The destination of Idrija with the tourist product »Idrija – A Story for All Times« is this year’s winner of the European Destinations of Excellence (EDEN) competition. With Idrija joining past winners, the Soča Valley, Solčavsko and Kolpa River, Slovenia has received its fourth European Destination of Excellence.
This year`s invitation was aimed at destinations which revived one or more locations of natural cultural heritage, increased their attractiveness to tourists, as well as stimulated the regeneration of the local environment in a sustainable manner while increasing visits throughout the year. From among the submitted candidates, the professional committee appointed by the Slovenian Tourist Board selected the four finalists as follows (titles of destinations are listed in alphabetical order):
1. Idrija with the product »Idrija – A Story for All Times«;
2. Mežica with the product »Peca Underworld – tourist mine and museum«;
3. Velenje with the product »Underground Adventure in Velenje«; and
4. Žiče with the product »Žiče Carthusian Monastery in the Sv. Janez Krstnik Valley«.
The winner of the EDEN 2011 title, Idrija − the oldest mining town in Slovenia, which was for five hundred years famed both at home and around the world for its wealth of mercury, having a major influence on many events, not just nationally, but also in the wider European area − won the title due to excellence it has shown by successfully upgrading the preserved cultural and historical heritage, combining it with interesting features and thus regenerating the destination’s interest as a whole.
The formal awarding of the title European Destination of Excellence at the national level will be held on 8th June 2011 in Slovenia, and at the European level, the destination will be first presented in September on the European Day of Tourism in Brussels, where it will be awarded the title by the European Commission.
Idrija has, along with the closure of the mercury mine, systematically begun to incorporate the immovable cultural heritage of mining and other related economic, social, and spiritual activities into its tourist offer. Besides Idrija’s exceptionally well-preserved and presented technical heritage (mine, spade-shaped wheels – kamšti, water barriers –klavže, pump, presentation at the museum), other contents are being developed, including culinary offers (Idrija žlikrofi), souvenir offers (Idrija hand-made lace, products of Idrija farms), and events (Lace Festival, marathons). There is also a ‘geo’ park underway and the area of Idrija is conveniently connected to several hiking and cycling routes. Also very commendable is the rising of awareness by local inhabitants regarding the environmental issues and effects of the former mining on their lives.
As was pointed out by Prof. Janez Bogataj, Ph.D., the President of the professional committee for the selection of the Slovenian destination of excellence: »Here, we cannot speak only of the mining heritage, but also of the recognition which the mining tradition created through the centuries causing renowned European names from the field of science and culture to come to Idrija. During the last few years, Idrija successfully connected the town with its surroundings, such as other villages, as well as individual local and tourist farms, thus also enabling a form of sustainable development increasing the local community’s awareness of numerous components of its natural heritage.«
However, the awarding of the title EDEN 2011 was not the only milestone for Idrija in 2011. Namely, this February, it was also awarded the title “Alpine Town of the Year 2011”, with which it joined the distinguished company of cities and towns in the Alps region whose everyday practices and development policies demonstrate their commitment to fulfiling the Alpine Convention. At the same time, Idrija is preparing a new dossier for the entry of its mercury mine in the Unesco World Heritage List, after the joint Slovenian-Spanish-Mexican candidacy was rejected last year.
More information about the entire Slovenian network of EDEN destinations (including the first three winners) can be found on the pages of the Slovenian Tourist Board.