Day 220: IdrijaSeptember 22, 2017 in Slovenia ⋅ 🌙 10 °C
Time for another UNESCO site! There aren't many in Slovenia but we are determined to see them all. Loaded up the car and headed off, south-west in much the same direction we'd come from a couple of days earlier.
Idrija is the site of the world's second-largest mercury mine, where mercury was mined for over 500 years between 1490 and around 2004 when the last mine finally finished shutting down. This is actually a joint heritage listening between Slovenia and Spain, interestingly, because the world's largest mercury mine is in central Spain where mercury has been mined since the Roman era. Apparently the two sites are meant to contrast between mining methods of the different epochs, but unfortunately we hadn't managed to see the Spanish site (it's quite isolated).
So we drove into town and figured out a game-plan. It's a fairly small town, with quite a bit still left over from the mining era. It was very wealthy thanks to the mine up until the first world war, when the political situation disrupted everything.
We had a poke around the mining company headquarters (a quasi-castle building overlooking town), and checked out a few other buildings, before it was time for our underground tour. As luck would have it, we were the only ones on the tour! It went for about an hour, meandering through the tunnels, up and down flights of stairs, though no huge elevator ride to get down this time - the deepest we went was about 100 metres, though that's mostly because we were walking horizontally into a hill.
Interesting to see as well displays from various eras - the oldest methods of hammer and chisel, the compressed-air machines from the early industrial era, right up to the big drills of the modern era. In the end the mines closed mainly for environmental reasons; mercury is being phased out of most products and the price has crashed heavily. These days mercury mining is only done in a few countries with indifferent labour laws, like China and Kyrgyzstan.
They had a cool little display too at the entrance to the shaft - three little vials. One vial contained water, the next was filled with roughly an equal amount of mercury. It's fourteen times heavier - crazy! The third had a small ball of solid iron (large marble sized), floating on top of mercury, since mercury is obviously the heaviest metal element. Very cool.
Finished up our filming then grabbed some lunch nearby. We both had a local speciality dish, similar to mushroom ravioli. I had mine with a thick meat sauce, Shandos had hers with gorgonzola sauce. Yum.
Drove up the hill overlooking town to grab a couple of quick shots of the area for the video. Quite a nice view from up here, lots of pine trees starting to turn brown and orange ahead of autumn, and of course the towering mountains scattered around. It's a really beautiful country here, quite unspoiled in large part, and not that busy either. Very orderly and well kept, in many ways the polar opposite of Italy!
Taking our leave of Idrija, we drove back to our base in Ljubljana via the supermarket where we grabbed supplies for dinner. Neither of us were that hungry, so it was toasted sandwiches and a bit of grilled haloumi since they had blocks on special!Read more