Lakes of Austria and Slovenia (part 7)

From Podkoren to Bled

Today we pass towns, that are home towns of some world famous Slovenes, to you probably  mainly unknown, but some you might know. Mainly they are athletes. First we pass Mojstrana. From Mojstrana are Jure Košir, Alenka Dovžan and Martina Čufar. Jure Košir and Alenka Dovžan are former alpine skiers. Jure won 3 gold medals and additional 20 top 3 podiums, 18 of them at slalom. That’s all Italian Alberto Tomba let him to win (they were rivals almost all his career). Rock climber Martina Čufar stood 32. times on the podium in international competition and was once champion and once vice champion. Her the most difficult ascents are graded 8c in French grading or about 5.14b in Yosemite Decimal System. In the village close to Mojstrana lived and worked Jakob Aljaž, priest, poet and mountaineer. He became known by having built mountain huts around Triglav, which fostered the development of mountaineering in Slovenian Lands. His by far the most known constructions are Aljaž Tower built on the summit of Mt. Triglav and Aljaž Hut in Vrata Valley at the foot of it.

Aljaž Tower at the top of Mt. Triglav

Aljaž Tower at the top of Mt. Triglav

Hrušica is home town of Anže Kopitar – Kopi, Slovene professional hockey player, the first Slovene hockey player in NHL and 2012 Stanley Cup winner. He started his career playing for Acroni Jesenice. Jesenice is famous after at least two things: just mentioned hockey club and steel industry. Small streams on the slopes of the Karawanks were no longer sufficient. The ore-extracting industry moved to the valley to a larger water source Sava river in 1538 and creating a settlement that was to become Jesenice. In the golden years of iron production in Jesenice iron-works stretched through almost complete town.

From Jesenice was the world’s toughest and craziest athlete, endurance cyclist Jure Robič. Robič won the Race Across America (RAAM) 5 times (a record in the men’s solo category): in 2004, 2005, 2007, 2008 and 2010. He was in second place at the final time station in 2009 when he dropped out to protest time penalties he had received. Robič swore never to enter RAAM again, but changed his mind and came back and won again in 2010. During the 2004 Race Across America, it was reported that he had only eight hours of sleep during his eight-day, 2,958.5-mile (4,761.2km) ride across the United States. On 19 September 2004, Robič broke the world 24-hour road record by cycling 834.77 km (518.70mi).

Anton Janša was educated as a painter, but was employed as a teacher of apiculture at the Habsburg court in Vienna. He became famous for his lectures in which he demonstrated his knowledge of bees. He also wrote two books in German: Discussion on Bee-keeping (1771) and A Full guide to Bee-keeping (1775). In his Full guide he noted: Bees are a type of fly, hardworking, created by God to provide man with all needed honey and wax. Amongst all God’s beings there are none so hard working and useful to man with so little attention needed for its keep as the bee. The Empress Maria Theresa issued a decree after Janša’s death obliging all teachers of apiculture to use his books. In bee-keeping he is noted for changing the size and shape of hives to a form where they can be stacked together like blocks. As a painter he also decorated the fronts of hives with paintings. He advocated moving hives to pastures. Janša’s beehive in Breznica was preserved by Slovene bee-keepers and in 1884 a plaque was put on the house where he was born. The Museum of Apiculture in Radovljica is also named after him.

About 1km of our way is village Vrba, where our poet France Prešeren was born. In 1945, the anniversary of his death, called Prešeren Day, was declared as the Slovenian cultural holiday. In 1989, his Zdravljica (A toast) was declared the national anthem of Slovenia. In 1992, his effigy was portrayed on the Slovenian 1000 tolar banknote, and since 2007, his image is on the Slovenian two-euro coin.

Begunje is a home of the most successful music band in Slovenia, folk music group Ansambel bratov Avsenik (Brothers Avsenik Ensemble). They sold 31 mio records, they also have the world record in uninterrupted playing music – more than 300 evenings in the row. Brother Avsenik are also the most times played European compositors. Their composition Na Golici is the most times played instrumental composition in the world in 20. century. Just for comparison: Bruce Springsteen sold 120 mio albums; Depeche Mode, Green Day, Beyonce, Aretha Franklin sold 75 mio.

During the time of Nazi occupation Katzenstein Castle served as a Gestapo prison. In the years from 1941 to 1945, a total of 11.477 prisoners were interned, mostly followers of the resistance movement from Gorenjska region, as well as from other Slovenian regions. The former prison in the castle houses Museum of Hostages. In the park and nearby Draga valley are 667 burial sights of hostages and partisans.

In Begunje is also Elan factory and its shop. Elan is Slovenian ski producer with long history and many successes, achievements and awards. Their invention is also carving or sidecut ski. First real carving ski was SCX ski (Sidecut Extreme) and first descent on the race was made by Swedish skier Ingemar Stenmark in Austrian Sölden in 1988. They were 203cm long. After that slalom it took 10 years this skies to be used in racing competitions. In the USA (and to the world) the carving revolution (shaped or parabolic ski, as it was then called)  was introduced in the season 1994-1995 for the first time. The engine of promotion was Bill Irwin. He was the one who, after testing the skies, believed to the success of the skies. The start was not easy. Elan was just a small player on the huge market of this industry and with 7% of market share they couldn’t turn the trend. It’s interesting, that nobody noticed the potential of this change, until Rossignol presented his carving skies. In three years only (between 1995 and 1998) the number of skies sold increased from 18.000 to 210.000 pairs. But recently, they presented another innovation or revolution in skiing: Amphibio. Basically, these left and right skis have inside edges with a traditional camber (which result in excellent edge grip and power transfer), while the outside edges have a slightly rockered design, allowing easier turn initiation and flotation. Earlier previous decade, Elan introduced the concept of an all-in-one ski-binding system and, five years ago, the benefits of WaveFlex technology. (Think softer flex with torsional stability through the concept of corrugated strength.) Elan’s WaveFlex technology has been incorporated into all models of the Amphibio line.


Radovljica is medieval town, built on the glacial terrace above Sava river. The old part of the town forms main Linhart square with one row of mainly Gothic buildings on each side and on places preserved town wall. The square is named after Anton Tomaž Linhart, Carniolain playwright and historian. He is the author of the first comedy and theatrical play in Slovene, Županova Micka (Micka, the Mayor’s Daughter) and writer of a history of all Slovenes as a unit, rejecting the previous concept which focused on single historical provinces. The most prominent building on the square is Baroque Mansion house. The mansion today houses Beekepers Museum and Radovljica Municipal Museum.

Lectar inn

Lectar inn

On the main square you can also find restaurant Lectar. It is located in a house with more than 500 years of history and is in business for over 180 years. It was opened on the premises of an old chandlery and bakery known mostly for its lect or gingerbread hearts. This is how the restaurant got its name and trademark. Lectarstvo (producing gingerbread hearts) is an old and renowned traditional handicraft of Slovenia. The decorated pastry is made from honey dough and shaped either with a wooden or tin mould, or by hand.  During the Middle Ages, lect was popular with social elite in cities and squares, while in the countryside lect workshops appeared in the 19. century. In those times, these products were highly regarded as meaningful tokens of love.  The oldest preserved wooden mould dates back to the 16. century. Today, honey-bread products are precious souvenirs from Slovenia.

Linhart Square in Radovljica

Linhart Square in Radovljica

Lesce is a home town of another three around the world known persons. The first one is Iztok Čop, a Slovenian rower, winner of many medals from the most important world class races, an Olympic gold medallist and one of the best Slovenian athletes. The second one is Franci Petek, former ski jumper, winner of gold medal in the individual large hill. The third one isme.

Lake with an island and a church on it, castle raising above and a backdrop of high mountains and forests. That’s Bled. Due to it’s natural beauties it became one of the most popular resorts in Slovenia. Everything started in the middle of 19. century, when a Swiss doctor, Arnold Rikli, found the lake, when searching for the most appropriate place for perfect healing effect of the natural environment. Rikli proposed various therapies, mostly based on exposing the body to sun and air, called sun tanning, preferably done while naked. He is one of the forefathers of a movement called naturism today. The lake is just enough long, that rowing competitions can be organized there. Bled was a host to the World Rowing Championship already four times, in 1966, 1979, 1989 and 2011. Bled has three symbols and you should go for all three of them. The recipe for Cream cake was brought to the local Hotel Park in 1953 by Ištvan Kovačevič, chef of the hotel’s confectionery store. So far about 12 million cream cakes have been baked at the hotel’s patisserie since its invention. Main ingredients are puff pastry, vanilla and custard (a variety of culinary preparations based on a cooked mixture of milk or cream and egg yolk) cream. Traditional woodenhorse carriage can take you for a ride around the lake or to the surrounding villages. And also wooden pletna boat can take you to the island.

As you might read somewhere, the lake is of glacial origin. Well, that’s not so. The true story goes like this: There, where today the lake is, a long time ago was no water, but a valley with small hill and huge rock atop. At a moonlight, mountain fairies gathered and danced. In the green valley and steep slopes of the hill, shepherds herded sheep. Sheep grazed all the grass, which grew around the rock. One day fairies got angry and threatened to shepherd-boys: „Make a fence around the rock, or we will.“ Shepherd-boys just laughed and continued taking cattle to pasture. Sheep grazed all the grass and one night the youngest and the prettiest made broke leg on a hard ground. Fairies revenged on boys for broken leg, call water to run down from the hills above to the valley and encircle the rock on the hill, so just the rock was above the water. That’s how fairies fenced the rock on the hill to dance undisturbed in the moonlight.

Lake Bled

Lake Bled

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