On a beautiful November Sunday we were taken to northern Littoral region, namely to a smaller elevation, which rises above Nova Gorica and Solkan, Sveta gora. Sveta gora is 862 meters high elevation, which offers a beautiful view on Gorica hills, Adriatic sea and the Friulian lowlands towards the Julian Alps with Triglav, across Vipava valley to Inner and Istrian hills. The top of the Sveta gora is named Skalnica (en. The Rock), the biggest landmark is God’s trail basilica of the Queen of Sveta gora, which was our goal.
Discover the history below! — Travel-Slovenia
The visitors can reach the top with the car on asphalt road from Solkan, along with it there are the Stations of the Cross. We returned along this path, after reaching the top. One can reach the top along the pilgrimage trail from Preval or from Grgar, Zagora, and Plave. We decided to conquer the top by going through the trenches, which were created during the First World War. Along the path we were accompanied by big and small caverns, this are preserved and partly cleaned Austria-Hungarian defense positions.
In early hours we drove along the highway towards Nova Gorica and Solkan. In Solkan, a little before the biggest stone bridge, Solkan bridge or Solkan viaduct, we turned to the right on a steep road towards Sveta gora and Grgar. We passed the famous Solkan quarry. Soon we arrived at the newly built roundabout, which we left at third exit. Not far ahead we could already see the parking lot next to the road. From here, we walked up the road, until we reached the first station of the way of the Cross, a wooden cross, which is decorated with flowers. Here we turned to the left on the forest path, mostly we followed the sign for Sveta gora.
After a few minutes of walk, we soon saw the routing board with the inscription path through the trenches, which we followed. Slightly higher, on the stone on the floor, we saw a red arrow with inscription trenches and later routing board with inscription passage with lamp. In front of us was the first entry point into the caverns, and the first look to the entrance showed us that the trenches were well dug during the First World War, at the same time we can imagine how difficult this work was. Trenches were mostly mined, afterward, the stones were taken away. We noticed that individual sections, when preserving the trenches, were strengthened with concrete.
For walk in the caverns, we suggest you use a headlamp, warm clothes, and suitable footwear. Later, in some caverns, it can become cold and windy. In some parts, it is slippery due to humidity. We also suggest a helmet, as in some parts, there is a danger of falling rocks and low ceilings. In the first cavern we turn on the light and head into the darkness, cavern otherwise is not long, but in the middle, it is quite dark. In it, we can see dead ends, which could once be used as a bedroom or some other space in which soldiers spent their time.
Along the path, there are many small trenches, caves, and caverns. We took a look and entered all which were accessible, even those, which were not marked. Approximately every hundred meters smaller caverns were dug, in which soldiers took shelter during the bombardment. One soldier always stayed outside as an observer, he usually did not return. According to the calculations, at least one grenade fell, on average, per square meter of the area during the bombardment. After the war, the area was full of metal that inhabitants of the villages along Soča river were collecting and selling as scrap metal.
In some caverns are cannon openings for the bombardment of neighboring hills and enemy positions. These openings were hard to hit by Austrian canons, as the cavern offered a safe shelter for canon. For this reason, naval cannons were brought from Pula, as they were capable of firing in a straight line, and with it, they could hit the Italian position with a first shot. From this opening, a view towards neighboring hills opens, from which the soldier had a great view of the enemy. But we need to be aware that these hills were once without vegetation due to heavy bombardment, in times of war the hill was completely naked. Cannon shells destroyed all the trees and largely transformed the landscape. After the war, the area slowly began to become overgrown with forests and other vegetation.
Along the way, we follow red arrows and blazes, which lead us towards the top of Sveta gora. In individual areas, a beautiful view of Gorica surrounding opens, either at the Slovenian or Italian side. When we walk along the forest path we have to be careful, as it is shared and arranged also for cyclists, which is indicated by a smaller sign.
In the caverns, bats found their shelter, as they were hanging from the ceiling in the dark. So we had to be careful that we did not disturb them while resting. In some caverns, we notice different metal objects or in stone placed nails. This way we were discovering cavern by cavern until we came to the longest passage, which is 260 meters long. We were alert to it by a wooden board, wire fence and other metal objects, which were used in the First World War. Upon arrival at the entrance of the cavern, we checked the conditions, turn on the headlight, zipped the jacket and step into the darkness. We discover every path, look the side trenches, but mostly we follow the main one. We slowly pave our way through the darkness, at the same time we were accompanied by a cold breeze.
Soon we come to the bigger ascent, where we see a wire rope that helps us with climbing. Here we must be very careful, as the rocks are very slippery. Beside wire rope, on some places the metal stairs were placed on which we climb the rocks. During our climb, we can see some objects that were used by soldiers, among others a metal base, which most likely was used for illumination of the space. After the climb, we continue along the lower trench, so we had to walk the entire way inclined, at the same time we had to watch that we did not hit our head against the ceiling. In distance, we soon see faintly light, which means that we are getting closer to the exit. Before we exit, we stop next to the stone hollow, where the water is collected, which was used by soldiers for drinking and washing. It was cold.
We step out of the cold trench into the warmth, stop for a moment to warm our self’s and continue along the marked forest path. At the sign for Walk of peace, we turn to the right into the hill and continue along partly preserved and overgrown trenches. Along the way, we see some other entrances into caverns but were not suitable for discovering, that is why we continue walking towards the top. After a short ascent, we reach the top of Francis hill, where the monument of St. Francis stands, and at the same time a beautiful view in all directions opens, towards Nova Gorica, surrounding hills and Italy. From the monument, we head towards basilica of the Queen of Sveta gora, which is located at the top of Skalnica. On the way, we see a bigger rock with inscriptions in Italian.
The path takes as pass the cemetery, where we see a memorial plaque to Josip Gabrijelčič, doctor of divinity, a professor and educator. From here we continue towards basilica, make a circle around it and admire the view. Sveta gora is part of the Road of three Sanctuaries, which connects three known and well-visited pilgrimage sanctuaries, besides Sveta gora, Mary’s Celje on Kanal’s Kolovrat and Staro Goro (en. Old mountain) above Čedad. They are connected in a unique triangle of three Mary’s homes. In front of the entrance to basilica is a wired statue, which was erected at the 500th anniversary of Slovenian Franciscan province.
Once on top, we take time to admire the surroundings and for rest and a snack. We descend on the other road, which takes us to pass a pilgrimage path, where along the way we see crosses, which mark the Way of the cross. Along the path, we explore some smaller trenches, and slowly we come back to the starting point. Here opens another view on the Solkan stone bridge, which represents an architectural marvel, it rises above the most beautiful Slovenian river, Soča. Soča was praised by Simon Gregorčič in his poem, at the same time he predicted its future and the great war. On the opposite side is Sabotin, which is also interspersed with caverns and trenches.
Our trip ended with that, and we still had a drive home ahead of us. Until now, no visit to the Littoral region disappointed us, as it always offers us new adventures and stories, at the same time, such a trip reminds us of the dark period of our history. The day was sunny, warm and suitable for a visit of cold trenches below Sveta gora, which, at least for the moment, brought us back into the history and to some extent showed us how in that time soldiers lived. As usual, even this time we found dumped trash along the way, which we brought with us back to the valley. We would like to use this opportunity to warn everyone, who decides to go to nature, to carry their, and also from others, trash back to the valley and dispose of them in suitable containers. Only this way we can preserve nature clean and unspoiled.
At the same time, we would like to invite you to take a trip and walk through the caverns, we are sure that you will not regret it, and at the same time you will discover the history and by yourself check the conditions in the trenches. In the end, you will be rewarded with a beautiful view. So, not to lose too many words, as it is a habit, we invite you to check the gallery. Of course, we will appreciate every like or share of this post. And do not forget, you can follow new discoveries and stories on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, TripAdvisor or Tik Tok.
Travel-Slovenia | Ultimate travel guide for Slovenia | www.travel-slovenia.si/