On the day of Slovenian holiday of independence and unity, December 26th, 2019, we went to Karst exploration and cultural engagement, more precisely to village Kostanjevica na Krasu, to the blessing of the horses in Vojščica, settlement Štanjel and in the end to a concert of wind orchestra in Komen. The day was just right for this kind of excursion, sunny and without a cloud. Unfortunately the winter, once again, let us down, as in December the temperatures were not suitable for this time of the year.
From old to new on Karst! — Travel-Slovenia
We drove from Ljubljana along Littoral highway towards Nova Gorica, and further to Karst and towards village Vojščica to a blessing of the horses, which happened in front of the village church of St. Vid from 11. o’clock onwards. This kind of event happened in Vojščica for the first time, as they moved it from Kobjeglava. Blessing always takes place on December 26th, as this day is a name day of St. Štefan, who is the patron of stonemasons, headache intercessors and the patron of the horses.
As we were early, we stopped in a smaller karst village before Vojščica, in Kostanjevica na Krasu, a smaller village of Komen Karst, which has evolved on steep slope that on northern part ascents toward Fajtji hrib (en. Fajtji hill) (433 meters), Veliki vrh (en. Big peak) (463 meters) and Renski vrh (en. Renski peak) (449 meters), on the southern and western side it descends towards Hudi log. Kostanjevica na Krasu is the birthplace of academic painter Jože Spacal and writer Igor Torkar.
At first, we stopped at a smaller water reservoir, which is just one of many on Karst and were made due to lack of water in time of First World War, and were an important source to supply soldiers at the front lines. Before that, the water was supplied by cisterns, which was not very effective. This is why Austria brought water to the area of Karst and built waters systems. Opposite to the water reservoir, across the road, is the monument to the fallen members of Povodnik and Urdih family, which were chased by the German army to a mill and burned.
Since that day was a national holiday, we were accompanied by Slovenian flags, which boldly showed off in the wind. Village Kostanjevica na Krasu was strongly marked by the First World War, in addition to already mentioned arson V Malnu (in the mill), in the center of the village stands the monument to the fallen fighters, the second one is a village cemetery, namely to 28 fighters and victims for liberty. Not far from the cemetery once stood Italian ossuary in memory of Italian soldiers, who died in the First World War. Ossuary was after the Second World War removed, until today only the lower base remains.
There is also a church of St. Martin, which was erected in the year 1927, in the same place as a former church, which was demolished in the First World War. It was built in neo-Romanesque style with a big altar in the shape of ciborium with a painting of St. Martin. While discovering the village, we came across the sign for path The walk of peace and the sign for not far located Russian cave.
Karst world is hiding numerous natural Karst caves, which were used for various purposes throughout the history, some of them were used in the time of Soča front for military purposes. One among them was also the Russian cave, which was first used for storing the ammunition, later they used it to accommodate Russian prisoners. The cave is for now freely accessible, but we got the information that in the future it will be closed for public, mostly because of the risk of injury. After the view of the village, we drive to Vojščica, upon arrival we notice the statues of forest animals, which decorated the village. We parked in a suitable place and stand aside, as the horses already started to come to the village, to their annual blessing.
In the church of St. Vid the mass just started, which was dedicated to the national holiday, the blessing of the horses usually coincides with the day of Slovenian independence. A nice number of horses gathered. Some owners came in the saddle, other by foot next to their horse, again some in a gallop on the road. After the mass, follows the blessing of the horses, at first the priest blesses the salt, and then bread, which the horses receive. In the end, each horse is blessed individually, and before each horse is blessed, it is presented. We had a nice view of many horses, each in its own way mighty and beautiful, some of them slightly impatient. We took advantage of this event and look the inside of the church of St. Vid. All, who are interested in history and architecture, should see the interior of the church, which somehow represents an architectural achievement over time. After the blessing, follows the banquet with yota with sausage, good domestic wine and local delights. Of course, the aperitif was not missing. Later the sound of accordion spread around, which provided the right atmosphere.
After the blessing, we head towards one of the oldest settlements on Karst, Štanjel. Known after its old city center, it got its name after the patron of the church, Saint Daniel. The image of the city was after the First World War strongly marked by architect Max Fabiani in time of his mayoralty. The characteristic feature of Štanjel is its defensive walls from the 15th century, which protected the inhabitants against the Turkish invasions. The city reached its peak of development in the 16th and 17th century, most of the architectural characteristics of the builds are from this period. Štanjel is still considered as a pearl of the Karst, as it is, as already mentioned one of the oldest, also most picturesque Karst settlement.
We parked not far from the city center, where a beautiful view opens towards the city, to the castle, the walls and the bell tower of the church of St. Daniel. Below the slope, on the main square, the Skonceva chapel is located. Here is also an old village scale and memorial. We head towards the old city center behind the walls, after small ascent, we come to the entry tower, which once was part of the defence wall. On it is the Cobenzl family coat of arms. Upon arrival to the interior of the walls, we see the stairs, old city houses, and the church of St. Daniel. Wells, are also located here.
At the top of the stairs, in front of the village courtyard, was a small market with homemade products. We enter the courtyard and walk around, we notice the well, and behind it a small Christmas crib. Right at that time, a reward game of searching the Christmas cribs took place, as they placed 60 of them around the settlement, which children and grownups were looking for gladly. When entering the entrance tower, there were papers, on which one could mark the numbers that were written next to the cribs, so you could know which you already found.
A walk across the courtyard, up the stairs and next to the houses towards the exhibition of village dressmaker titled Dressmaker in village life and on the red carpet. After seeing the exhibition we head to another exhibition of Max Fabiani, the exhibition, which was created as a tribute to the great Karst man, whos rich material and spiritual legacy follows the visitor on his every step. With it, they tried to show Fabiani’s wide creative opus that places him among the most important architects of Middle Europe at the turn from the 19th to 20th century.
His opus includes designs of impressive city palaces, urban planning of large cities and markets, interventions in smaller places and villages in Gorica region and Karst. The view of the exhibition is free and possible in time of office hours. Afterwards, we head to discover Štanjel and his old Medieval streets that are narrow and very interesting. The most attention was given to the alley where trees grow and thus integrate into the old image of the city. The path leads us towards Lookout point or Gledanica, where a beautiful view opens to the surrounding and the city Štanjel. Lookout point stands at the peak of Štanjel hump or Turn, which stands at the edge, and separates the Karst plateau from Vipava valley, and in the past it had an important strategic observational and control role. Here are preserved remains of Roman lookout and defense tower, from here the Romans had the control of the passage into Italy. Next to the Lookout point is a Slovenian flag.
After the view, we went to discover Štanjel more. Along the narrow streets down, up, left and right we slowly discovered the entire settlement inside the walls. We came across the galley, where an exhibition of fairy-tale illustrations Flying Leo (si. Leteči Leo) was available to see, with beautiful drawings. We tried domestic wine and listen to the stories from Štanjel. After a shortstop, we head-on. Slightly lower a beautiful view opens to the city below us.
On the house behind us, we see two statuettes, first dedicated to Josip Abram, priest, national awakener and writer, and to translator Ševčenko, known as Ukrainian poet, painter and comedian. As we make our way through the streets, we reach the foothill of the Lookout point, where another beautiful view to surrounding hills opens. Throughout our settlement discovering, we are constantly discovering different cribs, which were placed along the path, each arranged in its own way, but none the same to the former. Besides the cribs, we also see numerous wells. On some parts we walked along the Fabiani path, which is placed through the entire Štanjel, and all the way to Kobdilj.
The path takes us to the other side of the settlement, where we notice the tower at the door or Kobdilj tower, here starts the set of buildings of Ferrari villa, which was arranged by Max Fabiani for his brother-in-law Enrico Ferrari. Enrico bought most of the buildings in this set, together with the Kobdilj tower and the tower on the northwest, which was demolished during the First World War. When reconstructing this set, Fabiani considered the medieval Štanjel and because of that, he did not change the facades on the street side. Below villa Ferrari stands Ferrari garden, which together with villa, represents the rounded whole and monumental enrichment of Štanjel.
We walk through the Ferrari garden, which is just amazing, with beautifully arranged paths, a pool and an island with a small bridge. From the garden opens a beautiful view of surrounding hills and to Branica valley. With the view back we can see the set of buildings, which are part of Ferrari villa. The path takes us to the viewing platform, where the view to the entire Branica valley opens. It is a torrential valley of river Branica, after which the valley got its name, at the same time it once represented an additional water source for inhabitants of Štanjel. The valley is peaceful and with forest overgrown, and does not invite-only cyclists, but also beekeepers, as bees have abundant spring graze here.
Lastly, we check the church of St. Daniel up close, otherwise we could not see the inside of the church, as it was locked, but we did the circle around it, what turns out was not a bad idea, as behind it we discovered not yet seen part of Štanjel. On the front side part of the church is a bust statue dedicated to Anton Mahnič, Catholic thinker, guardian of the old-church Slavic language and professor in Gorica. The statue was erected at the 150th anniversary of his birth and the 80th anniversary of his death. Few more streets and we concluded our Štanjel tour. This is followed by refreshment and short rest and departure towards military cemetery from the First World War. Here we walk pass railway tunnel, which is part of Bohinj railway, towards the cemetery. Austria-Hungary soldiers and Russian captives are buried here, who died in a nearby military hospital in Štanjel castle and in auxiliary hospital facilities in the surrounding area. The plan for the cemetery was made by architect Joseph Ulrich.
From here we take a ride toward the church of St. Gregory, which is located on the small elevation next to Štanjel above Kobdilj. It is a small late Gothic church, which was built between the years 1463 and 1464 and stand in the middle of the walled cemetery.
As we had some time on our hands, we decided to find Pipenica cave, but unfortunately, we did not find it. We could be very close, but we did not find a single sign, that is why we climbed on hunting observatory from where we could see the sunset. At dusk we head towards Komen, park in the center and quickly see the new year’s market. The village church of St. George was also illuminated.
Then it was time to head on to a traditional Christmas-new year concert of wind orchestra Komen, which happened in the sports hall of elementary school Komen. Brkini band 2000 (si. Brkinska godba 2000), was an introductory band followed by the performance of wind orchestra Komen. Before the end, both bands performed one last track. After the conclusion follows the banquet with Karst wine, which we just tried, as we had a long drive ahead of us.
This trip was exploratory and culturally colored, we got to know new places, new interesting locations, viewed many interesting things and listen to a concert of the wind orchestra. Karst showed us new interesting places, which gave us a new story to write and remind us that the visit is always worthy of our time. The day was wonderful and just right for this kind of trip. Karst and Slovenia proved one more time that both are wonderful and in each corner offers amazing stories. On the way home, we awakened some more impressions and stored them into memory.
We invite you to see the galley below that we made on our trip, maybe we convince you to go exploring yourself too. At the same time, we invite you to visit Karst, we are sure that you will not be sorry.