In the year of 2018, Bohinj will commemorate a rather special anniversary of the ascent to Triglav – an act people of Bohinj are very proud of.
In 1777, one year prior to the first ascenders, Balthasar Hacquet, a renowned scientist vigorously examining minerals and botany but also a determined mountaineer, attempted to reach the first recorded ascent. He ascended Mali Triglav via mountain pastures Konjščica and Velo polje. This route is since known as the Bohinj ascent.
Next year 4 brave men from Bohinj were the first to climb Triglav. These were the surgeon Lovrenz Willomitzer from Stara Fužina, the miner Luka Korošec from Gorjuše, the chamois hunter Matevž Kos from Jereka and, last but not least, Štefan Rožič from Savica.
The ascent took three days and on 26 August 1778, the four brave men reached its peak via Zeleni plaz. Upon descending, they were setting up stone marks and thus recorded the path leading to Triglav.
Slovenes were then formally recognized as one of the Alpine nations, mountaineers and enthusiasts, who have with scientific expeditions and caution, planning and enthusiasm reached about everything that was reachable with the then equipment. Amongst the biggest mythological peaks in the Alps, Triglav was ascended 8 years before Mont Blanc, 22 before Grossglockner and 87 before Matterhorn. Other peaks may be higher than Triglav and the difference in years obscures the real achievement of getting to the top, but nevertheless, Slovenes have climbed all that we could – amongst the first. Our determination to reach the peaks, as the 4 brave men carry the mountain tradition in all of us, was long ago proven by generations of our mountaineers and climbers on all world continents, as we were the first to climb new routes and ascend to the top of the then unreachable peaks.
Slovenes can be categorized as one of the biggest Alpine nations and both our place and home is here – in the Julian Alps, the Karavanke, the Kamnik-Savinja Alps, on the Pohorje, Gorjanci, Nanos, Slavnik and Snežnik mountains. This is a well-known fact embodied in every single Slovene wanting to reach one’s peak. However, Bohinj represents the cradle of Slovene mountaineering.
Loud shouting and the sound of the accordion can be heard on St Stephen’s Day in Stara Fužina and Studor, and then, on New Year’s Eve, the local people in the Upper Bohinj Valley, i.e. in Srednja vas, Češnjica and Jereka, once again welcome the new year masks or otepovci.
They remind us of carnival masks due to their fur coats, or even of the famous kurenti, laufarji and škoromati (traditional masks in Slovenia). Otepovci come to wish people happiness, joy, fruitfulness and health in the coming year. The masks are also not very scary, like some of the other masks intended to scare off the winter are, but they are more or less funny.
Young men used to put on these masks to have some fun before joining the army, and their arrival at the houses of local people was usually rewarded. This ritual is slightly different today because young men are not obliged to join the army anymore. The group of masked men normally includes the so-called “baba” (woman) and “voča” (man, father), “fehtar” (beggar) who collects the money, and “metlar” (broom-maker) who uses a broom to clean the house of bad things and play with children. Depending on the size of the group, the characters include “mat” (mother), “ta mlada dva” (the young two), hunter, chimney sweep and new year.
The only person who doesn’t wear a mask is the accordion player because all the masks like to dance in the houses. Their arrival is usually very loud and this noise resounds around the village so that the children can hardly wait for the masks to come. The house owners welcome them and offer them their best sausage and brandy. If owners do not let them in the house, they usually play some jokes on them.
In the past, one farmer did not let otepovci enter the house, and he had to later dismantle his carriage that had been put on the roof so that he could get it to the ground. Otepanje is a fun holiday custom, which proves the humour of locals and the connection among local communities. In the past, otepovci used some masks to make quite a lot of fun out of certain people or characters that were not very popular
among the locals. This custom is quite popular in the Upper Bohinj Valley villages and is also very interesting for tourists and visitors.
Mountaineering in Slovenia has a very interesting and rich history. It begins its classical era of mountaineering, which is marked by the conquering of the most important peaks of Europe, with Mt. Triglav, more specifically with the Bohinj side of Mt. Triglav.
THE FIRST ASCENT TO MT. TRIGLAV – AN ORIGINAL, INDEPENDENT, AND PIONEERING EXPLORATION
Mt. Triglav is an important mountain both for Europe and the whole world. It is a mighty landmark on the South-Eastern part of the Alps, extraordinary both in form and in its cultural and historical meaning.
Its peak was conquered for the first time on August 26, 1778, which is 8 years before Mont Blanc, 22 years before Mt. Grossglockner, 87 years before Mt. Matterhorn, 79 years before the formation of the first mountaineering organisation in the world (England), and 94 years before the formation of the first mountaineering association in Slovenia, the Triglav Friends in Bohinj. This means that the first ascent was not in imitation or competition with others. It was an original, independent and pioneering exploration.
The honour to be the first conquerors of Mt. Triglav goes to the Bohinj men (Luka Korošec, a farmer and miner from Koprivnik, Matevž Kos, a miner from Jereka, Štefan Rožič, a hunter from Savica, and Lovrenc Willomitzer, a healer from Stara Fužina).
FIRST TRAILS THROUGH THE MOUNTAINS AND THE ZOIS’ CIRCLE
After Jože Škantar – Šest built the cabin on Prodi, he also set up the first trail to Triglav, which was secured in 1895, when the Triglav priest Aljaž had the Aljaž Tower built on top of Mt. Triglav. That was when the trail from Kredarica to Triglav got a form, which was very similar to the one of today. 34 iron wedges were placed, along with 130 metres of steel cable.
The first trails through the mountains had an economic purpose (mining, farming, hunting), and were used solely by the locals. Only the enlightenment, along with Baron Žiga Zois and the naturalist Baltazar Hacquet, both of which hold credit for pioneering exploration of the Slovenian Alps, meant the start of mountaineering. Baron Zois paid for the expenses of creation of the first highland trails above Velo Polje and the Triglav Lakes Valley. The Zois’ Circle, the predecessor of Slovenian mountaineering associations, gave these trails their first markings.
FRIENDS OF TRIGLAV SOCIETY
In 1872, there was an attempt in Bohinj to form the Friends of Triglav Society, the first mountaineering organisation in Slovenia. They had everything a mountaineering society requires: a name, a president – Ivan Žan, its own (also the first) mountain cabin under Triglav (“Triglavski Tempelj”) which was built in 1872 by Jože Škantar – Šest from Srednja Vas) and their own trail to Triglav. But because they did not get the approval for the society’s regulations (the politically most powerful nation of the multi-national Austrian state had nothing to gain from it), the formation failed. Only in 1931, the Bohinj branch of the Slovenian Mountaineering Association was formed with its headquarters in Srednja Vas.
Alpine dairy farming, which began in the 13th century, and the related cheese-making was the foundation of Bohinj farming throughout history. Few fertile areas, long winters and short summers were the reason, why locals mostly focused on raising cattle (cows, goats, horses, sheep). Milk and dairy products were the basis for staple food for a long time.
BOHINJ PEOPLE DEVELOPED ALPINE DAIRY FARMING TO PERFECTION
Data indicate that, in the past, approximately forty Alpine dairy farming settlements were active. They were divided into hay plateaus, middle, and high plateaus. In spring, shepherds began to graze their animals on hay plateaus, which were the lowest. Then they herded them to middle and high plateaus, and in autumn, they did the reverse towards the valley. Because of the high level of dependence of the agrarian economy on Alpine dairy farming, individual shepherding remained the preferred form in Bohinj up until the second half of the 20th century.
This meant that every master had his own stable and Alpine shepherd on the plateau. The shepherds lived a very simple life on the plateaus. Their homesteads differed. The ones on lower plateaus were made of both stone and wood, and had a separate barn. On higher plateaus, the homesteads were made exclusively of wood, covered with shingles, and resting on supports called “mares”. They had an open fireplace, a storeroom, and a modest bed.
CHEESE-MAKING AND TRADE
Until the middle of the 19th century, cheese-making was organised in a way, where every shepherd would process milk into dairy products on the plateau itself. First it was butter, later also quark and cheese. These were not only for use by the Bohinj people but also for trade. They sold butter to Trieste in exchange for wine and salt. They did not only trade in butter, but also in cattle and wood products. Among various dairy products produced on the plateaus, a speciality was the Mohant cheese. This very piquant cheese is still considered a speciality in Bohinj today.
HOW CHEESE-MAKERS’ COOPERATIVES CAUSED PROGRESS IN BOHINJ ALPINE DAIRY FARMING
The turning point of Bohinj Alpine dairy farming and cheese-making were the ‘60s and ‘70s of the 19th century. The credit for the major progress of the time goes to the priest of Bohinjska Bistrica, Janez Krstnik Mesar. He gave the initiative for the creation of cheese-makers’ cooperatives. So in 1873, the first Bohinj cheese-makers’ cooperative came into existence, which was the first of its kind in all of Carniola.
The arrival of the Swiss cheese-maker Tomas Hitz, who often visited Bohinj and helped with advice, brought about a kind of cheese, which is similar to the Swiss Emmental cheese – the Bohinj Cheese. Positive development continued in the first half of the 20th century, despite the catastrophic two world wars. Even during both wars, the best cheese-makers were sent to be educated in Switzerland. After World War II, the plateaus were nationalized. The Bohinj people nevertheless eagerly started to rebuild the cheese-making settlements.
Despite this, cheese-making was slowly in decline. The number of Alpine dairy farmers diminished year by year. Today, only a few are still alive. One of the solutions that could revive them is tourism.
HINTS AND USEFUL LINKS
you can learn more about the cheese-making and alpine dairy farming traditions on the Tourist Cheese-Makers Trail
we recommend you take a guided hike to Bohinj plateaus
During World War I, Bohinj was the rear of the line – the passage between the front line and the hinterlands. Because it is located next to the Bohinj railway and out of range of Italian artillery, Bohinj was the rally point for soldiers that were used to reinforce units that suffered losses on the Isonzo Front. From here, they were sent to Tolmin and Krn territories.
In autumn of 1915, several thousand soldiers of temporary formations gathered here. Many were only trained for combat in Bohinj, and were immediately sent to the front. Bohinj also served for R&R for wounded and sick soldiers. It was the supply route for the northern part of the 15th Corps, i.e. for the 50th Division, which held the front between Batognica and Mrzli Vrh in the Krn mountain range.
The supply system had multiple links. Army resources were brought by the Bohinj railway to the station in Bohinjska Bistrica. Large storehouses were located where now a wood factory stands. From there, the freight was shipped first by carts and later by the narrow-gauge railway to Ukanc. From there, it was delivered to the foot of the Bogatinsko Sedlo ridge, first on foot and horseback, later by cableways. This was the supply station that received carriers from front line units. Later, the cableways were extended all the way to the front line at Peski, and over the Tolminka valley towards Mrzli Vrh.
NARROW-GAUGE ARMY RAILWAY BOHINJSKA BISTRICA – ZLATOROG
The Bohinj railway was the most important supply route of the northern section of the Fifth Army of Austria-Hungary. It was built ten years before the war broke out. During the day, traffic ran to Podmelc. At night, it extended to Sveta Lucija. Several army storehouses were located next to the railway. Apart from resources, it was used to deliver fresh troops to the battlefield, and return with the wounded, and the units that were getting relieved.
In spring and summer of 1915, long columns of carts moved between Bohinjska Bistrica and Ukanc. The local population was mobilized by the army to help carry the supplies. The carts were an emergency solution; even though many people and draft animals were used, it was not enough. Thus, the army horse railway Bohinjska Bistrica – Zlatorog was built. The first transport on it was done in late autumn of 1915. Every four-axle wagon was pulled by two horses. The wagons were open or closed. Each could transport up to 2.5 tons of cargo – six times more than with an all-terrain wagon.
In 1917, the fourth year of the war, horses and horse fodder were becoming increasingly scarce. The Command decided to electrify the railway. A power station was built at Savica. The tracks remained the same. The railway had four powered sections with transformers. The power line was on wire-holders, which were fixed to roadside poles.
ROADS AND DRIVING ROUTES TOWARDS THE FRONT
The pre-war roads and trails from Bohinj to the Krn mountains could not handle the increased traffic after the beginning of the war with Italy. Out of necessity, suitable roads were built in a very short period in summer of 1915. They were mostly built by Russian prisoners of war.
The most important road went from Savica over Mt. Komna and the Bogatinsko Sedlo ridge to Peski. To the west from the Bogatinsko Sedlo ridge, a part of the road branched off towards the Duple plateau. Long columns of carriers with small Bosnian horses transported supplies to the supply station every day. Front line unit carriers took these supplies to their units. Along the whole length of the road, wooden or wire fence was erected.
Traffic was incessant between Savica and Krn, even in winter and bad weather. It was only stopped when the danger of avalanches was extremely high. Regardless, in snow storms, soldiers often wandered off the road and froze to death, and sometimes they died buried by avalanches.
ZLATOROG – PESKI (CAMP KRN) CABLEWAY SYSTEM
WITH A BRANCH TO TOLMINKA VALEY AND ONWARDS TO MRZLI VRH AND SLEME
Using horses for transport was not efficient enough, and it was only a temporary solution. Therefore, already in 1915, a transport cableway was built between the final station of the horse railway and the supply station under Bogatinsko Sedlo. In autumn 1916, the cableway system was extended to the rear of the front line on Krn and Mrzli vrh.
INTERMEDIATE SUPPLY STATIONS AND CAMPS
ON THE WAY TO THE KRN MOUNTAINS FRONT
Along the road from Bohinjska Bistrica to the Krn battlefield, many camps with huts were erected. There, the supply route crews were housed. They had barns for draft animals, storehouses, a hospital, resting places for front line units, the office of war mail, various workshops for arms and equipment repair, kitchens and bakeries, a meteorological observatory, a chapel etc.
Prisoners of war – the main work force in the rear of the front line. When the front line stopped in Krn mountains, the building of infrastructure in the direct rear was imperative. Local work force was scarce. The gap was filled with prisoners of war, mostly Russians.
PREPARATIONS FOR THE 12TH BATTLE OF ISONZO
When the 12th Battle of Isonzo was closing in October 1917, life in the direct rear of the front line changed quite a lot. Austro-Hungarian and German armies only had five short weeks to prepare a large-scale offensive before winter. Railways towards the Isonzo battlefield were running at full capacity. The majority of the freight was brought in on the upper Sava railway to Kranjska Gora, on the Bohinj railway and on the Ljubljana – Trieste railway.
Bohinj Military Cemeteries
There were three military cemeteries in Bohinj. The cemeteries in Ukanc and Rebro are still being tended to, but the one on Na Kraju plateau had already been moved. Several tens of people were buried in the Planina na Kraju cemetery. Their names remain unknown, but it is believed they were mostly Hungarians.
Book: You can read everything about Bohinj in WW I in the book by Tomaž Budkovič – “Bohinj 1914 – 1918: Between the Front and the Hinterlands”
Ajdovski gradec, the place that France Prešeren, the greatest Slovene poet, chose for his epic poem Krst pri Savici, in which he describes Christianization in his own poetic way, is nowadays a rich archaeological site. We could easily say that the place is the symbol of iron making in Bohinj. It was iron making that influenced the development of the region significantly more than 2500 years ago.
Several archaeological findings reveal that Bohinj was settled as early as in the Bronze Age. Archaeologists have found out that the oldest settlements date back to the 7th century B.C. Based on various findings on Ajdovski Gradec, the small hill at the entrance of the village of Bohinjska Bistrica was settled continuously for the whole millennium, between 6th century B.C. and 7th century A.D. The iron trade was conducted through the southern Bohinj mountains to the coastal region.
These days we know that Bohinj was a part of the cultural group of Sveta Lucija with its centre in Most na Soči. Later, in 1st century B.C., when Bohinj was a part of Noricum (a Celtic kingdom), the region was included in the iron trade. At the time of the Roman Empire, Bohinj was not as densely populated; however it started to gain greater significance after the fort – some kind of a refuge – at Ajdovski gradec was built. The region of Bohinj was located away from main paths and thus represented a refuge for aborigines that fled from invading barbarous nations at the time of migrations. Among the aborigines were also the ancestors of Slovenians that probably leaned the iron art from the aborigines.
THE MIDDLE AGES AND MODERN TIMES
We do not know much about the Middle Ages in Bohinj. This is the time when the name of Bohinj was first mentioned in written documents, but unfortunately, there are not many actual data about iron making in this period. However, according to oral tradition, despite the fact that it lacks historical background, the Carinthian duchess Hema owned ironworks near Nomenj (St Hema’s furnace) in the 11th century, so we can guess that iron making was still present at the time.
Ironmaking and ironworks were in full swing during the 16th century in Bohinj. Ironworks was founded in Bistrica on Pozabljeno and in Stara Fužina (Staro kladvo). The iron production had changed due to growing demands thanks to Italian blacksmiths who moved to Bohinj from the Italian region Friuli-Venezia Giulia. Despite these facts, the ironworks encountered problems with profitability and for this reason, their owners often changed.
BOHINJ AND THE ZOIS FAMILY
Žiga Zois, a culture enthusiast, mineralogist, metallurgist and an economist, bought the ironworks in 1777. He devoted himself eagerly to improve the economic position of the ironworks in Bohinj. The old narrow road through Štenge, that connected Bohinj with the rest of the Carniolan region, was widened under his guidance – this is how the 3-metre-wide road on the right bank of the Sava River came to life. Trying to improve the ore supply in the ironworks, he introduced a new order to the mining in Bohinj. He was also responsible for the new bridge over the Mostnica River, known as the Devil’s Bridge today.
In addition to that, he encouraged the first climb of Mount Triglav, hoping to find new ore deposits. He decided to sponsor the ascent, and on 26 August 1778 four locals from Bohinj were the first men to climb the highest mountain in Slovenia. Despite his numerous actions, Zois did not manage to compete with steal coming from Sweden and England that was getting cheaper by the day. Furthermore, the development of ironworks was greatly hindered by the French wars. Žiga Zois was forced to leave his establishments to his nephew Karl, who later left them to his wife Serafina, and finally, the ironworks were sold to a Carniolan industrial company that managed them until the great fire of 1891 when the ironworks of Bohinj burned to the ground. After the fire, iron production was transferred to Jesenice – this represented the end of the iron making period in Bohinj that lasted more than 2500 years.
Interesting historical facts and stories will deepen your understanding of the development of Bohinj through time and space.
TYPES OF ROCK IN BOHINJ
The oldest rocks are parts of the 250 million years old Werfen layers. The largest surface area is covered by carbonate rocks, which consist of limestone, limestone with chert, and dolomite.
There are many raw mineral sites in Bohinj. Some, especially iron ore (Bobovec), were also the original reason for settling in Bohinj.
Geologically youngest are the effects of the glacier in Bohinj (the characteristic “u-shape”, which is especially visible in the Upper Bohinj Valley), limestone sediments (glacial moraine), and steep gorges.
Through the centuries, water-carved beautiful riverbeds that sometimes reach a depth of up to 20 metres and get as narrow as only 1 metre (riverbeds of Mostnica, Ribnica, Jereka, and Grmečica).
Bohinj lies in the heart of a tectonically very active area. Due to tectonic shifts, which have, and still do create the Alps, a process, which was fastest 25 million years ago, Bohinj regularly experiences earthquakes.
Bohinj is an area with smaller mineral resource sites. In the mountains (Especially on Rudno Polje and Pokljuka), iron ore (a. k. a. Bobovec) with its characteristic brown colour and rounded shape can be found.
There are also smaller quantities of bauxite, manganese ore, lake chalk at the lake, and a few layers of brown coal.