A Spotlight on Škofja Loka

So, it’s 2017, a new year and a new(ish) start for me too. Having spent the last 4 years extolling the wonders of my home town of Radovljica, this year, whilst I will still be writing plenty about Radovljica, I’m also turning my attention to another of my favourite historic towns in Slovenia – Škofja Loka.

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When I was choosing where to live it was a toss-up between Radovljica and Škofja Loka, as both towns are my kind of place i.e. historic and picturesque medieval old towns with wonderful surrounding nature, opportunities for outdoor activities and conveniently located.

So, I hope you will join me in the coming weeks, months, and maybe even years, on my adventures in the Škofja Loka area, including the surrounding Poljane and Selca valleys, where there is a wealth of natural beauty, cultural and heritage sites, traditional and unique cuisine and a wealth of things to see and do.

The obvious place to start is with the area’s crowning glory – Škofja Loka Castle. The castle stands on a small hill above the main old town square and dominates the view as you arrive into the town. Whichever angle you see it from, and whether from near or far, its a mighty impressive building.

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Even the uphill approach to the castle is scenic!

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The original castle was built in 1202 by the Freising Bishops, who, during the period from 973-1803, owned the Loka Estate. The castle was completely renovated following an earthquake in 1511 that almost entirely destroyed it.

Loka Museum – among the most popular and visited of Slovenia’s museums. The museum is bursting with rich and varied archaeological, historical, cultural, ethnological, art and natural history collections.

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Exhibits are housed in numerous rooms, galleries and corridors including Grohar’s Room – dedicated to one of Slovenia’s most important painters, Ivan Grohar – the Castle Chapel, the Round Tower and a special place in the collection is dedicated to the writer Ivan Tavčar, who hailed from nearby Visoko in the Poljane valley and wrote many of his greatest works at Tavčar Manor.

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Space is utilised to the full and the walls of the ground floor corridors are adorned by paintings and frescoes, mostly based on religious themes from the baroque period.

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One of the highlights is undoubtedly the preserved original drawbridge – one of the only of its kind in Slovenia – which was the original and only entrance to the castle.

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As well as the glass-floored area where you can walk over part of the castle’s original foundations. A slightly unnerving but different experience!

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There are great views from the castle over the town and the Sora river.

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You should set aside at least a few hours to stroll up to the castle, browse the exhibits in the museum, take in the views and stroll around the castle park, where you can also visit the Škopar House (Škoparjeva hisa) open-air museum, a typical 16th dwelling that was moved from nearby Puštal and features an original black kitchen.

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You can find out more about Škofja Loka Castle and Museum here – http://www.loski-muzej.si/en/ and visit the official Visit Škofja Loka website here – http://www.visitskofjaloka.si/en/

I can’t wait to discover more and hope you will accompany me along every step of the way!

Happy New Year to you all!

© Adele in Slovenia

The Pivka Park of Military History – A Historic Year!

It’s been quite a year thus far for the Park of Military History in Pivka. Visitor numbers are up by an astonishing 40%, as word spreads about this fascinating museum and its extensive and diverse collections. Last week the park celebrated its 10th birthday – in true military style of course – with a week of events culminating in the annual Festival of Military History, which I attended on Sunday.

It’s easy to reach Pivka, which is in Slovenia’s Green Karst region. It can be a destination in itself, or you can combine it with a visit to one of the other nearby attractions in the area, such as the Postojna Caves, Predjama Castle or the Lipica Stud Farm. The park is also an ideal place to visit on those pesky rainy days!

For those without transport, a bonus is that it is easy to reach Pivka by train. Direct trains run from Slovenia’s capital, Ljubljana and onwards toward Rijeka in Croatia. On arrival you can already see the imposing renovated barracks in which the museum is housed. When exiting the train station, just look for the museum symbols marked on the pavement.

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After crossing the tracks, head downhill, following the green signs, and within 10 minutes you are there!

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One of the biggest draws at the Park is undoubtedly the P-913 Zeta submarine, which visitors have a chance to go inside, accompanied by a guide, to experience the cramped conditions the submarine crew worked under.

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Photo: Simon Avsec – http://www.slovenia.info/

The renovated barracks housing the museum collections were built by the Kingdom of Italy around 1930 in order to defend the Rapallo border and were later home to the Yugoslav People’s Army. Since 2004 the Park has been developing and has now become the largest museum complex in Slovenia, as well as one of the largest military historical complexes in this part of Europe.

Of the numerous military-related events that take place at the Park throughout the year, last weekend’s 10th Festival of Military History, which was meticulously organised, is the largest. Below you can see some of the action that took place.

Demonstrations of tanks operating in combat situations.

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A dynamic display of anti-terrorist measures with the helicopters of the Special Forces and the Slovene Army.

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Recreations of various World War II military camps – Partisan, Soviet, American, and German. At times I felt like I had walked onto the set of MASH!

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There was even fresh Jerry soup!

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A chance to walk through a cavern. Provided, of course, you could get past the guards!

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There was plenty of opportunity to get involved, ask questions, and, of course, pose for a few snaps for posterity!

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A chance to get ‘hands on’ with the ammunition. The first, and hopefully only, time I will be holding such a weapon!

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Not even the occasional torrential downpour dampened the spirits of these strapping Romans (from Ptuj)! Can you spot the odd one out?

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There was also archery, a small market area, a collection of old-timer cars, and free transport to/from the railway station. The festival was a roaring success and another testament to the Park’s popularity.

You can find out more about the Park here – http://parkvojaskezgodovine.si/en/ and also read more about other things to see and do in the area, including the 17 intermittent lakes, in a previous blog from earlier this year – https://adeleinslovenia.com/2016/05/05/pivka-pause-ponder-play/

You don’t need to especially be a lover of museums, history, or military history (I wouldn’t consider myself to be!) to enjoy a visit. The exhibits are fascinating and there’s something for all the family. I highly recommend a visit!

© Adele in Slovenia

 

Mysterious Lake Cerknica – Now You See It, Now You Don’t!

Cerknica Lake is the largest intermittent lake in Slovenia and one of the largest in Europe.

For up to six months per year this fascinating, mysterious lake is, well, a lake, filled with water with a mean depth of over 6 metres. During the remainder of the year the water simply disappears, leaving just green, wild flower-covered fields.

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The lake is fed by a number of openings with a series of subterranean reservoirs or caverns, some of which are above the lake level in the surrounding hills. In dryer months the lake completely drains into the reservoirs lying beneath it, revealing rich vegetation. In the wetter months, the surrounding higher reservoirs fill and discharge suddenly through subterranean passages into the lake, which very rapidly regains its volume and may even inundate the surrounding countryside.

A great way to visit, and to get a real impression of the vastness of the lake, is to cycle around the area. At the time of my visit in late June, there was still some water, in places up to 3 metres deep, though it was rapidly disappearing.

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Every weekend bikes and canoes can be hired from the Notranjska Park Information Point, located in the main car park in the village of Dolenje Jezero. You can also, as I did, arrange a local guide for your cycling trip, who will take you to the best vantage points and provide plenty of local information.

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We began by cycling through the valley of the Rakov Škocjan Landscape Park. This fascinating natural wonder, packed with karst phenomena, was formed by the Rak river, which springs from the Zelške cave, runs above the surface for 3.5kms, then once again goes underground in the Tkalca cave at the other end of the valley.

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The main attractions are the two natural bridges at each end of the valley – Veliki naravni most (Big natural bridge) and Mali naravni most (Small natural bridge). There is a well-marked walking trail that leads between the bridges and to other parts of the valley and information boards are provided at the main points. On a hot summer’s day, it was a wonderful place to seek respite from the heat!

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This place offers wild nature at its best, no crowds, just the chance to savour up close the fascinating geological formations, of which there are plenty.

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You can view them from up above or from down below!

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We then continued to one of the best vantage points of Cerknica Lake from where one can really get an idea of its size. The whole area that you can see behind me in the photo below, is, for around half the year, a lake. If you look closely you can just see the last remains of the water at the lake’s far end.

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Although its fascinating to see the lake when it is actually a lake, even if there isn’t any, or isn’t much, water, it’s still worth a visit. Regardless of whether you visit when the lake is or isn’t, a great way to get a full impression of this mysterious lake is to visit the Museum of Lake Cerknica at Jezerski Hram in Dolenje Jezero.

Although it has areas with typical museum exhibits, this is no ordinary museum. It is the impressive model of the lake, hand-built by the museum’s owner Vekoslav Kebe, that is the standout feature. The model, the result of three year’s work, shows the topography of the area as well as demonstrating how, and where, the lake fills and empties.

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After viewing the model and listening to accompanying commentary and sounds of nature, narrated by Vekoslav himself, visitors move upstairs to watch a multimedia presentation, which is available in a number of foreign languages. The museum also houses a collection of tools and other implements, used by local at various stages of the year when tilling the fields or fishing on the lake.

The museum is open Saturdays at 3pm, and at other times by prior arrangement.

Drevak boats were once the staple way of transporting supplies across the lake. This one seen below, at the Museum of Lake Cernika, again made by Vekoslav (a man of many talents!), gives visitors a real impression of the size of the boats and the work that goes into mastering the art of making these long, curved vessels. More information about the museum can be found here – http://jezerski-hram.si/en/

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In the past even larger vessels, as can be seen below, sailed on the lake.

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Author of photo: unknown, photo collection: Julka Hvala – www.stareslike.cerknica.org

Every weekend during summer, Notranjska Regional Park hosts themed Sundays at the lake, offering visitors the chance to take part in a range of activities such as horse-drawn carriage rides, fishing and boat trips, guided hikes and bike rides, and botanical and ornithological workshops. Find more information about Notranjska Regional Park here – http://www.notranjski-park.si/en

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More information about all this, and all the other sights of interest in the surrounding areas, can also be found at the Green Karst website here – http://zelenikras.si/en/

© Adele in Slovenia

Summer 2016 in Radol’ca – Hop-On Hop Off Tourist Bus

Regular readers will know that I usually publish my blogs on Mondays. However, I decided to purposely delay this one since yesterday it was raining, again, and I couldn’t face writing, and subject you to reading, yet another blog moaning about the rain!!!

Today, thankfully, is much better and we also had 4 glorious summer days of blazing sunshine last week. So, let’s just focus on more of those to come and not on the other 24 rainy days thus far in June! Woops, there I go again…

There are lots of things to look forward to this summer in Radol’ca*. Here are just a few of the events taking place in July to whet your appetite.

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  • The Hop-On Hop Off Tourist Bus begins operating again from 1st July until 31st August. The bus runs on Tuesdays (Bled-Radovljica-Kropa) and Thursdays (Bled-Radovljica-Begunje-Brezje), as well as at weekends to Bohinj and the Pokljuka plateau. Tickets, which are valid for the whole day, cost just 5 euros for adults, children up to the age of 10 travel free. More information here (click where it says Vec o Hop-On Hop Off to see the timetable) – http://radolca.si/kaj-poceti/dogodki/hop-on-hop-off-radolca-2016/83/904/

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  • FREE guided tours of the old town centre – Tuesdays at 9am in July and August, other months at 10am. Meet at the Radovljica Tourist Information Centre at the entrance to Linhart Square.

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Radovljica SLO 2011

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I always attend this event as I love the quaint iron-forging village of Kropa, nestled snuggly into a corner of the Lipnica Valley under the Jelovica plateau, where the tradition of iron-forging is still much in evidence. You can also try some local food, visit the village museums, and have a general nose about the narrow lanes.

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* In case of any confusion, Radol’ca is  the name used in the tourism slogan ‘Radol’ca, Honestly Sweet’. The Radol’ca area comprises the main town of Radovljica, as well as the surrounding towns and villages including Begunje na Gorenjskem, Brezje, Kropa, Kamna Gorica, Lesce, Mosnje and other smaller hamlets.

© Adele in Slovenia

Spas, Caves, Eats and Other Rainy (and Not So Rainy) Day Ideas!

Anyone visiting Slovenia in the last fortnight might be forgiven for thinking it rains here a lot! Please be reassured, however, that this much rain in June is not the norm. In the 9+ years I’ve been living here, I don’t think I can remember such a prolonged period of wet weather at this time of year. It really is turning out to be a strange year, weather-wise. After having very little snow during winter, we then had snow in late-April, and now, in the second-half of May and early June, it seems to be April! It’s been either raining torrentially or the clouds have been looming ominously, making it frustratingly difficult to go anywhere too far from home.

The good news is that it’s set to improve soon, just a couple more days of these storms then hot, dry weather is headed our way, yippee! In the meantime, I thought I’d share some of my ideas for how to spend rainy, as well as not so rainy, days in the Radovljica area and elsewhere in Slovenia.

VISIT A SPA

It doesn’t matter what the weather is doing outside if you are inside getting wet anyway! All of Slovenia’s thermal spas feature indoor and outdoor pools, saunas, jacuzzis and modern wellness facilities, offering something for all the family. You can read plenty more about spas and the facilities here and read some insider tips from me, here – https://spasinslovenia.com/

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DELVE INTO THE MAGICAL UNDERWORLD IN CAVES

A visit to one Slovenia’s caves, such as Postojna Caves or the UNESCO-listed Škocjan Caves, is ideal whatever the weather. There are over 9,000 caves in Slovenia, though only a small number of these are open to the public. The temperature in the caves is constant year-round so it really doesn’t matter if its snowing or there’s a heat-wave! All of the caves are fascinating and unique, and the current phenomena of the newly-hatched ‘baby dragons’ at Postojna Caves provides an additional reason to visit. Read more here – https://adeleinslovenia.com/2016/06/01/the-phenomenal-postojna-proteus-phenomena/

Underground river Pivka in Postojna Cave_photo Iztok Medja for Postojnska jama

VISIT, TASTE & DRINK RADOVLJICA

Rainy days always bring an influx of visitors to the Radovljica area as the small town packs in quite a few sights of interest. You can visit the Lectar Gingerbread Workshop, the Museum of Apiculture, the Šivec House Gallery, and the Beekeeping Education Centre of Gorenjska. More here – http://www.radolca.si/en/

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I don’t know about you, but this miserable weather makes me want to eat, eat, and then eat some more! The participating Taste Radol’ca restaurants all offer home-cooked, and locally sourced and produced food. Or why not visit the Sodček Wine Bar for a wine tasting session. More here – https://adeleinslovenia.com/taste-radolca/

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LISTEN TO SLOVENE FOLK MUSIC AT AVSENIK

Visit Avsenik in Begunje na Gorenjskem – home to the world-renowned legendary Avsenik music – a popular style of folk music. There are regular live events, festivals and workshops, and you can also visit the gallery and museum. More here – http://www.avsenik.com/en

TAKE IN SOME CULTURE AT SUMMER MUSEUM NIGHT

There are hundreds of museums and galleries in Slovenia and a lot of attention is placed on culture and cultural-related events and activities. Next Saturday, 18th June, is Summer Museum Night, when, from 6pm until midnight, museums and galleries throughout the country offer free entrance and host special events. More information here – http://www.tms.si/PMN/?page_id=67

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GO SHOPPING

Admittedly, I’m not a fan of shopping, particularly large shopping centres and especially when on holiday in a place where the great outdoors is so ‘great!’ So when I say ‘shopping’ I don’t mean traipsing round clothes shops, and getting hot, bothered and irritated in changing rooms (or is that just me?). Instead, when on holiday, I prefer to browse craft shops, visit local markets, buy and try local produce, and try to find unique buys. I particularly like foodie events such as Odprta Kuhna (Open Kitchen), which takes place every Friday (weather permitting) in Ljubljana. Closer to home at Vila Podvin in Mošnje a market takes place on the first Saturday of every month from 9am-noon, come rain or shine. You can meet local producers, buy food and non-food goods, and enjoy a delicious lunch cooked by one of Slovenia’s top chefs, Uroš Štefelin. More information here – http://www.vilapodvin.si/events

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I hope to have provided some ideas and inspiration, after all, the weather may mean some plans have to curtailed but there’s always plenty more to see and do until the next sunny day comes along!

© Adele in Slovenia

 

 

A Feast of Festivals in Radovljica

Linhart Square, named after the Slovenian playwright and historian Anton Tomaž Linhart, is the hub of Radovljica’s cultural scene. A whole host of events take place in the square throughout the year, including:

  • The annual Chocolate Festival – April
  • The International Ceramics Festival – May
  • Summer Music Evenings – June & July
  • The Early Music Festival – August
  • Medieval Days – August
  • Advent Market – December

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The Baroque Radovljica Mansion hosts concerts all year round, featuring national and international choirs, bands, and the very popular annual Early Music Festival, as well as being home to the Museum of Apiculture and the Municipal Museum.

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Šivec Houseivčeva hisa) stands out amongst the town houses and is regarded as one of the finest examples of medieval burgher architecture in the whole of Slovenia. The façade of the house is dominated by a 17th century fresco depicting the Creation of Eve.

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Šivec House is a bourgeois house from the middle of the 16th century of late Gothic architecture. After restoration in 1976 all of the houses’s original beauty was uncovered including the façade as well as the interior with a collonaded entrance hall, kitchen and granary, and, on the first floor, a representation of living quarters. Nowadays, this room, with its extraordinary ambiance, serves as a wedding hall, and the collonaded entrance hall houses as an art gallery.

The gallery on the ground floor hosts rotating exhibitions (on average 10 per year), whilst the upper floor houses a permanent collection of original illustrations and another room is used as a venue for civil wedding ceremonies.

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The next new exhibition, Modern German Ceramics, will open on 29th April, with the opening ceremony at 7pm, and run until 29th May.

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More details about Radovljica’s museums and the Šivec House Gallery, including opening times and admission prices, can be found here – http://mro.si/english/ and more about Radovljica here – http://www.radolca.si/en/

© AdeleinSlovenia 2016

Pivka: Pause, Ponder & Play

Just when I thought I had discovered most of the best that Slovenia has to offer, a short break spent in the Pivka area, part of Slovenia’s Green Karst region, has opened my eyes to a whole new world, ripe for exploring and perfect for lovers of the great outdoors.

So why the title ‘Pause, Ponder & Play’?

PAUSE – I, as I’m guessing countless others, am guilty of passing through Pivka en-route to Croatia. But, I urge you, don’t! There really is so much to see and do in this area, it deserves at least a few hours of your day, if not a few days, so, pause in Pivka!

PONDER – A visit to the Park of Military History is a must, where you can ponder and reflect on the action seen by all the tanks, aircraft, artillery and ammunition.

PLAY – There’s plenty to see and do for all the family. Visit or stay at a tourist farm, get outdoors – hiking, cycling, visit one of the numerous bunkers or caves, such as the Pivka cave, seen belowor, in the spring, one of the 17 intermittent lakes.

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Photo: Iztok Medja – http://www.slovenia.info/

 

I began my 2 day visit at the Ecomuseum of the Pivka Seasonal Lakes. This brand new museum acquaints visitors with the phenomena of the 17 Karst lakes which, after heavy rainfall, fill with water.

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There are a number of interactive exhibits, including an encounter with a bear! Speaking of which, bear watching is something that can also be arranged in the Pivka area.

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I visited the 2nd biggest of the lakes, Petelinsko jezero, and it was hard to imagine that within a month or so of my visit the water will have entirely disappeared, leaving just a flower-covered meadow.

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It was rather convenient that at the time of my visit, there just happened to be a private party, or rather the remains of one, taking place by the lake, and I was treated to champagne and chocolate-covered strawberries!

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My next stop was to visit the Park of Military History. I’ll hold my hands up and admit that, not being a particular fan of either museums or military history, I wasn’t expecting to be won over by it, however, how wrong I was, and it has now earnt its place as by far my favourite museum in Slovenia!

Immediately on approach the imposing renovated barracks impress. The barracks were built by the Kingdom of Italy around 1930 in order to defend the Rapallo border and were later home to the Yugoslav People’s Army. Since 2004 the museum has been developing and has now become the largest museum complex in Slovenia, as well as one of the largest military historical complexes in this part of Europe.

One of the highlights of my visit was undoubtedly the chance to go inside a submarine – a first for me! During the winter the submarine is housed indoors, then in late spring it is moved outdoors –  at 19 metres in length and weighing 76 tonnes thats no small feat. The P-913 Zeta submarine was gifted to the Park of Military History in 2011 from the Republic of Montenegro.

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Photo: Simon Avsec – http://www.slovenia.info/

If you opt for a guided tour of the park, which I recommend (for groups upon prior booking), you also have a chance to go inside the submarine.

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There is a huge collection of tanks and other military vehicles, aircraft and ammunition. Exhibitions include ‘The Armour of Freedom’ and ‘Partisan Tanks’, which includes Soviet tanks, such as the T-34/85 Soviet tank, one of the best known tanks of the Eastern front. The M47 Patton, the heaviest tank in the collection, consumes an incredible 700 litres of high-octane fuel per 100km. Environmentally-friendly it’s not!

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Housed in an entirely new building, there is an exhibition entitled ‘The Road to Independence’, which documents Slovenia’s road to independence. There are plenty of interactive exhibits and all exhibits are described in both Slovene and English.

The museum shop stocks a wide range of military souvenirs, clothing, equipment and other memorabilia.

You can find more information about the Park of Military History here http://parkvojaskezgodovine.si/en/ and watch this short video to see more.

You can also find more information about Pivka and the Green Karst area here http://zelenikras.si/en/ and watch this video.

© AdeleinSlovenia 2016