The mercury mines and the Idrija lace, Slovenia

Monday, June 2, 2014

Do you want to visit mercury mines and discover the Idrija lace creations? Do you know where the thermomether mercury balls come from? You can see them in Idrija, a small town in Slovenia, part of the Unesco sites, not far from the Italian border.

Diaries of an explorer

I left the wonderful Aquileia and reached Idrija during the afternoon: the only problem was that I got to Idrija not that late, but quite late for an Middle- European town, where almost everything closes around 5 pm - 6 pm.

Idrija is known worldwide for two things: the Idrija lace and its mercury mines, the second largest mercury mines after Almaden, in Spain. Due to the mercury mines, Idrija was inserted in the Unesco sites list since it "features mercury stores and infrastructure, as well as miners' living quarters, and a miners' theatre" and they both "have had an important role in the history of humanity, from ancient times up to the present day".

This is the entrance to the mines, the so- called St. Anthony Gallery ( Antonijev Roy), that allows to visit the mines: it's a 90 minutes long visit, but unfortunately it closes at 3 pm during the week and at 4 pm during the weekend.
Diaries of an explorer
Unfortunately I was late so I could not access to the old mercury mines. However, even if I was disappointed I had the chance to visit also the town and the castle, without knowing that the castle had a museum where the entire mercury production process was explained, together with tools, documents regarding the mines, but not only limited to that.

The town has a typical Middle - European architecture and you can see the clear influence of the Austro- Hungarian empire during the years, especially in its main buildings. The town is crossed by the Idrijca river and surrounded by some little canals and by some hills and mountains. 

First of all I went to the castle: because of its museum and for its decorated courtyard, it is for sure one of the castles to visit.
Diaries of an explorer
Diaries of an explorer
When you access the castle, you can see a nice interior courtyard and painted walls.
Diaries of an explorer

Diaries of an explorer

This time I was a bit more lucky, since the museum was closing at 6 pm, so I had one hour to visit the entire museum. The ticket costs 3,5 Euros and it's worth the price ( maybe undervalued). 

The museum has different sections: one dedicated to the history of the town, developed around the mines development and another one to the lace, the two main features of Idrija. Here you will see the most interesting parts of the "mining" section.
Diaries of an explorer
This is the rock where the mercury was extracted,
Diaries of an explorer
That man banging on that wood meant the beginning of a working day at the mercury mines.
Diaries of an explorer
Diaries of an explorer
Diaries of an explorer
After the explication of the extraction process, you can finally see the results of hard work of the miners: the museum displays this fantastic cube with the mercury little balls, the ones you could also find in the thermometers.
Diaries of an explorer
The light effects were impressive! :-)
Diaries of an explorer
And this is one of the "poor" miners that had to find and excavate the mercury rock. What a terrific life it should have been.

Now it's time to go to the next section, the one representing the famous Idrija lace. I had an interesting chat with the woman that works that works at the museum shop. She told me that right now there's still the tradition of creating the laces and there is one of the oldest schools in the world, but unfortunately there are not enough people that want to learn this old and complex technique.
Diaries of an explorer
Diaries of an explorer
Diaries of an explorer
Diaries of an explorer
Diaries of an explorer
Diaries of an explorer
Diaries of an explorer

From the castle, you can have a nice sight of the town and once left the building you can stroll around
Diaries of an explorer

and see other nice buildings or its little squares.
Diaries of an explorer
Diaries of an explorer
Diaries of an explorer
Diaries of an explorer
Diaries of an explorer

Last but not least, I saw that there was the possibility to reach the Divje Jezero, or the Emerald Lake. You can reach by walking along a trail in the middle of the wood. Maybe it is not one of best hiking trails I've ever done, but however it's really a relaxing trail and finally the lake is really worth a site.
Diaries of an explorer
You need to walk along the trail that bounds the Idrijca river and you need also to cross a wooden bridge.
 From the bridge you have a nice sight over the river.
Diaries of an explorerYou need to walk for 2.1 km or 1.3 miles: you can meet a lot of hikers and also a lot of Idrijan people running along it.
Diaries of an explorer
 In 25 minutes, you can reach the Divje Jezero, and you realize it really looks like emerald.
Diaries of an explorer
Diaries of an explorer

Travel tips:
  • When you cross the Slovenian border, you need to pay the autoways. In my case, since I had to stay only 3 days, I bought the 7 days ticket, that costed 15 Euros ( US $20). 
  • If you are planning a visit to Idrija, please make sure you get to the town before midday in order to visit the mercury mines.
  • If you do not walk along the Emerald Lake trail or Divje Jezero trail and you want to visit the mercury mines, it could take around 3 hours. If you decide to have also this nice walk, you could also need a couple of hours more if you also want to have a break there.
  • Idrija has an annual event related to the Idrija lace with models, shows, exhibitions, etc.
  • Idrija has a lot of nature and you could do a lot of outdoor activities such as hiking, trekking and much more.
Since I booked an hostel in Ljubljana, I left Idrija to reach the Slovenian capital, that will be the next stop of this Ita-Slovenian road trip.

4 commenti:

Nandini Voice for the Deprived said...

Great article, it is nice to read your article..

Marco Zannin said...

thanks a lot! :-)

Marko @ Travel Photo Blogging said...

Nice post! However the artificial lake behind that dam is not Divje jezero (Wild lake). To see it you should have crossed the river (using a wooden hanging bridge) just before the end of the path. The lake is located about 100m to the left once you cross the river.

You should obviously revisit Idrija, visit the mine and also have a taste of ┼Żlikrofi - a local delicacy.

Have fun, keep travelling and don't stop posting about it. ;)

Marco Zannin said...

Thanks Marko for your valuable comment! Auch really? well I need to modify the content...since when I was there I asked many times where the lake was and they told me: "follow the trail and in 20 minutes you should find it". So when I came there I found this lake thinking it was the Divje Jezero. Anyway, I hope to visit Idrija again and taste the Zlikrofi too! :-)

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