‘mini’ as I intended, more of a tome really, just too much exciting stuff to write about! Until next time…….

Indulgent Radovljica: Chocolate and Hiking

The Radovljica Chocolate Festival is rapidly approaching – just 5 days to go now. The Festival will take place over two days; Saturday 12th and Sunday 13th April, from 9am – 7pm both days. Chocolate has been even more at the forefront of my mind of late having translated the Festival website and programme, meaning I’ve had plenty of time to suss out which events in the programme I will be attending. I will be sure to coincide my visit(s) at the time when the giant 90kg Gorenjka chocolate bar is going to be dished out among visitors as well as for other events in the programme including the Three Chefs’ Cookery Show, where three of Slovenia’s top chefs – Uroš Štefelin, Bine Volčič and Igor Jagodic, will be creating chocolate masterpieces. There will also be workshops and entertainment for children, and for adults, such as ‘Cognac, Cigars and Chocolate’, a Chocolate Fashion Show, chocolate body painting and more. If you are planning to visit, check out the programme to plan which events you wish to attend – http://www.festival-cokolade.si/en/

For those who are Facebook users, be sure to ‘like’ my ‘Adele in Slovenia’ Facebook page (the like button is opposite) to keep updated with hot-off-the-press news about the Chocolate Festival and about other events and news in the Radol’ca area.

Additionally, some of the restaurants involved in the Taste Radol’ca project are offering special chocolate themed menus all this week. So yet another reason/excuse for a little (over)indulgence and at just 13 euros for 3 courses, a bargain too! I’m having a hard time deciding which of them to visit as all the menus sound so appetising, and there are only so many days in a week, but I’m certainly planning on visit at least a couple of them. So all in all it looks like a gluttonous and overindulgent week, and weekend, in store for me! Anyone care to join me?!

In light of the above, its just as well that the weather is conducive to outdoor pursuits and that I am able to make time for some long hikes too, as I did on Sunday. For a change of scenery I set off early from home to Preddvor, approximately 40 minutes from Radovljica, and then started my hike at the small Black Lake (črno jezero). As well as being the starting point for many hikes in the surrounding hills and mountains, the small lake, the Bor Hotel and the 16th century Hill Castle (Grad Hrib), make an idyllic, and romantic, destination for a short stroll and from where to admire the peaceful and scenic surroundings at the foot of the Storžič and Zaplata mountains.

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My first destination was St. Jacob’s church (Sv. Jakob). From Preddvor, the route up to the church takes approximately one hour and is a very popular one, especially on a sunny Sunday following a rainy Saturday as was this one. Fortunately as I set off early, most of the people I encountered were on their way up as I was already making my way back down. The majority however only go as far as the church and then stop to enjoy the view and/or some refreshments at one of the two huts – Planinska koča Iskra na Jakobu (961m) and the Planinska Koča pri Franciju (930m). It is a rarity to find two huts so close together so hikers here are spoilt for choice.

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Unfortunately it was pretty hazy so the conditions weren’t conducive for getting any great snaps but I’ve included a few anyway, and more can be seen on my Pinterest account. As can be seen, this area offers a wealth of hiking possibilities and tours can be as long or as short as desired. On this occasion I continued from the church directly up to Potoška gora (1283m) then on to the peak of Javorjev vrh (1434m), which offers far-reaching views across the Kamnik Savinja Alps; towards the peaks of Srednji vrh, Kozji vrh and onwards towards the Jezersko valley. To my surprise the route was entirely snow free, although there is still significant snow on the north facing slopes of these peaks.

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The fine spring weather also means that work clearing up the damage from February’s ice-storm is progressing well, at least in this area. I encountered a few areas with damage and fallen trees during my hike on Sunday but once above 1000 metres, the damage is minimal. At this time of year the forests are also carpeted in wild garlic, which has a very pungent though not unpleasant smell and you can expect to find dishes featuring wild garlic, such as soup and risotto, featuring widely on seasonal restaurant menus. Here’s hoping the fine weather continues this week so I can get out hiking and biking this week too – in between the indulging that is!

Fishing – The Sava River, Radovljica

As I have sat here today gazing out of the window, it’s felt almost like mid-May out there, which is quite unbelievable considering its March, albeit the last day. Sometimes at this time of year, as was the case last year, there can still be a significant amount of snow, even at ground level. However, with the current high temperatures this year’s heavy snowfall made a rapid disappearance, at least here in the valley. Appearances can be deceptive though as there are still several metres of snow in the high mountains where, despite the high temperatures, winter conditions still reign.


The fine weather encouraged me to make my first ever foray into the world of gardening. As someone who doesn’t know one end of a spade from the other, and is unlikely to be able to identify a weed from a prize-bloom, this is something of a revolution for me! However, Slovenes love, and are proud of, their gardens, allotments and vegetable patches so I decided its about time I also embraced this part of Slovene life too. I’m not expecting to turn green-fingered overnight but will certainly give it a stab and see what, if anything, grows!

Having had enough of snowy walks for this year, this weekend I chose cycling as my sport of choice. Radovljica offers a wide choice of cycling routes of varying levels of difficulty; from easier flat routes through the surrounding villages, to routes across lowlands and highlands, through the valleys and into the surrounding hills and mountains. Being so early in the season, I’m not yet quite bike fit enough for a big hill climb so I opted for the Lowland Cycling Route which leads from Radovljica through the peaceful Lipnica Valley, which is ideal for cycling as there is little traffic. More information about this, and other cycling routes in the area, can be found here – http://www.radolca.si/en/lowland-cycling-trail/

Also this week, whilst running along side the Sava river from the village of Lancovo towards Ribno, I noticed several fishermen as the fishing season is now underway and the Sava River at Radovljica is a fisherman’s paradise, or so I’m told! The fishing season begins annually on the 1st March and ends of the 31st October. I therefore decided to do a bit of delving to find out a bit more about fishing in Slovenia, and in particular on the Sava river.

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The Sava river is formed of the Sava Dolinka and the Sava Bohinjka which meet at the confluence in the village of Lancovo, just beneath Radovljica. The Radovljica Fishing Club manages the first 23 kilometres of the Sava river ending at the brook before the mouth of Tržiška Bistrica river. At the beginning, there is a 2 kilometre “catch and release” district, where fly fishing with one artificial fly without barb and additional weight is allowed.

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Did you know that Slovenia is actually one of the richest countries in Europe in terms of water, with over 27,000kms of watercourses? The emerald green Soča river is one of the best known and a real gem but the Sava river offers just as many opportunities with its deep pools, rapids, tranquility and not to mention the wonderful surrounding views; enough to satisfy many a fisherman’s needs. I can’t profess to be a fisher(wo)man myself, nor have I ever lusted after being so, but should I wish to do so I can think of no finer place to start than right here (almost) on my doorstep! More information about fishing in, and near, Radovljica and fishing permits, can be found here -http://www.ribiskekarte.si/en


Trout
, as well as huchen are the most popular catches and you will find fresh river trout on the menus of many a restaurant throughout the country. It often comes just simply grilled, with or without lashings of fresh garlic, or served with almonds.

 

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Oh by the way, just in case you haven’t heard, not that I haven’t mentioned it, its just 13 days to go until the Radovljica Chocolate Festival!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! For details of the programme and special accommodation offers, see here – http://www.radolca.si/en/what-to-do/events-1/3rd-festival-of-chocolate/83/309/

Lambergh Chateau – A right royal feast!

The weather was the talk of the town this week, but this time for the right reason as temperature records were once again shattered with parts of south-east Slovenia basking in temperatures of 27 degrees, which in March is unusual to say the least. Here in the alpine region of Gorenjska, the temperatures didn’t climb quite that high, as is to be expected when there are still metres of snow in the high mountains, but did reach around the 20 degree mark, which was pure bliss while it lasted. The weekend brought a return of the rain, and with it lower temperatures, but its officially spring now so things are looking up.

My week flew by in a whirl as I was quite busy with translating work, meaning several early starts and late finishes, which left less time than I would have liked to make the most of the clement weather. I did however (of course) manage to squeeze in a few short bike rides and am looking forward to many more in the months to come and will of course be blogging about them, and my hikes too.

The week, the first of three Chateau Dinners (Grajska vecerja) took place at Lambergh Chateau in the village of Dvorska vas, near Begunje na Gorenjskem, just a few kilometres from Radovljica.

The history of the Chateau, part of the Lambergh Chateau and Hotel, dates back as far as the 11th century and was at one time, in the 16th century, owned by Count Lamberg, hence the name. It was completely renovated in 1531 in the Renaissance style and the latest renovation, in 2011, ensured its original appearance was preserved, along with the modern touches required to bring it into the 21st century.

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It has to be said that the Lambergh Estate didn’t have the most auspicious of starts when it opened a few years back and has since endured a period of closure and several changes of ownership. In the past there was some scepticism about its future but its great to be able to report that the new owners seem to have finally found the right formula and the right team, and for the past year the hotel has been flourishing, often running at full occupancy. It is also a very popular wedding venue and has become an important part of the community. More information about the Estate, and the next Chateau Dinners, on 25th April and 16th May, can be found here – http://www.hotel-lambergh.com

The Chateau Dinners are open to both hotel residents and non-residents and take place monthly. The menus are seasonally adjusted and comprise 4 courses, with matching (and plentiful!) wine. On this occasion the wine was provided by the Sartori Estate from the Primorska region of Slovenia, near the town and port of Koper, and diners were also kept amused by the running ‘will they/won’t they’ entertainment provided by Urška and the noble Tonček, as seen below. As well as accommodation and the restaurant, the chateau also houses an intimate wedding chamber, which, together with the small restaurant, makes the ideal venue for smaller group celebrations.

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Oh, and of course I must mention the delicious food which didn’t disappoint. Lambergh is also one of the 7 restaurants that participate in the Taste Radol’ca projecthttp://wp.me/p3005k-8s) and will also be appearing at the forthcoming Chocolate Festival in Radovljica. Talking of which, as probably the world’s biggest chocoholic, I’m on countdown to the Festival already – just 20 days to go!!! More information about this year’s Chocolate Festival in Radovljica can be found here – http://www.festival-cokolade.si/

Woops, back to the aforementioned food, I got sidetracked by chocolate again……. To started we were served a courgette carpaccio with tomatoes and fresh goats cheese. Next came a gratinated scallop with saffron risotto. And for the main courses deer medallions wrapped with pancetta, potato blinis – which were seriously melt in the mouth and I could have eaten a whole plate of them alone – and a sprout wrap filled with mushrooms and gorgonzola.

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And for dessert, an almond parfe with chocolate truffle and berries – need I say more! The food was delicious, a treat for the eyes and the palate and I’m looking forward to the next one already!

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Romantic Radovljica!

On Tuesday, the eve of St. Gregory’s Day, I went to the small former iron-forging village of Kamna Gorica, in the Lipnica Valley, to watch the annual tradition of floating local children’s handmade creations, illuminated by candles, in the village stream. It is such a colourful and simple custom, but one which brings great joy to young children who watch on proudly as their creations float by and are judged for their creativeness. Meanwhile the adults get to stand back and watch, also proudly, enjoy a warming mulled wine and saviour the atmosphere. As can be seen in the photos below (more to follow on Pinterest), some of the creations were clearly painstakingly and meticulously thought out and constructed, others just simple paper creations, but of course its the taking part that counts! The custom dates back to the era of manual iron-forging, before the introduction of the Gregorian calendar in 1582, when the name day of St. Gregory was considered the first day of spring.

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And since there has barely been a cloud in the sky all week, it certainly feels like spring. We could hardly ask for more perfect weather for this time of year. Its certainly much appreciated after the bleakness of February. Earlier today, whilst walking around, it occurred to me how even the narrowest of streets now appear to be so wide, and what a luxury it seems to have the entire width of the pavement to walk on, these having been piled up high with snow for weeks on end before. How one learns to appreciate the simple things in life!

It also occurred to me recently, whilst walking through Radovljica’s old town centre, what a shame it is that more people don’t appreciate what a great destination is to hold a wedding. During the summer there are a number of weddings which take place here but, having made enquiries, I discovered that 80% of weddings in Slovenia take place in Bled. Ok I’m biased, but the fact is that everything is right here in one place; St. Peter’s Church for the religious ceremony or Šivec House for a civil ceremony, the grand Radovljica Mansion and/or Lectar Inn for the reception, the perfect spot for photographs with the backdrop of the Julian Alps and the Jelovica Plateau and accommodation both in the old town centre and nearby. Having made some enquiries, it seems that although weddings in Slovenia are increasing in popularity, the vast majority of people still opt for Bled, as it is the obvious choice due to the castle and the island on the lake. However, Radovljica is just 7kms from Bled so a wedding in Radovljica offers an alternative and could also be combined with a visit to Bled. So, if you are lucky enough to be considering a wedding abroad, take a look at Radovljica and dare to be different! Here are a couple of photographs of the venues (more to follow on Pinterest) and more information can also be found here – http://www.dapetra.com/

2 Dogodki na Linhartovem trgu  10 Stoječi sprejem v Baročni dvorani

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With the temperatures currently in the mid-teens the snow line is currently at around the 1,000 metre mark, somewhat higher on the south facing slopes. However, above this level there is still plenty of the white stuff as can be seen from the HUGE snowman that greeted my arrival on a hike up to the Roblek Mountain Hut (1672m) from the Draga Valley. It’s been warm enough to cycle too, which is unusual in March, so my bike has had an early awakening from its winter hibernation!

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