The town of Žiri, located 28km from Škofja Loka between the basins of the Sora and Idrijca rivers, is known, above all, for its long history of shoemaking and bobbin lacemaking, as well as its unspoilt idyllic location.
On the sunny spring Sunday when I visited, Žiri was about as scenic and tranquil as it gets, and I found myself wondering why on earth I hadn’t been there before!
Granted, it’s not exactly ‘on the way’ to anywhere, thus it has always been slightly off my radar, but at the same time its location at the meeting point of 3 of Slovenia’s regions – Gorenjska, Notranjska, Primorska – makes it actually easily accessible and, from what I’ve seen of it so far (I fully intend to go back!), it’s definitely somewhere that should be on my, and your, radar!
The best place to start to find out more about the town is at Žiri Museum, which since 1970 has been housed in the old school and former lace school, considered one of the town’s most beautiful buildings. The museum has collections dedicated to the history of the town and its surroundings as well as its main economic activities – agriculture, bobbin lacemaking and shoemaking.
Before even setting foot in the museum there are exhibits to see, including fortifications of the former Rapallo border.
The entire area used to be a lake and you can find out more about that through the museum’s exponents and exhibitions titled ‘Žiri and its People Through Time’, ‘Žiri’s Painters’ and ‘Welcome, Fortress Lovers’.
Another exhibition is ‘Shoemaking in Žiri’ – the town is home to the Alpina footwear factory. The craft began to develop in the town towards the end of the 19th century and although the ‘golden age’ of shoemaking in Žiri has been and gone – the majority of the shoemaking shops have closed – the Alpina factory is still going strong. There are around 30 Alpina shops throughout Slovenia and their footwear is used by many top sportsmen and women.
The other craft for which Žiri is known is bobbin lacemaking – it is one of the three centres of bobbin lacemaking in Slovenia. One of the highlights of the calendar year is Lacemaking Days (Klekljarski dnevi), which this year takes place from 27th April to 2nd May. The Cvetke Žiri Bobbin Lacemaking Association prepares exhibitions, workshops and competitions, and a chance for all generations to get an insight into this skilled craft. During the festival, the nearby Alpina factory also opens its doors and offers visitors footwear at bargain prices.
One of the exhibitions at this year’s festival is ‘Trees in Lace’, prepared in collaboration with the Slovenian Forestry Institute. The exhibition comprises 12 tree species and their fruits, blossoms and leaves. Getting up close to the pictures, you can really see just how much work went into creating these intricate trees made entirely out of lace – each tree took 100-200 hours to make – and the exhibition has received an exceptional reaction wherever it has been displayed since it was opened in 2011 to mark the 70th anniversary of the institute.
There are a handful of bars and restaurants in Žiri, among the most known and popular is the family-run Gostilna Župan. I’d had an insider tip that their house cake – Županova torta – is the bee’s knees, so, well…. it would be rude not to! The restaurant also has a full menu of traditional Slovene dishes.
To walk off some of that cake, I took a wander on the scenic Path by the Sora river (Pot ob Sori) and along a short part of the Path Along the Rapallo Border, part of which runs along the hilltop ridges above the town.
Žiri Museum is open on Sundays from 3pm and 6pm, and at other times by prior arrangement – http://muzej-ziri.si/ (website in Slovene only).
For more information about Žiri or to arrange custom-designed excursions of the area, see the Visit Škofja Loka website http://www.visitskofjaloka.si/en/skofja-loka-area/ziri. The Visit Škofja Loka Facebook page has regular updates about events and activities in the area – https://www.facebook.com/skofjaloka/?fref=ts
© Adele in Slovenia
4 thoughts on “Discovering ‘The Most Žiri’ Things”
Hi Adele, just discovered your website as my wife pointed me to your piece on žiri, which has been circulated on Facebook. We have a chunk of a big family house by the Sora in Selo, so go for holidays (we live in Sheffield) – thanks for the piece; no-one ever seems to get to the end of Poljanska Dolina except by accident. Very impressed with your Slovene interview – I aim to live there soon to improve my language. Next time come to Selo 30 for a drink, we’re very near Pr’ Županu.
Nice to hear from you and thanks for the feedback. It’s always nice to know that all my hard work is appreciated! I became rather too acquainted with Selo on my recent visit to Ziri, since on my way home driving through Selo a wayward bus driver decided he wanted more than his fair share of the road and he wasn’t about to stop for anyone. 3 hours later, after the police had done their bit, he was fined and I finally made it home. A not-so-nice end to a very nice day. Fortunately there were only a few minor scratches on my car, which is a miracle considering the noise it made. How often do you get over? I’ve been translating for the Skofja Loka tourist board for a few years and, since I love the area and think there is far too little written about it (and far too much written about Bled!), I wanted to start highlighting some of the great places in the town and surrounding valleys and this year that came to fruition. So, keep reading for more! You can also subscribe to my blog if you want to get each post directly.
What a pleasant surprise to read about my home town in English! Your photo of the walk by the Sora made my heart flutter. My daughter and I made the trip home a few years ago and loved walking along this path as well as through the forest towards Mrzli Vrh. You are so right, it is a beautiful part of the country with much to offer to tourists. An undiscovered gem!
Hi Jana, thanks for the feedback, always nice to hear! I am certainly enjoying my time discovering the Skofja Loka area this year, particularly the beautiful Poljanska dolina. The only problem is that the more time I spend there, the more I want to live there! Best regards, Adele