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.

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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.

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Get a glimpse into the working of a timber mill.

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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!

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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.

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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!

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Plnada is the oldest house in the town.

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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.

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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.

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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

 

 

The Kropa Iron Forging Festival – 8th July 2017

The ever-popular annual Iron Forging Festival (Kovaški šmaren) will take place this Saturday 8th July in the village of Kropa, the cradle of Slovene iron-forging.

I love visiting Kropa in summer, when it’s hot and the village is bathed in sunshine, and especially at the time of the Iron Forging Festival when the village comes to life and visitors can get a glimpse into life in the past for the village ironworkers and their families.

Kropa sits nested into the far eastern edge of the Jelovica plateau and is crammed with interesting sights and architecture and preserved technical heritage which is showcased during the annual festival.

There are demonstrations of hand forging of nails in the Vigenjc Vice Nail Forge, a small local craft market, old-time bikes, open days at the Iron Forging Museum and the Fovšaritnica Museum House, as well as at the headquarters of the company UKO Kropa, which specialises in all manner of wrought iron furnishings and fittings and is keeping the village’s iron-forging tradition alive.

Be sure to take a walk around the village, alongside the Kroparica stream, that runs right through its heart, and admire the former ironworkers houses embellished with decorative wrought iron.

If you’d like to make a day of it, why not take a hike up to the Vodiška planina highland. You can choose to take the steeper route (marked ‘Vodice – strma pot, 1hr 15mins) which begins at the parish Church of St. Leonard, one of the two churches in the village. There is a small parking area beside the church or otherwise you park in the centre of the village, by the memorial, and take the steps which lead between houses up to the church.

Or, alternatively, there is another path that is found by following the road through the village in the direction of Jamnik. The path begins on the bend in the road next to the former Slovenian smelting furnace (Slovenska peč).

Both paths eventually reach the highland and the Partizanski dom mountain hut where you can get refreshments and tasty home-cooked food – the štruklji are particularly popular!

For those without a car the Hop-on Hop-off tourist bus also visits Kropa every Tuesday during the summer months. More information and the timetable can be found here – http://www.radolca.si/en/hop-on-hop-off-radolca/

More information about the Iron Forging Festival can be found here – http://www.radolca.si/en/the-iron-forging-festival/

© Adele in Slovenia

 

Wonderful Weddings and Award-Winning Cheeses in the Poljane Valley

The Poljane Valley is known for its unspoilt nature and is synonymous with one of Slovenia’s most renowned writers – Ivan Tavčar (1851-1923).

Tavčar Manor in Visoko is where the writer found inspiration for many of his best works. The manor dates from the 14th century and was originally used by the Lords of Loka as a hunting manor. Later it passed into the hands of the Kalan family before being bought by Tavčar in 1893 when he returned to his homeland.

Legend has it that he found an iron chest in the attic of the manor that contained notes about the Kalan family. Tavčar used these notes, together with his rich imagination, to write his famous Visoko Chronicle (Visoško kroniko).

Today the manor’s gorgeous, romantic, country setting makes it a very popular venue for weddings as well as a hosts of other events, festivals, family days, concerts etc. Weddings are held in the wedding hall which is adorned with ceiling and wall paintings.

Photo: Izidor Jesenko

The Master of Ceremonies, dressed as Ivan Tavčar, conducts the ceremony, adding to the special charm of a wedding at Tavčar Manor.

Photo: Izidor Jesenko

Inside there is an exhibition dedicated to Tavčar which includes an authentic, and still working, black kitchen.

Whilst visiting the manor you can’t help but notice the beautiful, prominent hilltop St. Volbenk’s pilgrimage church with its two bell towers in the settlement of Log just minutes from Tavčar Manor. The church was built in the second half of the 17th century and its baroque altars and altar pictures are especially valuable – the work of the Šubic family of painters from Poljane.

You can walk – as I did – or drive up to the church from where you can look down over Tavčar Manor and the Poljane Sora river.

And whilst at the manor enjoy the view back up towards the church!

Just a few kilometres further along the valley you reach the family-run, award-winning Pustotnik dairy.

The dairy is a real family affair with all four children involved in the business.

The dairy cows have their own ‘creche’ and ‘maternity unit’. What a cute little new-born calf!

Friendlier cows you couldn’t wish to meet! Content cows!

Pustotnik produces cheeses using cow’s, goat’s and sheep’s milk and offers over 70 different products. As someone who loves strong cheese – the stronger the better – the aged gauda really hit the spot for me and I took some home too!

In November 2016 the Pustotnik Dairy won silver at the 2016-2017 World Cheese Awards for its Kozovč cheese – made with a mixture of goat’s and sheep’s milk.

Individuals can visit the cheese-making boutique with no prior reservations required. However, for groups, guided tours and other special arrangements, such as cheese-making workshops, then do be sure to call or email ahead to avoid disappointment as this place is popular!

You can also find Pustotnik cheeses, yoghurts and other products on sale at farmers markets in the Gorenjska region as well as in Ljubljana and further afield. You can find more information about the Pustotnik Dairy here – http://www.kmetijapustotnik.si/

For more information about weddings at Tavčar Manor and what else to see and do in the Poljane Valley see the Visit Škofja Loka website here – http://www.visitskofjaloka.si/en/weddings/weddings-in-visoko

© Adele in Slovenia

Delightful Dražgoše: The Home of Dražgoše Honey Breads and Serious Sunshine!

The village of Dražgoše is nestled into the southern slopes of the Jelovica plateau, perched at an altitude of 832m above sea-level, above the Selca valley and the town of Železniki. Thanks to its favourable location, Dražgoše is renowned as being one of the sunniest villages around and proudly goes under the slogan ‘Pri nas sonce je doma’ (Here is where the sun is at home).

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Dražgoše is most known for 2 things – its intricate hand-crafted honey breads and the Battle of Dražgoše. A good place to start a visit and learn more is at the recently reopened Brunarica Dražgoše snack bar.

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In addition to hot and cold drinks and snacks, you can pop upstairs to the small museum for a brief introduction to the history of the village and the tradition of making honey breads.

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There are 2 types of honey breads made in the Škofja Loka regionLoka honey breads (which regular readers will recall I recently made at the DUO Centre in Škofja Loka, read more here – https://adeleinslovenia.com/2017/01/13/loka-honey-breads-and-handicrafts-at-the-duo-arts-crafts-centre/) and Dražgoše honey breads. The key difference between the two is that Loka honey breads are made using a hand-carved mould, whereas Dražgoše honey breads are made entirely by hand.

I visited Breda Tolar and Alenka Lotrič who are masters in the art of making Dražgoše honey breads and are continuing their grandmother’s tradition.

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The dough is made using flour, honey, cinnamon and cloves. The honey is warmed through before mixing to allow the dough to be pliable for rolling and shaping.  Some of the designs are highly intricate and labour-intensive – real works of art. Dražgoše honey breads are edible, though in cases such as this one below, it would be such a shame to do so!

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Whilst I haven’t been blessed with any form of artistic talent whatsoever, these two ‘pros’ made it look easy. Just look closely at their versions compared to mine!

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After the intricate patterns are finished, the breads are baked in the oven then glazed with (more!) honey for a shiny finish. All couples getting married at Loka Castle (read more here – https://adeleinslovenia.com/2017/01/01/a-spotlight-on-skofja-loka/) receive a honey bread as a wedding gift. You can be sure that it will look better than my finished effort, though its not too bad for a novice I suppose, and I sure had fun making it, which is what counts!

The monument to the Battle of Dražgoše commemorates the World War II battle between Slovenian Partisans and Nazi armed forces, which ended with brutal reprisals by the German forces – executions, looting and torching of buildings – and the destruction of the village. The village was entirely rebuilt after the war. The monument with an ossuary was erected in 1976.

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The painting is by the renowned painter Ive Šubic from nearby Hotavlja who participated in the battle as a Partisan, later returning to depict it in art.

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Though the old village church was destroyed in the battle, the Škofja Loka Museum Association was able to move the partly-preserved altars to where they stand today in the chapel of Loka Castle, whilst the original church organs are now in the church in Železniki. In the village you can still see the remains of the church which have been well-preserved and where there is a memorial park.

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Dražgoše is also an idyllic area for hiking and cycling, albeit, flat it isn’t! In summer I’ve been known to cycle up from home in Radovljica first to Kropa, up to Jamnik and then on to Dražgoše. On this occasion (below), I was feeling particularly energetic and continued down into the Selca valley to Škofja Loka then via Kranj back to Radovljica. It was a long tiring tour but one that I must do again some time!

You can also hike up above the village to the hilltop of Dražgoška gora, visit one of a number of caves (accompanied by a guide), talke a walk along all, or part of, the Spominska pot (the Memorial Path) – a 3-3.5 hour-long route beginning at the Brunarica snack bar.

For more information about any of the above, and/or to arrange a honey bread workshop, contact Visit Škofja Lokahttp://www.visitskofjaloka.si/en/

© Adele in Slovenia