Despite English being my mother tongue, and despite the English language being rich in superlatives, I’m struggling to come up with suitably apt words to describe the breath-taking scenery I witnessed last weekend when I journeyed to see the Solčava Panoramic Road. So, I’ll do my best to give you some impressions and a sneek peek of some of the views you can expect, however, I urge you to go and see it for yourself!
Though it is a little off-the-beaten-track, the Upper Savinja valley has to be one of the most scenic places in Slovenia. It is bursting with waterfalls, the craggy Kamnik-Savinja Alps, sublime views, high-lying farms, and other natural phenomena, not to mention the friendly locals – of which there are only around 500 dispersed across an area of just over 100km³.
The area comprises three valleys, the most known among them is the Logar Valley (Logarska dolina), together with Robanov kot and Matkov kot. The 96 km-long Savinja river flows through the valley and onwards, eventually flowing into the Sava river.
My first port of call was the Rinka Centre in Solčava, which houses the Tourist Information Centre, post office, and a café and gift shop which sells handicrafts and food produced exclusively in the local area including delicious cheeses and the speciality of the area zgornjesavinjski želodec (Upper Savinjska pig stomach) – akin to salami but far more succulent. One could easily while away a couple of hours in the centre looking at the exhibition, watching the film presentation and tasting the local products. In the rectory opposite there is a paleontology exhibition and a separate room with a collection of several hundreds of species of butterfly.
Directly opposite the centre the impressive Gothic Church of Our Lady of the Snows stands proudly, as if guarding the village, on a small rise above the village. Since Solčava has not had its own priest for some time, the church is kept locked, apart from during mass, but the staff at the Rinka Centre can arrange a visit.
Next I returned to Robanov kot where I was staying at the Govc-Vršnik tourist farm. I was immediately made to feel welcome in this large, family-run home-cum-farm. The lady of the house, Marija, immediately offered me a drink we enjoyed a lovely chat during which she told me that the number of repeat guests to the farm speaks for itself about its popularity. For me the definite highlight was the total serenity. No cars or other noise pollution, total silence, which, in these frenetic times, is something to really cherish.
The other highlight is most certainly the food which is all home-produced and delicious. I was treated to the local speciality soup ‘sirnica‘, made using milk whey, eggs, and a few other secret ingredients, followed by a delicious main-course consisting of chicken, pork, štruklji, pumpkin, and potato. Dessert was warm apple and curd cheese strudel. I was well set up for the next day’s hiking!
From the farm there is an easy path which leads to Robanova planina, taking around 45 minutes, where, during the summer months, the alpine dairy is open and you can enjoy homemade soups, cheese, cold-cuts, or strudel.
The next morning I made an early start and by 7am was hiking up to the Potok cave (potočka zijalka) beneath Mt. Olševa. You can either, as I did, hike the whole way up, beginning at the wooden bear adjacent to the Firšt Inn and Fidov gaj Museum, though, in truth, this first part of the path, which leads steeply up through the forest, initially lacks views and the more favourable option may be to begin at the Rogar Tourist Farm on the Panoramic Road. The Bear Trail is well marked throughout.
This 115m-long cave was first excavated in 1928 and, over a seven-year period, hundreds of objects were found including tools, bones, and animal remains, including an estimated 1000 cave bears as well as almost 40 other species including lynx, wolves and chamois. The world’s oldest sewing needle (which can be seen in the Rinka Centre) was also among the findings. It is thought the cave might have been used as a hunting station. From the cave you can either return by the same route or you can continue on to Govce, the highest part of Olševa (1929m). However, this is considered a demanding path as there are exposed sections and, in places, steel ropes to assist, therefore, it is only suitable for experienced and well-equipped hikers.
Next came the main reason for my trip. to travel along the newly improved, and now entirely accessible, Solčava Panoramic Road. You can choose to drive, cycle, or walk along the road which winds its way along the foothills of the Olseva mountain, and surely has to be among the most scenic roads in Slovenia. The road is also named ‘The route with the most beautiful views’ and the description is certainly apt. The total length is 37km, there are 4 access points, and 4 different routes. Therefore, it’s easy to pick and choose what you want to see dependent on how much time you have. I’d recommended devoting it as much time as possible and taking time to stop at all the points of interest along the road such as the numerous tourist farms, each offering delicious homemade goodies. I stopped at two of them and bought some tasty cheese, bread, and supped some tea made from mountain flowers.
Along the road there are various viewpoints, newly equipped with benches and information boards. One particular sight of interest is the spring of iron water (železna voda). The water from this underground spring originates from the tectonic fault that runs along the Kamnik-Savinja Alps. It’s in rich in iron and, believe me, it tastes like it! It’s like coins, however, locals says it has healing powers so I took a quick slurp nonetheless!
Here are some useful links to help plan a trip to the Solčava area:
Solčava Tourist Information – http://www.solcavsko.info/index.php?jez=EN OR http://logarska-solcavsko.si/
Govc-Vršnik Tourist Farm – http://www.govc-vrsnik.com/en/
Solčava Panoramic Road – http://www.solcavska-panoramska-cesta.si/en
© AdeleinSlovenia 2015