IdrijaApril 24, 2017 in Slovenia
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. MyLPG.eu 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 myLPG.eu 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!Read more