In a country that prides itself on charming villages, elegant squares and some of the most gorgeous towns in Europe, the word ‘beautiful’ can perhaps be overused to the point of redundancy in Slovenia.
When talking about Kamnik however, a medieval town some 23km north-east of Ljubljana, avoiding the word and its synonyms is nearly impossible. Crammed into an area of varied topography with dense forest sitting next to sharp mountain peaks and wooded valleys, there’s an undeniable grace to its medieval city centre. The history of the town is visible to all through its varied (and well maintained) architecture, the affluence of its history sitting quietly next to more modern times. Kamnik is all red roofs and narrow twisting streets with the always-dramatic backdrop of jagged Alpine mountain-tops looming nearby. Sitting next to the Kamniška Bistrica River, and with castle ruins and church steeples juxtaposing against the lush greenery of the surroundings, Kamnik itself can be explored on foot in just a few of hours, making it a great day trip away from Ljubljana. However, the surrounding area demands a longer stay, and the guesthouses and hotels in the town will provide more than ample comfort to do so. It’s a great base for exploring the nearby Velika Planina, as well as a day trip to Volčji Potok, Slovenia’s largest arboretum. If walking amongst masses of vibrantly coloured flowers isn’t quite relaxing enough, then the Snovik thermal spa centre will take care of the rest. Kamnik truly deserves to be described as beautiful.
LITTLE CASTLE (MALI GRAD): Sitting proudly above the town, Mali Grad is worth every one of the steep steps you need to climb in order to reach it. The 11th- or 12th-century castle itself may lie in ruins, but who doesn’t love some castle ruins? The Baroque-style chapel dedicated to St. Eligius is perfectly preserved however, and it rests peacefully on top of an old Slavic burial ground. Not only that, but the crypt is supposed to be guarded by Veronika (she of halfwoman half-snake fame), keeping would-be thieves away from her treasure. Truth be told however, it’s the views of Kamnik that really make Mali Grad a must-see when in the town. From the ruins of the castle you get a true idea of just how breathtaking the town really is. It’s all understated yet colourful buildings and red roofs protecting narrow streets. Oh, and the Kamnik Alps lurking in the background, providing the most dramatic of backdrops to a sight you’d be foolish to miss. Info: +386 (0)1 831 82 50, [email protected].
ZAPRICE CASTLE AND REGIONAL MUSEUM: The views just keep on coming. A short walk up a hill just off of Šutna brings you to Zaprice Castle, which sits opposite Mali Grad on the other side of the train tracks. The small grassy area in front of the castle gives jaw-dropping views of Kamnik, both the narrow streets of Glavni trg and the more lived-in side to the west. The castle itself was constructed in the 14th century and has been through many renovations and even more owners in the seven centuries since. Situated inside the castle itself is the Kamnik Regional Museum. Now, we can all be honest, sometimes regional museums that span thousands of years of history can often drag, as fact after fact after fiction after fact flies by, leaving you none the wiser to a town. Somehow though, the museum inside Zaprice Castle avoids this by keeping the displays interesting and providing plenty of interaction. The museum tells the story of Kamnik from the early ages all the way through the 19th century, with items aplenty from the various centuries. Visitors are also given the opportunity to mint their own medieval Kamnik coins as well as creating their own Kamnik myth. The ground floor focuses on Kamnik through the millennia, the first floor on furniture (including a supremely comfy-looking rocking chair) and the second floor is kept for exhibitions. Info: Muzejska pot 3, Kamnik, +386 (0)1 831 76 47, [email protected], www.muzej-kamnik-on.net.
RUDOLF MAISTER’S BIRTHPLACE: Celebrated in a little renovated house on the main street in town, the life of Rudolf Maister (1874-1934) is remembered in a most stylish way. Maister was a Slovene military officer and political activist as well as a poet, and can be credited with making sure Slovenia isn’t even smaller than it is, largely thanks to his work following World War One. He is remembered with a small exhibition that tells his story and contains many artefacts from his life, such as military hats and sabres. There’s also a fantastic collection of drawings of the man (and his glorious moustache) made by local children. Info: Šutna 23, Kamnik, +386 (0)83 176 47, [email protected], www.muzej-kamnik-on.net.
BUDNAR MUSEUM HOUSE: It’s a question we’ve all thought about. What was life like 350 years ago? Wonder no more. Just a short drive outside of Kamnik is the Budnar Museum House, a very old farmhouse bringing simple Slovene heritage to life. Contained within the grounds are a farmhouse, an outbuilding and a black kitchen. This is the most rural of kitchens, using an open furnace to bake and smoke meat with a maple wood table as well. To taste something special from the kitchen, you must book ahead, and it’s more than worth it. Every now and then ethnographic cultural events and exhibitions are hosted here, as well as the odd workshop. Large groups are advised to make reservations in advance. Info: Zgornje Palovče 5, Zgornje Palovče, +386 (0)51 33 65 16, +386 (0)31 52 87 47, [email protected], www.domacija. com.
TERME SNOVIK: We’re not really sure if a better location for a spa and wellness centre can exist. Way up in the hills, Terme Snovik ticks all the boxes for anyone looking to reinvigorate themselves in the most peaceful of surroundings. The scenery borders on the overwhelming, perfect for one of the hikes that the centre organises. The facilities in the centre are good as well, with an indoor thermal pool complimented with an outdoor equivalent complete with three slides. The magnesium- and calcium-rich water also has government-approved healing powers, which can’t be a bad thing. A choice of saunas is also available for those who enjoy sweating their way to health. Terme Snovik couldn’t be more family friendly, making this a great excursion for everyone. Info: Snovik 7, Laze v Tuhinju, +386 (0)18 34 41 00, [email protected], www.terme-snovik.si.
KAMNIK BY THE NUMBERS
Population (municipality): 28,999 / Population (town): 13,768 / Size: 9.1km2 / Municipal holiday: 29 March / Postcode: 1241 / Mayor: Marjan Šarec / Known for: Rudolf Maister’s hometown
ARBORETUM VOLČJI POTOK: Open to the public since the University of Ljubljana took it over in 1952, Arboretum Volčji Potok has since become the most visited horticultural site in the entire country. When you enter the 85-hectare-wide grounds it’s very easy to see why. Volčji Potok truly is an explosion of colour in the most peaceful of ways. It’s flowers as far as the eye can see, with every colour imaginable represented. It’s a truly majestic sight. It isn’t just flowers however. The gardens positively drip in elegance. As you stroll amongst the lakes and ponds, you feel that if you closed your eyes tight enough you could almost imagine being the head of a wealthy family from long ago patrolling your estate. Or maybe we’re alone on that one. Volčji Potok is as ecologically diverse as anywhere you’re going to come across, with over 2,500 different types of trees and shrubs within its borders. Spring and summer are the best times to visit as the flowers begin to blossom and the park plays host to all sorts of flower shows. Supposedly around two million tulips bloom every year, one for every Slovene in the country. How romantic. How spectacular. Info: Volčji Potok 3, 1235 Radomlje, +386 (0)1 831 23 45, [email protected], www.arboretum.si.
GOLF ARBORETUM: Golf Arboretum ranks among our favourite courses in Slovenia to skip work and play a round during the week, thanks largely to the breathtaking views of the nearby Kamnik-Savinja Alps offered on nearly every hole. Its proximity to Ljubljana (roughly 30 minutes depending on traffic) and moderate weekday prices also don’t hurt, and the clubhouse restaurant is a recommendable option for a post-round lunch or drink. Info: Volčji Potok 43g, Radomlje, +386 (0)51 395 777, +386 (0)1 831 80 80, [email protected], www.golfarboretum.si.
TUNjICE NATURAL HEALING RESORT: Those coming from stressful lives in big cities will perhaps get the most benefit from a trip to this natural healing resort in Tunjice (near Kamnik), with its customary Kamnik Alp backdrop. Nine energy springs, releasing earth energy, are said to heal numerous parts of the body and mind, from blood circulation, legs, bladder and respiratory organs, as well as emotional wellbeing. Guided tours of up to 20 can be taken around the site, which is often busy. Info: Tunjice 12, +386 (0)1 831 70 85, [email protected], www.zdravilnigaj.si.
TASTE KAMNIK: Part of the Taste Central Slovenia project, Taste Kamnik is hell-bent on bringing traditional Kamnik food back into the public domain as well as providing a modern day spin on a number of the dishes. Fourteen restaurants in the area are taking part, and the variety of the food on offer is astounding. The main goal of the project is to promote the diversity of traditional food in the region and to connect it with the locations the food comes from with the added bonus of a modern twist in which the cuisine on offer has been given a 21st-century makeover. Dishes include everything from folk (Tuhinj stuffing), rural (Prekmaš pureed apples with beans and fried goat) to bourgeois (Rajželjc veal tripe dumplings, Kamnik sausage), providing a little bit of everything for everyone. The excellent website at www. kamnik-tourism.si contains extensive information about the project in English, including a list of where to find all the participating restaurants in the region.
ECO RESORT BENEATH VELIKA PLANINA: More than just your average eco resort, this highly recommended luxury getaway is a veritable village in itself. Located in the ancient settlement of Godič close to the cable car leading up to the Great Mountain, Eco Resort is both the perfect place to spend a few days enjoying everything the place has to offer and a handy base for visiting the many attractions in the surrounding area. Guests stay in one of the beautiful, self-contained wooden cottages that can sleep up to five people, dine on delicious food, much of it produced from the resort’s own organic farm, relax in the sauna and keep the kids entertained with the help of a small petting farm and adventure playground. A welcome addition to the region, this wonderful place provides the perfect place to unwind and to renew your batteries in the peace and quiet of the local mountain scenery. www.sloveniaecoresort.com.
TOURIST INFORMATION CENTRE
Sitting right in the very centre of Kamnik, the tourist information centre in town is there to provide you with any information we’ve failed to cover in this guide. A mine of information, the superfriendly staff can help with getting around, organising tours or simply picking up souvenirs or event tickets. Free wireless internet is also available inside. Info: Glavni trg 2 +386 (0)1 831 82 50, [email protected], www.kamnik-tourism.si.