JOIN US IN AN INTERVIEW WITH NINA SMEH FROM IDRIJA, SLOVENIA!
Nina is a 29 years old Slovenian blogger, traveler and metalhead. Every month she visits at least one metal/rock concert and two music festivals annually. She started writing a blog because she has always been passionate about writing and traveling. She has traveled extensively since she was a child. Her first big trip was when she was 9 years old. She and her parents traveled to Greece for Citroen world meeting with a 2cv car. It was an adventurous trip and it’s then that she fell in love with traveling.
Idrija, a small town in western Slovenia is located in the foothills of the south-eastern Alps. It lies in the Idrija Basin and is surrounded by the Idrija hills. It has a modest population of just over 5000. The town has a strong history and is significant for Slovenia.
Idrija first started as a mining village after the discovery of mercury mines in the 15th century. It is one of the only places in the world where mercury was found in both its liquid form and like cinnabar which is solid mercuric sulphide. It is the world’s second largest mercuric mine after Almadén in Spain. Following steep price drops and awareness of mercury poisoning Idrija mine was closed in the year 1976.
The town of Idrija is also world renowned for being home to the famous handmade bobbin lace called Idrija lace. It is said that Slovenia is the birthplace of lacemaking.
What is the best time to visit Idrija?
Anytime is good time to visit Idrija, every season has its own beauty and charm. However if you have outdoor tourist activities in mind the best time to visit in my opinion is summer.
In summer a lot goes on in the town. In June we have Idrija Lace Festival where you can learn all about Idrija Lace. Since its warm then you can even swim in the river Idrijca (natural swimming spot Lajšt in Idrijska Bela) or go hiking on your foot/bike.
Which is the most convenient and favored transport of Idrija?
It is a small city so you can walk or you can use a bike.
After landing at the Ljubljana Jože Pučnik airport reach Tobačna in Ljubljana which is the premises of a former tobacco company. From Tobačna there is a direct bus operated by Nomago that arrives at Idrija UTA. Services depart every two hours, and operate every day. The journey takes around one and a half hour. You can also rent a car from the airport or reach there by cab.
What are the top three must visit places in Idrija?
The top three places in my opinion are –
Gewerkenegg Castle which in German means “mine castle”. It was used by the administration of the mercury mine for storing wheat and mercury. Now it is used for music school, shops and museum. It really is an amazing place. You can visit Mestni muzej Idrija museum (Municipal museum) to experience the rich 500 year old mining heritage of Idrija or listen to the music that kids play.
Second one would be Anthony’s shaft. It is the second largest mercury mine in the world within a short walk from the town. At Anthony’s shaft which is the entrance to the mine, know the underworld of the Idrija miners, their hard daily work routine, the precious cinnabar ore, drops of mercury and the extraordinary underground Holy Trinity chapel built at the end of the pit. It truly is a unique experience. If you are lucky you can see “Perkmandlc” the pit dwarf 😉
The third one is Zgornja Idrijca Landscape Park where you can experience real nature. You can visit natural swimming site Lajšt and Klavže, the water barriers (Slovenian pyramids) in the valleys of the rivers Idrijca, Belca and Kanomljica. Timber has always been used as a mining prop and since in those times there were no proper vehicles and roads available for transporting timber, these barriers were built to float timber through the rivers and creeks. Initially the Klavže were made out of wood but was later reconstructed using stone. They are impressive structures which you must see when in Idrija.
For me the most interesting and amazing spot is Wild Lake. Wild Lake is a mysterious lake. It is hidden in rocky hollow. We don’t know how deep it is. The divers have reached a depth of 160 m below the surface normally after a heavy rain water starts spewing out of the siphon. But it is also beautiful in the sunny days ☺
What are the best day trips for nature, culture and history from Idrija?
Slovenia is a small country, so you can drive from one side to another in just three hours.
Soča Valley : For me the most beautiful place in Slovenia is Soča Valley which lies towards the west of Idrija. It is one to two hours drive from Idrija and is known for its emerald green waters and white water rapids. In the summer you can go hiking, swimming in the river Soča. In the Upper Soca valley there are 3 major towns Bovec, Kobarid, Tolmin which can be reached by bus from Idrija. Buses from Ljubljana also reaches these towns via Idrija.
Ljubljana : To the east of Idrija lies the capital and largest city of Slovenia, Ljubljana. You really need at least a whole day to see this town. It offers a lot a things to do. It is a very green city and the centre of the town remains closed for car traffic hence preserving the green spaces of the city. In your time there, visit the Ljubljana castle, National gallery, the City Museum, and the Cathedral. Later relax in the central park also called Tivoli park just like locals.
Bohinj Lake : To the north of Idrija, lies the Bohinj Lake. Bohinj lake is less touristic than Bled Lake. It is the largest permanent lake in Slovenia. If you go there in the summer, you can swim in the lake or bike around it. It really has a lot of amazing stuff to do in the nature like hiking, biking, paragliding and waterfall trekking with a backdrop of snow capped mountains.
Piran : Piran is a small medieval town at the seaside towards the south of Idrija. It really is a special spot in our country and you just have to add it to your bucket list to discover its beauty. On your way from Idrija to Piran lies the well-known Sečovlje Salina Nature Park situated in the town of Koper which is worth visiting too.
Which is the most celebrated holiday of the year in Idrija?
The most celebrated holiday is “Čipkarski festival” (Lace Festival) in the middle of June. It really has a lot to offer. It is all about lace and lacemaking which is a tradition being carried forward from three centuries in Idrija. You can visit special exhibitions, fashion shows, eat our special dish “Idrijski žlikrofi”, shop souvenirs, visit concerts..
What is the most loved local food, savory and sweet of Idrija?
Our special dish is “Idrijski žlikrof”. They are dumplings made from dough with a potato filling and a characteristic shape. Idrijski žlikrof has been named so because it has originated from Idrija. It contain no preservatives, colouring or flavour enhancers yet they are so popular that it said around 50 tonnes of them are produced and consumed each year.
Last year, they presented “Idrijski Žlikrof” like a dessert. It is the same shape, but it is made from chocolate.
Are there any popular markets in Idrija which tourists must visit? Which is the local craft or souvenir of Idrija?
It Is a small town so there are not any shopping centers or much night life.
Our local craft is “Idrija Lace”. It is a bit pricey, but it is all handmade and unique. You can buy like a napkin or jewelry. You can visit the Idrija lacemaking school to learn about this exquisite masterpiece created by children and ladies with effort, perseverance and precision. Learn to make one yourself at the school.
Or you can buy “Geruš”. Geruš is an old miner’s drink. It is very sour. Because miners didn’t have a large salary and wine was too expensive, they created “Geruš”.
Which are the best streets of Idrija worthy of taking a stroll on?
The best street for me is our main square. There you can see old buildings, tiny streets and there is always a lot of local people just hanging out.
Can you suggest a place from where one can get the best view of the city?
Best place from where you can see all the city is a small hill with a little church on it, called “Sv. Anton”. It takes about 15 minutes walk from the city center.
Would you suggest any shows in Idrija to drama, music or art lovers?
We have a lot of art exhibitions. In July we have a festival called “Četrtki na placu” while every Thursday there is some concert on the main square.
In July we also have “Tango Festival” which is located in our castle. Read about Tango and its birthplace Buenos Aires in Argentina.
Would you recommend any local apps for food, transport or hidden gems in Idrija?
Idrija is a small town, so the best way is to just ask some locals or check for informations at the info center.
For more information you can check out Idrija’s official website Visit Idrija.
Do you want to give any suggestion/tip to tourists coming to your city?
Just to spend time, walking around the city. If you are hungry, I suggest to eat at “Gostilna Škafar” they have the best Idrijski žlikrofi ☺