Slovenia used to have only one site on the UNESCO world heritage list for almost thirty years - the unique underground world of the Škocjan Caves. However, in the past two years, another two cultural sights were added. The first is the small town of Idrija with more than 500 years of mining tradition and the second one is the prehistoric crannogs at the Ljubljansko barje moor, the unique marshy plains south of the Slovenian capital.
The Škocjan Caves
The natural pearl of the Slovenian Karst underground has been on the UNESCO list since 1986. The several kilometre-long system of water caves, which has been formed by the Reka river over millions of years, incorporates astonishing halls, including one of the largest in Europe. Martel hall is 16 metres high, 120 metres wide and 300 metres long. The natural bridges and windows and various stalagmite shapes are also astonishing. Only a small portion of the caves are open for tourists; in 2011, a portion of the caves that had been closed since 1965, when the path was destroyed by a big flood, was re-opened. The site, located in the Kras region (meaning Karst), is one of the most famous in the world for the study of karstic phenomena.
Prehistoric pile dwellings around the Alps – on the threshold of Ljubljana (Ljubljansko barje - Ljubljana marschlands)
The pile dwellings in the area of the Ljubljansko barje – just a few minutes from the Slovenian capital, Ljubljana – are part of the attraction that includes 111 pile dwellings in six countries in the area of the Alps, built between 5000 B.C. and 500 B.C. For these dwellings, it is characteristic that the wood used for their construction is preserved in exceptionally good condition. The remains of the pile dwellings, constructed at the edge of Ljubljansko barje – this area used to be a lake – are now only visible in Slovenian museums and deep underground. Besides various tools and even preserved clothes, archaeologists found the world`s oldest wheel with an axle. It is approximately 5200 years old and is definitely worth seeing!
The mercury heritage in Idrija
The former mercury mine in Idrija entered the UNESCO list in 2012, together with the Almadén mine in central Spain. In Idrija, mercury was mined from 1490 to the 1990s. The Antonij’s shaft of the once second largest mercury mine in the world now offers a picturesque depiction of the work and the lives of numerous generations of Idrija miners and their families. Mercury from the underground, the famous Idrija lace from the lacemakers` pillows, special Idrija dumplings called "žlinkrofi" from domestic kitchens - Idrija is a town of extraordinary cultural heritage.
Does Slovenia have any other heritage sites that would meet the standards of the UNESCO list? The tentative list currently contains the following sites: the Classic Karst, the Fužina Hills in Bohinj and the Franja Partisan Hospital. The tentative list is prepared by each country and is held at the UNESCO headquarters. It serves as a type of an announcement on future nominations for a member state.
More about Slovenian UNESCO sites is available here.