Nice weather – for mushrooms!

Last week started well with Monday being 30+ degrees plus but thereafter I’m afraid to report it was another fairly dismal week of rain and cool temperatures. We really haven’t ever known a summer like this before – and let’s hope we never will again. I think we should now dub the summer of 2014 as ‘the summer that never was!’.

Perhaps the only folk who are happy about these conditions are lovers of mushrooms, as the cool, damp conditions have brought an early start and a bumper harvest of mushrooms of all shapes and sizes this year. However, Slovene law dictates that you are only allowed to pick 2kg at any one time and they must be placed in an open wicker basket. Failure to do so can, and often does, result in a 200 euro fine; there are inspectors out there scouring the forests – beware! Oh and of course it goes without saying that you must be 100% certain that you know your mushrooms before picking them as a large majority of them are highly, if not deadly, poisonous.

Last Friday began, as have so many days of late, with cool and cloudy conditions but fortunately the rain held off long enough for the annual Meeting of Model Aircraft which takes place at Lesce Sports Airfield. The event attracts competitors and visitors from across Slovenia as well as from neighbouring countries such as Italy, Austria and Croatia. This year 45 competitors took part in the competition (significantly less than usual – the weather again?), whilst visitors came to watch the spectacle, browse the stalls and get a close-up look at some of the planes on the ground.

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A cloudy Saturday passed with me spending the majority of it working – translating – but at least when the weather is less than great it doesn’t seem such a hardship being couped up indoors.

On Sunday however, after a bright but somewhat chilly start to the day, we were finally treated to a day of sunshine and warmer temperatures so I decided to briefly abandon work and a friend and I headed up to the Pokljuka plateau to make the most of it. There are several mountain highlands on Pokljuka and one of the most scenic, and also most easily reached, is Uskovnica. It’s a picture perfect working highland with a cute, yet functioning, church, a mountain hut which serves great food and refreshments (Koča na Uskovnici), a number of weekend houses and the chance to buy cheese and sour milk (a thick yoghurt type consistency) which has come directly from the cattle grazing on the highland. We parked at Rudno polje, which is home to the Biathlon Centre and a hotel, then walked, mostly downhill, to Uskovnica, which only takes about 45 minutes. En-route you can stop to see, and/or sit on, the energy points which are supposed to help various medical conditions. Each one is numbered and there is an explanatory board (in Slovene) telling you which one to sit on for various medical complaints, how long you should stay on it, and how many times you must repeat the procedure. I’m generally a bit of a pessimist about such things but go with the attitude ‘Well, it certainly can’t harm’!

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The Hop-On Hop-Off tourist bus is still running until the end of August and at weekends it goes from Bled to Bohinj via Pokljuka. It also runs on Tuesdays between Bled-Radovljica-Kropa, and on Thursdays between Bled-Radovljica-Begunje-Brezje. At just 5 euros for the whole day its great value and a great chance to see places such as Uskovnica –

This week Bled’s annual open-air cinema event ‘Film by the Lake’ will take place, beginning on Thursday 21st, and running for three consecutive evenings. Films are shown either in Slovene with English subtitles, or vice-versa. More information about the film programme and times  can be found here –

Also in Bled this coming weekend the annual Firefighter Combat Challenge will take place. More information about the challenge can be found here – OR here –

Meanwhile, in Radovljica, the Radovljica Festival continues with this week with further performances and workshops. More information about the festival can be found here –

New Zip Line over the Sava river / Panoramic Bled

Other than the almighty storm last Monday evening, which brought with it another wave of damage and destruction, summer sunshine and high temperatures reigned last week and I even managed a whole week without getting drenched! Once again I took full advantage of this and had a weekend packed full of action and adventure.

On Saturday morning I set off from home by bike to Kranjska Gora; riding first to Bled, then through Gorje to reach the cycle path through the Radovna Valley (read more about this in a previous post here – On reaching the village of Mojstrana I joined the D2 cycle path which runs along the route of the ex-railway line all the way to Kranjska Gora then onwards to Rateče before continuing into Italy. On this occasion, my destination was Lake Jasna in Kranjska Gora, which took a little under 3 hours to reach from home.

The cycle path is traffic-free and rises very subtly up towards Kranjska Gora. You do have to keep your wits about you though, particularly when the weather is fine, as being one of the rare traffic-free, and therefore safe and child friendly, cycle paths in this area, it is very popularč not only with cyclists but also roller skaters, ski rollers (think cross-country skiing minus the snow!), dog-walkers and joggers. I nearly came a cropper a couple of times due to errant cyclists admiring the (admittedly) stunning scenery and not looking where they were going and lost tourists straying onto the path with their cars. Oh well, just another couple of scrapes and bruises to add to my already battle-weary legs!

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Just 2 kilometres from Kranjska Gora, Lake Jasna is a small crystal-clear alpine lake which sits at the foot of the Vršič pass, Slovenia’s highest mountain pass (1611m).  The statue of Zlatorog (Golden Horn), as seen below, stands proudly at the lake shore.

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After cycling home, this time via Mojstrana and Jesenice, rather than back through the Radovna Valley, I had a quick rest and then headed down to the Sava river at Radovljica to the opening of the new zip line over the Sava river at the Tinaraft Centre. Below you can see me getting prepared, and others rafting on the Sava river, which I was about to zip across from 20 metres high – yikes!

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After a short safety briefing, I was off; across the bridge, up to the start and then the fun part! As well as the zipline, as the name implies, Tinaraft offer rafting and other adrenalin-fuelled activities such as canyoning, paintball and zorbing. More information can be found here –

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Despite being a little tired, when I awoke to another beautiful morning on Sunday, I couldn’t resist the pull of the mountains and set off to hike up to Begunščica. At 2060m, Begunščica is among the highest of the mountains in the Karavanke range. There are a number of ways of reaching the highest point of the ridge, named ‘veliki vrh'; from the Draga valley via the Roblek dom mountain hut, from Ljubelj via Zelenica or, as I did, from the Draga Valley to Preval and then via the (very) steep path which leads seemingly almost vertically upwards for about one hour through the forest before emerging into a rocky area, where a few metres of climbing is required then on to traverse the ridge (note: the approach from this direction is not advisable if you are scared of heights as there is a sheer drop on either side) before reaching the top where an orientation post points out all the surrounding mountains and there are far-reaching views across both Slovenia and Austria. Unfortunately, the clouds beat me to the top on this occasion, so I didn’t take any photographs at the top itself, but there’s already more than enough for this week, and anyway I’ll be back up there sooner or later no doubt! I made the return by the easier, less steep route via Roblek dom and then back down to the valley.

Also this week, as if Bled wasn’t already picturesque enough, a new panoramic photo frame has been installed on the small Straža hill, above Lake Bled (read more about Straža here in a previous post – If you want THE ultimate photo shot of Bled, then its well worth making the trip up to Straža.

Good News – Following the winter damage, the stairways and bridges at Kamen Castle have been repaired. The ruins of the castle are situated at the end of the village of Begunje, at the entrance to the Draga Valley.

This coming weekend, from Friday to Sunday, the Festival of Fish Delicacies will take place in the village of Bohinjska Bela, just a few kilometres from Bled. The festival features a fly-fishing competition, live music, food (fish of course!) and more. Read more about it here –



Pokljuka by bike / Hiking the Karavanke

As you might imagine, after 12 days of on-and-off rain, I had been itching to get out on my bike and to go hiking in the mountains. So last weekend, with the long awaited reappearance of the somewhat delayed summer, I made up for lost time!

On Saturday I made the hike up to Stol, the highest peak in the Karavanke range. You can read more about Stol in this post that I wrote a short while back  –

On Sunday morning I went by bike from home, in Radovljica, up to the Pokljuka plateau, turning right at Mrzli Studenec, past the Kranjska dolina valley and the Zajavornik highland to the ski centre and the Rudno Polje biathlon centre. The Hop-On Hop-Off tourist bus (pictured below) goes from Bled to Pokljuka every Saturday and Sunday until the end of August and at just 5 euros per person for the whole day offers an excellent opportunity for exploring Pokljuka. At the moment the whole plateau is awash with forest blueberries, wild strawberries and mushrooms, and people are out foraging in their droves. However, Pokljuka is huge, so there’s enough to go round! If you’d like to explore Pokljuka by bike, but don’t fancy the long slog to get up to the plateau, the Sport Hotel on Pokljuka currently have a special offer price of 10 euros for up to 8 hours bike hire and travel on the hop-on, hop-off bus OR 16 euros for up to 8 hours bike hire, the bus and a traditional Slovene stew.

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After a break for some much needed sustenance, on Sunday afternoon I first popped down to Radovljica’s old town to visit the Medieval Day festivities. This annual event is always worth a visit, especially as Radovljica boasts one of the 3 best preserved medieval town centres in Slovenia. For one day, Linhart Square, the heart of the old town, is transported back to medieval times with theatrical performances, actors in period dress, locals selling their wares on the market stalls, archery, and a new addition this year, a giant handmade catapult.

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Later, I took a walk through the cool of the forest, down to the Sava river, over the Fuxova brv bridge, and onto the Lipnica Castle Natural Science Trail

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Since I’ve been writing this blog, I have been receiving an ever increasing amount of emails from far and wide; people who have found and read my blog, some of who just get in touch to say ‘thanks’, others wanting advice, particularly about hiking. In almost every case however, everyone wants to know about climbing Triglav, Slovenia’s highest mountain, or about hiking elsewhere in the Julian Alps. Whilst it is true that all but one of Slovenia’s highest mountains lie in the Julian Alps (Grintovec in the Kamnik-Savinja Alps, 2558m, being the 8th highest mountain), that doesn’t mean there aren’t other great places to hike too.

The Karavanke range, for example, offer some great peaks worthy of exploration and a choice of easier, shorter day walks or more challenging multi-day treks, with overnight accommodation in one of the many mountain huts. The Karavanke form a natural border between Slovenia and Austria, and at almost 120km in length, are one of the longest mountain ranges in Europe. Weather permitting, you are pretty much guaranteed stunning and far reaching views across both the countries. The Karavanke range makes an ideal choice for those staying in the Radovljica-Bled area and I would recommend them as an alternative, and/or additional, choice for hiking in Slovenia. Other than Stol, some of the great peaks and destinations in the Karavanke, and some of my favourite and regular haunts, include Begunščica, Kepa, Dovška Baba, Golica, Dobrča, Preval and Košuta. I have written about many of these previously and by using this blog’s search facility (top right corneer), you can search and find more information.

The Okarina Festival is Bled is now in full swing with the line up including some world-class acts, such as on Saturday, when the acclaimed Welsh harpist, Catrin Finch, performed together with Seckou Keita, in the stunning surroundings of Bled Castle. This week the Okarina Fest moves to the Spa Park in Bled where, beginning at 8.30pm concerts will be performed by Barcelona Gipsy Klezmer Orchestra (6.8), Ferus Mustafov (7.8), Debademba (8.8) and Family Atlantica (9.8). More information can be found here –



Festivals Galore

I wish I could begin this post by writing about the glorious summer we are enjoying, and to be able to write about all the outdoor activities I have been enjoying. Alas, the weather has other ideas. Last week, and this week so far, it has been anything but summer, except for a brief spell on Sunday afternoon when we had a faint whiff of summer. Otherwise it continues to be unseasonably cool, cloudy and wet. To be fair, its not as if its raining all day every day, but the lingering low cloud and threatening skies make it difficult to plan straying too far from home and last week I got drenched more times than I care to remember! However, I can at least be the bearer of some good news – all is not lost – because now the music festival season is starting and there’s something for everyone, whatever your preferred taste in music – and the concerts take place come rain or shine!

The 32nd Radovljica Festival, organised by the Radovljica Early Music Society, takes place this year from the 9th – 24th August. The programme includes 10 concerts, performed by international artists, with music from the Middle Ages to the 20th century. The majority of the concerts take place in the Radovljica Manor, the building which dominates the old town centre (as seen below), whilst one of the concerts takes place at the Church of the Annunciation in Velesovo. Free buses to all concerts are available from Ljubljana and Kranj and also a free bus from Radovljica to the concert in Velesovo. More information about the festival can be found here –

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Meanwhile, in Bled, the 24th Okarina Etno Festival begins on 1st August. This ever popular festival sees groups from far and wide coming to perform in the beautiful setting of Bled Castle and the Spa Park. This year’s line up includes acts from as far away as Senegal, Venezuela and Burkina Faso. Concerts are free to attend. More information can be found here –

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Just a few kilometres away, the village of Begunje is home to the legendary Slavko Avsenik, the forefather of Slovene national folk music. The Avsenik brothers ensemble was first formed in 1953 and has since produced over 1,000 songs which are hits with audiences not only from Slovenia but also from far and wide. Nowadays its a real family affair with three generations of the family being involved and people arrive in their coach loads to visit. Avsenik comprises a gallery and museum, a restaurant with accommodation and where regular live shows are performed (dancing isn’t mandatory but it is encouraged and part of the fun!) and a music school. Additionally, the annual three-day Avsenik Festival, held in August, regularly attracts visitors in their thousands. More about Avsenik and this year’s festival can be found here –


This Sunday is one of Radovljica’s main summer events – the annual Medieval Day. I always look forward to this event as its so nice to see Linhart Square in the old town centre really come to life and be able to get a sense of how it was in days of old. Events run throughout the day from 10am – 7pm and there is always plenty going on including theatrical performances, music and dance, a market, traditional arts and crafts demonstrations, and an archery tournament. Hope to see you there!

And finally, according to scientists in a report out this week, due to climate change we will all be basking in the sun and still swimming come November. Since there is often already snow here by then, I sincerely doubt it, but I would love to be proved wrong!!!




Swimming: Lakes, rivers and pools in Radol’ca and Bled

At this time of the year a lot of people’s thoughts turn to how, and where, to keep cool. So this week I thought I would offer some ideas along those lines. Personally, as someone who can feel the cold even in the midst of a heat wave, I’m not one for cold water, it has to be like a jacuzzi for me to get in it. However for many people, locals and tourists alike, going for a swim or a quick dip in a pool, lake or river is the perfect way to cool down and seek respite from the heat.

RADOVLJICA SWIMMING POOL – The Olympic-size swimming pool in Radovljica is open all year round. During the winter it is covered over but during the summer it is open-air. It also has a pool for kids, beach volleyball, a pizzeria and there’s a campsite right next door.

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KROPA SWIMMING POOL – A 25mx12.5m pool with a separate pool for kids, beach volleyball, a café and a picnic area. The pool is located in the Lipnica Valley at the junction towards Kropa and is open daily during the summer.

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CAMPING ŠOBEC – Take a dip in the Šobec lake at the campsite of the same name. It is also open (admission charge payable) to those not staying at the camp.

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More information about the above can be found here –

BLED CASTLE LIDO – The only designated bathing and swimming area by Lake Bled. It is set right beneath Bled Castle and has ample facilities including changing rooms, lockers, toilets and showers, rental of beach umbrellas and rowing boats, snacks and drinks stands.

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BLED LAKE – You can also take a dip directly into the lake. Due to the changeable weather this year, the temperature of the water is a little lower than usual and is currently around 22 degrees.

More information here –

For those brave enough, the Sava river is also an option, be it for cooling off, water sports such as rafting, or, as I did last weekend, just sitting relaxing on its banks. Yes, I do relax sometimes – though I had been for a 4 hour bike ride first!!

Of course there are also many other ways of keeping cool in the heat. My preference is to go for a walk in the cool of the forest or high in the mountains and since Slovenia is largely covered by forest and here in Gorenjska there are mountains a plenty, these things are not difficult to find!

And not forgetting ice-cream – an essential summer ingredient which you certainly don’t have to go far to find. There are numerous cafes offering homemade ice-cream. One of my personal favourites in Radovljica is Vidic House (Vidičeva hisa) in the old town centre of Radovljica where there are a wide variety of flavours and generous portions to match, whilst in Bled I usually head for the famous Šmon Pattiserie which, in addition to ice-cream, offers an impressive (and irrestistible!) range of cakes and pastries.

Here’s a selection of events coming up in the week ahead:

Tuesday 22nd July – Concert of the 17th Pikolo Flute Workshop – 8pm at Bled Castle

Wednesday 23rd July – Concert from the opera ‘La Boheme –  8pm in the Radovljica Manor – Tickets available from the Radovljica Tourist Information Office

Thursday 24th July – Music Thursdays ‘Neomi’ – 8pm in Linhart Square, Radovljica – Free open-air concert

Friday 25th July – Concert of the 17th Pikolo Flute Workshop – 6pm at Bled Golf Hotel






The Sextons’ Museum House / Bled Days and Nights

For the 7th time in the 23 years that Slovenia has been an independent country, the nation took to the polls again this Sunday to casts their votes in the snap general election, called following the resignation of Alenka Bratušek, the previous leader of the coalition government, on losing the battle for leadership of the ‘Positive Slovenia’ party after only 14 months in office. Although I now have permanent residency in Slovenia, I do not have citizenship and am therefore not entitled to vote. To be honest, even if I did have the right I wouldn’t know where to start with such a vast number of parties in the running and I will thus refrain (at least here) from proffering my views on Slovenia’s fragmented political affairs, especially since most, if not all, visitors to the country are of course blissfully oblivious to all the goings on behind the scenes and are free to enjoy the beauty of the country without having to endure its politics – a state in which I too would like to remain.

The weather during the past week has been far from summery, especially on Thursday when the daytime high here in the valley was only around 12 degrees and more than a few centimetres of fresh snow fell in the Julian Alps (you can see the photos I posted on my Facebook page). We are being promised ‘normal’ summer temperatures up to around 30 degrees from midweek onwards, so here’s hoping, it’s about time. This has meant I’ve had to somewhat, temporarily at least, curtail my plans for summer exploration and this week have been unable to tick-off any of the places on my personal ‘To See and To Do’ list!

On Saturday, I was headed towards the Pokljuka plateau for a walk but the threatening black clouds and distant rumble of thunder meant that I instead stopped at Bled and went for a walk around the lake; a regular fall back option if the weather is poor. In the event, carrying my (unopened) umbrella did the trick and ensured the sun came out and shined brilliantly for the entire circuit of the lake though within minutes of returning to the car the heavens opened. As is usual in the summer season, Bled was bustling with tourists; many walking around the lake, others relaxing by it, some taking a boat ride over it in one of Bled’s famous pletna boats, and others taking the tourist train around it. However you choose to see it, and/or travel around it, Lake Bled never fails to delight and it was particularly abuzz on Saturday as preparations were in full swing for the towns’ biggest running event – the 10k Night Run, which always attracts a large turnout of both participants and spectators.

On my return home I diverted to the village of Kamna Gorica, in the Lipnica Valley, for a look at the newly opened Sextons’ Museum House. The house, dating from 1803, stands perched on a small hill above the village, next to St. Trinity’s church, and affords wonderful views across the village and to the mountains of the Karavanke range. Kamna Gorica, together with nearby Kropa, was formerly one of the main iron working villages in the area of what is the present day Slovenia, and despite its modest size, the village has lots of points of interest, among them the water canals that run through the village which previously served the needs of the forges and led to the village also being known as ‘Little Venice’.

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The house, which had been derelict for many years, has now been lovingly restored and laid out as a museum. It contains an original black kitchen and preserved living areas and offers an insight into life in Kamna Gorica then and now, and of the lives of those who used to live and work in the house and church. Note: entrance to the museum is free although voluntary contributions towards its upkeep are appreciated. More information about the house and opening times can be found here –

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Kamna Gorica can also be visited on the Hop-On Hop-Off Tourist Bus, which is now operating throughout the summer until 31st August. Kamna Gorica is one of the stopping points on Tuesdays when the buses run on the route Bled-Radovljica-Kropa. The bus represents great value as the price of a full day ticket is just 5 euros and children under 10 travel for free and you can pick and choose where to get on and off and what to see and do. There are numerous places and sights of interest that can be visited as well as special offers for those travelling by bus. The Hop-On Hop-Off bus also runs on Thursdays on the route Bled-Radovljica-Begunje-Brezje, and on Saturdays and Sundays on the route Bled-Bohinj-Pokljuka-Triglav National Park. More information can be found here –

Next week its time again for Bled Days and Nights, one of the biggest annual events held in Bled, which attracts a large crowd of visitors from both home and abroad. The event takes places over three days, beginning on Friday 18th July and some of the highlights include:

  • An art and craft fair
  • Concerts and performances
  • A vintage cycle parade
  • Candles on the lake
  • Fireworks

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More information about the event can be found here –

Also coming up in the week ahead:

  • Tuesday 15th July – Free guided tour of Radovljica’s old town centre at 10am / Free guided tour of Kamna Gorica at 4.30pm
  • Thursday 17th July – Music Thursdays in Radovljica, Free concert in Linhart Square at 8pm with the group ‘Mojo Hand’
  • Saturday 19th July – The start of this year’s Okarina Etno Festival in Bled. The festival then continues with further dates into August. 10pm at Bled Shopping Centre with the band RIC (Roots Intention Crew) from France.




Triglav National Park Information / Garden Village, Bled

On Tuesday last week I went to the opening of the Triglav Roža Information Centre, which reopened its doors after a lengthy closure for refurbishment. The centre is located on the main road into Bled (Ljubljanska cesta 27) and is an excellent point-of-call for visitors to the Gorenjska region, especially those planning to spend some time in Triglav National Park, Slovenia’s only national park. The centre contains some interesting permanent exhibitions including about Slovenia’s highest mountain, Triglav and the National Park, as well as information about other parts of the Gorenjska region. Visitors can also watch a video and obtain maps and information. The centre is open daily from 8am – 6pm during the summer and from 8am – 4pm in the winter.

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Whilst in Bled, I also took the opportunity to go and have a look at the new Garden Village Resort, which opened last month and wow is it AMAZING! Those that know me, will attest to the fact that I’m not exactly known for my ability to relax (always hiking/biking/running…..) but even I felt relaxed there among the green and serene surroundings, sitting by the pool area, sipping a cool elderflower cordial……. Happy Days – even if only briefly whilst I watched how the other half live!

The resort, located just 5 minutes from Lake Bled, is certainly ‘glamping’ at its best. It comprises a mixture of luxury tented accommodation, tree houses and apartments. The whole ethos of the resort is built around being ‘green’ – both visually and operationally – and it shows. The attention to detail is remarkable in every area including the restaurant, wellness and the gardens, where guests are able to literally pick and eat whatever is growing around the resort. Their website says ‘Adventurous, Romantic and Exclusive’ and I’d have to agree. Now, if only I could find someone adventurous and romantic to share it with!!! For those of you lucky to have found adventure and romance, here’s the link (it’s already pretty much booked up for this summer season) –

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With the weather being so glorious for the weekend, I had a tough decision to make as to where to go and what to do – so much choice – so in the end I did a bit of everything! Saturday began with an early morning start, cycling from home to the lake at Bohinj. I then took the gondola up to the Vogel Ski Resort, which was celebrating its 50th anniversary of operation and thus had 50% discount on the usual ride charge. There was a great party atmosphere up there with plenty of entertainment including national folk music, presentations of national costumes and old-timer bikes, guided walks, workshops for children and market stalls. As a non-skier, I have only previously visited Vogel once during the autumn when it was shrouded in mist and there were no views to be seen and I was unable to explore the area fully. This time, it couldn’t have been more different. It was a glorious day and I was able to grasp just how extensive the area is and how much there is to see and do up there, regardless of the season. Being a ski resort, I’d always considered it more of a winter venue, but how wrong was I, and it has now been added to my list of summer destinations too – next time I might even consider hiking up there too! There are a wide choices of walks, either shorter, easier ones such as the Vogel Trail, or longer ones to one of the many peaks or highlands of the Julian Alps, such as Rodica or Planina Sija. The Orlove Glave chairlift also operates during the summer and can be used to shorten some of the hikes. There is also a bike park, several places to eat and drink and of course, it goes without saying, stunning and far-reaching views in all directions.

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It’s going to be another busy week ahead with lots going on in the Radovljica/Bled area. Here is just a pick of the events:

Tuesday 8th July

  • Open Day at the Sextons’ Museum House in Kamna Gorica, 10am-6pm, entrance free (also on Saturday 12th & Sunday 13th July)
  • Free guided tour of Kamna Gorica, 4.30pm

Thursday 10th July

  • Music Thursdays in Linhart Square in Radovljica’s old town centre – Every Thursday in July from 8.00pm – this week ‘San Di Ego Band’
  • Story-telling by the fire at Camp Šobec – Join the Triglav National Park rangers to listen to some of the myths and legends of the Slovenian mountains – 9pm, free event (also for those not resident at the camp)

Saturday 12th July