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Železniki: Iron, lace and biscuits in the Selška Valley

With some 7000 inhabitants Železniki is the main town of the Selška Valley, and has a long proud history dating back to the middle of the 10th century when the German Emperor donated it to the Bishops of Freising. It’s not a coincidence that the town’s name is derived from the Slovene word for iron, as Železniki owes its existence to the rich deposits of iron ore in the surrounding hills and the related ironworks industry that dates back nearly 700 years.

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While the ironworks was shuttered at the beginning of the 20th century, the town’s most recognizable sight is the perfectly preserved smelting furnace that still stands defiantly in the main square – the only remaining structure of its type in Europe and now a protected technical monument. Nowadays Železniki is thriving once again, and is home to several leading Slovenian firms, most notably the furniture maker Alples, and Domel, which manufactures electronic motors and other components. The town’s museum, which details its rich historical, cultural and industrial heritage, is reason enough to visit, but the municipal region also extends high up into the mountains to the idyllic village of Sorica, which was the birthplace of famed Slovene impressionist painter Ivan Grohar.


MUSEUM OF ŽELEZNIKI: Even for those who are not normally interested in ethnographical or technical museums (which is a group we somewhat shamefully admit belonging to), the collection at Železniki’s town museum is a worthwhile stop if you’re passing through. The well-presented exhibitions are spread across 12 rooms on three floors, and give visitors an in-depth overview of the region’s main products over the past 700 or so years, namely iron ore, timber, lace and decorative biscuits – a diverse offering if there ever was one! Other exhibits include famous people from Železniki, a room dedicated to the national liberation fight during WWII, a functioning model smelting factory, and a huge machine that methodically transforms a spool of wire into paperclips – one at a time. Perhaps the only downside may be the lack of English, so make sure to bring along a guide or someone who can translate, as nearly everything here is in Slovene. Info: Na Plavžu 58, Železniki, tel. +386 (0)4 514 73 56, muzej.zelezniki@siol.net, www.jzr.si.

IVAN GROHAR: One of the leading members of Slovenia’s Impressionist movement, Ivan Grohar led a stereotypically impoverished and tumultuous life that was tragically cut short at the age of 43, just as he seemed poised to gain wider recognition for his work.

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Born in 1867 in the picturesque hillside village of Spodnja Sorica, which now lies in the municipality of Železniki, Grohar demonstrated a keen interest in art at a young age, but was only able to pursue his passion in fits and starts after being orphaned and left in the care of the state. The house Grohar’s family lived in is now a protected cultural site, with a small museum and gallery dedicated to the artist on the ground floor. The place is managed by respected local artist Miro Kačar, who, along with the help of his son, runs very popular painting and music workshops for both children and adults on the house’s upper floors. The house can be visited as part of the themed path that leads through and around the lovely village of Sorica. Info: Sorica Tourist Association, Spodnja Sorica 16, td.sorica.info@gmail.com, www.sorica.si.

To discover other unique places in Slovenia, check out THE SLOVENIA BOOK – AN INSIDER’S GUIDE TO THE BEST OF SLOVENIA