Along the path of cultural heritage

The trail is a picturesque hiking trail that brings us closer to the life of the inhabitants of Srednji Vrh in the past.

Srednji Vrh is a village on the sunny side of the Karavanke mountain chain that offers unparallelled views of the Julian Alps. The village stretches from the Martuljek mountain chain with its pyramid-shaped Špik, along the Mojstrovka, Jalovec and up to Višarje. In the area, you can discover secluded farms dating back 500 years, perfectly preserved in their original form, situated on the ice shelf at an elevation ranging from 960 to 1035 meters above sea level. The village can be reached by road, or via the historic carousel road and the paths from Gozd – Martuljek, locally known as Rute.

In the past, the village was connected to Koroška through the passages in the Karavanke mountain range. One such historic route is Pot čez Kamen, an ancient road that was already documented in the oldest military map of Carniola dating back to 1776, connecting Srednji Vrh with the valley. When the new road was built, traffic was redirected there, but the old road, Čez Kamen, was not entirely abandoned. Reaching Srednji Vrh village is a straightforward journey. The starting point is located at the upper level of Gozd Martuljek, near the Kekelj bridge, where you will find an informative visitor center.

The historic carousel road led from Rute to Pavlek through Sava Dolinka along the Oman bridge and through the sawmill to Frtalja, where it connected with the road from the side of Kranjska Gora. From there it rises steeply to the chapel in Kamen, then through Brinje to the farms in Srednji Vrh. Because it leads walkers over stones and rocks, it was named Pot cez Kamen (Path over Stone). It was originally used to transport wood, and as a pathway for people traveling to attend mass, baptisms, funerals, and school in Kranjska Gora.

Today, the trail through Kamen offers a scenic hiking experience, allowing visitors to discover the natural and cultural landmarks described in Marta Oitzl‘s childhood memoirs.

The paths from Rute through Kamen had in the past
Led past the sawmill and the mills.
The mills in times past
ran a lot, so that the people could survive.

Fond memories have remained of Frtalja,
we always liked to visit Valjavka,
Aunt Lenka‘s family,
and we learned something new.

We went to the school in Kranjska Gora along the cart track
And at the chapels we bowed
As our parents had taught us.
At the Srenje signs we turned onto the road,
In Log we slowed down a bit.

We liked spending time in school
Because at home the tough farmwork awaited us.
If we complained that we had a lot of homework
Our parents said: there will be time for that when it darkens.

We always liked the school holidays,
The familiar tourists came to us then
Who sought the health and quiet of the mountains,
It has been respected, preserved, so it would stay that way for eternity.

The time has come that we ask the current generations
To better preserve their cultural heritage
So that it will not be forgotten how it was in the past
Because information from the past is not easy to find.

The path was created by a group of women known as Eko Rutarščice, whose projects received the financial support of the municipality of Kranjska Gora. ArheoAlpe, the Institute for Culture, Education and Tourism Bohinj, was responsible for the conceptual design. Eko Rutarsce started to work at the University for older citizens in Kranjska Gora and they have so far successfully launched two interesting projects: Za čisto naravo (For clean Nature) and Pot za Savo (Road along the Sava). Their dedication to these initiatives has involved considerable effort, community involvement, and personal commitment, as they have willingly invested their free time. The members of Eko Rutarščice are happy to help, particularly when it comes to the responsibility of preserving nature, the local area, and the cultural heritage. In the five years since their foundation, they have proven that one can make a generous contribution using small steps.

Pot čez Kamen is highlighted on the information boards along the trail, accompanied by local landmarks such as “Na Frtalje,” “Na Kamno,” “Pr lese,” “Pr Kacjano,” “Pad Gvava,” and “U Bizno.”

The journey takes you up to the Frtalje house, where the utilization of water-powered mills became widespread during the High Middle Ages. People also used the water for saws, stopas (wooden devices used to remove the husk from cereal grains), and to support forges and iron works.

The spring of Smeč can be found beneath Vošca and within the Jurež Valley. Upon it stood the Jurežev and Merklnov mills. Below Jurež, the stream cascades down a steep 100-meter waterfall, which is the largest in the Karavanke mountain range.

Beneath the waterfall, a portion of the stream was redirected to create a rake – a riverbed made of wooden desks. At the beginning of this arrangement stood the Tarman mill, and just below it were the houses of Frtaljež and Valjavka. . The Frtaljež house served not only as a dwelling, but also housed a mill for grinding grains and producing stopas, which were long wooden pots in which barley was beaten using long poles, and the process resulted in jesprenj, or hulled barley. Both mills were powered by a frtalja; this is a water-powered wheel with a vertical axis positioned in the water. The Frtalja mill ground grains for those who did not have a mill of their own.

The miller would often take a portion of the flour as payment, which was known as “mutanje,” serving as a form of compensation.

Valjavka, a smaller separate building, stood slightly lower in elevation. Inside, they had equipment for rolling canvas and rags.

Following Valjavka was the Korošec mill, which unfortunately was completely submerged during the flood of 1946. It was succeeded by the Oman mill and further down, the Oman sawmill, where locals had their wood cut. The last mill, Citrar mill, was entirely swept away by the force of the water.

The small iron works are remembered by the name of the plain, “Na fužinci”,on the meadow of Mojstrova.

Regrettably, most of these buildings no longer exist, with only a few remnants left as a reminder of their existence

Frtalja year 1996
The family archive of Oitzl

Valjavka
The family archive of Schaubah

Omanova sawmill year 1994
The family archive of Oitzl

Initially, the markings were erected as reminders at locations where accidents had occurred, and they later served expressions of gratitude for requests granted related to illnesses, military matters and other accidents. In some cases, they were built as a precautionary measure for residents, offering them a form of insurance against potential accidents. Later on, in the 17th century, they built chapels instead of these markings.

In Srednji Vrh, we can find the Merkeln, Jurež, Hlebanje and Vavčar house chapels, the Hlebanje chapel of the Holy Trinity, and the Smolej marking.

Within the chapel Na Kamnu, we can find a commemorative plaque which originally stood at the nearby beech tree. The plaque serves as a reminder of a tragic event that occurred in 1913. Two girls were returning from school on the Čez Kamen path when a storm broke out. According to local accounts, eight-year-old Minca Kralj sought shelter under the tree from the storm, but tragically, lightning struck the tree. The heat of the lightning caused Minca’s earring to melt. Fortunately, the other girl accompanying her survived the incident.

In Log, near the junction where the Čez Kamen path intersects with the main road, there used to be Srenje signs in the past. The first sign stood as a reminder of an accident that happened on the 2nd of January 1777. An avalanche claimed the lives of eight people from Srenje who had gone to feed their sheep in Hudi hlevi. This event marked the first recorded avalanche accident in the area.

On the second sign there was a picture with the motif of a charcoal burner who collapsed into a charcoal pile while making charcoal. The third sign served as a reminder of drivers transporting goods over Koren, who were killed by the robbers along their journey.

The family archive of Oitzl

The Smolej sign made a lasting impression on the locals, being regarded as an object of reverence. In the lower part, within the central niche, The Trinity was depicted, with St. Anton occupying the left niche, and St. Florjan the one on the right. In the upper part, the central niche portrayed Mary of Lourdes, while St. Catherine was represented in the left niche, and St. Ursha on the right.

Kapelo v čast Sv. Trojice, ki venča Mater božjo, sta leta 1843 zgradila Jakob in Šimen Hlebanja. Zvon, blagoslovljen na ime Šimen, je bil vlit v livarni Antona Sammassa v Ljubljani, leta 1858. V kapelici se zvoni vsak dan in domačinom ob smrti v slovo.

Photo: Milan Polak

The chapel dedicated to St. Mary was constructed in 1843 by Jakob and Šimen Hlebanja. In 1858, a bell, blessed in the name of Šimen, was crafted in the foundry of Anton Sammassa in Ljubljana. The bell rings every day in the chapel, and also tolls as a farewell to those who have passed away.

The land has long served as a vital source of sustenance for the residents of Srednji Vrh.  According to the Fusine land registry, kept by the nobility and dating back to 1636, there were complete farms with steep pastures, meadows and fields that yielded wheat, barley, rye and buckwheat. Local farmers also sowed flax for producing yarn, oats, corn, sorghum, turnips and potatoes in their fields, some of which were located at higher elevations. Vegetable cultivation took place in the beds adjacent to their houses.

Until the early 20th century, the steep fields of Srednji Vrh were tilled using a unique method known as the oje plough, which was exclusive to the area. The oje plough was yoked to a couple of oxen that would start to plough from the lower part of the field. The landowner did the ploughing, while the cattle were guided by either a farmhand or a shepherd. The ploughman carefully controlled the width and depth of the furrows, ensuring they aligned properly and stood upright without excessive soil disruption.  Ultimately, the lowest furrow was brought up to the upper ridge.

The forests of Srednji Vrh not only supplied the necessary timber for constructing houses and outbuildings, but also served as a source of additional income for the local community. During the heyday of the iron industry in the valley, charcoal making, or charcoal cooking, also played a vital role. Even today, remnants of this industry can be observed in various locations, characterized by a distinctive layer of black soil intermingled with charcoal residue, known as kopišče.

Along the Čez Kamen road, wood that had been harvested in the summer was then transported during the winter. To facilitate this transportation, a small sled known as a kurte was used. The logs, known as štoke, were loaded onto the sled and secured using chains and rajkl (fasteners). To control the speed of the sled, they employed rajsa and maks (brakes).

The oje plough that was built by the father of Smolej – Janez Mertelj
Source: Preserved by the Ethnographic Museum of Slovenia, inv. št. 630:LJU;0007793, foto: Marko Habič

Kurte
Drawing: Milan Polak

Furnga
The family archive of Vah

On their own land
Photo: Jaka Čop

The population of Srednji Vrh has undergone changes over time. According to the first population census conducted in Carniola in 1754, 87 inhabitants lived in Srednji Vrh; 50 men and 37 women. During that period, women typically gave birth approximately every three years, although their life expectancy was often short.

The missionary Lovrenc Lavtižar and the professor doctor Jože Hlebanja also lived in Srednji Vrh.

Lovrenc Lavtižar (1820 – 1858) was born on the homestead at Vavčars. In 1854, he left for North America after being invited by Bishop Baraga. He served as a helping hand to the missionary Franc Pirc, and together they established a missionary station near the Red Sea, with Lavtižar assuming leadership.  Tragically, Lavtižar passed away on a cold December day in 1858 while returning from his missionary travels; he succumbed to the freezing temperatures. In December 1929, a statue was erected in his honour  on the grounds of the Rdeče jezero missionary station, where there is also a school with a memorial hall.

Jože Hlebanja (1926 – 2022) was born on the Pri Hlebanju homestead. He graduated from the Technical University in Ljubljana and went on to become an excellent constructor at Metalna Maribor, where he designed many cable cars and cranes. As a professor at the Faculty for Engineering in Ljubljana, he wrote the first schoolbooks and introduced many new technical subjects.  Notably, Hlebanja played a vital role in the advancement of cogwheel technology. In recognition of his remarkable achievements, the University of Ljubljana awarded him the title of professor emeritus.

Srednji Vrh has served as a backdrop for numerous film productions. In 1932, the second Slovenian full-length film, “Triglavske strmine”, was filmed in Bukavje. The movie showcases scenes of mowers and harvesters on the Hlebanje farm, and local people were involved in the filming.

Slavko Savinšek portrayed the story of a love torn between the homeland, the father and the girl in the story “Grče”.

Srednji Vrh has attracted the presence of notable Slovenian figures throughout its history.  These include ethnologist Niko Kuret, painter Ljubo Ravnikar, alpine photographer Jaka Čop and conductor Vladimir Kobler. In addition, the mother of renowned Slovenian poet Dr. France Prešeren once stayed overnight at the Smolej farmhouse during her visit to her son Jurij, who was working in Koroška.

Bukovje, where the scenes from a movie “Triglavske Strimine” were filmed, directed by Ferdo Delak and produced by Metod Badjur
The collection of old photographs, Toni Drnovšek

A bust of Lovrenc Lavtižar in front of the parish church of  Mary’s Assumption in Kranjska Gora
Photo: Milan Polak

The view from Srednji Vrh to the mountain chain of Martuljek
Photo: Jaka Čop, personal archive of Mija Ogrin

While the exact origins of the first permanent settlement in Srednji Vrh were not documented, local accounts suggest that the initial inhabitants were shepherds who migrated from Koroška. The earliest written record of Srednji Vrh can be found in the oldest surviving urban register of the Fusine lordship, dating back to 1498, in which the following landowners were mentioned: Mertl, Kantziann Klebana, Jacob Klebanna, Balthaser Klebanna, Jernni Smille and Lucas Smole.

The farmhouses in Srednji Vrh are multi-storey structures and were built from powerful stone walls as early as the 16th and 17th centuries. Functioning as self-contained units, they comprise residential buildings and surrounding outbuildings nestled amidst fields, meadows, pastures, and forests. Each farmhouse consists of a residential house, in some places also including a barn and outbuildings: a barn for livestock, a piggery and pigs, a woodshed, a fruit dryer and haystacks, or stogi. The residential buildings have a main living space – the house, a chamber, a kitchen, sometimes a black kitchen and the main area – veža. On different levels, this main area is called zol. In some places, the rooms have their own names, revealing their specific function or the room’s owner: hrušovc, mater’n cimr, and kimnata. Some of the typical roofs on čop are still covered with wooden boards.

Franciscan catastre from 1827. Srednji Vrh with farms, also called Mitterberg.
Source: Archive RS

Gothic portal of the window with the Fusine coat of arms on Merkel farm, which is known to be the oldest farm in Srednji Vrh
Photo: Milan Polak

The wooden ceiling of Hlebanje with the carving from the year 1506 is Slovenia’s oldest wooden ceiling found within a farmhouse.
Photo: Milan Polak

Traditional local tales are intertwined with historical events, fictional characters, and local beliefs, all connected to specific locations, streams, and mountain peaks nearby. Inexplicable phenomena and old wisdoms are mirrored in these narratives, which feature fabulous creatures such as white-clad women, and wild men who possess the power to guide and counsel individuals but can also bring harm. The motifs commonly include divja jaga and treasures which remain undisclosed due to the characters’ disregard for the rules imposed by these fantastical creatures or laid out in dreams.

To safeguard the rich heritage of folk storytelling, we have transcribed here the dialect song “Dota prot˝Rutam,” originally narrated by Marta Hlebanja, and the story of Divja Jaga and the woman in white. The latter was passed down to Lojza Smolej by his father.

 

THE PATH TO RUTE
The path to Rute
Is a winding road
I crouch down
And sit in a corner.

In one corner there was a plough
In the other one a tree
And in the third a girl
With a mean expression.

If you take me dancing
I will give you a doughnut
I made it yesterday
And carry it in my pocket.

Play with her, play with her,
I do not want to hurt her.
Play with her so
That she will not be disappointed.

 

DIVJA JAGA AND THE WOMAN IN WHITE

One cold winter’s night in Srednji Vrh, three landowners were told in a dream to meet in Železnica at midnight on the day of Saint George, where a wild hunt would start. If they were brave enough to last till the end, they would save a young girl who had been placed under a curse.

When the day arrived, one of the landowners did not turn up, so the remaining two embarked on the journey. At midnight they heard menacing animal sounds. The barking, whining and howling got gradually louder. A bitingly cold wind enveloped them, as if an unseen force had brushed past. They fell to the ground, but they quickly regained their composure and fled.

Close to home, atop Hribro, overlooking Hlebanje Farm,  they saw a floating creature in a long white dress. It was a young girl who was weeping – vekavo – with all her might. She said to them:  »Why have not the three of you come, so we could possibly overcome the divja jaga and I would be saved from the spell? Now, I must continue to wander the woods and will be waiting on the spot where the sun will first shine in the morning on the day of Saint Vitus. There the tree will grow. The cradle will be made from this tree and the person who will use it will overcome the divja jaga and save me from the spell. He will also discover the buried treasure, concealed somewhere in Železnica.«

Slowly she disappeared into the dark night. She probably still wanders the meadows and woods around Srednji Vrh.

The cradle with the motif of the Mary of Višarje
The family archive of Vida Robič

 

The chest from 1850
The family archive of Vida Robič

The statue of Saint Vid
The parish church of Saint Vid in Želimlje

Details

  • Gozd Martuljek, Srednji Vrh
  • 1,5 h (6 km)
  • 206 m
  • Lahka pot

Stories of Kranjska Gora

Stories

Fairy tales still live here, traces of which can be found behind every corner.

All stories
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5 things not to be missed in the autumn-colored Kranjska Gora

5 things not to be missed in the autumn-colored Kranjska Gora

The days are getting shorter and the nights are getting longer. We have already stepped into autumn, the tops of the highest mountains have already been whitened by first snow and morning temperatures are already falling below zero in the valley. We have gathered for you some activities that you can do iduring the visit of tourist destination Kranjska Gora.

World Bee Day and a picnic area for bees

World Bee Day and a picnic area for bees

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Summer hit: Juliana Trail hiking trail

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A notice that changed life in Kranjska Gora forever

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A world traveler enchanted by the Upper Sava Valley

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"I know nothing more beautiful in Europe!"

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