Exploring Slovenia: Woodenware and Brown Bear Country

To explore Slovenia in more details and to meet the locals, you need to leave behind all big towns and top tourist destinations and head to the countryside. That is what I did. Being Slovene and originally from the Nort-East region, I think I know Slovenia quite well. But travelling around, I always find places that surprise me. This time I decided to explore the Ribnica and Kočevje region (South East of Slovenia).

How to get there?

From Ljubljana town centre you follow Dolenjska road and you continue straight on passing the Rudnik shopping centre. You will drive pass small towns like Lavrica and Škofljica where you need to be very careful to keep to the speed limit. There is no more than 50 km to Ribnica and about 70 km to Kočevje, but without a motorway, you will need more than one hour to reach the area. You also want to avoid the rush hour in the morning (from 6h30 to 8 am) and in the afternoon returning towards Ljubljana (from 2 pm to 4pm).

Trubar country

Following the road, you can make your first stop at Turjak castle, built in 10th or 11th century and reconstructed during the Renaissance with a round tower and a uniaue defence hall triangulare shaped. The castle was named after the knights of Auerspergs – counts of Turjak. During the 16th century the Auerspergs were strong supporters of the Protestant reformation in Slovenia. The major Slovene protestant leaders, Primož Trubar and Jurij Dalmatin lived in the castle for a while working on the first translation of the Bible into Slovenian language. The counts also offered support to the printing of the first Slovene books.
The renovation of the castle has started after the 2nd WW and today the castle is partly opened to the visitors (only during the weekends) to see the Dalmatin’s chapel with frescoes, knights’ hall, catholic chapel wedding hall, tower etc. By the entrance to the castle you can spot a huge old linden tree (trunk circumference 779 cm) mentioned already 300 years ago.

Turjak castle
Turjak castle

After returning to the main road in only a few minutes you will reach the village of Rašica where you can visit a memorial house of Primož Trubar, the author of the first two books ever written in Slovenian language in 1550 (Spelling book and Catechism).

Trubar homestead in Rasica
Trubar homestead in Rašica

Our next stop was the village of Velike Lašče, a birthplace of another important Slovene author from 19th century, Fran Levstik. Besides the statues and a small museum dedicated to all important men from this area, we admired another big linden tree in the middle of the village.


Position: The town of Ribnica is the main settlement in a karst valley with short disappearing streams and rivers. The high level of the ground water and marshy meadows as well as traditional farming methods created excellent conditions for many endangered plant and animal species, especially the birds.
History: Ribnica first appeared in documents in 1220 when its owners were the counts of Turjak. Later it became the feud of the Ortenburgs and an important economic and administrative centre of the wider area as well as the seat of the provincial court.  In 17th century Ribnica was known for its witch trials. During the 2nd WW its castle was used as a military hospital and administrative offices, but later it was burned down and reconstructed in late 1950’s. Now it serves as a cultural centre with a museum and an art gallery.

Ribnica castle
Ribnica castle

Handicrafts: The vasts forests and the deposits of clay made the area known for production of woodenware (suha roba) and pottery.  Since the Austrian Emperor Frederick III at the end of 15th century allowed the Ribnica area peasants to trade freely throughout the Austrian territories, the trade in woodenware flourished and became known in the whole region. Ribnica peddlers first travelled from place to place on foot or by wagon with their famous « kanon » on their backs that carried the entire store. Their most typical products were sieves, wooden spoons and wooden buckets. The most famous item of Ribnica pottery is a « whistling clay bird ».

Ribnica woodenware
Ribnica woodenware


The Municipality of Kočevje is a unique karst landscape with extensive forests that cover almost 90 % of the total area. Virgin forests that cover 217 ha of this area are the pride of Kočevje as are the brown bear, the lynx and the wolf that live in the forests of Kočevje. Many tourist agencies offer guided walking  tours through the forests as well as the bear watching tours.

Kocevje brown bear
Kočevje brown bear

Driving throught the forests, you can visit the village of Kočevska reka (settled by Germans for centuries until 2nd WW) with a nice lake, a modern church and a thickest nut tree in Slovenia (15 m high and trunk circumference 434 cm) from the end of 17th century.
If you are fond of the 2nd WW, you should not miss the Baza 20 Memorial Site at Kočevski Rog. Baza 20 used to be one of many partisan structures and settlements scattered in Kočevski Rog forests. It served as a living quarter for the political leadership of the Slovenian national liberation movement. Restored and preserved as a monument of national and cultural heritage, it is now open to the visitors.

Kocevje forests
Kočevje forests

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