Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Butterfly goes Ziplining


Friday, 17 August 2012

Zipline Slovenia - A shot of adrenaline

Soča river valley in Slovenia is one of top European destinations for adrenaline addicts, water-sports enthusiasts and nature lovers.

The place literally looks like out of a fairytale and obviously I am not the only one who noticed it. A part of the movie The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian was filmed in the town of Bovec. They filmed the climax of the battle at Beruna's Bridge there.

This place has been a popular destination for water sports like rafting and kayaking for decades. There are also other activities worth looking at when visiting the area. Canyoning and paragliding are definitely two of them and recently also zip-line has joined this already very interesting array of choices.

I have already tried some of those things before and really liked them. This time I decided to try this new thing simply called - Zipline Slovenia.

Zip-lining (also known as a flying fox, aerial ropeslide or Tyrolean slide) consists of a pulley suspended on a cable spanning between two high points. Simply put - gravity helps you travel from the top to the bottom of the inclined cable by attaching to (and hanging from) the freely moving pulley.

This particular zip-line adventure starts with a scenic drive up the mountainside in an ex-military 4x4 car (TAM-110). Even views from the back of the car are spectacular and as such just the right introduction for the things to come.
First you get all the necessary equipment and after a quick training course the real thing begins...

The 2.4 kilometers long zip-line is divided in four sections - approximately 500 meters each. After every slide there is a short - few minute walk to the start of the next line. The path is quite steep in some parts so do not forget to bring comfortable trekking shoes.
The estimated top speed of the fastest line is over 60km/h and the cables are set 130-200 meters above the ground, each providing stunning views of the Soča river valley.

Personally I liked the one going through tree canopies best. Tree branches flying past gave an impression of even greater speed.
Throughout the whole experience the two instructors kept a close eye on individual participants giving us tips and precise instructions regarding safety and appropriate aerodynamic positions on each of the rides.

Everything from arranging this 3 hour adventure to the actual rides on the lines was done very professionally and I can only recommend it. Despite the natural environment this "adventure park" is set in, the whole thing felt surprisingly safe and controlled all the way through.

If you are having second thoughts about doing this because of a mild fear of heights - trust me, you do not need to worry about a thing. I actually think you will enjoy this zip-line the most if you are not completely comfortable with heights and exercises involving yourself hanging from a wire while flying super fast from one hill to another.
A scream echoing from the mountains now and then will only add to the whole experience.

Since this is the longest and the most spectacular zip-line in this part of Europe, it can get pretty crowded. Booking ahead of time is highly recommended. Visit Zipline Slovenia on their webpage for additional information.
If you find yourself strolling through the center of Bovec, you can also visit Aktivni Planet tourist agency. They will provide all the information you may need. They speak perfect English.


Monday, 13 August 2012

Lechazo - The Spanish sacred roast lamb

As I already mentioned in my previous post, roast lamb and pork are the dishes a visitor to the province of Segovia (Castile y León, Spain) definitely must taste before moving on. Actually this is much more than just food - it is more of a tradition and some might even define it as religion.
The roasting of lamb is an ancient art of this region which has not changed much for centuries. Even today this art of preparing and the delight of eating it remain something of a ritual.

During my visit to the region I visited two villages - Pedraza and Sepulveda, renowned for some of the best restaurants offering traditional lechazo.

For a lamb to be classified as lechazo, the meat has to comply with several regulations.
For the meat to be tender enough a lamb must be slaughtered when it is 20 to 30 days old and weighing between 5-7 kg. It must also have only been fed on its mother's milk and cannot have grazed. That is where the name lechazo comes from - the Spanish word for milk is leche. Also not every breed is appropriate for this purpose. The most commonly used is Churra breed, although a few others are also allowed.

To taste the real thing one should visit a typical Castilian asador - restaurant specializing in roast meats. Since this is the only thing they do, there usually is no need for menus. Lamb is roasted in a wood-fired oven for around four hours until the meat is cooked through. These traditional clay or brick dome-shaped ovens are also part of Spain's Arab heritage.
If the main ingredients (in this case - the lamb) are as they should be, the preparation is pretty simple. Quartered lamb is placed in clay pots and only a cup of water and some salt is used in the cooking process.

With all this in account it is obvious, this can not be a very cheap treat. Nevertheless it is something definitely worth tasting.

With some local help we found one of the best asadors in the area. Situated in a picturesque village of Sepúlveda, Figón Zute el Mayor is one of around 20 such places there. You can find it in a street just below the main square.
At this asador one can choose from a very limited list of things on the menu - actually there is no menu. If you visit this place it is kind of obvious, you came for the lamb.
I guess besides the lamb you can only get a salad, some cured meats, fresh home-made bread, one or two local deserts and you can wash it all down with wine or water. That is it.
Frankly there is no need for anything else. It is a combination that goes together perfectly.

The meal we had there was simply delicious and I can only recommend it. I will definitely visit this place again if I just get a chance.

For me the lamb itself is a good enough reason to visit this old town. However loosing yourself in the narrow streets of Sepúlveda is also quite an experience. There is the old village cemetery and also a museum worth visiting.

For nature and sports enthusiasts there is also a chance to visit Hoces del Río Duratón Natural Park. It is a nearby picturesque river canyon with 100 meter high cliffs and as such a great place for bird watching, canoeing and climbing.

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