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9 travelers at this place:

  • Day302


    April 24, 2017 in Slovenia ⋅ ☁️ 10 °C

    Instead of using Calor gas bottles that aren't available outside the UK, we've invested in a system that allows us to fill up with LPG at petrol stations. We use it for cooking, warmth, the fridge and hot water so it is pretty essential. is one of our essential apps and allows to find LPG stations all over Europe.

    Anyway, you might be wondering where we are going with this! To cut a long story short, Will emailed Matija, the inventor of and after several messages back and forth Matija recommended a whole list of places to visit in his home country of Slovenia. He also invited us to drop in to see him where he lives in Idrija and we took him up on his kind offer!

    Using Park4Night, a new (to us) app, we found a small farm with two spots for campervans just 2km away from the town. After a stunning drive through lush mountain scenery, we climbed the steep, winding single track road and parked up at the farm. We were greeted warmly and enthusiastically by Maria, the owner, who told us we could walk down the hill and be in Idrija in 5 minutes, so off we went past the orchards and bee hives.

    Matija drove us the short distance to his home and we said a quick hello to his father in law before going to his restaurant for the local speciality of žlikrofi (similar to ravioli). At the end of the meal we met Matija's wife Mateja and their beautiful three year old daughter and baby son.

    After a short sightseeing drive around town, we climbed to the top of St Antony's chapel hill. From here we could see all of Idrija and Matija pointed out the various landmarks, explaining the history of the town, including that of its mercury mine. Up from the chapel there was a series of paintings of Jesus housed in small stone structures set at alternating sides of a winding track. Apparently this was a common sight accompanying Catholic churches in Slovenia, to symbolise the journey of Christ with the cross.

    We've been amazed at the number of people who speak English here in Slovenia and with Matija, we didn't feel we needed to moderate our words or slow down, because his level of English was so good.

    The Idrijca river flows through the town and we followed the valley upwards towards its source. The scenery was incredible, the water so blue and clear as it flowed over its light coloured limestone bed, bordered by mixed forest that climbed the steep sides carved by the river. The road was quiet and we chatted away as we drove. Not only was Matija going out of his way to show us this marvelous area but he was really easy to get on with and we found ourselves enjoying his company.

    A place called Wild Lake was our first stop, a point at which water surfaced from deep underground and, depending on the amount of rainfall, either flowed into the Idrijca, or from the river back underground. Despite the water clarity we could only see a rich blue at the centre and deepest part of the pool. Sheer rock rose behind, in the middle of which was a clear fault line, reminding us again of the area's mercury rich base.

    Just up the road was a rope bridge and natural swimming pool that locals frequent in warmer months. Even further upriver water spilled through a dam that we walked out on to. Driving higher into the mountains along gravel tracks the van could never have accessed, the slopes became steeper. At one point we needed to turn back because logging was taking place and the route was blocked by a stack of tree trunks. We adventured on foot along a shallow section of river where it flowed over small wide waterfalls into little pools. It was tranquil and we really felt we'd come to the heart of nature.

    An interesting innovation created to move wood downstream to Idrija for the extraction of mercury was the klavže; blockades built accross the river where logs were piled before a great amount of water was released to wash them into the town in a flood. They aren't used now, but are still maintained and we got to walk out on the wooden platforms that led to a 20 metre drop to the river below. The craggy mountains around made us feel very small as we stood in the bottom of the steep v-shaped valley.

    Towards the end of our Idrijan tour we journeyed up through the clouds to the highest town in Slovenia, Vojsko and climbed the short distance up the Śkolj peak to 1128m. Matija showed us too much to recount everything here and we feel the words we've found to describe what we saw are inadequate. We ended our tour of the Idrijca valley overawed and wondering how we could ever thank Matija enough. He then asked if we'd like to join him and his family for dinner in their home! Of course we said yes and had a lovely evening with locally produced cheese and domači želodec (Slovenian salami) bought at the town market. They had some beautiful lace designs in their home that they were made by their families and Mateja herself. She even showed us how it is made and left Vicky fighting the urge to get some bobbins and learn!

    It had been an incredible day that we will never forget. The kindness, openness and generosity of the family and the indescribably beautiful countryside were a combination that truly blew us away!
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  • Day303

    Idrija Day 2

    April 25, 2017 in Slovenia ⋅ ⛅ 13 °C

    After a peaceful night we woke to intermittent drizzle and stunning mist drifts over the sides of the hills and town. After hearing about Idrija's mercury industry we walked down and joined our Dutch campsite neighbours in a guided tour of the now disused mine. Will was quite chuffed to qualify for the senior discount for entry, although at €10 even the full price wasn't expensive. We learned a little about how mercury was discovered and how the extraction process developed and grew, before donning hard hats, protective jackets and descending into the mine itself. We dropped down 20meters but were 100 meters underground due to the presence of a hill above. The tour was packed with information and had illustrative models with mining equipment. We learned about the now obvious mental and physical health problems caused by exposure to the chemical and working conditions, but we also learned that relatively few people died in accidents compared to British coal mining and that there was a fund for ill miners that was set up relatively early on.

    We picked up a hot burek (savory pastry) at a bakers for lunch which we ate while sitting outside the lace school. We got the impression nearly every woman in Idrija had attended lace school as a girl. From here it was on to the smelting plant, where we learned a lot more about the properties and uses of mercury, including its use in telescopes and early seismographs. This time it was just the two of us who were taken on a guided tour of the plant equipment. Thomas, our guide was engaging and enthusiastic with a sense of humour. His father had worked in the mine so he knew his stuff and spoke great English.

    We were getting pretty tired by now but there was just one more place Vicky wanted to visit before we wended our way back up the hill. The lace museum was a permanent exhibition inside the town castle with different styles of lace from around Europe and video demonstrations of how it was made and its history in the town. Vicky found it really interesting but already has 1 and a half large boxes of knitting and crochet equipment in the van so learning the skill will just have to be one of those things that she hopes to do at some point in the future.

    Back at the van we spent the evening trying in vain to digest all that we'd experienced. Maria's husband who owned the site with her came over and apologised profusely for not having introduced himself before, because he had been at work. He was genuinely concerned as to whether we'd enjoyed our time in Idrija and again apologised for not being available to show us the town. They were a lovely couple and the €10 per night was well worth the stay.
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  • Day219

    Day 220: Idrija

    September 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!
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  • Day244

    Mercury rising

    June 28, 2019 in Slovenia ⋅ ⛅ 23 °C

    WIth temperatures reaching 35 on the concrete I thought I'd check from where all this extra Mercury was coming.
    On satellite imagery a line from Italy to Croatia can be seen marking the fault where the Adriatic plate has been insinuating itself under the Eurasian one for millennia. Following this trail I entered the Kanomlja valley to Idrija where the oldest rocks in Slavinia - Carboniferous shales that are at least 320 million years old - can be found. Thanks to this rift, when a tax avoider named Schauffer escaped to this valley in 1480 and took up coopering, whilst testing the waterproofness of his tubs one day, discovered one tub markedly heavier than the rest bearing flashes of silvery stuff. Rather shortsightedly he took the mineral to the nearest assay office & lost control over the property as soon as the authorities discovered that it was in fact Mercury, a substance in much demand but in little supply.
    By the end of the 16th C when Gewerkenegg Castle was constructed, the Idrija mine was well on its way to being the 2nd largest in the world, (after Almaden in Spain.) In fact "Gewerkenegg" means mine, for it was built for security rather than defence as it housed the mercury, the administration hq of the mine / town, and of course the manager & his family.
    The Baroque painting in the courtyard was added later & recently touched up.
    I was dying to see the cinnabar, by product of the smelting process, but nothing much was said about it. Briefly, I saw red.
    Showing how commerce trumps even nationalism, the managers made a syndicate with the Spanish and ended up shipping most of it to Spain. Hg has a special affinity for gold you see, and by then Hispanic gold mines in South America were in full swing.
    The EU banned mercury mining in 2011 so the works have closed down leaving about 40 years supply still down there, having produced 107,000 tons over 500 years (13% of the entire world production, enough to make a 20m cube,) and cut an estimated 700 km of tunnel.
    Big business wants to reopen it but for once the locals and the law agree in opposing them. After all, contaminated silt is still finding its way down the Soci river into the Trieste bay.
    The mine also owned 9500 hectares of forest surrounding the town, the town alone needed 30000 cubic metres per annum, and what with pit props and smelters they would have deforested the place long ago where it not for some advanced sustainable harvesting.
    The bubble sculpture is supposed to invoke the feeling of mercury in the ground.
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  • Day244

    Home, sweet home.

    June 28, 2019 in Slovenia ⋅ ⛅ 28 °C

    A common Slovenian design for well beehaved residents; the Carniolan grey.
    Sometimes mounted on carts for easy relocation, the entries to the so called AZ boxes stacked liked blocks of flats were painted with individual scenes. Not many people can be bothered painting them nowadays but still a common sight in the countryside.
    The middle of this one serves as the keepers office, and the hives can be checked from the inside.
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  • Day244

    Minors' quarters

    June 28, 2019 in Slovenia ⋅ ⛅ 28 °C

    This house belonged to a miner and is being restored as part of the museum. In it, 3 families lived together with some single blokes allowed to sleep in the attic. Only the owner was allowed to keep animals: goats, pigs, chickens but only 1 cow. There were 2 gardens habitually, vegetable and herbs.
    Part of their wages were paid in grain - shades of the company store.
    Images of the early miners show them in elf hats and smocks. They were obliged to wear them as they had no pockets so that no ore would be mislaid. Given the difficulty of smelting enough ore to make a tiny amount of mercury, and the tightly controlled market, it seems a bit superfluous.but in the end did inspire Disney.
    The matrimonial bed is next to the mass heater. Not exactly king sized but no doubt cosy in the winter.
    From boredom and to get pin money, the ladies used to gather on someone's veranda to make the lace for which Idrija is famous. There is one of the oldest lace schools in town and I saw some work by students, as young as 9, that was pretty impressive. Especially the more artistic multicoloured patterns and even a 3 dimensional lace sculpture (by a boy!)
    A couple of hundred years ago, as indeed today, the State didn't want the proletariat educated above their status in life: they wanted them trained to work. So the mine started the first independent high school in Slovenia, recognising that this would eventually provide them with the skilled engineers they needed. They also funded a theatre, now the oldest in SLO.
    This place is much more interesting than the places most tourist buses go and if I returned I would spend more time in the smelting museum / exhibition and in "Anthony's Main Road", the original entrance. I would expect large things from "Francis' Shaft" of course.
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  • Day13

    Abkürzung in Gorenja Kanomlja

    May 28, 2016 in Slovenia ⋅ ☀️ 22 °C

    Wieder in Slowenien. Die Abkürzung durch die Berge schickt uns mal wieder über, diesmal gute, Schotterserpentinen. Bergab leicht rutschig aber Landschaftlich toll. Kurz vor der Landesgrenze ging es eine Bergrennstrecke hoch. Mit Start und Zielgerade und rot-weiß gestrichener Kurvenbegrenzung.

You might also know this place by the following names:

Idrija, إيدرييا, ایدرییا, אידריה, Idria, イドリヤ, იდრია, 이드리야, Идрия, Идрија, Ідрія, იიდრიია, 伊德里亞

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