A picturesque Alpine path past the Alpine dairy-farms where you can still hear the ringing of cow bells, grazing the meadows of Begunjščica.
|10,2 km||960 m||5-6 h|
|Luknja gorge||Prevala mountain pasture||Roža spring|
|Roblek cottage||Pastures Poljška||Pastures Planinca|
Prevala mountain pasture lies at a 1,311 m high saddle Preval, between the valleys of Draga and Šentan. Originally, it was owned by a noble family of the castle Kamen, and later it was purchased by landowners from Zgoše and Vrbenj. Prevala was a dairy mountain, where around twenty cows were milked; milking and processing the milk were the main concerns of dairy farmers. Expulsion of livestock on the mountain through the gorge Luknja was difficult and dangerous to people and livestock, hence a part of the path, where the first time a horizon shines over the mountain, is called Mil pogled (Mild gaze).
First shepherds’ cottages on the mountain Prevala, about which written information exist, were built in 1808. They stood on a sunny slope, about 300 m from the existing cottage. Due to the permanent danger of avalanches, co-owners of the mountain built a new cottage between 1936 -38. It was burnt just before the end of the Second World War. The cottage was rebuilt in 1952 after the original plans.
Gold in Roža spring (folk tale)
That there is gold in Begunjščica knew already
people in the past, mostly miners. But honest men dug ore in caves in Begunjščica hundred, two hundred, three hundred or even more hundred years ago. And at one time stocks started to disappear. One man was running short of bread, the other of meat, the third of minced lard and so on. Who might that be, they wondered. Soon they got to know a little man, who was so short that he could not reach the top of the table with his head, dressed in a green jacket and green pans and covered with red cap. Then they knew that the thief was Berhmandelc. They managed to trick the mountain dwarf with spirit. Under the threat he told the miners a secret that at Christmas, when the clock strikes midnight, instead of clear water from the spring Flower runs pure gold.
A supervisor, who pushed miners to work, heard for the secret of the golden fountain. In the cold Christmas night he set a bucket underneath the fountain, when the clock started to strike and he began to count. Indeed it seemed to him that he hears jingling of gold. “Oh, oh, my wealth,” he marveled, and counted to eleven. And instead of removing the bucket, he delayed it, out of the greed. He held the bucket, but could not raise it. He reached into it, but felt only cold water. He became terrified and ran towards caves. When the miner visited him in his cottage on St. John’s Day, they hardly recognized him. Previously, he had black hair, now they had grown gray, he was shaken by the fever, and he could hardly speak. A week later they escorted him to the cemetery in the black clothes and wished him goodbye with a miners’ greeting “Good luck!”
Manganese mines in Begunjščica
Beginnings of mining of manganese ore on the slopes of Begunjščica reach back to the early 19th century. Initially, ore was transported by self weighted sleighs in the winter and by single ax carts without the rear wheels along narrow paths in the summertime. The last part of the cart was sliding on the floor and decelerating it. In the valley the ore got unloaded to the ordinary carts and was driven to ironworks of Gorenjska. Manganese ore was important to ironworks for the ability of manganese compounds to desulfur pig iron and give it an elastic alloy.
With the discovery of a new process, the need for manganese ore increased sharply. Technical Director of Kranjska Industrijska družba (KID), Lambert von Pantz added to the iron ore manganese ore, which was dug in Begunjščica. He achieved that the KID was the first blast furnace in the world that obtained an alloy of iron and manganese – feromanganese, which brought worldwide fame to the inventor and to ironworks of Javornik. They were awarded for their product in exhibitions in Vienna (1873) and Philadelphia (1876). In Florjan, Ferdinand and Maximiljan pit around 130.000 tons of ore, containing about 30% of manganese, were dug up until the closure of the mining district in 1915.
The oldest cottage underneath Begunjščica was Tomc cottage on Poljška Mountain, built in 1901. It was named after Blaž Tomc, local man from Poljče, who donated his cottage to Radovljica branch of the Slovenian Mountaineering Association. In 1908 the association with the assistance of local people built a new cottage at an altitude of 1,517 m. They named it Vilfan cottage, after Dr. Janko Vilfan, the first chairman of SPD Radovljica. “Vilfanca” was for its location and size more like a hunting lodge, so the board of Mountaineering Association decided to build a new mountain cottage at Begunjščica.
A new mountain cottage, named after Dr. Hugon Roblek, was inaugurated on 30th July, 1933. Both, Roblek cottage and lower-lying Vilfan cottage were burnt during the Second World War. Roblek cottage was rebuilt on old foundations after the original plan, but Vilfan cottage is still in ruins.
Hugon Roblek was born on 27th December, 1871 in Radovljica. After graduating from high school, he completed a master’s degree in pharmacy in Vienna in 1892. As a pharmacy manager he worked in Slovenia, Austria, Switzerland and Egypt. In 1906 he returned home and opened a pharmacy in Bled and in Tržič. In 1919 he defended the northern Slovenian border as a Maister fighter in Podrožca in Austrian Carinthia. On 19th July, 1920, the Italian fascists burned the National home in Trieste, the symbol of Trieste Slovenes. That night Roblek also stayed in the building and unsuccessfully attempted to save his life by jumping through the window. In his will he left all of his property to the Radovljica branch of the Slovenian Mountaineering Association, which built Roblek cottage out of his legacy.
On the Poljška mountain pasture, which belongs to the village community of Poljče, were predominantly herded around 6 horses for four weeks, 25 cows for eight weeks and about 200 sheep from ten to twelve weeks. Pastures on the mountain, which covers 134 hectares and originally stretched all the way to the Grand Summit of Begunjščica, are now largely overgrown with forest. Spacious mountain cottage was built in 1933. After the arson in 1944 it was renewed in its original form after the war.
Planinca Mountain pasture (formerly Lamberger Mountain pasture) was originally owned by noble men of Castle Kamen and Begunje manor, but since 1924 it has been owned by co-ownership community of 44 farmers from Begunje. On the mountain with a distinctive ridge position there were once herded from 25 to 40 cows for eight weeks and about 150 sheep from ten to twelve weeks. The majority were oxen and calves, there were not many milking cows – just enough to have milk on the mountain. An important source of revenue for the mountain was also renting of hunting. Mossy wall next to the cottage belongs to the former “mountain hotel” a magnificent hunting cottage, which was burned during the Second World War.
Haymayking on Mt. Begunjščica
Of all the mountains in Karavanke, Begunjščica was the best known for mowing. Snoseki (mowers) from Begunje with crampons on their feet mowed slopes all the way up to the summit of the mountain. Hay from črtenje (private meadows) and kopišča (collective meadows), women raked down to hayloft, usually barefoot, so that it was less slippery. Dry hay on the base of branches was put in a pile around a 3-4 meters high pole. Hay was then thoroughly stuffed and they raked around the pile, so when it rained, the water ran out. When the first snow fell, the hay was tied together into a 180 kg heavy burden, put on dry branches, which they dragged to sledges and then to the valley.