Picturesque Views of Slovenia

National and University Library of Slovenia

A journey through Slovenia in the time of its national awakening.

We begin our journey in the medieval town of Ptuj, the oldest recorded city in Slovenia. Its strategic location at the crossing of river Drava helped it become an important regional hub until the construction of the Vienna-Trieste railway.

The scenic veduta of Ptuj as seen from the chapel of Saint Roch is a perfect background for a quick break in the shadow.

During the Middle Ages, the Ptuj Castle was the regional seat of the Archdiocese of Salzburg, home of the Lords of Ptuj and an important defensive point against Hungarian invasions.

Maribor gained its importance as the regional center of Slovenian Styria in the mid-19th century, when the Southern railway from Vienna to Trieste was constructed. Today, it is the second largest city in Slovenia with about 110.000 inhabitants.

Just a few kilometres from Maribor is the magnificent castle Hrastovec, whose history goes back to the early 13th century. It was rebuilt and expanded many times throughout the centuries and is today one of the biggest castles in Slovenia.

Manor Legen near Slovenj Gradec with mountains Peca and Uršlja gora in the background is one of the sights that unfortunately do not exist anymore. The manor has changed owners many times until it was finally abandoned and demolished before the Second World War.

Our next stop is Dobrna, the hometown of the oldest spa in Slovenia. Its first mention dates back to year 1403; however, the ancient Romans were probably the first to enjoy the healing power of Dobrna's thermal waters.

We are greeted by a couple of morning strollers and an excited dog.

Novo Celje mansion is one of the most beautiful examples of baroque architecture in Slovenia. In 1752, count Anton Gaisruck bought and demolished the old castle Plumberk and built in its place a luxurious mansion, inspired by the Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna.

Fany Hausmann, one of the first Slovenian female poets, lived in this mansion for a few years, until her father ran into financial difficulties and was forced to sell the estate.

We pass a farmer and her goats as we approach the mansion Zalog near Žalec. The building was demolished in 1988 after a long period of dilapidation.

Uh-oh! The wind and rain are getting stronger and our poor umbrella has just met its end. We need to find ourselves some shelter.

The abandoned ruins of the Ojstrica Castle might be a good place to weather the ominous storm. Centuries ago, it was home to the ruthless count Feliks Šratenbah, who finally had to escape the rebelling peasants in a barrel. Count Frederick II. of Celje and his famous wife Veronika of Desenice were allegedly imprisoned here, after Frederick's father Hermann II. accused her of witchcraft. Despite being acquitted by the court in the first recorded witch-hunt in Slovenia, Hermann ordered his soldiers to murder Veronika by drowning her in a bathtub.

You don't believe in ghosts, right?

As the old Slovenian saying goes, after every rain comes the sun! What a beautiful day to visit Zgornja Polskava, admire its mansion and exchange some pleasantries with the locals.

The line of luxurious hotels with a classical park and the steep peak of Donačka gora mountain in the background leave no doubt as to where we are.

Rogaška Slatina is home to Slovenia's most famous thermal spa. In the mid-19th century, it grew into a luxurious resort and a fashionable gathering point for the Austro-Hungarian elite.

Thermal water is not the only attraction of Rogaška Slatina. Here we joined a group of guests on a short day-trip to a nearby hill to enjoy the beautiful nature and scenery.

Continuing with our "spa hopping", we arrive in Rimske Toplice (Roman Spa), another thermal attraction with a long and interesting history.

As you can see, there is no lack of guests here either - and the carriage is just bringing in some new ones from the railway station. The gentleman in the bottom right had to hide behind a bush to find some peace!

The name of the settlement Zidani Most literally translates as "stone bridge". The first one was built by the ancient Romans around 290 AD. It was later destroyed and in 1224 a new bridge was constructed - this one lasted for about two centuries before being demolished once again during the disputes between the Holy Roman Emperor and the Counts of Celje.

The railway bridge pictured above was constructed in 1849 during the construction of the Southern railway.

A train is leaving the Hrastnik railway station in the Central Sava Valley, slowly making its way towards Ljubljana. If we hurry up, we might catch it at the next station!

We reach Zagorje station just in time to catch the train and admire the stunning scenery. Some farmers are working the fields, a crowd of passengers is waiting for the train and we can also spot the church of Saint Peter and Paul in Zagorje.

One quick stop before arriving to Ljubljana - its picturesque castle can already be seen in the distance. Fužine Castle was built in the mid-16th century and named after the iron works located in its surroundings. Today, it is home of the Museum of Architecture and Design.

And since we are here, we must allow ourselves a few moments to meet the author of this beautiful lithograph, Joseph Wagner, also known as the "Valvasor of the 19th century". Wagner traveled throughout the land in the 1840s and published an album with 30 depictions of various Slovenian towns.

Ljubljana was one of the most frequently visited and depicted town in Carniola. Approaching from the North-East gives the visitor an interesting view of the Castle with the ruins of old fortifications (Šance).

No stroll around Ljubljana is complete without a visit to the Tivoli park.

On the right is the Tivoli Castle, home of the International Centre of Graphic Arts. All of Ljubljana's main churches are clearly visible in the background.

The Southern Railway continues its path towards the seaside. The train is passing the railway dam on the Southern end of the Ljubljana Marshes. In the background is the glorious range of the Kamnik–Savinja Alps.

The Borovnica Viaduct was constructed in 1856 and was the largest stone bridge in Europe at the time - 561 meters long and 38 meters high. It was destroyed during the Second World War and never repaired. Today only a single column remains.

Cerknica and its intermittent lake were made famous by the research of polymath Janez Vajkard Valvasor. For his first scientific description of the lake, he was awarded a membership in the prestigious Royal Society in London.

A woman is praying in front of a small chapel, while a traveler is discussing directions with a merchant of woodenware, traditional trade commodity from Ribnica and Kočevje.

Idrija is another Slovenian town that achieved world fame because of its natural resources. Not because of disappearing or thermal water, but due to the valuable and rare mercury - commonly known as quicksilver. In 2012, this 500 year-old mining town was protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The name Vipava has roots in old Celtic language and literally means "the valley under the rocks".

But because of its many springs and 25 bridges, it is more often referred to as the "Slovenian Venice".

The Postojna Cave has been one of the most visited Slovenian tourist attractions for two centuries, ever since the visit of the Archduke Ferdinand in 1819.

Today, the Postojna Cave welcomes around 1 million visitors per year. But two hundred years ago, visits were a much darker and scarier experience.

As the capital of Venetian Istria, Koper's name was changed to Caput Histriae - 'Head of Istria' - from which the modern Italian name Capodistria originates. The view of the city today might be quite different, but it is still a great place to embark on a short sailing trip along the Slovenian coast. Some things never change.

The beautiful Piran is a jewel of Venetian Gothic architecture. As the Lonely Planet guide rightfully says, it is "everyone's favorite town on the Slovenian coast", with one of the best-preserved mazes of old, narrow streets on the Adriatic Coast.

And if you are tired of history, people-watching from one of the local restaurants is always a fun - and tasty - experience.

From the seaside we travel directly into the heart of the Julian Alps, to the pristine Lake Bohinj, where we can escape the crowds and enjoy the unspoiled treasures of the Triglav National Park.

There are few places to rest and to cool your feet after a tiring hike like the shoreline of Lake Bled, one of Slovenia's most famous attractions.

"There is no other place in Carniola more beautiful than this one with its surroundings, a piece of paradise," wrote France Prešeren, Slovenian national poet. One can hardly disagree.

The old town of Radovljica dates back to 14th century and is a protected historical monument. Its church of St.Peter is more than 750 years old.

We can see a mother walking with her daughter while a man and a woman are engaged in exchanging gossip.

15th-century Kacenštajn Castle at the heart of Begunje has a long and - particularly in the 20th century - also a bloody history. It was used as a women's prison, served as the headquarters of Nazi Gestapo, where more than 10,000 hostages were held, many of them killed. Begunje later hosted a labor camp for political prisoners in the socialist Yugoslavia. There are several mass graves from after the Second war around the village. Today, it is better known by the Elan skiing factory and as the birthplace of one of Slovenia's most famous and beloved musicians, Slavko Avsenik.

The high peak in the background is the mythical Mount Triglav (2864m), the highest mountain in Slovenia.

The town of Kamnik is nested at the foot of the Kamnik Alps and built around two castles.

The Small (Lower) Castle with the Romanesque chapel is particularly attractive.

Like Kamnik, Škofja Loka was built under a castle in a typical medieval fashion. Unfortunately, most of the old town was damaged by fires in 1660 and 1698. The massive defensive walls with five town gates were gradually removed over the centuries to make space for the expanding city.

We briefly return to Ljubljana before heading back South for the last part of our journey around Slovenia. At the end of the 19th century, the capital of Carniola had about 25.000 inhabitants and was a much smaller city than it is today.

This detailed view shows the Congress Square from Ljubljana's castle with Tivoli Park and the church on nearby Rožnik in the background.

The origins of the small town Višnja Gora date back the Ilyric and Celtic tribes. In the Middle Ages, its old castle was home to one of the most important noble families in Slovenia, the Counts of the Weichselburg.

The symbol of Višnja Gora is a snail on a golden chain. As one version of the legend goes, Sofija, the daughter of the Count of Višnja gora, stumbled upon the wounded son of the Venetian Doge. She took care of him until he finally recovered and revealed his identity. Among the treasures, sent to the Count by the knight's thankful mother, was a golden snail shell with diamonds. It was kept in the City Hall until ending up lost - in time and stories.

A shepherd is watching the traffic near the small village Mokronog.

The castle Žužemberk above the Krka river is one of the most picturesque castles in Slovenia. In the 16th century it was turned into a formidable fortress with seven towers. It was heavily damaged during the Second World War by resistance soldiers and Allied bombers.

Just a few more steps and our journey will come to an end. But first, a short stop to recuperate our strength. The Dolenjske Toplice spa was property of the Auersperg Counts, who built the first indoor pool in the 16th century and turned a simple local swimming ground into a prestigious thermal center.

Entering the village Mirna, we are greeted by a hunter and his dog.

Next is the majestic Otočec Castle, the only preserved water castle in Slovenia, built on one of the many small islands on the Krka river. Today, it hosts one of the most famous and luxurious hotels in the country.

The proverbially generous and open-hearted locals are always happy to offer a taste of their homemade and traditionally popular Cviček wine. Maybe just a sip, for health and good fortune. But not too much. We still have a few more miles to go.

And finally, Krško - the last destination on our itinerary. It was a short, but beautiful journey, made possible by the brilliant, traveling artists such as Wagner, Kuwaseg, Sandmann and others. Their vedutas not only offer a glimpse of the 19th century Slovenia, a country in the process of its national awakening - they capture a romantic vision of a time just before the technological and industrial development started to leave its irreversible mark.

For that opportunity, we can only be grateful.

Good luck and bon voyage!

Credits: Story

Vedutas by: Joseph Wagner, Joseph Kuwaseg, Franz Xaver Sandmann, Giovanni Varoni, Gottfries Seelos, A. Tischbein, Johann Nepomuk Passinni.
Selection by Primož Premzl and Renata Šolar
Exhibition: Žiga Cerkvenik
Narodna in univerzitetna knjižnica, 2017

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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