The Baška grapa Valley
The Baška grapa Valley is like a gully cut into the rocks. The bottom of the valley is crisscrossed by the tiny Bača, the road, and the rail which passes through numerous tunnels. Squeezed in the gorge are the small villages of Klavže, Krteža, Grahovo, Koritnica, Huda Južna and Podbrdo. At Podbrdo the railroad enters the Bohinj tunnel while the main road via the Petrovo Brdo pass leads to Selška Dolina.
At Kneža, the deep Kneža valley cuts deep into the mountains. A forest road leads right under the very peak of Šije ( 1880 m ) on Bohinj Vogel. Southern part of the Baška grapa is at first shut off by Šentvid plateau ( Šentviska planota ), by Kojca ( 1303 m ) and by Porezen ( 1630 m ), separating the Baška grapa from the Idrijca valley.
The whole Idrija-Cerkno region is a vast wooded pre-Alpine world with deep valleys and extremely steep slopes. Individual small settlements and solitary mountain farms are scattered right up to the ridges and peaks.
Two valleys begin at Dolenja Trebuša – the Trebušcica valley and the Hotenja valley. These are lonely and scarcely settled areas with numerous steep and hardly accessible ravines. The Cerknica flows into the Idrijca at Želin, while the Cerknica valley stretches right to the foot of Porezen. This is where Cerkno lies. Originally the settlement was an ecclesiastic center. The most famous monument in the Cerkno valley is the Franja Partisan Hospital dating from WW II, hidden in a ravine by the Pasica stream above the village of Log. Above Novaki lies a well-known ski center Črni Vrh ( 1291 m ). In the village of Ravne above Cerkno is the Raven cave ( Ravenska Jama ) known for the snow-white aragonite crystals resembling ice, needles, and even hedgehogs ( aragonite ježki ).
From Cerkno, a road leads up via Planina pri Cerknem and after the Kladje pass ( 787 m ) descends to the Poljanska dolina.
The narrow valley first widens at Spodnja Idrija. Among the Idrija Hills to the west of Spodnja Idrija lies the narrow Kadomljica valley. The road through it leads via the Oblakov vrh pass ( 721 m ) to the Hotenje valley. At Mokraška vas between Spodnja Idrija and Idrija a narrow zigzag road leading to Žiri branches off into the steep slope.
Idrija has filled the small basin under steep wooded slopes. The town was founded after the discovery of mercury ( živo srebro ) in the 15th century. For centuries, Idrija mine gave the purest mercury in the world. Today the mine is closed, but it can be visited by tourists. The Municipal Museum is housed in the Gewerkeneg castle, purpose-built for the mine administration and storage of mercury in 1533. Idrija’s greatest natural sight is Wild Lake ( Divje jezero ), a deep clear lake situated under a 100 m high overhang wall under the Zadlog and Idrijski Log plateaus. Since 1972 Wild Lake has been considered a natural museum. It lies on the fringe of the Zgornja Idrijca Regional Park.
Idrija, which used to be a wealthy town due to the mercury mine, is after its closure fast turning to tourism.
At Mardi Gras, Laafarji fill the streets of Cerkno. There are several other interesting old masks in the carnival. This rich tradition has also been preserved in some other villages in the area. All masks gather for the traditional Mardi Gras promenade in Cerkno.
In the whole Idrija-Cerkno region villages are perched on the steep slopes above the valleys. Life wasn’t easy here either, but now tourism is developing fast. Traffic has been banned from the whole area of the Zgornja Idrijca Regional Park. The Klavže and barriers are still preserved there as well as the water-filled rake used for transporting wood to the valley. Wood was used by the mercury mine in Idrija. Right at the beginning of the park, under a mighty rocky wall, is Wild Lake. The picturesque surroundings of the lake from which springs a small river, are known for several botanical curiosities.
One of the most important natural sights in the Idrija-Cerkno Hills is the Raven cave. The entrance into the cave is near the first houses of Ravne pri Cerknem. The ceiling of an otherwise mediocre cave is sprinkled with aragonite crystals. They can be found in other caves, too, but in none of them so beautiful, so numerous and so easily accessible.
People from Cerkno also like to boast with a unique archaeological find in Europe, a prehistoric wind instrument unearthed in the Divje Babe cave. A visit to the Anthony mine shaft in the Idrija mercury mine might also turn out very interesting. The entrance to the shaft is in the center of Idrija.