Dolenjska and Bela krajina

 

Winegrowing hills and small churches, castle and monasteries, mighty forests and gentle birch groves give the extensive region of southeastern Slovenia a very picturesque appearance. Dolenjska, which shakes hands with Bela krajina across the scenic Gorjanci mountain range, is a region with countless possibilities for relaxation, exploration, and pleasure and numerous fascinating stops on its heritage trails and wine roads.

 

Those who travel south from the center of Slovenia can start their tour at the Renaissance Turjak Castle or in neighbouring Rašica at the Trubar Homestead. The two places are linked by a forest education trail, one of the many such trails in the area of Velike Lašče, which boasts a particularly rich cultural and literary tradition. Not far away is Dobrepolje, a large karst polje boasting Podpeška jama cave and the largest linden grove in Slovenia. Ribnica, the cradle of Dolenjska woodenware, attracts visitors with Ribnica Castle and its ethnological museum. Traditional handicrafts can be seen in the town’s many workshops and at numerous events. Kočevje, which is at the center of one of the most forested regions of Europe, offers the opportunity to tour the Kočevski Rog primeval forest reserve, explore the Ledena and Želinje caves, and relax beside a spring-fed lake or the Rinža River. Attractive hiking, educational, bicycling, and horseback riding trails crisscross the area. Those searching for more out-of-the-way countryside should visit the Kostelsko region where Kostel Castle invites visitors to the mysterious land above the Kolpa River canyon and the nearby Nežica waterfall. The fairy-tale land of the legendary strongman and hero Peter Klepec has its center in Osilnica and the valley of seven churches and offers numerous possibilities for relaxation from water sports on the Kolpa to hiking and bicycling trails.

 

Those who want to follow a river south will set out from the center of Slovenia along the Krka River. From its source in the Krška jama cave to Žužemberk, which boasts one of the most picturesque castles in Slovenia, the river, which once drove many millstones, flows over gour dams that now attract kayakers and canoeists along with fishermen. A different kind of experience is offered by the Temenica, a tributary of the Krka, which leads visitors to Trebnje and Mirna peč across a picturesque valley of dry riverbeds, sinks, and hollows.

 

The Krka River gives Novo mesto, the Dolenjska metropolis situated like Rome on seven hills, its characteristic appearance. Not far from this city of numerous cultural, historical, and sacral monuments lies Dolenjske Toplice and its health resort, Slovenia’s only island castle Otočec, now a luxury hotel and park, and the Šmarješke Toplice health resort. The proximity of the Gorjanci mountains promises adventure for hikers, bicyclists, and hunters, while Trška gora above the city proves that this a winegrowing region for Cviček, a famous Slovene specialty.

 

The tradition of linking noble wines with wine roads is also a characteristic of Bela krajina, where Semič, Metlika, and Črnomelj invite their visitors. Near Metlika is Rosalnice with its renowned “Tri fare”, a group of three Gothic pilgrimage churches from the 14th and 15th centuries squeezed together behind a common wall. In a forest glade near the village of Rožanec, there is a preserved temple to the sun god Mithras from Roman times. The Črnomelj area invites visitors to the Lahinja Landscape Park.

 

Across the Gorjanci mountains that form the northern border of Bela krajina, the Dolenjska region continues along the Krka to its confluence with the Sava River: past equestrian Šentjernej the river leads to Pleterje and its renowned Carthusian monastery and to Kostanjevica na Krki with Kostanjevica Castle and the Forma Viva sculpture park. Where the Krka meets the Sava, Dolenjska meets Posavje. Here is Brežice with its castle, famous for its outstanding Knight’s Hall, the main venue of the annual Brežice Festival of Early Music. Close by are the Čatež Thermal Spa and Mokrice Castle and its golf course. Excursion destinations and natural, cultural, and sacral points of interest lead visitors into the surroundings of Krško and Sevnica and along the Bizeljsko-Sremiško Wine Road.