Mount Saint Mary (Smarna Gora)
The twin peaks of Grmada and Mount Saint Mary (Smarna Gora) are both swathed with oak and beech forest and sit in northern Slovenia; their humps are clearly visible from its enticing capital city of Ljubljana, which spreads out into a giant basin below the mountain. Mount Saint Mary is the eastern of the two peaks and reaches up to 669 meters (2,194 feet); woven with 15 hiking trails, it is one of the most popular weekend destinations for the folks of Ljubljana. They flock out to the forest to enjoy walking, jogging, mountain biking, and climbing through narrow craggy limestone gorges and canyons; while in winter Mount Saint Mary becomes a snowy paradise for Nordic skiing and tobogganing. It is also a haven for wildlife, with foxes, martens, squirrels, buzzards and hawks commonly spotted; sightings of deer and brown hare have been recorded but are rare.
Depending on fitness, it takes between 45 and 60 minutes to climb Mount Saint Mary, which is topped by the 18th-century Baroque church of the Virgin Mary – although a pilgrimage church has existed in this site since medieval times – from which there are spectacular views over the city to the Julian Alps. A popular restaurant shares the same spectacular panoramas, sells typically Slovenian treats such as puffy donuts called miske (mice) or stuffed dumplings, and gets rammed every summer weekend. Close by is an ancient bell, reputed to bring good luck to anyone who rings it.