August 29, 2018
“The weather is lovely today. It was one degree Celsius this Sunday, snowing all around us”, we were told by a cowherder at Velika planina yesterday. The man, like his colleagues, spends the entire summer up on the mountain, looking after his herd, producing cheese, cutting wood and looking after himself, not an easy task at an elevation of 1600 m, but one look at his workplace makes the benefits of his job immediately clear.
“We might just drive the herd down to the valley in ten days or so”, he continued while we were buying a 2 kg wheel of aged raw cheese at his wooden shepherd cottage, where he makes it. “Make a guess, how many litres of milk is in this?” We had no idea, so he told us there are about 35 litres, and that young cheese like this weights about 3.5 kg, and shrinks further to 2 kg after being aged. We payed €34 for it, cash, and no receipt was issued. We were no longer following the rules observed in the lowlands of the country.
According to archaeological findings, humans have been present at this site since pre-historic times, while the oldest remaining of a herder’s hut date back to the 16th century.
All of the existing 122 huts, with the exception of two, buried deep under the snow, were burnt down by German Nazi and their local collaborators between November 1944 and March 1945.
After the war most of the 63 huts that we can see today were rebuilt in a rather modern fashion – with an open south face and windows. One of the exceptions is Preskarjeva bajta (Preskar’s hut), built in traditional style right after the war in 1945, which managed to survive all modernisation attempts and serves as a herding museum today.
The local Nazi collaborators not only burnt down the huts, but also Mary of the Snows Basilica, built in 1938 according to the architectural designs of the great Slovenian architect Jože Plečnik. A new Basilica was built in 1988 according to the architectural proposal of Vlasto Kopač, a great lover of the mountain and one of Plečnik’s employees between the years 1937 and 1940.
Velika planina is one of the few preserved high elevation pastures in Slovenia, and one of the rare examples in Europe where the traditional oval huts without chimneys, windows or doors can still be found.
While most of the herders decided to ease their lives up in the mountain by opening the southern faces of their huts with windows, adding chimneys and even bathrooms, as well as covering the entrances with doors, Vlasto Kopač nevertheless succeeded in keeping at least Preskar’s hut as it was until 2005, when it was declared and protected as a site of the Slovenian cultural heritage, thus safeguarding it for the future.
How to get there
There are two basic ways to get to Velika Planina. As during the winter Velika planina changes into a skiing site, the first way to get to the top is by the use of cable car and a chair-lift. The second is to find a parking lot nearby one of the trails leading through the forest to the meadows at the top.
For some orientation, here are the main connected settlements of the plateau: Velika planina, Mala planina and Gojška planina.
We opted for hiking through the forest, meaning we had to attack the hill from the east, exiting the forest trail at Gojška planina. The cable service and chair-lift should be looked for on the western side of the plateau, meaning the driving routes are a bit different. Let’s see how.
Coming from either Mozirje or Kamnik, there are two road crossings you need to pay attention to. The first one at Stahovica, where if you come from Kamnik the sign for “Velika planina” will make you turn towards the cable car station. If you want to walk to the top, keep on driving straight towards Podlom.
The road starts climbing towards the Podlom, where you make a sharp turn left towards Kranjški rak and Velika planina.
Drive up to the Kranjski Rak guesthouse at Volovljek pass, drive for a few metres further, then turn left to the gravel road.
Then you reach the intersection. You can either take the left or the right turn, both leading to a free parking lot and a trail for Velika planina.
We took the left turn and drove until seeing this sign:
We parked the car alongside the road which broadens into a free parking lot a bit further and headed up the trail into the forest.
After about 30 minutes’ climb, the forest starts opening.
And you end up at Gojška planina, or the so-called Gojški stan.
Turn left for Mala and Velika planina for a bit more of uphill walking.
At the end of this not very clear trail, as it is in fact a pasture, there is a gate. Close the gate after you let yourself through, so that the cows don't wander away from their pastures, then continue walking.
Once you find yourself on a very soft grass trail, you are approaching Mala planina or Mali stan.
From there you will see slightly bigger buildings up on the hill, which are in fact mountain homes. There you can use the bathroom and order a traditional Slovenian dish (jota, štruklji, beef goulash with polenta sausages, etc.) and even have a beer.
From Domžalski dom (scroll up back to the settlement map – the locations of mountain homes are marked there) you can head further to Velika planina settlement on the other side of the plateau, where we managed to find a herder, who sold us that wheel of cheese.