On our wonderful visit to Velika Planina we certainly did discover one of Slovenia’s hidden gems. So well hidden in fact that we realised that we had driven past the exit off the roundabout in Kamnik every week for 4 years and never thought to travel up that road before.
When we reached the cable car station in Kamniška Bistrica we were met by our charming and knowledgeable local tour guide Grega. Just like everyone else we met during our stay in the area he was open and friendly although his first words to me were a rather worried ‘do you have any other shoes?’ 😊 We certainly saw a lot of smiling faces in the mountains and we were given a warm welcome and delicious food wherever we went. It must be something about the fresh air and the altitude – even the cows that wander freely around up there seem very happy.
First stop after the stunning cable car ride was the cosy wooden cottage where we would be sleeping. It has plenty of space for a large group and also running water and a flushing loo which is apparently the height of luxury up there. 😊 Our host who was there to make us welcome and show us around had left a gift of the local brew Rušovc which is made from pine needles and hooch and is very medicinal.
Next we went to the top of the mountain on a chair lift, these are not my favourite form of transport but the views were so fabulous as we travelled up the side of the mountain I forgot soon my fears. Grega guided us around all the places of interest making them all even more interesting with his great anecdotes and local knowledge.
We are resident foreigners who have a lot of visitors who often ask to be shown ‘culture’ as though everyone in Slovenia is still wandering around in 19th century costumes Velika Planina turned out to be the perfect place to take them as it is a kind of living museum where traditional alpine grazing is carried out with a few modern twists but the herder and the cows are all real not just exhibits.
After a bracing walk we had the chance to sample typical herder’s fayre of buckwheat spoon bread and sour milk for morning break washed down by the most delicious apple juice and all consumed looking out across the most fabulous view. This is all authentic, home-made by a farmer and his wife have diversified into hospitality during the season while their sons run the farm in the valley. Later on they very kindly also gave us some of their young cheese (I particularly loved the one flavoured with rosemary) and wonderful home made bread which together with some excellent dried meat and walnuts (and the Rušovc) made our supper.
More walking and talking with Grega after ‘malica’ (snack) and one of the great memories of the trip when he showed us the memorial to the British air crew who had crash landed their plane in 1944. Unfortunately three of them died but the rest were spirited away and hidden by the Partisans who kept them safe.
We were welcomed to the authentic Herder’s hut museum where Grega explained some of the ways the herders whiled away the lonely hours up on the mountain making cheese. For contrast we were kindly invited into a present day herders hut which had many of the same features but also some 21st century technology, such as solar panels, to make life a little easier.
14 k steps and a quick sit down on the lover’s seat later we were warmly welcomed to take a delicious late lunch at the Zeleni Rob restaurant Grega recommended the ‘štruklji’ dumplings with cheese and mushroom sauce and we were very happy we had taken his advice. Then it was a quick chair lift back down the mountain to our cottage where we took care to close the gate in case any of the neighbourhood cows should wander in and leave any kind gifts! 😊
It must have been a combination of mountain air, gentle exercise and good food but we slept very well and hopped aboard the cable car back to Zeleni Rob for breakfast (another first for me). Lingering over the coffee and the views I am afraid we made worried poor Grega a little as he was eager to show us more of his personal favourite hidden gems in the valley. 😊 These included a fabulous short gorge walk which took us right down close to the rushing turquoise water. As retired Geography teachers we were in heaven looking at all the glacial features.
Our mini-break finished up at the Planinski dom in Kamniška Bistrica where we enjoyed the most thirst quenching drink I know, a grapefruit Radler and yet another delicious meal. 😊 We had a wonderful time courtesy of all our hosts on Velika Planina and especially our wonderful guide Grega who made the whole experience so interesting and fun too. 😊
I would totally recommend Velika Planina for anyone who enjoys moderately strenuous walking fantastic views and great food. We are in our late 50s, I got out of breath once or twice but in a good way and you do need a good pair of shoes as some of the ground is a little uneven but we saw people of all shapes, sizes and ages up there having a great time.
Ayesha and John (UK)
Photos: Ayesha & John