July 24, 2010

Life after Sunny.

Matej suggested we do some exploring in Krajnski Park Logarska Dolina – a landscape park in a glacial valley in the Kamniško-Savinjskih Alps along the border with Austria in northern Slovenia.  Apparently he hadn’t been here before either.   At the risk of sounding jaded, we both agreed that the Julian Alps are more spectacular.  But don’t get me wrong – it was pretty awesome here too.  Slovenia just has so much in the way of amazing landscape scenery in such a small area.  I asked him if he realized how lucky he was to have all of these places so close.  Unfortunately, our exploration was cut somewhat short by the threat of storms, but I think the rain was needed, as there was not much water in the slap (waterfall).

Kamniško-Savinjskih Alps

Rinka Slap

We ate at a sort of gostilna in the park.  It was pretty typical mountain food, so we ended up having the goulash, although it is really more of a hearty winter dish than a middle of the summer one.  The goulash here was almost more of a soup than a stew, with a spicy base, some vegetables, gnocchi, and a bit of sausage.  We also got some ajdovi žganci (hardboiled buckwheat), to mix in with the goulash.  That was new for me.

Goulash and ajdovi žganci.

Anica and Mojca – who I had met at the conference in Serbia – invited me to spend the day with them in western Slovenia.  They work for the Institute of the Republic of Slovenia for Nature Conservation at the regional unit in Nova Gorica, which is a new city (by Central European standards) established after WWII.  The easiest way for me to get there was actually through Italy – I took the bus from Koper to Trieste and then a train from Trieste to the Italian sister city of Gorizia.  We took a circular route through this area that transitions from Mediterranean to Alpine; we came across the karst plateau to the town of Idrija and then followed Reka Idrijca as far as Tolmin before following the Soča back to Nova Gorica/Gorizia.

Anica and Mojca

We visited the Divje Jezero (Wild Lake) and Reka Jezernica (Lake River).  The lake is actually quite small, but the interesting thing about this lake is that it is fed by a karst spring through a siphon that is estimated to run some 200m deep (divers have yet to reach the source).  The river flows from the lake to Reka Idrijca, for all of about 50m, making it the shortest river in Slovenia.  We also saw one of the remaining klavže (Slovene “pyramids”) – a sort of dam that was used to float timber down from the forests to Idrija for use in the mine.

Divje Jezero

A klavže on Reka Idrijca.

In Idrija, we took the tour of the mercury mine on which the town was based.  Mercury was mined here for 500 years in what was one of the world’s largest mines.  Although the mine is no longer working, it is considered such an important part of the town’s history that they have applied for UNESCO World Heritage Site status.  We also visited Grad Gewerkenegg, a 16th century castle that housed the mine administration and is now a museum.  Here we were given a tour of the lace exhibit.  Idrija is almost as famous for its lace as for its mine.  Traditionally, the women of the town would make lace to supplement the miners’ income, and it became such an art that they established a lace school – which is still in operation – and have an annual lace festival.  And, apparently the other thing that Idrija is known for is idrijski žlikrofi – a sort of handmade pasta that is stuffed with potato, bacon and some spice.  Naturally, we stopped at a gostilna to “experience” that as well.

Žlikrofi

I also took the train into Ljubljana one last time for some shopping and some quality time at a cafe on the Ljubljanica.  Ljubljana is really a lovely city.  I would have liked to have been able to spend more time there over the past 6 months – had it not entailed 5 hours on the train round trip.  But, at least the scenery is good along the way.

Reka Ljubljanica

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