Where to Go on a Trip? Idrija

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The Town of Mercury, Idrija Lace, and Excellent Cuisine

When mentioning Idrija, most Slovenians immediately think of mercury and Idrija lace, sometimes followed by Idrija dumplings (žlikrofi). In 1490, the world’s second-largest mercury deposit was discovered here, leading to nearly 500 years of prosperity and mining-related growth. Among the women and daughters of miners, a unique tradition of lace-making developed, which continues to this day.

This important trio is completed by Idrija dumplings, a ravioli-like culinary specialty that became Slovenia’s first officially protected dish in 2010 and the first Slovenian product to receive the Traditional Speciality Guaranteed designation from the European Union. For most places with around 12,000 residents, this would be enough to put them on the map. However, Idrija’s tourist offer extends well beyond these most famous elements. Idrija is easily accessible from the Mediterranean coast and Ljubljana, yet it seems hidden by three plateaus that surround it on all sides. Thanks to this natural beauty (which includes Slovenia’s first protected natural monument) and the foresight of local industries to develop other sectors alongside mining, Idrija has managed to avoid the economic hardships that affected other former mining towns and has flourished as a tourist destination. Its tourism pinnacle came in 2011 when it received the European Destination of Excellence award, followed by its inclusion on the prestigious UNESCO World Heritage List in 2012.

When mentioning Idrija, most Slovenians immediately think of mercury and Idrija lace, sometimes followed by Idrija dumplings (žlikrofi). In 1490, the world’s second-largest mercury deposit was discovered here, leading to nearly 500 years of prosperity and mining-related growth. Among the women and daughters of miners, a unique tradition of lace-making developed, which continues to this day.

This important trio is completed by Idrija dumplings, a ravioli-like culinary specialty that became Slovenia’s first officially protected dish in 2010 and the first Slovenian product to receive the Traditional Speciality Guaranteed designation from the European Union. For most places with around 12,000 residents, this would be enough to put them on the map. However, Idrija’s tourist offer extends well beyond these most famous elements. Idrija is easily accessible from the Mediterranean coast and Ljubljana, yet it seems hidden by three plateaus that surround it on all sides. Thanks to this natural beauty (which includes Slovenia’s first protected natural monument) and the foresight of local industries to develop other sectors alongside mining, Idrija has managed to avoid the economic hardships that affected other former mining towns and has flourished as a tourist destination. Its tourism pinnacle came in 2011 when it received the European Destination of Excellence award, followed by its inclusion on the prestigious UNESCO World Heritage List in 2012.

Discover more ideas for trips around Slovenia here.

GEWERKENEGG CASTLE AND THE MUNICIPAL MUSEUM OF IDRIJA

The award-winning Municipal Museum of Idrija is housed in the 16th-century Gewerkenegg Castle, which stands on a small western hill rising above the old part of the town. The castle was completed in 1533, and its somewhat unusual name is believed to derive from the Old German word for mine or mining company (Gewerke) and the surname of the Habsburg sub-regent Jurij Egg, who was in charge of managing the mine during its construction. Originally used as a simple storage for wheat and mercury, the castle later served as the administrative seat of the mine for many years. Over the centuries, various parts of the castle have served as offices, schools, and residential quarters.

Since 1953, the castle has been home to a music school and the Municipal Museum of Idrija, which boasts 26 exhibition rooms. The highlights of the museum include the mineralogical and petrographic collection and the Idrija lace collection, which presents the history of lace-making from its beginnings in the 17th century to the present day. Other must-see exhibitions include the so-called Mercury Tower, a collection of artifacts from the Italian and German occupation, and an excellent collection of contemporary art donated to the museum by Idrija-born Valentina Orsini Mazza. In 1997, the museum was declared the best European museum of industrial and technical heritage, and in 2008, it received the Valvasor Prize for museum activity.

Prelovčeva 9, +386 (0)5 372 66 00, [email protected], www.muzej-idrija-cerkno.si.

ANTONIJEV ROV

ANTONIJEV ROV (ANTHONY’S SHAFT)

Anthony’s Shaft is the oldest part of the unimaginably extensive underground world of Idrija, which once comprised more than 700 km of tunnels. At the site where mining originally began in 1500, there now stands an 18th-century building that serves as a living museum, educational center, and entry point for guided mine tours. Most visits begin with a short film that provides a detailed history of the mine, from its geological origins to its discovery in 1490 by the now-legendary barrel-maker, followed by a period of intensive development and expansion of the mine and the town. The film particularly focuses on the lives of the hardworking miners, whose toil and sweat were instrumental in the mine’s success.

GEOPARK IDRIJA VISITOR CENTER AND EXHIBITION “WRITTEN IN STONE”

The new exhibition shows how geological forces have shaped the development of the Idrija region and its landscape, and includes content from Geopark Idrija. The goal is to encourage as many people as possible to visit the town and explore the beautiful surrounding countryside, where they can learn about the region’s rich and interesting history. Visitors can use interactive models, animations, and video presentations to learn about the origins of the planet Earth, its ongoing development, species adaptation to environmental changes, and the consequences of human impact. The children’s exhibits cover three areas where they can explore through interactive and playful activities. The nearby area offers numerous outdoor activities such as hiking, cycling, swimming, and skiing.

TOURIST INFORMATION CENTER

The Tourist Information Center Idrija is located at Prelovčeva 5, in the heart of the town. If you have questions about the many attractions of Idrija, make sure to stop here first. You can hire a knowledgeable local guide or ask one of the friendly staff members for advice before setting off on your own. The center can also organize various trips and guided tours for you. Don’t forget to visit the center again before you leave to buy postcards, souvenirs, and other gifts – including an expected selection of authentic, handmade Idrija lace. You can also visit the ‘Written in Stone’ Geopark Idrija exhibition here.

Prelovčeva 5, +386 (0)5 374 39 16, [email protected], www.visit-idrija.si.