Jezersko: A wealth of hidden natural beauty

If you like hiking and magnificent Alpine scenery, then Jezersko should definitely be on your list of places to visit in Slovenia. Personally, I think Jezersko is very underrated as little is written about it in the media and it deserves to be more widely known. So, in an attempt to at least partially rectify that, here’s my contribution.

I usually visit Jezersko at least a couple of times per year and particularly like to go on the occasion of the Sheep Ball (Ovcji bal), which is the oldest ethnological event of its kind in Slovenia and this year was held for the 57th time.

CIMG9191

The Plansar Lake (Plansarsko jezero)

Jezersko can be reached either from Kranj towards Preddvor and along the narrow Kokra valley or via Austria and the Seeberg saddle (Jezerski vrh) pass. It is surrounded by the mountains of the Kamnik Savinja Alps. The Jezersko municipality has only 655 inhabitants (data from 2009) spread across an area of 6,881 hectares. There are many remote farmsteads scattered over its two settlements – Spodnje (Lower) and Zgornje (Upper) Jezersko. Zgornje Jezersko is the bigger of the two and has tourist facilities including a hotel, guest houses and tourist farms.

There are numerous natural wonders to see, the most well-known among them is the Planšar Lake (Plansarsko jezero), which is also the venue of the annual Sheep Ball. The Jezersko-Solčava breed of sheep is indigenous and is celebrated in this annual tradition of all things ‘sheep’ – wool, cheese and other dairy products, sheep shearing demonstrations and more.

Prigon%20ovc1

The annual Sheep Ball

Of course I couldn’t go all that way without doing some hiking too so my visit began with a 7am start from Radovljica, arriving in Jezersko by 8am, before setting off to hike to the peak of Goli vrh. The path begins at the Davo Karničar Mountain Lodge, which, at the time of my visit was currently not operating.

CIMG9184

The peak of Goli vrh – well worth the hike!

The path is well marked throughout and rises steeply through the forest, crossing the Jenkova planina highland and continuing up through the forest to reach the peak at  1787m from where there are panoramic views so mesmerising, it’s difficult to know where to look at first!

CIMG9172

One of the many ‘wow’ views. This one looking down over the Plansar Lake

Jezersko’s most known resident is Davo Karničar, a local legend, a climber and extreme skier who has skied from the 7 highest summits on all 7 continents and was the first person to ski from the summit of Everest in the year 2000. In fact the whole Karničar family are an integral part of the valley where they have the family farmstead and help run the Česka koča mountain hut, which is located under Mt. Grintovec and is one of Jezersko’s most popular hiking destinations. The hut has a long and interesting history as it is the only one in Slovenia that was actually built, in 1900, by the Czech Branch of the Slovene Mountaineering Association, hence its name.

CIMG6673

The Ceska koca mountain hut under Mt. Grintovec

For those looking for more of a stroll than a hike I most definitely recommend a walk along the Ravenska Kočna Theme Path. The 8km path traverses meadows beside the Jezernica stream then leads slightly up through the forest to the viewpoint ‘Na prodih’ where the views will richly reward your effort.

CIMG6441

The Ravenska Kocna Theme Path

The Jezerska slatina mineral water spring, located near the Ank farmstead, is said to have the highest magnesium content of all mineral waters in Slovenia.

_6077410a

The Jezerska slatina mineral spring. Bring your water bottle and fill it!

Useful links:

Jezersko Tourist Information Centre – http://www.jezersko.info/en/

A new old face in town / A facelift for Lake Jasna

There’s a new old face in Radovljica’s old town in the form of a new bronze statue of Dr. Cene Avguštin (1923 – 2010), created by the academic sculptor Tatjana Kostanjevič. The statue stands in the square between St. Peter’s Church and the Radovljica Mansion – home to the Museum of Apiculture, the Municipal Museum, a music school and the venue for numerous concerts, weddings, exhibitions and other events.

Cene Avgustin

Dr. Cene Avguštin was an art historian and conservator and an honoured citizen of Radovljica who strived to popularise cultural heritage through his work which included museum and gallery activities (director, custodian), architectural and urbanistic development of Gorenjska’s medieval towns and squares, and professional lecturing.

This week I revisited Lake Jasna in Kranjska Gora as I had read about its recent facelift. The small lake has always been a popular spot with its backdrop of the Julian Alps, crystal clear water and en-route to the Vršic pass. However, it had long felt somewhat neglected, so its new appearance, complete with wooden chairs, bridges and a small tower is most definitely a welcome and well-received improvement.

CIMG9113

CIMG9122

And finally there’s somewhere to get an ice-cream and a drink and to sit and soak up the scenery.

CIMG9117

Radol’ca introduced the Tourist Hop-on- Hop-off bus two years ago and, as far as I’m aware, was the first town in Slovenia to do so. It has been a definite success and set a shining example. So, this year, for the first time, Kranjska gora has also begun operating a Hop-on Hop-Off tour bus which visits the area’s 10 most attractive sights, including Lake Jasna

11870789_888218641260520_304265869937867005_n

Useful Links:

Radovljica Hop-On Hop-Off Tourist Bus – http://www.radolca.si/en/hop-on-hop-off-radolca/

Radovljica Mansion – http://www.radolca.si/en/art-history-overview/

St. Peter’s Church – http://www.radolca.si/en/radovljica-church/

Kranjska Gora Hop-On Hop-Off Tour Bus – http://www.kranjska-gora.si/en/activities/summer-activities/tour-bus

The Beekeeping Educational and Panoramic Path

On Thursday last week I went to the Beekeeping Education Centre of Gorenjska* (CRICG) in Lesce where an exhibition was opened about the new Beekeeping Educational and Panoramic Path in Gorje. So, of course, I then had to go and check out the path for myself, and panoramic it certainly is. Even if you are not particularly interested in beekeeping, I’d highly recommend the path, the views alone make it worth the effort, and if you are interested in beekeeping too then it’s a win-win all round!

CIMG9281

The circular path begins in the village of Spodnje gorje which is on the road from Bled towards Pokljuka. There is an information board about the path (in Slovene and English) and a little further on also information about the Slovenian Carniolan honey bee.

The path is marked throughout with these yellow bee symbols. Occasionally the signs are a little sparse but, as I discovered, unless there is a sign to the contrary just keep going and sooner or later there will be another sign pointing you in the right direction.

CIMG9282

You can choose to walk either the shorter loop (approx. 2kms) or the entire path (approx. 6kms). The path leads through the villages of Višelnica and Mevkuž, where you can either turn right for the short loop, or continue to Grabče, Krnica and Poljšica, eventually returning to the start of the path in Spodnje gorje.

Along the route you will pass numerous beehives of varying shapes and sizes. They are not always easy to spot as they are often located in private gardens so keep your eyes peeled, however, there are also some that are right beside the path, such as this beauty below.

CIMG9304

And there’s even a wild bee and insect hotel.

CIMG9309

If you get lucky, as I did, you might find a local beekeeper out tending his garden and/or bees, who will be happy to show you or tell you more. I got even more lucky that one lent me an umbrella for the brief downpour that I encountered en-route – thanks!

The village of Grabče is particularly quaint with its wooden bridge, renovated Grajski mlin (Castle Mill), former sawmill and iron-forge, and the tall wooden shrine which stands like a tower on a rock actually in the river.

CIMG9299          CIMG9297

I’ve driven past these villages on the way to/from Pokljuka hundreds of times but have never taken the time to stop and walk around. Now I know what beauty lies within, I’m quite sure I won’t be in such a hurry to pass by in the future. Well, with sights like this, how could I resist!

CIMG9301

* The Beekeeping Education Centre in Lesce is a one-stop centre for beekeepers and beekeeping and also offers guided tours of its beehive as well as educational events etc. The centre now has a new website – http://www.cricg.si/ or you can also read more about it here – http://www.radolca.si/en/gorenjska-region-beekeeping-development-and-education-centre/

On a final note in regard to beekeeping in Slovenia, this week it was nice to read some positive news about this year’s honey harvest, as you can see in this article – http://www.sloveniatimes.com/honey-harvest-improves-to-an-average-season-this-year

© AdeleinSlovenia 2015

Solkan – The World’s Largest Stone Arch Bridge – and more!

Solkan, which is just minutes from the city of Nova Gorica, is most known for its 85 metre-long stone railway bridge which claims to have the largest stone arch in the world. It was completed in 1905 but during the Sixth Battle of the Soča Front in 1916, it was blown up by the Austro-Hungary Army so that the Italians couldn’t seize it. Later, after the Treaty of Rapallo, when the territory was occupied by Italians, the stone arch was reconstructed.

CIMG9085

There’s also so much more to see and do in the area, as I found out during my recent 2 day visit. I stayed at Hotel Sabotin, a 3-star hotel which is well located for seeing all the sights of Nova gorica and Solkan, and has air-conditioning and a good restaurant.

Almost adjacent to the railway bridge which runs over the stunning emerald green Soča river, the road bridge is a popular place for kayaking and bungee jumping. In fact, whilst I was there there were some brave/fool hardy/adrenaline junkies (delete as appropriate!) leaping off the bridge into the abyss below. Unfortunately, I wasn’t quick enough with my camera to snap it but, to get the gist, here’s a picture of what lies beneath!

CIMG9072

As ever, I prefer to explore an area by getting up above it to enjoy the best views and nature and Solkan has two great options right on its doorstop.

The first is Sveta gora (Holy Mountain) and the Basilica of the Assumption of Mary which is a popular pilgrimage site and also part of the extended Slovenian Mountain Transversal, however, you can also drive up if you don’t fancy the walk. There are numerous paths, many of which lead through First World War bunkers, so if pitch black tunnels aren’t your thing, then choose your route wisely! I chose a route which included bunkers but, in all honesty, after the first, relatively short one, I chickened out of the second 260m-long one and instead took the path around it. Although the sight is impressive up close, and offers panoramic views, you can’t actually get a feel for its sheer size from up close and, for me, the best view of Sveta gora came from the second hike I did that same day, to Sabotin.

CIMG9070

Looking at Sveta gora from Sabotin

Mount Sabotin is full of interesting sights and sites. It is where the Alps, the Dinaric Karst and the Mediterranean meet. The ruins of the former St. Valentine’s Church and the entire area has been proclaimed a cross-border Park of Peace. I chose the southern route up, which is easier than the northern approach. You can also go further along the ridge and visit the Dom na Sabotin hut (609m) for refreshments, which formerly served as a frontier barrack of the Yugoslav National Army, and where you can also see exhibits from the First and Second World Wars.

CIMG9058

Whilst in the area I also took time to visit the city of Nova Gorica which lies directly on the border with the Italian city of Gorizia (Gorica). The railway line forms the border between the two countries and when you emerge from the railway station you could be forgiven for not knowing which country you are actually in. In fact, the few metres directly in front of the railway station, in Trg Europe (Europe Square) are, these days, jointly shared between the two countries and was named in remembrance of Slovenia’s accession to the EU in May 2004.

CIMG9048

In the past, however, it was all very different. A (very) brief history; From 1500 until the First World War, Gorica belonged to the Hapsburg. During the First World War local people had to flee as refugees due to the conflicts between the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy and Italy. On their return there was a new state: Italy. After the Second World War a new state border was created between Italy and Yugoslavia, which led to the growth of new Gorica – Nova Gorica.

These days Nova gorica is probably best known for its many casinos. However, there city also has many sights of interest, too numerous to list here, but below are some of the main ones.

The railway station, which is the oldest public building in the city and began operating in 1906, and also houses the Kolodvor Museum Collection.

CIMG9046

The roof of a tunnel for pedestrians and cyclists is entirely covered in plastic daisies created by Jure Poša. The city has many green areas, squares, and statues. In fact, there is an entire street lined with busts and statues (Erjaceva ulica) – The Alley of Remembrance.

CIMG9044                     CIMG9051

The Church of the Annunciation of Mary and the adjoining Franciscan Kostanjevica monastery stand on a small hill between Gorica and Nova Gorica on the Slovenian side of the Slovenian-Italian border.

CIMG9041

Here are some useful links for more information about the area and the places mentioned above:-

The Holy Mountain – http://bit.ly/1Nh6gKS

The Solkan Bridge – http://bit.ly/1K9wBY9

Nova Gorica and Solkan Tourist Information – http://www.novagorica-turizem.com/

© AdeleinSlovenia 2015

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/

1108-Leila-Schayegh

Leila Schayegh

0808-Ensemble-Phoenix-Munich-photo-Ivan-Maly

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.

CIMG9158

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.

CIMG9161

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.

CIMG9154

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

More Rainy Days Ideas – Radovljica and Studor

Most of July was blissfully hot and dry, and indeed records were being broken left, right and centre, until, that is, last week when a new, less than remarkable, record was set of just 20 minutes sunshine over a 5 day period. Let’s hope that record is consigned to the history books and not repeated any time soon! Fortunately, by Friday the sun had worked its way back and it was immediately hot again. The consequence, however, is that there wasn’t much in the way of hiking and cycling for me for the whole of last week, instead just endless trudges with my umbrella.

Once such ‘trudge’ – though in fairness the remarkable scenery means it can’t be described as a ‘trudge’ – was around the quaint village of Studor. The moody skies and the mountains of the Julian Alps rising up from Bohinj Lake only served to somehow make it even more scenic.

CIMG8691

Though only tiny, Studor it is known for its double height ‘toplar’ hayracks.

TOPLAR1

The Mrcina ranch with its Icelandic horses.

CIMG8793

and also the Oplen House Museum (Oplenova hiša) which represents a typical 19th century home where various crafts were carried out and includes a black kitchen – http://www.slovenia.info/en/muzej/Studor-in-Bohinj,-Oplen-House-.htm?muzej=914&lng=2

CIMG8796

Meanwhile, in Radovljica, it is noticeable how rain actually attracts visitors to the area. On rainy summer days, the old town centre is often at its liveliest as people flood here from Bled, and the surrounding areas, seeking things to do on a rainy day. Popular attractions include:

The Museum of Apiculture, housed in the Radovljica Mansion, where you can learn all about the history and importance of beekeeping in Slovenia and see the collection of painted beehive panels, each one tells its own story, including the oldest one in the world.

cebelarski muzej        ceb muz

The Gingerbread Workshop at Lectar Inn, where you can see gingerbread hearts being made and decorated, pick up some souvenirs and/or enjoy a delicious meal in the restaurant.

CIMG7939

There’s also the Šivec House Gallery, St. Peter’s Church and, a little further afield, the iron-forging village of Kropa, the village of Kamna Gorica with its many bridges and streams, the ruins of Kamen Castle and the home of Avsenik music in Begunje, and the Vila Rustica archeological site and Village Museum in Mošnje.

All of the above mentioned are also accessible on the Hop-On Hop Off Tourist Bus which runs on Tuesdays and Thursdays throughout the summer – http://www.radolca.si/en/hop-on-hop-off-radolca/

Of course, on rainy days food and drink is usually top of most people’s list and Radovljica doesn’t disappoint on this score either with a plethora of cafes, and tasty homemade food at the Taste Radol’ca restaurants including Kunstelj Inn, Lectar Inn, Joštov hram, Vila Podvin. More information can be found here or click on the Taste Radol’ca heading at the top of this page – http://www.radolca.si/en/taste-radolca/

© AdeleinSlovenia 2015

The extremely panoramic Solčava Panoramic Road!

Despite English being my mother tongue, and despite the English language being rich in superlatives, I’m struggling to come up with suitably apt words to describe the breath-taking scenery I witnessed last weekend when I journeyed to see the Solčava Panoramic Road. So, I’ll do my best to give you some impressions and a sneek peek of some of the views you can expect, however, I urge you to go and see it for yourself!

CIMG8979

Views of the Kamnik-Savinja Alps

Though it is a little off-the-beaten-track, the Upper Savinja valley has to be one of the most scenic places in Slovenia. It is bursting with waterfalls, the craggy Kamnik-Savinja Alps, sublime views, high-lying farms, and other natural phenomena, not to mention the friendly locals – of which there are only around 500 dispersed across an area of just over 100km³.

The area comprises three valleys, the most known among them is the Logar Valley (Logarska dolina), together with Robanov kot and Matkov kot. The 96 km-long Savinja river flows through the valley and onwards, eventually flowing into the Sava river.

My first port of call was the Rinka Centre in Solčava, which houses the Tourist Information Centre, post office, and a café and gift shop which sells handicrafts and food produced exclusively in the local area including delicious cheeses and the speciality of the area zgornjesavinjski želodec (Upper Savinjska pig stomach) – akin to salami but far more succulent. One could easily while away a couple of hours in the centre looking at the exhibition, watching the film presentation and tasting the local products. In the rectory opposite there is a paleontology exhibition and a separate room with a collection of several hundreds of species of butterfly.

CIMG8936

A traditional black kitchen

CIMG8960

The Lintver Dragon which accompanies you along the Solcava Panoramic Road.

Directly opposite the centre the impressive Gothic Church of Our Lady of the Snows stands proudly, as if guarding the village, on a small rise above the village. Since Solčava has not had its own priest for some time, the church is kept locked, apart from during mass, but the staff at the Rinka Centre can arrange a visit.

CIMG8946

The Church of Our Lady of the Snows in Solcava

Next I returned to Robanov kot where I was staying at the Govc-Vršnik tourist farm. I was immediately made to feel welcome in this large, family-run home-cum-farm. The lady of the house, Marija, immediately offered me a drink we enjoyed a lovely chat during which she told me that the number of repeat guests to the farm speaks for itself about its popularity. For me the definite highlight was the total serenity. No cars or other noise pollution, total silence, which, in these frenetic times, is something to really cherish.

CIMG8947

The Govc-Vrsnik Tourist Farm in Robanov kot

The other highlight is most certainly the food which is all home-produced and delicious. I was treated to the local speciality soup ‘sirnica‘, made using milk whey, eggs, and a few other secret ingredients, followed by a delicious main-course consisting of chicken, pork, štruklji, pumpkin, and potato. Dessert was warm apple and curd cheese strudel. I was well set up for the next day’s hiking!

CIMG8964

Tasty dinner at the Govc-Vrsnik tourist farm

From the farm there is an easy path which leads to Robanova planina, taking around 45 minutes, where, during the summer months, the alpine dairy is open and you can enjoy homemade soups, cheese, cold-cuts, or strudel.

CIMG8951

On the way to the Robanova planina highland

CIMG8953

The Alpine Dairy at Robanova planina

The next morning I made an early start and by 7am was hiking up to the Potok cave (potočka zijalka) beneath Mt. Olševa. You can either, as I did, hike the whole way up, beginning at the wooden bear adjacent to the Firšt Inn and Fidov gaj Museum, though, in truth, this first part of the path, which leads steeply up through the forest, initially lacks views and the more favourable option may be to begin at the Rogar Tourist Farm on the Panoramic Road. The Bear Trail is well marked throughout.

CIMG8990

The start of the Bear Trail at Gostisce First

CIMG8981

Just follow the bear!

This 115m-long cave was first excavated in 1928 and, over a seven-year period, hundreds of objects were found including tools, bones, and animal remains, including an estimated 1000 cave bears as well as almost 40 other species including lynx, wolves and chamois. The world’s oldest sewing needle (which can be seen in the Rinka Centre) was also among the findings. It is thought the cave might have been used as a hunting station. From the cave you can either return by the same route or you can continue on to Govce, the highest part of Olševa (1929m). However, this is considered a demanding path as there are exposed sections and, in places, steel ropes to assist, therefore, it is only suitable for experienced and well-equipped hikers.

CIMG8973

The entrance to the Potok Cave Archaeological Site

Next came the main reason for my trip. to travel along the newly improved, and now entirely accessible, Solčava Panoramic Road. You can choose to drive, cycle, or walk along the road which winds its way along the foothills of the Olseva mountain, and surely has to be among the most scenic roads in Slovenia. The road is also named ‘The route with the most beautiful views’ and the description is certainly apt. The total length is 37km, there are 4 access points, and 4 different routes. Therefore, it’s easy to pick and choose what you want to see dependent on how much time you have. I’d recommended devoting it as much time as possible and taking time to stop at all the points of interest along the road such as the numerous tourist farms, each offering delicious homemade goodies. I stopped at two of them and bought some tasty cheese, bread, and supped some tea made from mountain flowers.

CIMG8987

The Church of the Holy Ghost on the Panoramic Road

CIMG8997

More great views, this time Mt. Olseva in the background

Along the road there are various viewpoints, newly equipped with benches and information boards. One particular sight of interest is the spring of iron water (železna voda). The water from this underground spring originates from the tectonic fault that runs along the Kamnik-Savinja Alps. It’s in rich in iron and, believe me, it tastes like it! It’s like coins, however, locals says it has healing powers so I took a quick slurp nonetheless!

CIMG8993

At the Zibovt Tourist Farm

CIMG9002

The spring of iron water

Here are some useful links to help plan a trip to the Solčava area:

Solčava Tourist Informationhttp://www.solcavsko.info/index.php?jez=EN OR http://logarska-solcavsko.si/

Govc-Vršnik Tourist Farmhttp://www.govc-vrsnik.com/en/

Solčava Panoramic Roadhttp://www.solcavska-panoramska-cesta.si/en

© AdeleinSlovenia 2015