IDRIJA – UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE
Views of past centuries, Slovenia’s oldest mining town
According to oral tradition, mercury, the world’s only known liquid metal, was discovered by chance in 1490 by a tub maker, who was soaking tubs in a nearby spring. News of this important discovery quickly spread and attracted many people. At the spot where the tub maker collected the mercury, now stands the Church of the Holy Trinity.
Idrija charms visitors with its rich technical, cultural and natural heritage. With over 500 years of mining tradition, many buildings that are part of this rich mining history and lifestyle of the Idrija miners have been preserved. In this part of Slovenia, visitors can become acquainted with the lifestyle of the Idrijan miners who extracted mercury through the centuries, the life of lace makers and today’s present day prosperity.
In 2011, Idrija was awarded two prestigious titles, namely the European Destination of Excellence (EDEN) 2011 and the Alpine Town of the Year 2011. In 2012, Idrija, together with the Almadén mine in Spain, were inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. And in 2015 also Idrija Geopark becomes a part of UNESCO Global Geoparks Programme.
Numerous attractions and captivating stories from the flourishing mining days – right in the city centre
Uncover the mysterious underworld of the second largest mercury mine in the world, the adventures of Perkmandlc the pit elf and descend into Anthony’s Shaft. For history and art lovers, a trip up to Idrija Municipal Museum at Gewerkenegg Castle offers permanent and temporary exhibits of the unique mining, town and lace heritage. Town centre attractions include The Miner’s House – a typical miner’s house from the 18th century, Grain store, Miners’ theatre, kamšt – the largest preserved water wheel, Francis’ Shaft, Idrija Lace School, Akvarij M aquarium, War museum and the International Centre of Idrija Lace. Visitors can also see how Idrija lace is made and test their lace-making skills. Idrija is the venue of many cultural and entertainment events. The most notable is the Idrija Lace Festival, which takes place in June and is dedicated to maintaining the tradition of making Idrija lace.
Picturesque nature – an opportunity for exploration and education
The diverse area of Idrija Municipality comprises Geopark Idrija, which is a member of the European and World Geopark Networks. Its exceptional natural heritage makes it one of most interesting parks in Europe. There are numerous marked cycling tracks and interconnecting hiking trails in the area. In the Zgornja Idrijca Landscape Park, many remnants speak of its mining past. The confluence of the Idrijca and Belca rivers forms the Lajšt natural swimming pool, where there are recreational and picnic facilities available. Many people go there in the warm summer months and it is a popular starting point to see the klavže water barriers used for floating timber, and the idrijski lauf, the first forest railway in Europe. In the depths of the Divje jezero or Wild Lake, Slovenia’s largest karst spring, hides the human fish. The lake’s true personality is especially evident after heavy rains, when the water siphons out. This is when the lake is truly wild. A walk along the rake water channel offers plenty of opportunities for recreation. The “Po poti idrijskih naravoslovcev” (Following the Trail of Idrija’s Natural Scientists), is a nature trail right by the channel, which takes visitors from Idrija to Divje jezero lake. Visitors can stop to look at the well-maintained Scopoli Memorial Garden. Free climbing enthusiasts can try out the Strug and Gore climbing areas. The clean and clear Idrijca River provides an authentic experience of unspoilt nature and relaxation, offering Sport fishing for those noblest of fish, namely trout and grayling.
The richness of tastes for gourmet delights and famous Idrija lace
Women and girls played an important role in the miner’s family by making beautiful Idrija lace. Selling their products brought in extra family income. Idrija lace is distinctive and recognized by its SIPO special geographical indication, given only to lace of the highest quality. Idrijan womenfolk and girls are experts in culinary delights. Best known are Idrija žlikrofi, registered as a traditional speciality product under EU protection. Žlikrofi are served as a main dish at many formal events in Slovenia. Housewives in Idrija also like to prepare zeljševka, ocvirkovca, smukavc and štrkulji. The typical traditional drink of the Idrijan miners is called geruš.