rock 'n roll on Rogla
We only recently discovered this amazing secret mini region dominated by the Rogla mountain (1,517m). And we only actually went here as we had heard about a new tree top walk attraction that we really wanted to visit, so we rocked up and were absolutely amazed at all the other stuff to see and do around!
So actually it needed 2 seperate daytrips exploring around here to get our bearings properly and to realise that this was one entire Green Slovenian mini region that is just waiting for you to discover it.
As foreigners living here in Green paradise, we are absolutely sure that the extreme trickiness of the Slovenian language and place names has a direct influence on whether visitors feel confident about finding and exploring a new place.
And when you see the names of the little secret places that actually make up this mini region such as.. Zrece, Zice, Lovrenska Jezera and we saved the best one till last..wait for it Slovenske Konjice.. we hope you don't mind that we decided to stick with the generic name Rogla to describe it all! (We also heard Pohorje used as a description for this region and this a more generic name for a bigger mountain region streching more to Maribor).
So in this article we want to do a general intro for you to this "Rogla mini region" crammed into a little pocket of Green Slovenia between Celje and Maribor. But really, some of the secret places here are just so amazing, they need their own Secret Places to Visit page that you can also link to from this page if you would like to know more about each one.
The first little village in this region directly off the motorway and just 1 hour 40 from the Lodge.. is called Slovenske Konjice, (but we will loosely translate and call it Horseville from now on) and from here you drive up to Zrece and then up the curvy mountain roads to the top of Rogla! (Zice is on the other side of the motorway from Horseville.. when you see photos of Zice, we are sure, you will be very glad you now know where it is).
On Rogla you can rock around the forests and roll on helter skelters and toboggans..
We couldn't believe this was a mountain we had not heard of before! It's a big lump of a rock, in the medium height Pohorje range and covered in green forest, but the drive or cycle up is not a steep mountaineous one, it's more gradual with winding, curvy bends and once you are 1,500m up at the top the mountain levels out massively so you could even sometimes forget how high up you are.
So why would you drive up here? Well, there is a huge adventure village right on the top, with some hotels, restaurants, football pitch, an artificial lake, an observation tower, several ski slopes, a summer toboggan run and endless hiking paths. Oh yes and really a lot of fabulous pine trees.
There are hikes absolutely everywhere up here and a wooden lookout tower for the sunset. We couldn't wait to try the dry toboggan run on colourful carts down one of the ski slopes with hairpin bends.. it was great, you can go as fast or slow as you please by controlling the brake. You also start in a cow field and then whizz down the slope and before you have time to be scared you are at the bottom.. then you can get proper scared as the toboggan hooks onto the ski lift and you are dragged back up the almost vertical hill with your legs in the air.. fantastic!
the Magical Ponds in the Dwarf Pine Forest on top of a mountain.. (Lovrenska Jezera)
For us the best hike here and one of the very best hikes in all Green Slovenia is the most fantastic 3-4 hour roundtrip that reveals a most unexpected stellar secret treasure.. the mysterious multiple mountain top ponds, called Lovrenska Jezera.. or the hunter's lakes.
The walk is well signposted and generally heads up through cow fields, forest with massive ant nest boulders and white rocks decorating the green floor, with blueberry meadows and then thick pines until you pop out onto the huge flat summit..
The view you get is completely unexpected.. a thick covering of thousands of dwarf pines stretching to the horizon and with further investigation along the neat and petite wooden boardwalks you will discover a series of small and unique magic ponds with lillys and dragonfies buzzing around surrounded by this massive, massive army of dwarf pine trees with roots sticking up out of the ground in every direction.. and all of this Finland-like landscape sits on top of a 1,500m high mountain in little old Slovenia.. it is soooooo amazing!!!
the Tree Top Walk
One of the newest man made attractions on Rogla is the Tree Top Walk with a small visitor centre and a thrilling metal helter skelter slide, which you absolutely have to do, by the way, no excuses!
This attraction was what we had initially come for and it wasn't quite what we expected, but ended up thrilling and surprising us. We had the idea we would be walking for miles and miles on narrow wobbly bridges high up in the tree tops, but actually the whole walk is quite short.. but it sure is high up enough in the tree tops to induce wobbly legs for vertigo sufferers!
The lovely wide wooden walkways are great for all the family and there are education boards and challenges along the way for kids and of course really excellent views.. but it is the central tower (that looks a bit like a car park) that surprised us, not just for the vistas at the very top, but the helter skelter metal slide spiralling down the centre of the structure.. truly terryfying.. but we did it and loved it.. we hope you will to.
Horseville (Slovenske Konjice)
It is a shame that this little town has such a difficult name to say for us foreigners and the letters even change from what is written on the map to make even keying it into your sat nav device close to impossible!! AND it is also very unhelpfully right next to another junction on the motorway called Slovenska Bistrica, so you are constanltly panicking if you have got the right pace!
But the comforting news is.. even Slovenians can get confused with this name as there is another town of the same name in Bosnia.. the other good news for you is that we invented a simple name for this pretty, chilled out Slovenian town with a clear water channel running down the centre of the main street and horse heads on the main bridge.. Horseville.. a loose translation of the Slovenian.. Konj means "horse" in Slovene, so now that is settled, expect to see lots of horses here.
We love this little oasis of what you might for once actually expect to see when visiting Slovenia.. sleepy cafes, antique colourful buildings, pointy churches, a castle on a hill, even vines growing on the skyline and of course, forest covered mountains in the distance.
Horseville makes a great mini base for your coffee stop and a stroll around on your trip to the Rogla region.. we preferred the chilled atmosphere here to the more camping holiday vibe of nearby Zrece. There is a little high street with a few shops, restaurants and cafes.. one cafe in particular, the Tattenbach Pub, serves the most fantastic cinnamon flavoured coffee, with a yummy tiffin sized piece of choccy and a poem! Yes, a poem on a scroll and you can also have it in English, served with your antique coffee cup.. very nice!
There are horse stautes on the bridge that goes over the river, a lovely church with a really huge dome and bees flying around it inside and an amazing curvy slate roof and steeple.. this roof is a preview as to what joys are ahead of you in Zice.
We didn't get to see the castle on the hill at the back of the town, but we did make time to go see the Zlati Gric vineyard on the edge of the town, which has a really cool old manor house overlooking the super modern vineyard building. Design freaks will love this super modern architecture and the cellar is carved out inside a massive hill bunker.
Horseville is right on the edge of the Maribor wine region, so the wines are high quality and Austrian style with Rieslings and Blue Frankinjas, but they do also have a unique horse wine! By this we mean the "Konjican" (from the Horse name of the town) cuvee.. delicious.
Perhaps we have been spoiled with so many wine visits in Slovenia in the various different wine regions getting to know local wine producers who will sit and chat for hours about their wine and wine making.. but we didnt get that feeling here and we are honest enough to tell you.. it might have been an off day of course, we loved the buiding's design and the beauty of the nature here, but it really is a totally different wine tour experience at these slightly larger Slovenian vineyards, when actually.. it doesn't have to be.
However the vineyard restaurant at the top of the hill is unmissabubble and you can also try the vineyard wines here. Restaurant Gric is right in the middle of everything, inside an antique house with virandas and stunning views in every direction and surrounded by the vines and pretty roses, (which protect the vines). The food is top local quality and the service is friendly and professional, so if there is one place you eat in the Rogla region, then please, pretty please, make it here!
How on earth can we live in such a small country for 7 years and still know nothing at all about the most amazing fortified monastery we have ever had the pleasure to finally visit?
Well, there are several reasons and here they are.. It is partly cos Green Slovenia is packed so full with other secret treasures that we have had our hands full trying to visit them all, but also the name of this place is so scarily unpronounceable.. Zice.. your guess is as good as ours.. how can just 4 letters be so difficult, but when we mention this place to Slovenians they just stare blankly at us when we try to say the name.. so what chance do you have!!
Even worse, there are absolutely no signs to this place from the motorway or nearby Horseville! And lastly Zice often gets described literally by it's translated name.. a "Cartusian charterhouse" so seriously.. who on earth wants to go to a place that you don't even really know how to say the name or know what a Cartusian charterhouse is!! So what real chance does this amazing little treasure have compared to the heavily marketed places like Bled, Postojna cave and Piran by the sea??!!
But Zice is an absolute stunning beauty and without hesitation went straight into our Slovenian TOP TEN, (which admitedly has over 30 places in it as Slovenia is just so gorgeous), high high praise. In fact, we cannot imagine you leaving Slovenia without visiting Zice monastery.. it is that good.
We can only maybe think that Slovenians either have no idea or imagination that you would love this place, which is why it is so difficult for you to know about and then find.. We only found it by absolute chance.. we were looking at a map of the Rogla area to see what else to do in combination with the tree top walk and we happened to see what we thought was a castle pictured on the map!!..
So we had to ask in Horseville where this "castle" was and were told it was a "cartusian charterhouse" or whatever.. nevertheless, we persevered and found it.. Wow x 10, we had discovered another example of a Slovenian "fortress church", in this case a stunning castle wall protecting a monastery with the most amazing little hobbit buildings inside with fantastic slate roofs. It was simply magical and amazing and just like your first visit to Bled or Piran, you will want to take photo after photo after photo!
Read a lot more about the Zice Fortified Monastery here..
So there you have it folks.. Rock n Roll Rogla is yet another secret Slovenian mini region packed full of different possibilities for your daytrip adventures.
We sincerely hope that in our Secret Places to Visit section we are giving visitors to Slovenia as much forward info on the amazing choice of secret places to visit here.. and all of them within reach of Lipizzaner Lodge in a daytrip, by the way, but more importantly, you need to know this stuff before you come here if possible, so you might at least allocate more time in the most beautiful country in Europe and you don't end up realising this too late and then be forced to miss somewhere like Rogla out of your schedule.
In one day trip from the Lodge, for example, with a simple plan, you could easily fit in a coffee in Horseville, a visit to the stunning Zice monastery, lunch at the vineyard with an afternoon hike to the magical mountain ponds and a last whirl down that tree top helter skelter.. wow what a day!
Rogla has something for eveyone, you just need to work out your logistics, decide what you will see here in your day, then relax and Rock n Roll!