Turjak and Velike Lašče
The Turjak Castle is one of the mightiest castles in Slovenia, situated near the road linking Škofljica and Kočevje. Its owners have made an important contribution to Slovene history. The original castle was standing already in the 10th century. It is first mentioned in writing in 1220 and its owners, the Auerspergs, in 1162. The 1511 earthquake almost completely destroyed the castle. A new one was built but it was burnt down in WW II. Today, the castle, surrounded by vast forests, is only a poor image of ancient power.
To the south of Turjak Castle stretches a world of wooded hills with Velike Lašče as its center. Numerous small villages and settlements are scattered in the valleys. The Rašica River runs to the east and disappears as a waterfall into a sinkhole near the village of Ponikve.
Velike Lašče is a minor local center sitting at the crossroads of the road linking Ljubljana and Kočevje and roads coming from the Dobrepolje and the Bloke plateau. Primož Trubar, who in 1550 published the-first books in the Slovene, a catechism and a spelling-book, was born in the village of Rašica in 1508.
The Velike Lašče and the Dobrepolje valleys are separated by the karstified Mala gora, whose slopes fall steeply into the valley. The road to the Dobrepolje leads through Ponikve. The Dobrepolje is a typical karst field polje stretching between Mala Gora and the karst plateau Suha Krajina ( Dry March ). From Predstruga, the first village in the valley, the railroad runs parallel to the road.
The road and the railway to Kočevje run through a narrow valley. Atop Veliki Žrnovec ( 765 m ), the last hill on the west side of the valley sit the ruins of a magnificent 13th-century castle that used to be in the possession of the aristocratic Ortenburg family. The small river, which together with the main road and the railroad crisscrosses the valley, disappears underground near the village of Žlebič at the end of the valley.
Ribnica developed around the castle, surrounded by a water-filled gutter, which today houses a museum. It is the oldest parish in Dolenjska. In the past, it was the center of a huge area stretching from Velike Lašče to the Kolpa River. Ribnica was granted a market charter earlier than Kočevje. The seven-year Latin school was established as early as the 14th century. But Ribnica is above all known for its suha roba ( “dry goods” – wooden household utensils ) made by the locals ever since the Middle Ages.
At the beginning of the valley lies Nova Štifta with the famous 17th-century Baroque church and a road leading to the Bloke plateau and Sodražica.
Another road leads northeast from Ribnica, past the France cave ( Francetova Jama ), which is opened to tourists, to the Church of St. Ann ( 932 m ) on the Mala Gora ridge with great views of Ribnica and the Ribnica Valley.
The restored part of the former Ribnica Castle houses a museum.
Traditional tourist ethnological event: The Ribnica Suha rota and pottery fair takes place in Ribnica every first Sunday in September. There is also a number of “intermittent” rivers flowing through the Ribnica Valley. Through Ribnica runs the Bistrica. All these clear streams are extremely clean.
Sodražica hides in a tributary valley. North of Sodražica rises the picturesque Slemena, a range of rounded hills. By the Baroque church at Nova Štifta grows an enormous linden tree with a treehouse, where the local priest likes to seek shelter from the summer heat. Nobody minds if visitors also take the opportunity.