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Kocevje is a town in the south of Slovenia, near to the border with Croatia. It is situated on the Rinza River and at the bottom of the Kocevski Rog karst plateau.
This region has the best-preserved forest habitation in Europe and has won many awards for its ‘green’ and ‘sustainable’ credentials. The ‘virgin forest’ areas are of major significance, as they are locations were the forest has had no intervention by man. They have their own nature law were things are allowed to live and die without any outside influences. The majority of virgin forests in Slovenia are in the Kocevje region the best is thought to be Rajhenavski Rog, which is approximately 50 acres of large ancient forest. Nearby stands Queen of Rog, a 51 meter high tree considered to be the mightiest fir in the country. Krokar forest is also important, as it is 75-hectare virgin forest and renowned for its beech trees.
There are many forests in the region, which makes it a green paradise and home to many animal species, several that have been eradicated elsewhere in the world. Locals have been living alongside bear (largest amount of brown bear in Europe), wolf, lynx, mouflon and eagles. There are also daily sittings of deer, wild pig, bore, foxes, badgers, owls and many other creatures. Needless to say, it is a wildlife enthusiasts dream to visit this region.
A very unusual creature that lives in the area is the ‘human-fish’, which is a olm or proteus. In contrast to most amphibians it is entirely aquatic and eats, sleeps and breeds underwater. They live in the areas of underground limestone karst, which are located throughout this part of the world. They are sometimes known as the white-salamander and get there name from the fact that the coloring of their skin is the same as the local people.
Karst topography is landscape formed from the dissolution of the limestone, dolomite and gypsum, from under the harder and stronger formations above them. This causes sink-holes which then sometimes fill with water and make spectacular subterranean caves.
Not far from Kocevje is Postojna Cave, which is a ‘karst phenonium’ and visited by thousands every year. First being a tourist attraction in 1819, it now has lighting, walking routes and even a train. One area is called the ‘blackened entrance’ due to its colouring, which was caused by the Slovenian partisans blowing up German Aircraft Fuel, which was stored there during the war. It is the best example of a karst topography in the country and has stalagmites, stalactites, and other amazing formations. The cave is over 24 kilometers long and is made up of 4 caves and two underground rivers. Whilst in this region of Slovenia, it really is a ‘must see’ destination.
Another feature of the Kocevje region are the Rivers and Lakes. The river that passes through the city is called Rinza and fascinatingly due to the karst landscape, starts in the mountains, through the town, disappears underground and then re:emerges again into the Bilpa Brook and Kolpa River.
The Kolpa, which borders Croatia, is popular for fishing, canoeing, boating etc, but most people are happy to be on the banks relaxing and taking in the countryside. One of the best places to take advantage of this is at Dol (or the Kocevje Riviera, as the locals call it). It is at a point where there is a spectacular looking weir, viewing areas, restaurants and shop, so during the summer weekends it gets very busy. Located nearby is where the users of the camper vans and trailers use as a parking point and base for exploring the area. During the summer months, the road by the side of the river and leads to Dol is full of; walkers, hiking, cyclists, bikers and roller-bladers.
Above the river is Kostel Castle (the name meaning fortress or refuse), which is the second largest castle complex in Slovenia and was a boarder defense and trading post.
Rudnisko Lake (or Lake Kocevje), which is on the outskirts of Kocevje, is approximately 40 meters deep, 1.5 kilometers across and 3 kilometers around its circumference. It is a disused coal mine and still has some of the equipment in its depths, so is a great venue for scuba divers. It is also popular for fishing too, as it is well stocked with carp, catfish and pike and producers some decent size catches. The surrounding countryside provides a magnificent backdrop, so it is also popular for swimming, boating, standing up peddling (SUP) or just relaxing in a nearby bar.
To get the best out of the attractions, it is best to do this with a local travel company such as INVIA DMC Slovenia, who will not only ensure that the experience is more enjoyable, but will ensure the trip goes smoothly and safely.
Barefoot Bear is a locally based and unique tour company specializing in Adventure, Survival, Nature and Activity experiences. These include; Bear-Watching, Horse-riding, Rafting, Canyoning, Hiking, Survival and Adventure packages, plus many more. Go with the local experts to enjoy and learn more about what this spectacular region has to offer.
Kocevje was an important industrial region of Slovenia, but after the worldwide reduction in manufacturing, like many, the area suffered. There are still a lot of disused factories and buildings throughout this location, but pro-active work by the Majors Office has resulted in investments. This area is believed to have the past potential in the whole country, so the Municipality and Tourist Board are looking for further investment and are interested in hearing about any possible projects that could help create jobs for the local hard-working community.
This whole region is trying to grow in popularity in all aspects and its connections with Great Britain has always been a strong relationship. Therefore, the Slovenian Tourist Board for UK and Ireland, plus British Slovenian Chamber of Commerce are always keen to hear from any individual or organisation that wants to know more about this great country.
A very interesting and unique factor about this region are its first settlers who were German speaking. They called themselves Gottschee Germans, which they gave the same name to their dialect and the region. At the start of the Second World War, Italian troops, later followed by German troops, invaded this region of Slovenia and many Gottschee were offered land back in Germany, which they accepted, but others moved to different parts of Slovenia and Europe. It is now known that many were forced to leave or ‘repatrinised’. The Gottschee people and their descendants never regrouped and so are spread across the planet, but are still proud of their heritage. The Italian troops brutally killed hundreds who lived in this region and approximately 170 settlements were abandoned and destroyed.
After the war, the region was repopulated by residents from all over the country and it stated to grow and prosper again. Although a lot of the original settlements have never been rebuilt there is a movement to find investment to do so. Little abandoned villages, Ograja for example, is in the mountains, with great views, wildlife, flora and fauna, why would people not want to live, visit and invest there?
The area is infamous for several military reasons and is of great interest to many historians. During the second world war the inhabitants of this region were never totally beaten by the German and Italian Troops. The settlements were ransacked, but they could never beat the Slovenia Army, who retreated into the deep forest areas and fought their battles from there, even holding their own elections throughout the war. It was later used by the Slovenian Army for training use, which led to areas being turned into non-accessible Military Zones. Slovenian Independence was fought for and won in this region and celebrated on the 25th June every year. Skrily bunker was built during the cold war, being 80 meters below the surface and contains 500 meters of underground corridors and rooms. People could stay in the bunker for up 100 days without external assistance (this is now a tourist attraction).
Kocevje town is a very interesting place and despite a lot of devastation caused by the wars, many of the building remain and have their own stories and historical significance. A walking tour of the town will include explanations of the buildings and is extremely interesting. It would probably involve at least 25 buildings including; Sesko House, Mary’s House, Parish Church of St Sebastian, Danish House and many more. It is also worth a trip to Fridrihstajn Castle, even if just to hear about the romantic and sad story about its previous occupants.
For the more energetic visitors to the town, head to Gaj Recreation Centre, which has everything a sporting person would want to use; Football pitches, Tennis Courts, Gym, Play Area, Bowls, Café, Bar and much more.
Keeping on the sporting theme, this region is becoming popular for Survival Training, Adventure Holiday’s and a variety of other exciting activities.
The town has been improved in many ways, including a Tourist Information Centre, Camp Venue, Hostel and Cultural Centre. It appears it is readying itself for an increase in Tourism and Investment, which would be hard to argue with.
Throughout the region visitors will see large tree-poles which stand proud in most villages and towns, but the best time to see them is on the 1st May when they are decorated and a winner chosen. This tradition was originated from the times when communities would set fires made from trees to warn local neighborhoods of the approach of the Turkish. They also make large fires and have parties on the day too.
Kocevje is no longer warning its communities about unwanted visitors but preparing for ‘very much wanted’ ones. The whole region is preparing for what will become an increase in tourism and investment, as it has opening itself up for these opportunities. It has amazing forests, lakes and rivers, karst landscape and historically interesting venues. Plus, the most brown bear in Europe, rare and wild creatures, stunning countryside and mountain terrain too. This undiscovered part of Slovenia, is not only trying to be the ‘new destination’ to visit in the country, but will succeed in being so.
Whilst in Slovenia there are many other destinations worth visiting, such as the beautiful capital city of Ljubljana and fairytale town of Bled.