Idrija is a town of opposites and until our two day trip there, I can’t say that we really knew what the area had to offer. Starting at Cafe Emilija, we met our primary guide, Petra, who was an absolute joy to be around. Her positive attitude and sense of humour made a great trip an exceptional one. Being very knowledgeable, she started us off with a coffee (which was very much appreciated after our hour long drive on that rainy day) and the story of Emilija, the mistress of none other than Napoleon. After getting acquainted, Petra took us on a tour of the town and explained the effect of the town’s two major industries, namely the mercury mine and lace making, on Idrija. Walking through Idrija is like taking a trip back in time and it is hard not to feel a certain comrodery with the people that lived there so long ago. This is particularly true of the mine itself. I dare anyone to enter that mine, say ‘srečno’ (or good luck) as the miners once did, and come out feeling no pity for the conditions they worked under. We could not help feeling moved by what we experienced.
In sharp contrast to the dark, damp mine, our visit to the castle was a much brighter adventure, particularly when we were able to watch our castle guide craft Idrijan lace, which is truly a delight. This delicate pastime was a way for the local woman to earn a little extra money while their sons and husbands worked underground. It was here that we saw how life above and below ground differed – like day and night.
After a long day in the mines, we went for a fantastically delicious lunch at Restavracija Barbara and were treated to a traditional soup and žlikrofi prepared in four different ways, one of those being chocolate!
We spent the rest of the day and that night at the Naš raj Eco Farm run by Valerija and Darko. Boasting Slovenia’s largest donkey farm, they also have goats, cows and delectable homemade meals. Valerija is a star in the kitchen even making elements of dinner and breakfast with what we had gathered on our walks in the area.
The second day was more laid back with a hearty breakfast and more good company (sharing a table with Petra and Valerija guarantees a good time). This time we went to Bolnišnica Franja, a secret partisan hospital tucked neatly in a gorge in the middle of nowhere. Again, we lucked out with guides and Sandor brought the war time hospital to life for us.
One brief lunch and a shopping trip later we went to Divje jezero and heard the both amazing and horrifying stories behind this ‘wild lake’ before taking a stroll by the river up to the old water mill with yet another fantastic and very knowledgeable guide!
That, however, marked the end of our trip. All in all, it was a weekend full of history, lush nature and great food, but what stood out for us the most were the people we met. The next time we go to Idrija (and there will be a next time), we will be going back as friends, not tourists.
Andrea and Mary Jadrzyk, Canada
Photos: Andrea & Mary