After a good lunch in the town of Idrija – we recommend their local specialty, the so-called Idrija žlikrofi with a side dish – you can enter a section of the park next to the city on foot.
Right at the entrance a small botanic garden awaits you, as well as the mine haulage station, kamšt and water channels called rake.
Kamšt is a mighty and for the construction of that period (1790) much technically improved apparatus. This is a spade-shaped wheel made of oak with a diameter of almost 14m, called kamšt (waterworks) that through transmissions pumped water from a depth amounting to 280 m. When set, this wheel replaced the mine pumping devices which were in use, some of them dating back as early as the 16th c.
The propelling wooden wheel is placed within monumental stone-built construction and is well-known in Europe as one of the largest of this type of water wheels preserved to this day. It operated until as late as 1948. If you would like to pay a visit to this kamšt, the key can be obtained in the Gewerkenegg Castle, where you may request a guide who will describe the origin and the operating process of the previously mentioned device in detail.
Alongside the water channel, called the Rake, which provided water and thus enabling the pumping device to function, you may want to take a walk down to Kobila. This path has been declared a lover’s path and intended for Idrija inhabitants in need of time off. The path runs continuously alongside the channel, in the shades of the trees and next to the lower part of the Idrijca river. During the relaxing stroll you might run into some recreational runners, with whom the strollers share the cultivated nature. As early as 1596 the first water channels (rakes) were built, which directed the water to the dam on the Idrijca river next to Kobila all the way to the centre of the town. It takes about a half hour of a leisurely walk on flat ground accompanied by the water, luxurious vegetation and the sounds of nature. The path leads us past the giant trees, the river curve at Zagode, the spring, multiple footbridges over the Idrijca river and finally ending at the dam.
The lake Divje jezero is a natural phenomenon almost like no other in the Slovenian territory and is probably also the most captivating phenomenon to be found in the entire area of the park and its surroundings. It lies hidden under perpendicular walls only about two kilometres away from the town of idrija. It is a typical karstic spring into which waters flow underneath almost completely upright walls steeply lifting above the lake and forming a kettle-like shape. The state of water in the lake depends on the precipitation rate. The water within the lake is steady most of the time and along with the surrounding nature creates a unique biotope that has welcomed a lot of natural scientists, botanists and contributed to the birth of botany in Slovenia. It is difficult to find such diverse plant species scattered over such a small space, and among the species we can find a great deal of endemic plants, including the famous Carniolan Primrose (Primula carniolica). In crevices over the lake Divje jezero thrives the alpine butterwort (Pinguicula alpina), a carnivorous plant that has remained here from the period of exuberant alpine flora in these places.
As stated before, the lake Divje jezero is a karstic spring, a vaucluse karstic spring to be precise, that has its water typically flowing into the surface from great depths through siphons and is under pressure, something which can be detected particularly after heavy rainfall in the lake’s catchment area. The lake starts to rumble and emit large quantities of water. The flow of the lake’s water rises and can reach up to 100m² per second, the surface level can rise up to 3m and over the middle of the lake the water cupola is formed. During events such as these it is aptly called the “wild” lake. Large quantities of water in the form of the shortest Slovenian river Jezernica – it is merely 50 m long − flow into the Idrijca river.
The siphon depth still remains a great mystery the divers have been striving to solve since 1970 when the first research dives were carried out in the lake. Beneath the clearly visible fault in the Southeast wall at the depth of 15m a water tunnel begins. The latter represent a home for many underwater animals, including “human fish” (Proteus anguinius). The greatest depth reached so far has amounted to 160m and is more than 450m from the lake’s surface level. The complex siphon and great depth have already claimed the lives of three experienced research divers. From 1999 onwards a permit is needed to be able to dive in the lake.
Due to its uniqueness the lake Divje jezero has been protected as a natural monument since 1967 and from 1972 has been granted the title of the first Slovenian museum of nature. For a less demanding and safer visit to the lake the surrounding area has been equipped with explanatory boards pointing out the main features of the lake and surrounding fauna.
The road passing by the lake Divje jezero leads to the centre of the natural park; from here onwards it is advisable to take a ride by car or bicycle. The pools of the Idrijca river are appropriate for summer bathing and the vivid nature will keep you company all the way to Idrijska Bela, small farm villages, and private houses within the park. Here, next to the confluence of Idrijca and Belca, the valley stretches out a little and a ravine descends to mowed grassland, under the clear blue sky. Right beside the confluence one can notice a bathing spot, a cottage with subsidiary places where you can freshen up and rest for a while before entering the more secluded area of the park.
You might turn left at the confluence and continue your way alongside the Belca river. The road passes by Klavže (of Brus and Putrih) and leads to a forest post in Krekovše, moving along towards Mrzla rupa. You will be constantly surrounded by thick forests and wild nature. In these parts of the park there are no permanent residents and during the last two years of World War II the hospital that offered shelter and care to around 1,600 wounded men functioned in almost inaccesible areas. After about 15 kilometres you will reach a pass and you will be overlooking the Julian Alps. On the saddle, between the valleys of Idrijca and Trebuša the late Antique wall dating back to the 3rd and 4th c. AD is located; the wall used to protect the passage between these two valleys. Further on, towards Golaki and Čepovan, you will come across a virgin forest, nature reserve at Bevkov vrh located in the farthest possible location to the north edge of the plateau Trnovska planota.
You can also turn right at the confluence next to the Idrijca river heading towards the plateau Vojsko. The road follows the riverbed and separates from the water only after reaching the upper areas. The terrain is steep and partly precipitous preventing the road to follow the water.
Right where the road rises 300m above the riverbed, the Idrijca river created the impassable ravine Kramarš’ca. The water tries to force its way out into the open through gorges and water channels. In upper areas the road again rejoins the water and one can notice yet another klavže and Zaklavžarjeva tourist farm, the residence of the caretaker and manager of klavže. The tourist farm is now abandoned.
Already at the Belca river you had the opportunity to notice water barriers, named klavže. The mine required large amounts of wood on a yearly basis, and up to World War II around 4 million m² of wood had been used, and with the surrounding area of Idrija being almost impassable, with no roads available and with very rugged terrain, the Idrijca river along with its confluents proved to be the most suitable for transport. This led to the first klavže being built as early as the end of the 16th c. The brick klavže, preserved today, were built from 1767 to 1772. If the Idrijca klavže are the biggest and if they contained most of the water – the walls are more than 10m thick and on the upper part 44m wide – then Putrih klavže on the Belca river are without doubt the most picturesque. They are located in between precipitous walls, where the valley closes and compresses. All of klavže had double doors which were opened when the dam was full and beneath klavže the rushing water carried the accumulated wood following the flow all the way to Idrija. The vast river rakes in the town stopped the drifting wood, but the water flooded the riverbanks and often caused some damage and then calmly continued on its path. The biographer for Slovenian inventors claims that the klavže stand out due to their uniqueness and massive construction among the types of technical monuments in our area and around the world.
Stanislav Mazi describes the wood drifting: “When opening the doors, the barrier needed to be lifted, the break removed and then the water came gushing through the door and squirting through the channels. It did not even flow, its pressure was too powerful and its quantity was exceeding: anyone who had the courage to observe its flow from the stairs, could only see the foam and mist of the water splashing and rumbling into the depths ... Before the Putrih klavže, with the riverbed almost 13m lower from the mouth of the klavže doors, the 7,000m² of wood was put together, which at a length of 115m covered all of the riverbed up to the channel’s altitude in klavže. But the water lifted all of this timber weighting 4,000 tons. Once the accumulated wood had moved, the constant inflow of the water was relentlessly pushing it forward. Klavža upheld it.”
Thanks to the Idrija Municipial Museum the three klavže are restored today, the park is equipped with direction guidelines and explanatory boards, the roads are mostly in the form of macadam, some paths are marked, the waters are clean and clear. The exuberant, quite well preserved and healthy forests are with you every step of the way. With some luck you may run into roe deer and chemises. The geological importance is reflected in numerous fossil finds. On this trip through the park you may request a tour guide or you can go on your own. Either way you should pay attention to safety measures. Provided that you are in good shape you can walk your way through most of the park or go on a cycling tour with mountain bikes. The lowest point of the park is where it stretches to the town of Idrija – 320m, and beneath Golaki it reaches an altitude of 1450 above the sea level, which is one more feature that adds to the diversity and richness of the park. Be expected to face intact nature that is to remain so in the future.
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