Solčavsko is an area in the northern part of Slovenia, along the border with Austria in the Upper Savinja Valley in the lap of the Kamnik-Savinja Alps and the Karawanks. It is named after the village of Solčava, and includes the settlement of Podolševa along with three parallel alpine, glacially transformed valleys; the most recognizable and most often depicted Logar Valley, considered by many to be one of the most beautiful valleys in the Alpine world, and a little less known, but no less exceptional and unique valleys of Robanov Kot and Matkov Kot. Due to their uniqueness, Logar Valley and Robanov Kot are specially protected and declared a landscape park. Together with Natura 2000, the protected nature area represents as much as 80 percent of the Solčavsko area. The area also has an extremely rich cultural and ethnological heritage. The basic living feature of Solčavsko is the highland self-sufficient farms, which tell stories of the greatness and humility of the people of Solčavsko. The people here have also retained their identity through their stories, fairy tales that have become legends, through dances, songs and music. An important part of the Solčavsko tradition is the zither, whose pleasant sounds can still be heard on many of these farms today.
I did not visit Solčavsko often, as access from Gorenjska is quite complicated. You have two options: driving from Bled on the highway to Kranj, then on a winding road through the valley of the river Kokra past Jezersko and over two mountain passes. An almost two-hour adventure, which is rewarded with beautiful panoramic views of the surrounding peaks. The second option lasts half an hour longer and is more suitable for less-skilled drivers, as it leads along the motorway past Ljubljana towards Celje and along the regional road through the Savinja Valley. Although the people of Gorenjska are betting on our Julian Alps with Triglav, we are not even aware that the Solčava region is in many ways even more beautiful.
The Solčava panoramic road is a unique attraction. It takes place at the foot of Mount Olševa, at more than 1000m above sea level. The Solčava panoramic road is unique in its beauty as it leads you through the pearls of the natural and cultural heritage of the Solčava region. When I drove on it for the first time years ago, I couldn’t believe that there is a road in Slovenia that offers such incredible views of steep peaks, picturesque valleys and highland hospitality farms, where people have always lovingly cultivated the land and lived in coexistence with nature. In today’s age of mass tourism, you can find something completely different here. In addition to excellent home-made food and idyllic nature, it is possible to enjoy true peace. Except for the birds singing, you hear nothing. Well, maybe in late fall and winter, when the locals go into the woods to cut wood, you can hear the roar of chainsaws here and there. The area is famous for its first-class larch wood. Here they have always lived mainly on wood, but today the farms are a stopover for hiking guests who stop on the way from Solčava past Podolševa to Olševa, cycling guests, families and all lovers of idyllic nature and unforgettable views. Most farms are located along the panoramic road itself and are fairly easily accessible. The excursion farm Bukovc (Bukovnik) is very famous as it is the highest farm in Slovenia with its location below the mountain Raduha, at an altitude of 1327m. It is located so high that you can even observe Triglav (which is located beyond the Kamnik-Savinja Alps) from their yard through a hole in the trunk.
Then there is Klemenšek excursion farm, the most often photographed farm in Slovenia due to its truly unique location on a natural pier, and in the background the Kamnik-Savinja Alps reign supreme as a mighty backdrop. They are known for a typical specialty from this part of Slovenia, the Upper Savinja Valley stomach sausage, which has won quite a few awards.
But Gradišnik farm is something special. They are located in Matkov Kot, just a stone’s throw away from the Pavličevo sedlo border crossing. The farm still reflects a time that is already forgotten by many, but on the other hand, it keeps pace with the present. The coexistence of these two worlds is felt everywhere on the homestead. The song and the sound of the zither have always been heard from the house ‘in Gradiš’. Master Karli Gradišnik was known as a zither player who played everywhere in Slovenia and abroad. We met in 1994 when Karli became interested in archery. He contacted me and we started working together. A year later, we went to Bolzano and bought 10 beginner bows, with which he began his journey into the tourist archery offer as an additional animation activity. Among the most distinguished guests who visited the homestead at that time was also the Prime Minister of the Republic of Slovenia, Mr. Janez Drnovšek. He visited the Gradišnik homestead every month and also enjoyed archery. Karli would not be Karli if he didn`t want to bring the beauties of the valley closer to a wider circle of archers. Therefore, in 2001, together with his archery club Indiana, he organized the 3rd European Archery Championship in the 3D discipline, which was attended by over 200 competitors from 10 countries. Archery at their homestead became increasingly popular over the next 20 years. Today, in addition to courses and equipment rental, they also offer 3D archery parkour, where you can try your hand at the real bow and arrow hunting. Make no mistake, these are not real animals but silhouettes made of rubber, which very authentically conjure up a real feeling of hunting with a bow. Now back to originality. Unfortunately, Karli Gradišnik died after a sudden illness in August 2018. Nevertheless, life on Gradišnik’s farm continues, and his tradition is continued by his wife Breda and their 4 children.
You can visit Solčavsko with highland farms by bike on our tour Boutique self-guided cycling holidays in Slovenia.
Marjan Podržaj is known in Slovenia as the largest promoter of archery, a living encyclopedia, a collector of bows and a writer of books on archery. In his more than 40-year sports career, which, by the way, is not over yet, he has won national titles both in the former Yugoslavia and in independent Slovenia. He also boasts medals from international tournaments, and his greatest success is the title of world champion in the Arrowhead discipline in 2018 in Lausanne, Switzerland. As a coach with an international license, he helps many clubs throughout Slovenia and abroad.