I had decided that I would do a side trip from Ljubljana and toyed with the idea of Maribor for old time’s sake (see Yugoslavia drama for details of the old time) or Lake Bled, but figured that both were too far when I would be flying home the same day.
I therefore plumped for a train journey to the town of Skofja Loka in Upper Carniola, with its riverside location, imposing castle and renowned museum.
The train took 30 minutes to do the 20km and I figured that I had a good four hours there before venturing back to the Slovenian capital.
We were soon out in the sticks and in no time I was alighting at Skofja’s remote station. The day was Sunday and although there was allegedly a bus, I decided that I would walk the gently ascending 3km uphill into town. As no bus passed me en route, I for once felt vindicated by my decision.
The air had an alpine feel and the walk was both invigorating and picturesque as I was surrounded by evergreens in the hills to my left and neat homesteads to my right.
As I approached the outskirts of the town, the Selca Sora river reared its alluring head. I lingered for ten minutes basking in the sunshine on a wooden bridge taking in the babbling water and realised that I was feeling very peaceful indeed.
I then continued the climb into town, past the church and into the main mediaeval streets. I soon found myself sat in the main square enjoying coffee & cake. Texting Mrs Wilbur and wishing she was with me, I had my second realisation of the morning – that I was so lucky to be able to travel on a whim and that I had a very understanding wife.
My thoughts were broken by the midday bells, stirring me into life for the culmination of my ascent up to the castle.
The castle itself was shut for the winter (it being February), but the mooch around the grounds was very pleasant indeed. There were ancient buildings to peer into and a marvellous view of the town, the valley and Skofja’s second river, Poljane Sora.
Little did I know but the best was yet to come. The castle museum was an absolute gem housed over two floors within the castle complex. It covers over a millennia of Skofja Loka history with one floor dedicated to art and the second to the ethnology of the region.
The art contains famous Slovenian paintings from the 17th Century onwards and other objects well worthy of attention, plus rooms laid out as they would have been a couple of centuries before.
It was however the ethnological collection that I loved, most especially the ancient farming equipment evoking images of Jethro Tull and his famous seed drill, and the artisan pieces such as printing presses, spinning wheels and distillery equipment. It was like I had landed in the UK’s pre Industrial Revolution era of spinning jennys and the cottage industry of the North of England.
There was also a very well stocked armoury and an unusual (some may say distasteful) collection of stuffed mammals. I long to see a kingfisher one day, but not like this……
Taxidermy apart, this was one of my favourite ever museums and a real bargain at €5. I was also the only visitor that afternoon – the joys of out of season travel!
So good was my visit in fact that I completely lost track of time, necessitating a speed walk of Olympic proportions to arrive at the station two minutes before my train departed. I was then thankful that I was alone as I could never have put Mrs Wilbur through that!
If you ever get to Ljubljana, I thoroughly recommend a trip to Skofja Loka. If you travel by bus you get right to the centre in 30 minutes, which may be a tad easier on the knees!