One Loka, two valleys, three mountain ranges and endless stories – these all describe the area whose centre is the medieval town of Škofja Loka, first mentioned as a market and then as a town in the second half of the 13th century. Surrounded by a wall with five towers and city gates, it possessed urban autonomy by the end of the 14th century and between the period 973 and 1803, it was a territory of the last Bavarian Freising diocese, together with the Poljanska and Selska valleys. In 1987 the town was declared a cultural monument.
The name Škofja Loka originates from the Middle Ages and was originally just Loka, meaning a wet, grassy world alongside water. Since a number of settlements in Slovenia bore the name at that time, the word Škofja was added.
The Škofja Loka coat of arms draws attention due to the image of a Negro. According to legend, one of the Freising landlords, Abraham, was attacked by a bear on his way to the Poljanska Valley. A black servant killed it with an arrow thereby saving his master’s life. To show his thanks, Abraham ordered the head of a Negro to be portrayed on the coat of arms.
The Škofja Loka Castle and Museum, the first outpost
Above the city stands the Škofjeloška Castle, a magnificent building – which unlike the original image – is now missing the tower which once contained the dungeons. The locals will tell you that the nuns who lived in the castle ordered it to be demolished.
Lovers of cultural history and archaeological heritage will not be able to bypass the Loka Museum which is located in the castle, protecting the natural and cultural heritage of the area.
During a visit to the town, stop at the Center domače in umetnostne obrti (Centre of Arts and Crafts) in the medieval town centre where items of creative artisans from around the area are on display and where on Saturdays, you can watch the master craftsmen at work.
At the edge of the town, in Puštal, stands the Nace Homestead which will transport you into the lives of 18th century farm families. You can experience the ancient warmth of the black kitchen, house, kamra (small room), bread oven and a number of old objects. The Polenec Family will take you on a tour of the house and the orchard, which extends to Poljanščica and prepare a delicious snack upon prior reservation.
One of the attractions you cannot ignore is the Capuchin Church of St. Anne, located next to the Capuchin bridge. In addition to the incunabula and old religious books, the local library also contains the invaluable manuscript of Father Romuald from 1721. The manuscript, the “Passion of Škofja Loka”, is the oldest preserved dramatic text in Slovene language and in 1999, after more than 200 years, it was re-staged in the streets of Škofja Loka as a passion procession. The next performances will be in 2015!
Lovers of the fine arts are sure to be inspired by the Ivana Grohar and France Mihelič galleries.
The Rupnik line will transport you away from medieval times to the 20th century, when the old Yugoslav army ordered the construction of a system of fortifications as a defensive line on the border between the Kingdom of Yugoslavia and Italy, named after General Leon Rupnik, Commander of Staff. Its purpose was to fortify the line of defence along the border with Italy. The construction of the line which runs through Žirovnica – Ratitovec – Blegoš – Žirovski vrh – Cerknica – Slivnica – Črni vrh – Kamenjak – Plase was carefully planned and very extensive with the line running along the entire western border. Major fortifications were built primarily at strategically important points. The fortifications in the Poljanska Valley, which were some of the first to be built and particularly powerful, are worth a visit. At the beginning of the Second World War, the old Yugoslav army withdrew after capitulation leading to construction works ceasing with some fortifications not completed. Moreover, the Rupnik line of defence never served its purpose; the fortifications were never used for military or defence purposes, but serve as a literary, photographic and cinematographic inspiration for many.
Biking and hiking
The Loka biking trail provides indescribable pleasure. Even if you sometimes have to step off your bike due to poor gravel, country lanes or several steep slopes, you will enjoy all 300 kilometres- the route is divided into 12 stages. But do not panic! Some of them are very short; those with more stamina can combine two into one. After a few hours, you will be richer for the unforgettable experience and beautiful views, not to mention fitness and well-being.
Those with greater stamina, i.e. cyclists and mountain bikers, can set off on the convenient new circular bike trail called the Loka cycling circuit. It will take you past the medieval city, through green villages and across the plains of the Sorško polje.
Those who really enjoy cycling should certainly take the time to undertake a cycling trip of several days – you will need to reserve accommodation in advance. You can contact the Skofja Loka Tourism Office, who can put together a program according to your wishes and if desired, also provide you with a guide.
The Škofja Loka hills, some of the most beautiful in Slovenia with their green forest trails and groomed and marked footpaths, are a paradise for hikers! Those desiring solitude or those seeking company can enjoy and also can get genuine home-made cuisine at established huts along the way.
Poljanska and Selška Valleys
Take a short or longer break from the hustle and bustle of the modern city. A day trip or just an afternoon stroll, a break among the mighty medieval walls and the beautiful nature of the Poljanska and Selška Valleys. This is all possible in Škofja Loka and its surroundings, an area full of hidden corners and unforgettable experiences.
The Poljanska Valley in the Poljanska Sora basin, an inspiration for artists, extends from Škofja Loka to the surroundings of the Žiri basin. The valley, extending north of the Poljanska Valley begins in Škofja Loka which also contains the Selška Sora River, is no less inspiring. Its largest town is Železniki, famous for its rich iron heritage. The best preserved smelting furnace in Slovenia which operated until 1902 is located in Železniki. The end of the smelting operations marked the end of blacksmiths with lace-making, a craft which had spread from neighboring Idrija, assuming the predominant role in the valley. A specialty of the Selška Valley is hand-formed small honey buns, which have been and remain to this day, a festive form of bread at all major festivals and life events.
Lace-making also has quite a long tradition in Žiri. The former shoemaker’s craft eventually grew into a cooperative and evolved into today’s Alpina footwear – a brand which is well-known amongst alpine skiers, cross-country skiers and hikers.
The reasons to visit the Škofja Loka area are too numerous to list. With its unspoiled nature, this area could not be more suitable for leisure, relaxation, escape from everyday commitments or for hiking and sports activities. Visitors who enjoy exploring will also have a lot to do.