People from the Gorenjska region are known as being the most frugal Slovenes, to put it politely. It isn’t hard to believe, though, since life has always been a struggle in the harsh winters of the rugged mountains.
While not considered very outgoing or extroverted, the locals will warm up to you once you’ve won them over. One way you can do that is by showing them your prowess on the slopes or by enjoying a shot of a local’s homemade schnapps. Remember to always look people in the eyes when saying ‘Na zdravje’!
Kranjska Gora is, not surprisingly, famous for its skiing and other winter sports. People from the area are often excellent skiers, as parents have their kids racing down the toughest runs as soon as they learn how to walk. Slovenia’s professional skiers have enjoyed a significant amount of success in World Cup and Olympic competitions and most of them hail from Gorenjska. The Vitranc World Cup and the annual ski flying event in nearby Planica bring thousands of spectators to Kranjska Gora, turning it into the party capital of Slovenia, at least for a weekend or two.
Traditional food in these parts is hearty, Austrian-style fare. Sausages and thick slabs of pork are usually served with sauerkraut and potatoes with pancakes or apple strudel for dessert. In order to brace yourself before heading out into the cold, it isn’t unusual to have a strong drink to finish off your meal. For the true Gorenjska experience, try the blueberry brandy locals call borovničevec.
SLOVENIAN ALPINE MUSEUM: Perhaps the most popular pastime in Slovenia of course deserves to be documented and presented in museum fashion, the tradition of mountaineering finding its place in the hometown of many famous national sportsmen and sportswomen, Mojstrana. Housed in a building which performs the unusual feat of combining modern architecture with a natural theme (it’s shaped like a huge rock), you’ll find an old mountaineering equipment on display, safety and rescue equipment, an interactive display on protected mountain flora, legends, and also a storm simulator – in which your senses are bombarded while sitting in a mock mountain hut. There is a lot of information in English (including the interactive displays), and also up to date information on weather conditions/open mountain huts in Triglav National Park. Info: Triglavska 49, Mojstrana, +386 (0)8 380 67 30, [email protected], www.planinskimuzej.si.
JASNA LAKE: They say a picture tells a thousand words, in which case, seeing the magnificent Jasna Lake in reality must tell a million. Purity, colour, serenity, clarity do not go any way to describing the setting, the mixed spruce and deciduous covered slopes in the near-distance giving way to soaring rocky peaks in the dramatic background. This paradise is a quick escape from Kranjska Gora, only a 20-minute walk up the winding road toward Vršič. You are greeted at the lake’s shore by the gruff face of the legendary white chamois, looking contentedly northwards from his rock. While away an hour on one of the benches lining the shore, then get a drink in one of the nearby bars and soak up that view for even longer. If you visit in the summer months you can also bring a swimsuit, as there are now several piers and a 6m-high viewing platform.
KRANJSKA GORA TOURIST BUS: See the sights in and around Kranjska Gora in style whilst riding around on a retrofitted school bus, which is now painted red and has a curved glass roof too better stare in awe at the surrounding mountains. The route covers ten of the top attractions in the area’s Upper Valley, including those of the cultural, natural and culinary variety, and a GPS connected audio guide is available in English, German, Italian and Slovenian. Trips can be booked at the main tourist office. Info: +386 4 580 94 40, [email protected], www.kranjska-gora.si.
KRANJSKA GORA BY THE NUMBERS:
Population (municipality): 5,500 / Population (town): 1,452 / Size: 44.7km2 / Postcode: 4280 / Mayor: Janez Hrovat / Known for: Ski resort
PLANICA NORDIC CENTRE: Boasting eight different ski jumping hills, including the massive one used for the annual Planica FIS World Cup Ski Jumping Final each March, the Planica Nordic Centre covers more than 100,000 square meters and is one of the largest complexes of its size in the world. Throughout the year visitors who aren’t here for professional training can still get their own adrenaline rush and experience what it’s like to fly through the air for nearly 600m on the Planica Zipline, while more esoteric tourists can spend some time visiting the centre’s two-floor Planica Museum to learn about the most interesting happenings that have taken place during the more than eight decades that international ski jumping events have been hosted here. Info: Rateče Planica, +386 31 689 806, [email protected], www.nc-planica.si.
RUSSIAN CHAPEL (RUSKA KAPELICA): The Russian Chapel (Ruska Kapelica) was built to honour Russian prisoners of war who died here while constructing the road over the Vršič pass during the First World War. It was a strategic point for the Austrians, providing access (and arms) to the Soča Front. While keeping the road clear of snow an avalanche buried the soldiers, and ten guards. The small but beautiful structure is in the style of a traditional Russian church, situated 7km from Kranjska Gora, on the left just after a right-hand hairpin bend.
SKIING: At heart, Kranjska Gora was and is essentially a ski town. The winter season sees the town at its height, bustling with winter sports enthusiasts from Slovenia and abroad. The slopes are spread along the Vitranc mountain ridge from Kranjska Gora all the way to Planica (800-1215m), and are served by 5 chairlifts and 13 drag lifts. Aside from a range of Alpine ski slopes, including the World Cup run at Podkoren, cross-country skiers can take advantage of a beautiful trail, made where the train tracks used to lie, at the bottom of the valley. Ever popular with trendy snowboarders, the board-park here features enough carved up piste, jumps and grinding rails to satisfy the needs of the most chronic ‘carvaholics’ and those who prize showing off their slash-and-burn turns. The best part is, there’s no long gondola ride to get access to the slopes in Kranjska Gora, with just a snow beach between you and the piste when you roll out of bed in the morning. Info: www.kranjska-gora.si.