On Friday morning, my husband and I made a 2-hour drive to Geopark Karanvanke. We got a programme of what activities we were to do but scepticism kept creeping in. We couldn’t imagine kayaking and biking underground. I cannot swim, and some time back I did rafting in the Nile and guzzled gallons of water whenever the boat flipped, I was not ready to relive the same experience.
I was curious and that’s enough drive. We were some few minutes late for the 9:00 o’clock train to the mines but the group waited for us.
We got helmets with headlight and gloves. By our calculation, the train ride was about 10 minutes, 20 km/h. 3,5 km deep into the mountain, more than half a kilometre below the surface of the Veliki Vrh and more than a half kilometre beyond the sea level. Not a very pleasant ride, but it gives you the feel of the journey to the underground, that the miners were experiencing on their drive to the work.
It was amazing to see how paths were created underground and lift to transport mines to the top. We took stairs from -8th floor to the -12th floor where we were to suit up for our rafting. With a waterproof suit, we took stairs down to the rafts and started paddling and stopped at the “beach” while the guide was taking through the history of the mine.
We had a chance to paddle around on our own in tunnels just to have a feeling and it was very thrilling.
Later we had the snack and went out of the mines after about 4 hours.
In the museum we were able to see miners’ lifestyle, minerals mined, and the history of a photographer who was once a miner.
In the afternoon, Suzana from Koroš Tourist Farm led us to their eco-hotel, 30 min drive. Very nice place, managed by the family and they basically specialize in mountain biking and promoting the eco lifestyle.
You cannot stay in mountain biking hotel without trying out the activities and we were handed bikes and the riding began.
I couldn’t feel my legs but my husband was over the moon from the time we entered the wagons for mines to the time we got off the bikes.
It was an amazing day.
We woke up to a beautiful sunny morning on the mountain, so calm. We had our breakfast and had a chat with Dixi, the pioneer of mountain biking in Slovenia. He explained how the community works, how the farms are collaborating with each other and how they are working together to promote tourism and ecosystems.
In no time we were back in the mines, this time biking. Again, helmets with lights on, our gloves, warm clothes and we were set with a guide who spoke German, English and Slovene.
The journey was 6kms long, but we had stops when she had to show, explain or demonstrate.
Got out on another side and cycled downhill… great feeling.
We were set for lunch in a local restaurant whose owners were also once workers in the mines. Great food, a lot and we had to take some snaps very important stuff.
We visited Črna museum and Olympics museum, which shows the many skiers which came from the region.
We finished our journey by visiting the valley, where the geological plates meet and meeting the mayor.
Cathy and Gregor
Photos: Cathy & Gregor