The Parish Church of Idrija is known as Cerkev Marije na Skalci (Church of Mary on the Rock). It is actually the Church of the Assumption of Mary and is a pilgrimage. It stands on a hill overhanging the town. A chapel was mentioned on this location in two documents. One written in 1132 and the other written by Pope Celestin III in 1156 but the...more
There are 4 squares in Idrija: Ahacijev trg, Mestni trg, Scopolijev trg and Aumeški trg. The later is named after Aumetz, a French mining city twinned with Idrija and where lives a significant Slovenian miners community.Mestni trg, the main square, is amazing, especially when coming from the karst country, as the geology of Idrija is very different...more
According to my two guide books, rudarska huša (miners’ houses) from the XVIIIth had been renovated, not far from the mine shaft. They are described as having 3 or 4 levels, in order to accommodate several families. At first, I felt that these houses might have been miners’ house. I have now seen photos of actual miners’ houses and I was wrong....more
The lower galleries tend to be invaded by water and pumping all the time is a need. The Kamšt, a huge wooden waterwheel was set 150 years ago at Joseph rov (Joseph mine shaft). It is beautifully preserved and still working. It pumped 2 cubic meters per minute from down 283 meters. With a diameter of 13.60 meters, is said to be the largest...more
Antonijev rov (Anthony mine shaft) is the oldest mine gallery in the world still standing. It is open for guided visits (5 euros) on weekdays at 10 AM and 3 PM. On weekends at 10 AM, 2 PM and 3 PM. The visit lasts 1.30 hour and starts in the building shown on the photo.Antonijev rov is connected to a web of 700 km of galleries on 15 levels. Though...more
The castle was renovated several times along the centuries. In the middle of the XVIIIth (around 1735), the yard was decorated by baroque frescoes.Photo 1. When entering into the yard, the décor is quite a surprise! It looks like a décor for a theater! On two sides, the opening are vaulted and closed by glasses.Photo 2 and 3. On the two other...more
Grad Gewerkenegg (Gewerkenegg castle) was built between 1522 and 1533 by the Habsburgs. It was built on a square pattern with a large round tower standing at each angle. However, it was never the home of any feudal family as all other castles. It was built as the seat of the mercury mines. All the administration of the mines was situated in the...more
As Idrija has developed in a valley, the town developed on a length of several kilometers and has several parts : Idrija, Spodnja Idrija (lower Idrija), Idrija Vrh (higher Idrija).A new district has been built uphill, above the city, in front of the castle. They are neat five storey small buildings.more
The theater stands also on Ahacijev trg. It was built around 1770 as a theater on an amazing round design. It is considered as the oldest theater in Slovenia still standing. It is now used for film projections, hence the name carved on top, Filmsko Gledališče, and works only occasionally as a theater.more
Magazin (the Granary) stands on Ahacijev trg. The granary was built in 1764 to supply corn, flour and other feed to the miners as the miners were partly paid with food. The Granary was built in Baroque style. It is now home to the city library and to an art gallery, “Galerija Idrija”.more
In the foreground, small Nikova river is hidden behind metal barriers. The bridge (should I name it a bridge?) over Nikova river leads to Ahacijev trg is the oldest square of the city which is often called Stari trg, the old square. The granary stands in the middle of the photo, in the background.more
Photo 1. Nikova river is most of the time a small stream but it has in the past flood the town. It has been paved in order to allow a faster flow when necessary. The photo was taken from the end of Mestni trg.Photo 2. This photo of Nikova river was taken a little below. In the background, Cerkev Marije na Skalci, standing on a hill (see following...more
Photo 1 was taken at the end of Mestni trg with the town hall on the left, in the background and a small chapel built in 1794 in the middle of the photo. On the right flows a small stream named Nikova, a tributary of Idrija river.Photo 2 was taken a little further, from the street that leads to the castle.more
The Town Hall was built on Mestni trg in 1898 in a Neoclassical style.Photo 1. The Town Hall has an amazing two ways corner entrance.Photo 2. The front of the Town Hall is on Mestni trg.Photo 3. On top of the town hall stands the statue of a miner, which is fair as Idrija has been made by miners.Photo 4. Along the entrance, several wall paintings...more
Mestna realka Jurij Vega is the High School. It was opened in 1901 and was the first High school in Slovenia. From the beginning, teaching was entirely in Slovenian. The building that we see now was built in 1903 in a modern style and named after Jurij Vega, a Slovenian mathematician and physicist.more
A large neoclassical building stands 2, Prelovčeva ulica. It is Stara šola (Old School). It was built in 1876 as a Miners’ School and is now Čipkarska šola (the Lace school). Lace has been practiced in Idrija since the XVIIth century. Wives of miners produced lace for sale, which improved the income of the family, since miners’ wages were...more
While we searched for the kamšt, further to the bus station, we passed under this amazing structure. Obviously, as it was made of steel, that was not the wooden kamšt and moreover, it was much too small. I found later that it was an air pump that was devised to bring fresh air into the mines and to extract inner air.more
Given the special properties of mercury, it has to be stored in heavy iron pots. Photo 1 shows one of those that are used in the city as a decoration that reminds the past of the town. Photo 2 shows other such pots, of various shapes, that were thrown away under the walls of the castle.more
The mine in Idrija has been the second largest mercury mine of the world. In 1500, the Anthony mine was opened and as the quality of the mercury turned out to be very good, more and more miners came and more tunnels were digged.Nowadays, all the mines are closed, the Anthony mine has been renovated and opened for visitors. It must be very...more
Gostilna Kos is another restaurant that we have spotted in the city center, near Idrica river. We plan to have dinner at Gostilna Kos on our next visit. They of course have the local specialty, žlikrofi and we will have to compare žlikrofi from Gostilna Kos from žlikrofi from Gostisce Barbaramore
The obvious place if you want to try local specialities - especially Zlikrofi, the local ravioli variant - is Gostilna Kos. It is all prepared on the premises, and there are several set dinner menus to choose from according to the intensity of your hunger. If you don't feel up to trying something different to can rely on the usual pizza and pasta...more
Given its very recent past of heavy mercury contamination, no wonder that Idrija is well aware of environmental issues and practices selective gathering of municipal refuses. On this photo, there are 4 bins.Papir (paper), embalaža (plastic packing), Steklo (glass) and unmarked for others.more
Not a local custom, but a local culinary speciality: Idrija žlikrofi. These are little pasta squares that are filled with minced meat, potatoes and onions. They taste really good, so try it if you are there! We had them in 'Gostilna Turk', I think it's in Hotedršica, two villages away from Idrija in direction Ljubljana, at the main street - a very...more
The municipal holiday of Idrija is St. Ahacija's day, 22nd June each year. It was on this day in 1508 that rich cinnabar ore was discovered in Idrija - the raw material from which mercury is obtained.A festival is held each year - in the past it was celebrated with a huge procession, but nowadays it is a more moderate affair, but an interesting...more
Mercury and mercury derivatives (inorganic mercury salts and organo-mercury compounds) are highly toxic, both for acute toxicity when high levels are involved and for chronic toxicity when lower levels are involved.
For miners, this is mainly chronic toxicity that was involved. Chronic toxicity of mercury gives nervous system damage, mental disturbances, loss of balance, speech, vision and hearing problems. The life expectancy of mercury miners was low. From what I have read, miners could not work more than 5 to 10 years. In the 19th century the town became a scientific research center as doctors came to study and treat the miners. The town has a large psychiatric hospital, which is not random! As I wrote in the introduction, Idrija was for centuries only second to Almaden, Spain as the largest mercury mines in the world. As much as 13% of all the mercury ever mined in the world came from Idrija. In Idrija, mercury does not seem to have ever been an environmental hazard but an occupational hazard. Only miners were chronically intoxicated by mercury. I have not read any report of chronic intoxication of wives and therefore, as far as I know, there has never been any children that got what is now known as Minamata disease. There are several explanations to that but I do not feel that VT is the place for a longer report on the various aspects of mercury toxicity!
Now that mining has gone to an end, toxicity hazard slowly subsides in Idrija. The levels of mercury in the air, soil and water are permanently monitored.
When there was an intense mining activity, in the early 1970s, air levels of 20,000 ng/m3 were found in many locations throughout the city. In the 1980s, mercury levels in the air ranged from 100 to 1 000 ng/m3. In 2004, it went down to 10 ng/m3 as a whole though higher levels were still found in some places (close to the ventilation shaft from the mine, close to the former smelter, etc). Contamination of drinking water is very low and well below permissible levels. Among locally grown foods, only fishes caught in the Idrijca and Soča rivers present a noticeable level of methylmercury. Though, they do not pose significant health problems. River Idrijca flows into the gulf of Trieste. Coastal populations of the gulf, living on a diet high on locally caught fishes show increased values of mercury in hair, higher than populations living in Idrija, which makes sense, but nevertheless these levels are far below any level that would lead to significant health problems.
As far as we are concerned, we, visitors, can heartily visit Idrija, eat trout caught in the Idrijca River, visit Anthony mineshaft, etc. We have not to fear any hazard with mercury! Moreover, it is fascinating to see how such a toxic ore was the glory and the wealth of a city for so long.
On the rivers surrounding Idrija are the remains of (and reconstructions of) Klavze. These were water barriers designed by local engineer Josef Mrak and used in the transportation of timber from the local forests into the town. Sometimes known as "Slovenian pyramids".When the gates were closed, water built up behind the dam. Timber was placed in...more
Outside of the town centre, close to the Idrijca river and the sports area, and below the Jasek Kajzer mine, is a stone building housing a giant waterwheel - Kamst. It is the largest waterwheel in Europe, with a diameter of 13.6m, and was used to pump water from the mines to a depth of 280m. You will need to contact the town museum at Gewerkenegg...more
You always tend to see lots of people wading in the river, just north of the town on the road to Cerkno. It appears that fly fishing is very popular here as the river is very clean and kept well stocked with fish by the local angling association.
I have no interest in fishing whatsoever, but the thought of wading waist deep in the river seems fun!
Equipment: Waders (waist high rubber boots) seem to be the trend and very practical. A fishing rod, line and decorated hooks would appear to be useful too.