The recent heat wave across many parts of southern Europe, including Slovenia, has seen temperatures in the mid-high 30s. I LOVE the heat and HATE the cold, so I haven’t been complaining, and since Slovenia is almost 60% covered by forest and there are rivers and streams aplenty, there’s always somewhere to escape the heat.
One such ‘cool’ place is Kropa – the cradle of Slovene iron forging.
Due to its location, nestled into a corner at the foot of the Jelovica plateau, Kropa remains cool even on the most sweltering of days.
The Kroparica stream is one of the two streams that springs from the foothills of the Jelovica plateau. The stream runs through the heart of the village and joins the other stream – the Lipnica – before continuing through the valley to meet the Sava river at Podnart.
In September 2007 the stream, which ironically was once the lifeblood of the village, burst its bank following heavy rainfall causing flooding and significant damage – as can be seen by the video below.
In its heyday of nail-making in the 18th and start of the 19th century, the ironworks in Kropa and nearby Kamna Gorica employed more than 2000 people. The most important markets at that time were the area of the Republic of Venice and Trieste.
In the lower part of the village you can see the renovated pool which is a remainder of the lower foundry, whilst in the upper part of the village the water cascade, water troughs and barriers are remains of the upper foundry.
The Vigenc vice nail forge, located in the upper part of the village, is the only preserved foundry for the manual forging of nails with an authentic preserved exterior and blacksmithing equipment inside. It is situated on the left bank of the stream below the dam of the former upper foundry. Next to the stream there is a wheel for driving the bellows, the interior contains three blacksmiths’ fireplaces. Around each fireplace there are six stone stumps for anvils, above the fire in the centre is the ‘kitchen’, the place where blacksmiths’ wives put their pans and cooked whilst working.
When walking around the village you can see some of the preserved technical objects beside the Kroparica stream which are evidence of the former lively ironworking industry. The Slovenian smelting furnace (Slovenska peč), dating from the 14th century, is located on a bend in the winding road that leads from Kropa up to Jamnik. Archeological remains of this important technical monument were discovered in 1953 and a protective building was erected to preserve it. The smelting furnace was 3 metres high and in 10 hours it produced 200 kilogrammes of wrought iron for forging.
Just after passing the furnace, you will see a sign on the right-hand side of the road to Vodice – one of the many hiking paths that lead to the Vodiška planina highland and the Partisanski dom na Vodiški planini hut. If you would like to see the source of the Kroparica stream take this path but do NOT cross the small wooden bridge, continue instead ahead, slightly uphill on a somewhat overgrown stone path for a few hundred metres to reach the source.
The path isn’t marked but just follow your nose, and the water! The stream makes its way down from its source through the village through artificially constructed water drainage systems and barriers through which water from the stream’s main channels ran to the ironworks and blacksmiths workshops.
You can reach Kropa under your own steam, or until the end of August you can catch the Hop-on Hop-off tourist bus every Tuesday. Find out more about the Hop-On Hop-Off bus here – http://www.radolca.si/en/hop-on-hop-off-radolca/
You can find out plenty more about Kropa’s old village centre, the ironworks, the museum, and its technical heritage on the Tourism Radol’ca website here – http://www.radolca.si/en/kropa/
© Adele in Slovenia