Idrija, a small town in western Slovenia is located in the foothills of the south-eastern Alps. It lies in the Idrija Basin and is surrounded by the Idrija hills. It has a modest population of just over 5000. The town has a strong history and is significant for Slovenia.
Idrija first started as a mining village after the discovery of mercury mines in the 15th century. It is one of the only places in the world where mercury was found in both its liquid form and like cinnabar which is solid mercuric sulphide. It is the world’s second largest mercuric mine after Almadén in Spain. Following steep price drops and awareness of mercury poisoning Idrija mine was closed in the year 1976.
The town of Idrija is also world renowned for being home to the famous handmade bobbin lace called Idrija lace. It is said that Slovenia is the birthplace of lacemaking.
What to see:
Gewerkenegg Castle which in German means “mine castle”. It was used by the administration of the mercury mine for storing wheat and mercury. Now it is used for music school, shops and museum. It really is an amazing place. You can visit Mestni muzej Idrija museum (Municipal museum) to experience the rich 500 year old mining heritage of Idrija or listen to the music that kids play.
Second one would be Anthony’s shaft. It is the second largest mercury mine in the world within a short walk from the town. At Anthony’s shaft which is the entrance to the mine, know the underworld of the Idrija miners, their hard daily work routine, the precious cinnabar ore, drops of mercury and the extraordinary underground Holy Trinity chapel built at the end of the pit. It truly is a unique experience. If you are lucky you can see “Perkmandlc” the pit dwarf. 😉
The third one is Zgornja Idrijca Landscape Park where you can experience real nature. You can visit natural swimming site Lajšt and Klavže, the water barriers (Slovenian pyramids) in the valleys of the rivers Idrijca, Belca and Kanomljica. Timber has always been used as a mining prop and since in those times there were no proper vehicles and roads available for transporting timber, these barriers were built to float timber through the rivers and creeks. Initially the Klavže were made out of wood but was later reconstructed using stone. They are impressive structures which you must see when in Idrija.
For me the most interesting and amazing spot is Wild Lake. Wild Lake is a mysterious lake. It is hidden in rocky hollow. We don’t know how deep it is. The divers have reached a depth of 160 m below the surface normally after a heavy rain water starts spewing out of the siphon. But it is also beautiful in the sunny days.
The biggest event is “Čipkarski festival” (Lace Festival) in the middle of June. It really has a lot to offer. It is all about lace and lacemaking which is a tradition being carried forward from three centuries in Idrija. You can visit special exhibitions, fashion shows, eat our special dish “Idrijski žlikrofi”, shop souvenirs, visit concerts..
Idrija is known for the food called, “Idrijski žlikrof”. They are dumplings made from dough with a potato filling and a characteristic shape. Idrijski žlikrof has been named so because it has originated from Idrija. It contain no preservatives, colouring or flavour enhancers yet they are so popular that it said around 50 tonnes of them are produced and consumed each year.
Last year, they presented “Idrijski Žlikrof” like a dessert. It is the same shape, but it is made from chocolate.
The heart of Idrija is our main square. There you can see old buildings, tiny streets and there is always a lot of local people just hanging out.
Best place from where you can see all the city is a small hill with a little church on it, called “Sv. Anton”. It takes about 15 minutes walk from the city center.