Mystery Shopping in Radovljica!

The Slovene daily newspaper, Dnevnik, is currently running a kind of ‘Mystery Shopper’ project whereby foreigners living in Slovenia are sent to various locations across the country to assess things such as accessibility, information received at the local tourist office, restaurants and cafes, accommodation and activities in the area. As can be seen from the article below, which is all in Slovene hence my precis here, last week two Czech girls visited Radovljica and gave it rave reviews, well except for the accommodation which was slated. In fairness, however, Grajski Dvor hotel is currently undergoing refurbishment after a long period of closure and is most certainly ‘a work in progress’. Personally I think its promising and encouraging that a local businessman has been willing to undertake this big renovation project to ensure that the hotel will, eventually, be returned to its former glory and will stay in local hands. I actually went to see the newly refurbished rooms for myself last week and what struck me most was how clean the place was. For a 3 star hotel, which doesn’t pretend to be anything more, offers reasonable rates and is very centrally located, I think it’s worthy of a bit more than the 3 out of 10 awarded. Other than that, they gave everything 10 out of 10 meaning Radovljica currently leads the list of places visited and assessed so far! https://www.dnevnik.si/1042715656/magazin/prosti-cas/dnevnikova-izvidnica-radovljiska-pravljica-a-le-s-polno-denarnico What struck me as most surprising was that despite having lived in Slovenia for several years, the girls had never heard of Radovljica. Surely almost everyone who lives in, and visits, Slovenia knows Bled – of course – well Radovljica is just 7km from Bled! So, whether you live here or are on holiday, next time, just turn off the motorway one junction before the exit for Bled and come and see it and sample it for yourselves – don’t miss out! This is a summary of what the pair did, saw, ate, drank etc. On day one they arrived by car, just a 30 minute drive from Ljubljana. They first went to the Tourist Information Centre, which is ‘very easy to find’ – its the first building on the right on entering the old town centre – http://www.radolca.si/en/tic/ The welcome and information they were given in the tourist office was excellent, even though they tried hard to play the role of ‘annoying tourists’! They were given maps of local walking trails, suggestions for what to see and do including rafting, canyoning and kayaking, and ideas for places to eat and drink. Unfortunately the weather wasn’t conducive to outdoors activities so, following the suggestions given in the Tourist Information Centre, they first visited the Museum of Apiculture, which is housed in the magnificent Radovljica Manor, where they were given a short guided tour to learn about the history of beekeeping in Slovenia and where there is an actual hive you can watch bees come and go. They bought some honey-related gifts and souvenirs and then continued into the adjoining Municipal Museum. 3 Radovljiška graščina ceb muz Next up was a visit to the well-known Lectar Inn. This restaurant with rooms and gingerbread-making workshop is much favoured amongst Slovenes and visitors from far and wide. It is run by husband and wife Lili and Jože, assisted by their family and a loyal staff, dressed in Slovene national attire. The ground floor houses a restaurant, the upper floor has accommodation, and downstairs is the gingerbread heart workshop where visitors can watch, and upon prior reservation also try for themselves, the art of making these traditional souvenirs. 1781946_780217605407996_3932387495050073481_n     CIMG7936 In the evening they went to the Academia bar and were surprised at how lively it was, having thought of Radovljca as being ‘a bit of a sleepy town’. In fact Radovljica has a lot of restaurants, cafes and bars –  a surprising amount for a town of its size where you can try out some specialities from the Taste Radol’ca restaurants too – http://www.radolca.si/en/inns-and-restaurants/ 10982079_873359362707281_3075502047712497002_n     CIMG8163 The next day they walked on the new Sava River Trail – http://www.radolca.si/en/the-sava-river-trail/ 10404285_999836556694053_9154493743495987424_n     CIMG8124 Enjoying the walk so much they ended up continuing to the ruins of Lipnica Castle (Pusti grad) and the Natural Science Trailhttp://www.radolca.si/en/lipnica-castle-natural-science-trail/ CIMG6948 This is just the tip of the iceberg of things to see and do in the area but I hope it at least provides some ideas and inspiration. © AdeleinSlovenia 2015

The Kokra Canyon / Summer Highlights in Radovljica

The old town of Kranj, the capital of the Gorenjska region, sits on a terrace above the 30-metre deep Kokra canyon, which was formed by the Kokra river carving its way into the conglomerate terrace dating back to the Ice Age.

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The recently constructed Educational Trail runs for about 2km beside the Kokra river and is best accessed down the long flight of stairs beneath the bridge over the river in the centre of the old town. It makes a great addition to the old town centre which sadly, like so many other town centres these days, is in decline due to the many out-of-town shopping centres that have sprung up here, there and everywhere. The trail means a walk through the old town can now be extended somewhat before returning to enjoy a cuppa and a cake at one of the many cafes which, together with the town’s museums and a meagre sprinkling of shops, are largely all that remain in the old town centre.

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After descending down to the river you can walk along either bank of the river and make a circular route. However, unfortunately at present its not possible to walk the circular route as some weeks back a lorry travelling over the narrow bridge, unsuitable for lorries, at the far end of the canyon, managed to reduce it to a twisted wreck of metal and concrete. It is hoped they will repair the bridge as soon as possible but nevertheless its still a nice enough place for a short stroll whilst visiting Kranj.

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Its still possible to make an almost, albeit very short, circular route by descending the stairs and staying on the same side of the river i.e. don’t cross the bridge, and continue until just short of the mangled bridge, then take the road uphill which leads back to the old town centre.

Its interesting to note that in Dol, on the right bank of the river, there was once a public bathing resort. The resort, which opened in 1900, was open from June to September and was divided into sections for men and women. It was in use until 1916 and then again for the short time after the First World War. Today, just the remains of the foundations of the changing rooms, and the stairs on the riverbank serve as reminders.

Kranj is well served by public transport, so reaching the town from Radovljica, which also has excellent transport links, is easy. Regular buses and (slightly less regular) trains run from Ljubljana – Jesenice, stopping at, amongst others, Kranj, Radovljica, and Lesce-Bled stations.

The Radovljica Summer Events Programme is now available and there’s plenty for everyone. Some of the highlights include:

* Fresh Thursdays – Live Music every Thursday evening in Linhart Square – the heart of the old town centre

* The 33 Radovljica Music Festival – 8th to 23rd August – Part of the European Early Music Network. More information here: http://www.radolca.si/en/what-to-do/events-1/radovljica-festival/83/260/

* Theatre Festival in Kropa – 19th June to 3rd July – More information here (in Slovene): http://www.radolca.si/kaj-poceti/dogodki/festival-gledalisca-kropa-2015/83/785/

* Flea Markets – Every first Sunday in the month (throughout the year) from 9am – 1pm

* Free Guided Tours of Radovljica – Every Tuesday – More information here: http://www.radolca.si/en/guided-tour-of-radovljica/

The entire programme can be found here: http://www.radolca.si/en/db/radolca/file/zgibanka%20prevodi_web.pdf

© AdeleinSlovenia 2015

Hiking: Kropa and the top of Jelovica

When the weather is as hot as it has been in the past couple of weeks, which by the way I’m most definitely NOT complaining about, its time to seek hiking routes that are, as much as possible, in the shade. So this week here’s my suggest for a great circular route, which is entirely in the cool of the forest, leading to the highest point of the Jelovica plateau and beginning from the one of my favourite villages in this area – Kropa.

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Whenever I visit Kropa when the sun is shining, I have visions of myself living there. The village, with the Kroparica stream running right through its heart, and the houses embellished with wrought iron, really does look lovely when its bathed in sunshine. However, I know in reality, that life here probably isn’t that easy as the village’s location, nestled snugly at the foot of the far eastern corner of the Jelovica plateau in the Lipnica Valley, means not only that it is somewhat remote, but also that during the winter months there are very few hours of sunshine, which is something I definitely wouldn’t cope with! So, I just have to make do with visiting – and I’d certainly you do too!

For those without a car the Hop-on Hop-off tourist bus also visits Kropa every Tuesday during the summer months. More information and the timetable can be found here – http://www.radolca.si/en/hop-on-hop-off-radolca/

My walk leads first to the the Vodice Highland (Vodiška planina). Since I prefer to take the steeper shorter route up and the less steep but longer route down, I have described it in that direction. However, of course if you prefer it can just as easily be done in reverse, instead following the signs for Vodice rather than for Jamnik as described below.

Begin at St. Leonard’s Church, one of the two churches in the village. There is a small parking area here or otherwise park in the centre of the village, by the memorial, and take the steps which lead between houses up to the church.

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Take the path signed ‘strma pot’ – this means ‘steep path’ – and it is! It takes just over an hour to reach the Vodice highland.

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On reaching the highland, if the mountain hut is open, take a rest and enjoy some of the great home-cooked food – štruklji and strudel are particularly recommended here!

If you don’t want to continue any further, from here you could take another longer, and slightly less steep, route back to the village. Alternatively, continue with the hut on your right and outbuildings on the left, a further 100 metres or so until you see a sign to Jamnik and Dražgose.

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From here the path is obvious and just keep following the signs to Jamnik (where there is a choice, choose Jamnik not Dražgose). The path climbs slightly up to the highest point of the Jelovica plateau, Črni vrh, at 1304m. Of course one of the downsides a walk in the cool forest can be the lack of views, so be sure not to miss the 2 viewpoints. The first is just a few minutes from here where there is a clearing with panoramic wonderful views across the Radovljica plain and the peaks of the Karavanke and Kamnik Savinja Alps.

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From here on the path begins to gradually descend. Just keep following the signs to Jamnik, just being careful after reaching a dirt road where the path goes right then shortly after left more steeply down through the forest. It is marked but the first sign is easy to miss.

Another viewpoint is reached by taking a 2 minute detour of the path at the sign that says ‘klopca‘ (benches). From here you can see directly down to the village of Kropa and get a real sense of just how hemmed in it is.

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Eventually the path meets, and crosses, the winding road that comes up from Kropa, leading to the church on Jamnik. If you want to see the church then it is necessary to walk on the road for a while until the branch off towards the church.

Otherwise, immediately on crossing the road the path continues on the other side, levelling off in places, before leading back down to the village of Kropa and the 2nd of the village’s churches, the Church of the Mother of God.

On returning to the village you should also take some time to look around the village. Everywhere you look there are reminders of the village’s past when it was the cradle of Slovene iron-forging and most of the homes and buildings exhibit some form of wrought ironwork.

A particularly great time to visit Kropa is during the annual Blacksmiths’ Festival (Kovaški smaren) which this year takes place on 4th July. More information can be found here – http://www.radolca.si/en/what-to-do/events-1/iron-foging-festival/83/153/

Top Ten Summer Activities in Radovjlica

Phew, last week was, and thus far this week is, a scorcher. I’m not, though, complaining! I never do when it comes to the heat as I much prefer it to the cold, snow and drawn-out winters. There is no shortage of things to do when the weather is like this, so this week I thought I’d offer some suggestions, in no particular order, for surviving the summer heat in, and around, the Radovljica area.

1. ICE-CREAM! Lots of it! Ok, so I said above ‘in no particular order’ but I confess that ice-cream comes in at, or at least near, number one on my list! I can think of at least 6 places that sell ice-cream in Radovljica, though there’s probably more, many of which produce delicious homemade stuff too.

2. THE SAVA RIVER – in it, on it, by I, or even over it. You won’t catch me dipping even my big toe in it – it’s too cold for me – but those hardy enough to brave the icy water can take a dip in the river at various places. I prefer to walk by it, the new Sava River Trail is ideal as the trail benefits from the coolness of, in places, running right at the river’s edge, and also through the forest – http://radolca.si/en/the-sava-river-trail/. Others may prefer to enjoy the Sava river by partaking in one of the many water sports on offer such as rafting, kayaking, canyoning or canoeing – http://www.radolca.si/en/rafting-kayaking-canyoning/, or you can even zip over it on the zipline at Tinaraft.

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3. FOREST – Since around 60% of Slovenia is covered by forest, and the Radovljica area has its fair share, there’s more than enough to go round and ample space and opportunities to enjoy the forest, be it walking through it or seeking respite in the shade, The vast Jelovica Plateau, which forms the backdrop to Radovljica, is a great place to start, though do go armed with a map as ‘vast’ is an understatement! Vodiška planina, as seen below, has a mountain hut serving tasty homemade food and is a popular spot with locals. More here – http://www.radolca.si/en/jelovica-plateau/

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4. SWIMMING – Radovljica has an Olympic-size swimming pool and during the summer it’s open-air. There is also another outdoor pool in Kropa. More details about both can found here – http://www.radolca.si/en/swimming/

5. MOUNTAINS – Head up into the mountains for fresher, cooler air. The Karavanke mountains are less crowded than the better known Julian Alps, and are right on the doorstep. Don your hiking gear (hiking boots, poles, rucksack, food & drink etc.) and a map, and head off to discover the Karavanke – http://www.radolca.si/en/karavanke-range/

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6. CYCLING – Mountain biking in the cool forests of the Jelovica plateau or road biking on one of the many cycle routes around the area. Take your pick! http://www.radolca.si/en/cycling/

7. TASTE RADOLCA WITH A VIEW! Seat yourself in one of the Taste Radol’ca restaurants, enjoy a cold glass of something, and/or some homemade local food, and soak up the views. One of the best views can be found at Kunstelj Inn, but then nowhere exactly has a bad view! During the heat the usual hearty Gorenjska staples (stews, soups, roasts etc.) can seem a bit heavy but grilled dishes, such as the traditional Balkan cuisine found at Jostov hram in Podnart, hit the spot – http://www.radolca.si/en/restaurant-jostov-hram/

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8. OUTDOOR CULTURE AND EVENTS – The Summer Events Programme includes a wealth of outdoor concerts, open-air street theatre, open-air cinema, and much more. More information can be found here – http://www.radolca.si/en/what-to-do/

9. CAVING – Well, where could be cooler, in more ways than one, than a cave! – http://www.radolca.si/en/caving/

10. HOP-ON HOP-OFF TOURIST BUS – Actually, this is ideal regardless of the weather. Get on and off the bus at various places along the route and see sights of interest. The bus runs on Tuesdays and Thursdays during July and August. More information here – http://www.radolca.si/en/hop-on-hop-off-radolca/

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So, that’s my list which I hope provides some inspiration and ideas for spending summer days in, and around, Radovljica. I do hope, thought, that I’m not tempting fate by talking about the glorious weather since I seem to recall that this time last year the weather was similarly wonderful, but thereafter it went rapidly downhill for the rest of the ‘summer’. Fingers crossed for this year!

© AdeleinSlovenia 2015

gostilna Walking Pokljuka’s Highlands / Radovljica Ceramics Festival 2015

I’ve had a bit of a cold hanging around for the past few days, maybe the weather is to blame due to a week of temperatures in the mid-twenties followed by half a week of rain and temperatures barely reaching 10 degrees. This week, however, with the exception of a blip yesterday, it looks set to warm up again and hopefully I, and the weather, are now on the up!

I’m not good at being ill so, unless I’m really at death’s door, I still prefer to get outdoors in the fresh air rather than be cooped up indoors. Though, since I was feeling a bit lacklustre I needed a more gentle alternative and therefore a trip to the Pokljuka plateau was just the ticket. The vast plateau really does offer something for everyone. I usually go for longer hikes and baulk at the thought of driving part of the way, but this time I did let the car take some of the strain! There are endless places to walk of all lengths and difficulties, though, it is best to stick to marked paths and forest roads as one could very easily get lost in the great swathes of forest. Nevertheless, it doesn’t really matter where, how far, or how high, you go on Pokljuka, every path offers its own magic.

I began by driving past the Kranjska dolina highland, from where Stol, the highest peak in the Karavanke, can be seen in the background.

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Next I set off, on foot, towards Lipanca and the Blejska koća mountain hut. However, instead of continuing up to the hut, I took another path back down to rejoin the road, reaching one of my favourite highlands, Planina zajavornik. The whole of Pokljuka lies within Triglav National Park, which means there are certain rules to abide to protect nature and, as can be seen below, there are bears in the area, though the chances of meeting one are probably one in a million!

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I then enjoyed a rest in the sun among the wildflowers. The sun was lovely and warm though the wind was a bit nippy hence why I’m wrapped up in an old bivvie bag! There are a smattering of small wooden houses on the highland and, during the summer months, cheese, yoghurt and sour milk can be bought direct from the herdsmen.

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On Saturday it was the main day, Market Day, of this year’s Ceramics Festival in Radovljica. Aside from the monster of a hail storm early afternoon, it was a fine day that drew visitors – locals and tourists alike – to browse and buy from the stalls where they could chat directly with the ceramists themselves. There were also workshops, for adults and children, for those interested in having a go at making something for themselves. The Festival was officially opened on Thursday at an event attended by Radovljica’s Mayor and the ceramist Grainne Watts from Ireland whose exhibits could be seen in the lobby of the Radovljica Mansion.

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As a collector of elephants, though I don’t actually recall when or why I started collecting them, these colourful ornaments caught my eye.

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Later on Saturday, as part of Vurnik Days (Vurnikovi dnevi), the event ‘Pozdrav trti’ (A Toast to the Vine) took place at Kunstelj Inn in Radovljica. The vine is in the garden at Kunstelj Inn which offers great local food and one of the finest views in town. The vine, of the original variety Žametna črnina, is a descendant of the world’s oldest vine (as recorded in the Guiness Book of Records) which is found in Slovenia’s 2nd biggest city, Maribor.  More information about Kunstelj Inn can be found here – http://www.kunstelj.si/

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Historic (and nosey) Tržič!

in 1985, the old town centre of Tržič was designated the status of a cultural and historical monument. Though, as with so many town centres these days – and not only in Slovenia – the old town centre itself is not the thriving hub it once was. It is, however, still home to some interesting and unique buildings and features, particularly the portals embellished with flowers, and the windows, known as ‘firbec okno’ – the word ‘firbec’ refers to a nosey person – from where nosey residents could look at the goings-on in the town by looking through the glass pane at the bottom of the protruding window, without the need to lean out of the window. Today, just one of these remains and can be seen on display on the main road through the old town, Koroška cesta, as seen in the photo below. CIMG8695 Another of the features of the town are the red roofs on the buildings in the historic part of the town.

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Tržič is most known for its shoemaking industry; it is home to the company Peko which, in its heyday, was a major player in the industry. Though the company still exists, it is sadly no longer the force it once was and many of the town’s residents have lost their livelihoods but the firm’s products can still be brought throughout Slovenia. Tržič also gets somewhat overlooked in terms of tourism, which is a shame, as it does contain some architectural and cultural treasures, as well as many sights of natural interest in the surroundings.

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The Dovžan Gorge, which I wrote about in a previous blog ( https://adeleinslovenia.wordpress.com/2013/09/) is one such place and, in the past few years, has been ugraded with a new walking path and renovated bridges. The gorge is located a few kilometres north of Tržič where the waters of the Tržiška Bistrica river have carved out their path through the gorge, which is particularly known for its rich geological conditions and palaeontologic sites. One of the biggest events in Tržič is Shoemaker’s Sunday (Šuštarska nedelja), held annually on the first Sunday in September. At this time the streets of the old centre come to life as up to 10,000 visitors descend on the town. The event was originally intended to showcase shoemaking in the area, with demonstrations and sales of products at bargain prices. These days however, since the shoemaking industry is all but lost, the event continues but with a wider range of other products and stalls, together with local food and an accompanying programme of entertainment. Talking of food, which I do like to do – and especially about food in the Radovljica area, particularly the restaurants that participate in Taste Radol’ca – it seems I’m not the only one singing the praises of Slovene food these days as can be seen in this article which mentions one of the Taste Radol’ca restaurants too – can you guess which one? http://www.afar.com/magazine/is-slovenia-the-worlds-next-great-food-destination © AdeleinSlovenia 2015

Daffodils on Golica / Slovenian Beekeeping Facts

Today is World Museum Day and therefore there is free entrance to Radovljica’s Museum of Apiculture and Municipal Museum, as well as the Blacksmith’s Museum in Kropa (more information about Radol’ca’s museums can be found here – http://www.radolca.si/en/museums-and-galleries/

Slovenia has taken the lead in proposing to the EU that there should be a World Bee Day – the proposed date is 20th May – to contribute to the awareness and importance of bees and beekeeping.

Few people probably actually realise the huge impact and importance that bees have on our lives and the significance of their worrying decline. It’s certainly something I have become a lot more aware of since moving to Slovenia where beekeeping is a traditional agricultural activity of great economic significance. The Radol’ca area also plays a big part in this, being home to both the Museum of Apiculture and the Beekeeping Education Centre of Gorenjska  in Lesce.

Here are a few fascinating Slovenian bee facts that I’ve uncovered:

  • There are currently 12,545 beehives, 146,755 bee colonies and 9,885 beekeepers registered in Slovenia.
  • The Beekeeping Association of Slovenia brings together 203 beekeeping societies and 16 regional beekeeping organisations.
  • With four beekeepers per 1000 inhabitants, Slovenes are at the world top of beekeeping nations.

This article, entitled ’11 Amazing Reasons to Save Honey Bees’ draws attention to some of the most important points and is particularly interesting reading – http://earthjustice.org/blog/2015-april/11-amazing-reasons-to-save-the-honeybees

On Sunday I hiked up to the peak of Golica, a mountain in the Karavanke range known for its white daffodils which, every year in May, cover parts of the mountain appearing like a white snow-like carpet. This year, the daffodils bloomed quite early thanks to the warm spring and now is the perfect time to see them as within a week they will be past their best. Mind you, every one else obviously had the same idea as I’ve never, in my 8 years of living in Slovenia, seen so many people on a mountain! I go every year at about this time but usually midweek when there is hardly a soul to be seen, however, due to the amount of work I now have, I had no choice but to go at the weekend. There were literally processions of people going up and down, mostly Slovenes but also a fair few from the surrounding countries such as Croatia, Austria and Italy, such is the popularity of Golica in May!

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Fortunately, as I’ve been there many times before, I was able to take the quieter and longer route up to the highest point of Golica at 1836m, before descending to the mountain hut Koča na Golica (1582m), though, I didn’t hang around there on this occasion as there wasn’t an inch of space to be had!

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There are a number of ways of reaching Golica. Among them, routes lead from the villages of Planina pod Golico, Javorniški rovt or from the Dom Pristava mountain hut though the former is the most popular and most direct route. Always one to choose a circular route if it is possible, I always opt for the route which leads past the Sava Caves (Savske jame) and upwards through pastures, before traversing the high ridge with stunning views of Slovenia on one side, and Austria on the other. After the final ascent a gully leads down to the hut  From the hut, a path leads down through the forest, eventually returning to the start of the route.

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© AdeleinSlovenia 2015