Idrija

September 8, 2010: Having finished in Postojna, it was time to move on. So we got up, not too early, packed our bags, and headed down to the bus station.

We got a bit confused about which bus we should take to Idrija, but finally we got on the right one. As we got close to Idrija it started to rain, and then there was thunder and the rain just poured down in buckets. At the Idrija bus station we ran to shelter at the overhang, and then waited there as the rain continued to pour down. There was no point at all in going out in that downpour.

Idrija in the rain

Eventually the rain let up and we put on our packs to go look for the youth hostel. We knew where it was (there were no signs for it in the town anywhere) but some locals showed us the shortcut up two flights of steps. We were horrified to find a sign saying the youth hostel didn’t open until 5 pm, but somebody inside the building noticed us outside and came to let us in. We paid for our two nights and she showed us the way through the gymnasium to our room, where we settled in and separated out the wet things.

We decided we had made a good decision when we decided to stop walking. There isn’t any rain gear which would have withstood the amount of rain we had had over the last two days, and we would have been completely miserable trying to walk all day in the rain.

After having some lunch, we put on our raincoats and went back down to the town. Next to the bus station was the tourist information office, so we went there. We checked out their brochures and the obvious first thing to do was the municipal museum, which was in the castle at the other end of the town.

Gewerkenegg Castle
Gewerkenegg Castle
Mercury sculpture
Mercury sculpture
Idrija lace
Idrija lace

This museum was quite amazing, consisting of two full floors of exhibits. (And as youth hostel members we got a discount, so we only paid 1.70 euros each!) A lot of it was about the mercury mine, which had been the town’s main industry for hundreds of years, but there were sections about the recent wars and Idrija’s reluctant life as an Italian town, and then a large section about lace-making, which is Idrija’s other claim to fame.

September 9, 2010: We looked out the window and it wasn’t raining. Not only that, there weren’t even many clouds and you could see the sun shining. So we decided to get out for a walk before the rain came back. We had some breakfast and headed on down the hill.

We had decided to walk to Divje Jezero (“Wild Lake”), which was not too far up the river from Idrija. We found the start of the path behind the bus station and followed it through some streets until we came to the park area. The official trail started at the historic water wheel, which is 13.6 metres in diameter and which was the largest one in the world for many years. However it is now inside a stone building and you need a guide from the museum to show it to you.

Water wheel

The trail ran through the woods, the same kind of woods we had already walked through for two days, beside a water channel called a “rake”. The purpose of this channel was to bring water to the water wheel and thus to produce power to pump water out of the mine. There were other things to see along the trail, such as Italian army fortifications from the 1920’s. But we were just glad to be outside without being in the rain.

Rake
Flowers in the rain

Amazingly we managed to find our way to the footbridge across the Idrijca River to Divje Jezero without getting distracted by any of the other footbridges and without going past it. Our navigation skills must be improving!

Divje Jezero

Divje Jezero is a lake and a spring and a cave all combined into one. Water flows into the cave below from a large area to the south and is forced upwards into a spring, which fills the lake. Because of the recent heavy rains, the lake was very full and looked as if it were boiling, from the power of the spring. It was quite an impressive sight and very loud too, as the water rushed out of the lake and down into the river below.

Back at the hostel we had a bit of a rest, then we went down into the town to look for lace. We went to the place we had seen yesterday, where the sign on the door might have said “Closed for holiday”, but the owner was actually in the store. She said she was still on holiday but had just come in for a moment. And she did stay long enough to sell us a little lace curtain which we will find some place for when we get home.

Then we walked up to the lace-making school to see what that was about. We went inside and walked along the deserted hallway, looking around to see what was there. At one end was a man painting a wall; when he saw we were tourists, he went off into one of the offices and brought out a woman who took us into the exhibit room. She told us that the school’s purpose is to train lace-making teachers, who in turn go out into the local schools and teach lace-making to children as young as seven years old as an extra-curricular activity. Even including boys!

Lace-making

By now it was getting on for 3 pm so we went down to the mine museum, where there was a guided tour scheduled. After a video presentation about the history of the mine, one of the guides took the two of us and four Germans on a walking tour through the mine. Mining is much the same everywhere, so we didn’t see anything too surprising on the tour.

Mine museum
Mine museum
Good Luck
Mine entrance (“Good Luck”)
Steel ball
Steel ball floating in mercury
Miners' house
Miners’ house

We had heard about a local type of pasta called “žlikrofi” so we asked the mine guides where we might find it. “Gostilna Kos”, they said. We had seen that, close to the main highway. So we went down there for dinner. Žlikrofi is little pasta packets like ravioli, stuffed with potato and flavoured with bacon and onions. According to one story it’s shaped like Napoleon’s hat. Anyway it tasted very good and since we got big platefuls of it, it was very filling.

Žlikrofi

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