Železniki: A Step Back in Time and Tradition + Lacemaking Days

The small town of Železniki is nestled snuggly in one of the narrowest parts of the Selca Valley (Selška dolina). The town is split into the older ironworks area and the more modern industrial part. Walking through the old part of the town feels like taking a step back in time – in a good way – since it is untouched by the trappings of modernity i.e. ghastly shopping centres and the like, and the town boasts a wealth of tradition and heritage.

Železniki was once a centre of ironworking, and later, after the closure of the last blast furnace, the tradition of lacemaking began to flourish. The best way to learn more about this fascinating place is to visit the Železniki Museum.


There are 12 collections over three floors crammed into the beautiful 17th century ironworkers house. There are an impressive number of models, some of which also ‘come to life’ with moving parts and/or sound. Collections include the iron industry, the timber industry, lace-making, and the National Liberation Battle in the valley.


Get a glimpse into the working of a timber mill.


And maybe even try your hand at lace-bobbin work. Believe me, it’s a skilled trade requiring patience and dexterity, both of which, in this case at least, I clearly lack!


Once you’ve mastered it, then you can produce all manner of intricate patterns.

The remains of the last mighty blast furnace, used for smelting iron-ore, known to be the only preserved furnace of its kind in Europe, are directly opposite the museum.


After visiting the museum I recommend taking a walk through the old part of the town beside the Selca Sora river, from where you can admire the traditional ironworkers houses, some still with the traditional slate roofs, and, if you get lucky with the weather, bask in the sunshine!


Plnada is the oldest house in the town.


The well, known locally as ‘Šterna na Plavžu’, was renovated and erected on the occasion of the 40th Lacemaking Days event. In the past the well provided water for 40 houses in the upper part of the town.


This year the 55th Lacemaking Days event takes place from 12- 16 July. The rich cultural programme includes a craft market, organ grinders, a procession, and even a 24-hour lacemaking competition. The main parade will take place on Sunday 16th July at 2pm. You can also visit the museum and admire the windows of the town’s houses which are adorned with lace during the event.

On Saturday 15th July at 9pm, and on Sunday 16th July from 3pm you can watch demonstrations of manual iron forging with Železniki blacksmiths and have a go at making your own nails.

The full programme is below (in Slovene), or you can contact the Železniki Tourist Information Centre or Visit Škofja Loka for more information.

Interesting, earlier this year the Municipality of Železniki was declared the best out of Slovenia’s 211 municipalities in which to live in Slovenia in terms of a number of factors including health of its residents, availability of accommodation, access to nature and leisure facilities etc.

One of the town’s most popular events is ‘Luč v vodo’ (Lights in the Water), an age-old iron-forging custom takes place annually in March. The models, which are a mixture of unique art creations made from paper, cardboard and wood with candles affixed either on the exterior or interior, create a colourful effect against the dusk setting. This custom dates back to the era of manual iron-forging, before the introduction of the Gregorian calendar in 1582, when the name day of St. Gregory was considered the first day of spring.


Photo: TD Zelezniki

Other sights of interest nearby include the Lomski slap waterfall, the stone bridges in Kovže and below Griva, numerous examples of architectural ironwork heritage, and hiking trails, including to Ratitovec – about which I will be writing more in the not too distant future!

So, as you can see, and as I found out, there’s more to Železniki than first meets the eye. So do add it to your list of places to visit whilst exploring the Škofja Loka area. Find out more here – http://www.visitskofjaloka.si/en/skofja-loka-area/zelezniki and here – http://www.visitskofjaloka.si/en/experiences/culture-and-art/museums-and-galleries

© Adele in Slovenia



Discovering ‘The Most Žiri’ Things

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