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

The Karavanke and the Čepa Gorge

I know my blog is named ‘Adele in Slovenia’ so it may seem somewhat odd that this week I’m writing about Austria, but let me explain…

The Karavanke mountains form a natural border between Slovenia and Austria, and here in Radovljica we are fortunate to have part of the Karavanke range right on the doorstep. Particular favourites among locals, in which I include myself, are Stol (the highest in the Karavanke range) and Begunščica, whilst just slightly further afield there are other popular peaks such as Golica, Dovška baba and others.

Some of the territory which lies just the other side of the Karavanke, though these days geographically in Austria, was formerly Slovene and thus, even today, many Slovenes remain living in these areas and therefore places names and all official documentation etc. is found written in both Slovene and German languages. One of such places is the area just on the other side of the Ljubelj pass (more about this in a previous blog here – https://adeleinslovenia.wordpress.com/2014/09/01/zelenci-pools-ljubelj-pass-and-forever-young/), near Ferlach/Borovlje. Once through the tunnel and into Austria, its just a few minutes drive to the Čepa Gorge (Tscheppaschlucht in German – no idea how to pronounce that!). In addition to the gorge itself, there is also an Adventure Park within its grounds – run by a Slovene company!

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The gorge has been very well arranged with wooden walkways, steel ladders and bridges. The walk involves quite a lot of going up and down but the amazing sights of the rushing water and canyons ensures it doesn’t feel like hard work, and also there are a number of choices of routes that can be taken in one direction with a bus journey (included in the entrance price) for the return journey. Be sure to pick up a bus timetable at the start so avoid a long wait, but fortunately, the bus stations are mostly sited at, or near, restaurants/inns, so even if you have a while to wait you have somewhere to wait and enjoy a drink, piece of strudel etc.

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The new Sava River Trail (Pot ob Savi) will be officially opened this week on Thursday with a guided walk beginning at the Fux footbridge (Fuxova brv). This path is a great addition to the numerous paths available in Radovljica and the surroundings and will be a particularly pleasant place to walk in the heat of the summer as much of it runs through the forest and beside the Sava River.

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More information about the Sava river can be found here – http://www.radolca.si/en/the-sava-and-its-tributaries/ and maps of the Sava River Trail are available from the Radovljica Tourist Information Centrehttp://www.radolca.si/en/

© AdeleinSlovenia 2015

Beautiful Blooms and Dinosaurs!

For a very much needed break from working at the computer, I paid a visit last week to Volčji potok Arboretum. It takes about 45 minutes to drive from Radovjlica to the Arboretum, which is just on the outskirts of the town of Kamnik. The Arboretum is always a beautiful and serene place to while away a few hours and its even more beautiful, even if slightly less serene, at this time of year with the annual Tulip Exhibition which features literally thousands of tulips in bloom of every shade imaginable.

CIMG8626Additionally, during the past week when I visited it was hosting the annual Spring Horticultural Fair which attracts exhibitors and visitors from far and wide. There were some pretty imaginative and impressive floral displays, as well as all manner of garden and home products and local handicrafts for sale.

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I particularly liked these Jumbo Insect Hotels – designed for bees and other insects which, thanks to the benefits they provide us, deserve a bit of pampering too!

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The Arboretum is spread over a 80 hectare area and includes areas such as a traditional English Garden,  French Park, several lakes, greenhouses containing exhibitions of cactus and orchids, a gallery, café, children’s playground, and also currently the Dinosaur Exhibition with (almost) life size dinosaurs with some moving parts which are spread across various parts of the park and are a great draw for kids. In fact, if you its a great place for kids to run around and let off steam and there’s plenty to occupy them so its really ideal for all the family. There’s more information about the Arboretum here – http://www.arboretum-vp.si/en/

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I will, when I get round to it, put some more photos on Pinterest – sorry I’m lagging a bit behind on that front as I still have the Chocolate Festival ones to upload too. But I’ll get there. It’s on the ‘To Do’ list!

There were 3 public holidays in the past week –  they’re like buses which all come along at once!

27th April – Day of Uprising against Occupation

1st & 2nd May – May Day Holidays

Its a while to wait now until the next public holiday, though not too long, as Statehood Day is on 25th June.

The next big event in Radovljica’s event calendar is the International Ceramics Festival. There will be various workshops and events taking place from 11th – 29th May whilst the main Ceramic’s Market Day is on Saturday 30th May which features an International Ceramics Fair, workshops for children, live music and other entertainment. More information can be found here – http://www.radolca.si/en/what-to-do/83/the-radovljica-international-ceramics-festival/83/132/

© AdeleinSlovenia 2015

Wine Tasting and other Activities in Radovljica

Gorenjska, the alpine region of Slovenia, isn’t exactly known for its wine, but fortunately here in Radovljica we have the Sodček Wine Shop where wines from all the wine-growing areas of Slovenia can be found under one roof. Sodčcek is located right at the entrance to the historic old town centre and offers something for all wine lovers. Though not a big wine drinker myself, I love this place for its really homely atmosphere, there’s no wine snobbery here, and you are made just as welcome whether you just pop in for a relaxing glass of wine or a coffee, to enjoy a wine tasting session with accompanying karst ham and cheese, or to peruse the wide selection of wine to take home or to buy as a gift.

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Last week, to mark the dual occasion of Sodček’s 20-year anniversary and the opening of a new private tasting room, a private party was held in conjunction with Fine Food Bled. Guests enjoyed some of the best Slovene wines presented by winemakers from around the country, as well as being treated to amazing food prepared by Fine Food Bled who operate a seasonal restaurant at Penzion Berc in Bled. The presentation of the food was top-notch as well as it being extremely tasty too, and all the more remarkable for it being prepared outside on an open grill.

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For anyone who missed the 4th Radovljica Chocolate Festival last weekend (there were 50,000 of you that didn’t!), and/or for those that came and would like to relive it, you can watch this video to see some of the highlights. Watch carefully to find out the date of next year’s festival!  https://youtu.be/c9FEVPtUCaU

As you can see from this article –  http://www.siol.net/trendi/odkrivaj_slovenijo/kam_cez_vikend/2015/04/radovljica_v_znamenju_festivala_cokolade.aspx

– which is all in Slovene but those reading this outside of Slovenia should at least get the gist from the pictures, there really is plenty to see and do in Radovljica for lovers of all things outdoors. I was having a quick tot up over the weekend and all these activities, and probably more, are available in, or within the immediate vicinity of Radovljica:

  • Hiking – The Jelovica Plateau, the Karavanke, the nearby Julian Alps
  • Walking/Running – from short strolls by the Sava river or in the forest to long rambles and runs
  • Cycling – of all types, mountain biking, road biking, endless possibilities
  • Fishing on the Sava river
  • Watersports – rafting, kayaking
  • Other adrenalin activities –  paintball, zip line, zorbing
  • Winter sports – skiing, cross-country skiing, ice-skating, snowshoeing
  • Caving
  • Climbing
  • Swimming at the Olympic size swimming pool – open-air in the summer, covered in the winter
  • Parachuting and Panoramic flights over the Julian Alps from Lesce Sports Airfield

That’s just the outdoors things of course – many of which I enjoy and am able to take advantage of since they are all just on my doorstop – but there’s plenty more to see and do too!

The 4th Radovljica Chocolate Festival

No prizes for guessing what I’m writing about this week!! Yes, of course – chocolate AGAIN!!!

The weather didn’t exactly play ball, in fact after a week of beautiful warm sunshine, the rain arrived almost simultaneously with the start of the festival on Friday, and on Saturday it was wet and windy with near freezing temperatures. Sunday, however, was much better with bright, though cold, sunshine and mostly clear skies. But the rain didn’t dent the spirits of the exhibitors or the crowds, and a fun-filled, chocolate-filled weekend was had by all! And besides, chocolate can be eaten come rain or shine, or snow, or hail, or…… in my case anyway!

One of the highlights of the weekend was the 93kg bar of Gorenjka chocolate, seen below left with Radovljica’s Mayor lending a helping hand to break it up before it was shared among visitors. The giant bar was made especially for the show and to celebrate Gorenjka’s 93rd year of production.

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The Radovljica Chocolate Festival, now its in 4th year, was held over 3 days this year, as well as being spread over a larger area and with more exhibitors and an extensive entertainment programme. The bulk of the festival takes place in Linhart Square in Radovljica’s old town centre, as well as in the beautiful Radovljica Manor (grascina), which houses the Museum of Apiculture, the Municipal Museum, a music school, and is the main venue for the numerous concerts and festivals which take place in Radovljica throughout the year.

I had a hunch that it was going to get mega-busy so, keen to get a head start on the crowds, I was there immediately when the festival opened on Friday for a browse, and of course, a taste or two! There was chocolate of every size, shape, flavour and form imaginable and something for all kinds of lovers of chocolate, as well as ‘non-chocolate’ food prepared by chefs from the Taste Radol’ca restaurants.

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Apart from the pure pleasure of eating it, it’s quite amazing what can be done with chocolate these days. This year there were a number of new takes on chocolate including chocolate beer, chocolate tea, chocolate hamburgers, the new tarragon-flavoured Radol’ca choco-o-bee chocolates, and very colourful and on-trend macaroons. I would be hard pressed to pick a favourite, as I love pretty much all kinds of chocolate – except the really dark stuff which I know is supposedly the ‘healthy’ stuff but I don’t eat chocolate to be healthy – but one of my personal favourite stalls was ‘Pravljicne Pite’ (Fairytale Pies) with their ‘to-die-for’ pies and cakes and the Festival certainly provides a good avenue for these kinds of small businesses.

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Entertainment included a mini-Planica ski jump – which was definitely a hit with kids even in the pouring rain – a chocolate photo booth, chocolate fortune telling, cookery shows and, this year for the first time, evening entertainment with live music, stand-up comedy and an after-chocolate party.

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My weekend was largely spent working, as I have a large translating job on-the-go, so a couple of trips to the festival throughout the weekend to get some brain food(!) just about saved my sanity and I managed to amass quite a large stash of all kinds of chocolate which helped to get me through the weekend.

I also had an unexpected visitor this weekend. On Sunday afternoon my phone rang and the lady on the other end pronounced herself as ‘an old lady from Vienna who is a big fan of my blog and had come to Radovljica after reading about the Chocolate Festival on my blog and because she really wanted to meet me’! Despite not having a mobile phone and not knowing where I live she, Herta, managed to track me down – what a tenacious an amazing lady. It was lovely to meet you Herta, thanks for the chocolate wine, and I hope we meet again some day in Radovljica!

I think everyone that was involved and attended will agree, this event just gets better each year and has now become the main, and most anticipated, event on Radovljica’s event calendar

There will be plenty more photos of the festival on my Pinterest page coming soon.

Next week, weather and work permitting, I hope to be partaking in some more active physical rather than mental pursuits!

© AdeleinSlovenia 2015

Hiking, cycling and strolling in sunny Slovenia!

After the excesses of the Easter weekend (see last week’s post), this weekend was devoted to my number one passion i.e. being outdoors, and as a bonus the whole weekend the country was bathed in fabulous warm sunshine. It was certainly a far cry from last weekend’s snowy/windy/cold and very changeable weather and, as you will see below, I managed to squeeze in quite a lot!

  • A stroll amongst the spring flowers in Ljubljana’s Botanic Gardens where even the terrapins were basking in the sun.

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  • A walk up to Ljubljana Castle.

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  • A hike up to the Potoška highland (Potoška planina).

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As you can see, in places there was still some snow. In fact, it is quite difficult at the moment to choose where to hike because the sunny slopes, up to around 1200-1300m, are now free of snow, however, any higher, and particularly in shaded areas, there is still a lot of snow and ice to contend with, so hikes into the higher mountains will have to wait a while yet. These past couple of days though, due to the high temperatures, it is beginning to melt fast so hopefully it won’t be too much longer until I can begin to start venturing further and higher.

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I began from the reservoir in Žirovnica, which I had cycled to from home, then followed the path up towards the Valvasor mountain hut (Valvasorjev dom). On reaching the road forest road, which is crossed in order to continue towards the hut, there is a sign for Ajdna and Potoška planina to the left. I had actually intended to go to Ajdna but there was a training course for mountain guides taking place there all weekend so I instead continued on the forest road up to the Potoška highland (1270m) from where there are far-reaching views across the Julian Alps and along the Upper-Sava valley towards Kranjska Gora, however, it was rather hazy sunshine so the photos don’t really do the views justice on this occasion. From the highland I turned right to continue towards the Valvasor hut but, rather than going to the hut itself, I continued on to the next highland, Žirovniška planina. There are several such mountain highlands that lie on the slopes beneath Stol, the highest mountain in the Karavanke range.

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  • A ride on the new bike path in Jesenice. I love this new path as its traffic-free and now joins up with the bike path from Mojstrana towards Kranjska Gora and onwards into Italy.

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Next weekend, of course, its the Radovljica Chocolate Festival so will once again be dedicated to my other passion i.e. chocolate! All the chocolately fun kicks off on Friday 17th April at 3pm and continues all weekend. The full festival programme is now available here – http://www.festival-cokolade.si/en/programme/

© AdeleinSlovenia 2015