Thursday, 10 January 2013

Preddvor | Enchanting Slovenian Countryside with a Charming Alpine Horizon.

Preddvor is a very scenic small town showing in all its appealing splendour the enchanting Slovenian  countryside with a charming Alpine horizon in the historical region of Upper Carniola also known as Gorejnska in the local language or  Oberkrain as it was called during the long time lived as a territory of the Austrian Empire led by the Hapsburg House.

Located in  a very attractive land which offers more than beautiful landscapes with great protagonists the Southern Limestone and Julian Alps, green valleys crossed by rivers, gentle hills overlooking fairytale villages that centre lies at just 37,0 kilometres  north from the splendid capital of the country Ljubljana and very close to the major regional centre Kranj.

With its approximately 3,500 inhabitants it is situated on a hilly green plateau at an altitude of 494,0 metres at the foot of the mountain Storzic of 2132,0 metres and in proximity of another stunning peak as the Grintovec which with its 2,558 metres is a further natural local highlight.

That Slovenian municipality is crossed in its boundaries by the stream Kokra, a beautiful waterway approximately 34,0 kilometres long having its source in the Karavanke, a wonderful mountain range of the Oriental Alps and tributary of the river Sava and furthermore on the shore of a lovely waters basin called Jezero Črnava.

The town of  is the result of a group several small villages developed all around the main core such as Hrib, Potoce, Spodnja Bela, Srednja Bela, Zgornja Bela, Mace, Baselj, Breg ob Kokri, Kokra, Nova Vas,Tupalice, Hrase Pri Preddvoru and Mozjanca.

Preddvor offers chances of multiple outdoor activities starting from a considerable historical and cultural tourism in its local territory but visiting many other fascinating destinations not far as the  the beautiful city of Ljubljana often nicknamed as the little Slavic Vienna for many architectural masterpieces reminiscent the outstanding major centre of Austria, the marvellous Bled and Bohinj with their magnificent lakes, Radovljica, Tržič, Kranj and a medieval diamond as Škofia Loka among others. (I wrote posts about the latter if you are interested).

All those sites have a rich patrimony and superb cultural heritage with several Baroque, Neo-Renaissance and Gothic superb monuments and in addition many are the chances to enjoy Enotourism and significant Gastronomic routes knowing and tasting fine wines among the best of Eastern Europe next to the iconic Kraški Pršut, a special delicious ham produced in that land. 

Fishing and rowing along the river Kokra, trekking in the immediate vicinity visiting hamlets and villages with many attractions, hiking in the nearby Alps ,including skiing in relevant resorts as the Queen of the Slovenian Alps, Kranjska Skora, eternally presents in the FIS Alpine Ski World Cup boasting pistes simply wonderful are all together a notable fan of attractive options to plan holidays in that very pleasant corner of Slovenia.(I wrote post about that resort if you are interested)

All that is a great incentive to visit that specific area which also permits to reach in a short time great countries such as Austria, Hungary, Italy and Croatia with the wonderful chance to enjoy the beauties of Central Europe and the eastern Mediterranean coastline of the stupendous Adriatic Sea filling your days with an ample choice of alterrnatives.

An uncontaminated nature and a large presence of intact forests make Preddvor a stunning climatic destination next to its pleasant and peaceful atmosphere, ideal for all those who want to spend holidays in serenity recharging batteries.

The history of that centre is very similar to a large part of that enchanting Slovenian territory originally settled by Illyrian tribes and later inhabited by Celts, the Norici also known as Taurisci who occupied a big area of the current Upper Carniola before the Roman colonisation started in 183 BC.

Those populations were progressively  assimilated in a pretty long campaign which formed an extensive Region called Noricum officially incorporated in the domains of the Imperial Rome in 16 BC.

After the fall of the Roman Empire in different periods the land was invaded by Ostrogoths, Avars, Lombards, Huns and Slavs, the latter ancestors of the current population who reached from east the region in the 6th century. 

Afterwards  that area was in the mid of the the 8th century a domain of the Duchy of Bavaria before to be conquered in 788 by the Franks led by Charlemagne who integrated it in the Holy Roman Empire.

In 828 Preddvor was part of independent province controlled by a Slavic margrave with headquarter Kranj but under control of Bavarian Governors moving in 976 into the Duchy of Carinthia which ceded it in 1077 to the Patriarchate of Aquileia but returning to Austrian domain in the 12th century.

The first attested denomination of the town was recorded in 1147 as Niwenhouen meaning in German language new manor because in that  concrete year was established a small castle which was granted to Stift Viktring, a fomer Cistercian Abbey situated in the Austrian State of Carinthia by the Governor Berthold II.

The name was later changed in 1238 in Neurhouen taking a further one in 1488 when it was called Vom Hoff linked to the Slavic translation of Preddvor consisting in the inflection of the composition of two words as Pred meaning in front and vor which means manor while in a more contemporary era it was renamed as Wurzbach Dvorec (manor in Slovenian) because occupied by a family with that surname.

For a brief period Preddvor and its surroundings were under rule of the Counts of Celje, nobles who were before vassals and later declared enemies of the House of Habsburg but that Slavic aristocratic dynasty ceased to exist in the 15th century with the death of the last Count.
The chronological historic stages linked to a long domain of the the Austrian Emperors  which inherited the territory continued with frequent contacts with the Venetians who with their Marine Republic governed the nearest Slovenian Littoral and suffering invasions by the Turks in the famous Ottoman-Habsburg wars fought  from the 16th through the 18th centuries in a large European area.

The town under Austro-Hungarian influence always kept  a profile of a peaceful but active centre living mainly of agriculture and small trades with several political reforms which highlighted those activities but also a defined territorial subdivision and urbanisation.

During its more contemporary history  after the fall of the the Imperial Austria in occasion of the 1st World War ended in 1918 Preddvor was incorporated in the Serbian,Croatian and Slovenian Kingdom.

The long and strong Austrian influence endured over six centuries started in the middle ages exactly in the 14th century ending in the early 20th century, a long period which wss characterised by notable improvements in terms of commerce, communications and innovative agricultural processes of productivity despite with many years lived in a regime of traditional feudalism with local governors who often overshadowed the progress of the local low social class.

The Austrian domination marked many local cultural aspects in architecture, gastronomy and language because a big part of the population for long time and in several cases linked to the old local generations kept as second language the German  behind the Slovenian which was in many areas more spoken than the Serb-Croat which had more morphological affinities and pretty similar as part of the same Slavic linguistic group.

The 2nd World War was highlighted by a German occupation and after that event Preddvor was part of the new established Socialist  Republic of Yugoslavia created by the Marshal Tito with in the late 50's a pretty big local immigration to the nearest Austria especially to the States of Carinthia and Styria.

The last years are notorious with the war in Yugoslavia with the town part of the the new Republic of Slovenia, independent state since 1991 and entering in the Euopean Community in 2004.

The first impact with the town is simply great facing a marvellous green Slovenian countryside with a charming Alpine horizon delighting your view and that is certainly a superb introduction.

You can start the visit from Cerkev sveti Petar Župnijska, the Church dedicated to St.Peter situated in a beautiful natural environment  consistingin a verdant space totally surrounded by a splendid forest.

Erected in medieval times according to historic documentations which mentioned its construction in the 12th century, that Religious building was several times restored especially after the the damages suffered during a raid by the Ottoman army and it was totally re-arranged in the early 16th century by some local artists who gave the construction a new aspect taking after a large and laborious refurbishment a Baroque image.

In the 18th century there were further works and the only old architectural element conserved linked to the old structure is the high white tower bell dated the 16th century confirmed by an engraved number depicting  a 1503 visible on a stone of its western side.

Elevated on a rectangular plan the roof which covers the apse and the nave is surmounted by a small dome beneath a turret topped by a pinnacle.

The interior is very attractive with a big nave with aisles, a fine presbytery flanking a Baroque altar and also the altarpieces established on the sides were developed using the same architectural style.

You can admire relevant works as a painting depicting the Last Supper by Janez Wolk, a talented artist from Leskovec very active in the entire country including in the capital Ljubljana where he died. Other artists embellished that Church as Matija Bradaška who painted the presbytery, some altars are works by the artist Vrbnik and a further highlight is a crypt with a nave and aisles.

Approximately 400,0 metres from the church you can see Jezero Črnava, a small artificial waters basin flanked by an idyllic verdant meadow at the foot of scenic hills, a place extremely loved by locals enjoying fishing, swimming and during winter season it is often transformed in a ice rink.  

On one side lies a pleasant promenade part of a educational path showing you along its course the stunning Slovenian countryside of the Upper Carniola in all its sublime fascination.

In its vicinity of the lake lies Grobišče pri vili Danica, a mass grave discovered in 1970 after some excavations situated near Danica Mansion from which it took the denomination associated with the events of the 2nd World War.
On the southern side of that waters basin is situated Grad Hrib, one of the manors of Preddvor, which translation means castle of the hill for its position on a splendid hilly plateau very picturesque.Despite the former was elevated in the 12th century, that one you can admire nowadays was re-established in the 16th century conserving the profile of the original plan of that period and it is the current the Hotel Bor.

That stronghold before to return to under Austrian influence  was for a brief period a property of the Counts of Celje, one of the oldest medieval aristocratic dynasties of the entire Slovenia who owned about 20 castles in the modern national territory.

Those nobles were also Ban of Croatia, Dalmatia, Slavonia, linked to the House of Frankopane, an influential family of  high officers and great landowner magnates of the Kingdom of Hungary-Croatia.

The enchanting and charming beauty of that restored construction in a superb location on the shore of the lake surrounded by a wide green park shows a very pleasant conserved facade part of the former structure with some fine renaissance details such as refined stuccoes and stylish decorated wooden ceiling.

Inside were arranged a restaurant and a hall dedicated to banqueting and catering events as weddings and celebrations.Before to host that hospitality establishment that building was used for other activities, it was a convent later a sanatorium and also a place hosting local Institutions.

The history of  Grad Hrib also linked to Poročni Drevored, the so called Wedding Avenue,a charming hallway flanked by American ash trees,famous for the narration of a  love story between a gardener who worked in the manor and the daughter of the Count owner of that site.

At the beginning due to the social class difference between that noble young woman and the humble worker to keep in secret the relationship they had as meeting place in a hidden corner of that avenue behind a group of trees where the couple continued for a long time to have several meetings until the Countess mother discovered all. 

 Despite that, the aristocratic lad understood that it was was true, real love permitting them to continue their relationship which had a happy final with a marriage endured 50 years.

Today it is typical to celebrate weddings in the restaurant of Grad Hrib and to remember that old love story, the former manor and that avenue are protagonists wishing every married couple 50 years of happiness. As tradition the bride and groom have a walk along that special passageway linked to that iconic narration continuing to be something very rooted and popular also in the young generations.

Preddvor Grad lies in the centre of the town, the manor which gave the name to the municipality is today in disrepair, Historically was taken in 1608 by the Abbey of Stična to host old ill monks and later it was sold and bought by Arthur Wurzbach, a a physician of Austrian origin who gave the name of his family to that site and selling it later.

That  place became a tourist establishment in 1920, afterwards in n 1936 the entire building was transformed in a sanatorium called Hotel Grintovec while during the 2nd World War it was converted in a German Police headquarter.

In 1945 it became a centre for orphaned children from Bosnia and two years later was as a juvenile correction centre. Today what you can see is a big ochre building in decay with large windows with a red brick sloping roof highlighted by  four chimneys.

In Preddvor you can see other attractions, one of them is in proximity of the Town Hall in square called Dvorski Trg on which you can see the NOB, a monument dedicated to the Liberation of Slovenia related to the 2nd World War elevated to pay homage to 18 soldiers and some local hostages died representing in its kind a significant historical symbol remembering who fought for the freedoom of the motherland.

Another highlight linked to the events of the 2nd War is also the Partisan Hospital Kosuta which was active for two years in 1943 and 1944 hosting many injured soldiers. Once there there you can see an engraved plaque in memory of some soldiers who died in that building and buried in the immediate proximity in a place named Kaliska Skala.
 Grad Turn, located in the magnificent  Slovenian countryside surrounded by a a charming woodland facing an ample woodland is another former manor of the municipality built in the early 15th  and as the previously mentioned Grad Hrib for a period was a stronghold of the Counts of Celje.

 According to historic information it originally had a different aspect with defencive towers, high walls, steps leading to walkways connected to turrets while the current construction only shows two floors and a wide courtyard.

After the Counts it had had other owners linked to the House of Hasburg and it was used after the 2nd World War for military purposes by the former Yugoslavian Army before to be arranged as a residence  for old people since 1948 until nowadays.

That site is also famed to be the birthplace of Josifina Urbancic well known as Josipina Turnograjska, the first famous female composer, writer,poet and novelist of Slovenia very appreciated about her works in some countries such as Russia, Poland and the former Czechoslovakia.

That artist was an admirer of French and German Romantic literature but later she fall in love with a kind of movement related to the Pan-Slavism linking stories of all people with Slavic heritage from different countries with the dream to unify them under a unique flag embracing the same roots and culture.Over the former castle there is a summerhouse in her honour with eight limes planted in a circle.

East to Jezero Črnava lake, approximately 2,0 kilometres from the centre of Preddvor in the neighbourhood of Potoce, a former independent village of the region of Kranj, you can admire Cerkev sveti Jacoba, a church dedicated to St.James, originally elevated in the Middle Ages but changed due to several architectural mutations with a pure Baroque exterior aspect.

Erected on an irregular rectangular base, it is a stone white building which despite its numerous changes has kept something of its medieval plan as the nave while the presbytery to match that element was rebuilt in a a fine Neo-Gothic style, an operation which took place the 17th century.

Along the central nave you can admire some relevant frescoes dated the 14th and 15th centuries depicting different Religious and Bible themes. The bell tower has a typical baroque silhouette with arched windows on its sides while on a rectangular base inserted on the top was placed a high spire having as terminal a spherical pinnacle.

South of Potoce on the shore of the river Kokra you can visit the village of Breg ob Kokri in which the main highlight is undoubtedly Cerkev sveti Leonard,a Church dedicated to St.Leonard.

Erected in the 15th century on a rectangular base it boasts a splendid high facade with an arched doorway reflecting and it is a structure which reflect in its layout all the major classical canons of the traditional Romanesque architecture developed in Slovenia in that period.

The interior has as an ample nave leading to the presbytery and a pretty spacious apse characterised by a charming altarpiece.

The nearest bell tower is a typical architrectural expression of the most traditional Central European Baroque very common all around the Danube area consisting in a sober high building erected on a square plan.

It has a balanced image with three small open windows and another arched one inserted on the upper section surmounted by a small clock.The scenic roof has is combined with a tower established on its surface placed on a square base with a window and surmounted by a rounded pinnacle.

Facing Breg ob Kokri on the other shore of the river is situated the neighbourhood of Tupalice,a peaceful small centre surrounded by forests and boasting in its boundaries an important historic monument consisting in Cerkev sveti Klement, a beautiful Church dedicated to St.Clement.

Built in medieval times, concretely in the 14th century on a rectangular plan it has a semicircular apse and a typical Romanesque section in correspondence of the presbytery with an adjacent high bell tower surmounted by an element with the shape of a small turret.

Relevant are the works in its interior with frescoes dated the 16th century by artist of Austrian Carinthian school depicting the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ, St.Christoper and a further highlight is notable altar developed in a refined Baroque style.

North to the municipal centre I suggest you to visit the villages of Mace and Baselj.In the first is situated Cerkev sveti Nikola,a Church dedicated to St.Nicholas located in a picturesque green plateau flanked by a  large woofland in a great position offering you a splendid view on Preddvor.

That charming white Religious construction was built in the 19th century in Baroque style replacing a previous one erected two centuries before. Elevated on a rectangular plan with a scenic gable facade, it has a beautiful portico developed adjacent to the wall of a high bell tower topped by a stylish onion dome highlighted on the top by a pinnacle.

The wide central rectangular nave with stunning sinuous vaults is one of the main highlight and its its architectural design represents a traditional example pretty common in several places of Upper Carniola with many details in common with other Churches elevated in Southern Austria especially in Carinthia as the high of the front side and the size of the apse.

Following towards north at approximately 1,5 kilometres from that site you can admire  Cerkev sveti Lovrenc, the Church dedicated to St,Lawrence. The image of that Sacred seat and its picturesque location is simply wonderful at the first sight with a magnificent  Alpine horizon with the view of different peaks of the Julian Alps and surrounded by green pastures and virgin pine trees forests.

According to historic documentations it was erected on the foundations of a previous small Religious site elevated in the 12th century in the early 16th century in a late Renaissance style and it was consecrated in1507.

Established on pretty large rectangular plan, one of the great attractions is certainly the bell tower on  which facades you can admire stylish arched windows, a beautiful gable roof completed by a scenic spire topped by a small pinnacle and on a wall of the central body you can admire some frescoes depicting Saints and Jesus Christ Crucifixion on the Calvary.

Other relevant frescoes are in the interior, superb works by Italian School as a fine altar developed in the 17th century, a period in which was also restored the ceiling and that Churchalso has a special local and national value because it was mentioned in a popular song titled Galjot.

About 2,5 kilometres south-west of Preddvor you can visit the neighbourhood of Srednija Bela.That area is particularly famous to to be the birthplace of the poet and writer Matija Valjavec Kracman, an emblematic figure of Slovenian literature in the 19th century.

Once there you can see the house where the writer lived built in the early 19th century used later for other purposes, it housed a restaurant and afterwards arranged as a a mill.

The other highlight of that very relaxing and peaceful village is Cerkev sveti Egidius,a Renaissance Church built on a rectangular plan highlighted by some exterior frescoes on the walls flanked by a stupendous Baroque bell tower surmounted by a stunning spire topped by a Christian cross.  

The town boasts a further manor called Novi Grad, the new castle also called in German language Neuburg Schloss despite you can only see the ruins.That fortress was elevated on the foundations of an ancient Roman fort with a big tower and fortified walls which protected the entire town with a large control of a big part of the extra radius.

It  was historically a residence for a period of the German Knights of Neuburg  as it says its name, a branch of  the Teutonic Knights and ,many of its members participated in  several expeditions to the Holy Land escorting many pilgrims to Jerusalem.

That site was also a property of the Counts of Andechs who arranged the fortress as hunting lodge. In the following times it suffered several damages during the feudalist battles between the Counts of Celje and other local nobles, it was largely devastated by the Ottomans and a further sad episode is that it was  totally destroyed by a earthquake in the early 16th century and today are visible just some renmants.

The local gastronomy is excellent with a wide variety of genuine plates and all homemade using local genuine products. That area of the Upper Carniola has an excellent production of honey and the emblematic  Kraški Pršut, a gastronomic icon pride of the entire region and of the country.

Notable is also the notable types of sausages and worth a mention the notorious Kranjska Klobasa, another symbol, often presents in different assorted buffets, appetisers, snacks but also cocked in casseroles and stews.Well  known in addition, boasting a considerable prestige is the Krvavice, a traditional blood sausage.

The Žganci is another speciality highly known, consisting in  sort of polenta prepared with wheat, barley or corn flour accompanying different kinds of plates or also the Zaseka, minced bacon. The Gmoki, are typical leavened dumplings and the famous Gibanica is a renowned pastry made with eggs and white cheese.

You can find many kinds of soups and stews, one of the most popular is the Šara, a notorious vegetable Hot-Pot and a further is the Prežganka, a brown soup made with flour, butter, eggs, breadcrumbs asnd caraway seeds.

Despite it is typically Hungarian you can taste a delicious Goulash. and a very typical plate is the Bograč, a kind of stew containing four types of meat such as wild boar, pork, beef and venison, adding sliced onions, potatoes, peppers, fat pork, spice with a touch of fine wine.

The territory is rich of mushrooms and chestnuts which are respectively used in stews and sauces in the case of the first and in bakery about that second product. Drobjanci and Vodnik flat cake are some of the most classical pastries sprinkled with icing sugar whilst still hot.

You will find an excellent variety of  wines very similar to those of the Friuli Venezia Giulia, Hungary and Vipava Valley some of the most suggested are Chardonnay, Merlot, Pinot, Rizling and Modra Frankinja.

Joze Pucnik Brnik International Airport of Ljubljana is situated at just 25 minutes driving from the town, a very short distance to be easily and quickly at destination. 

Preddvor and its surroundings are undoubtedly a great spot of that Nation, great as destination for all the tourists who want to know and enjoy a territory boasting a very peaceful atmosphere, rich of historical attractions also highlighted by an endless natural  patrimony, picturesque landscapes and an enchanting Slovenian countryside with a charming Alpine horizon very difficult to forget.

Francesco Mari

Recommended Accommodations in Preddvor

Hotel Bor
Pension Zaplata
Tourism Farm Majercek

Useful Links