Kamnik – culture and art in the heart of the highlands

If you are already in Ljubljana and would like to do some sightseeing and hiking outside the capital, the town of Kamnik might be exactly what you are looking for. Cradled by the hills and mountains, this small city north of Ljubljana is a good starting point for many hiking trails. It is also near Kamniška Bistrica (reachable by bus from Ljubljana), where you can get on a cable car to Velika Planina – the most beautiful alpine pasture in Slovenia and a popular hiking site at 1611 m above sea level.

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At LetsGoSlovenia we decided to explore Kamnik first, and than head to Velika Planina for some exceptional views of Kamnik-Savinja Alps, which you will be able to enjoy with us in one of our next post.

Text by Marijana Podhraski, Photos by SaMo

kamnik_street_lgsA walk back in time

Kamnik is a small medeival town with a very rich cultural heritage, which is all very well preserved. It is easy to walk its alleys and enjoy the fascinating history of a city. From the memorial tablets, we soon realize that quite some renowned people of Slovenia were born and/or lived here. The town is also known as one of the most influential centers of power for the Bavarian counts of Andechs in the region of Carniola at the time.

The name Kamnik was first mentioned in the 11th century. The first time it was mentioned as a town was in 1229, when it was an important trading post on the road between Ljubljana and Celje. This puts Kamnik in the group of Slovenia’s oldest towns.

The great thing today is that one of the prettiest streets – Šutna is closed for the traffic. What can be better than a peaceful and relaxing stroll in the old town?

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Most of the old town center is built in an Austro-Hungarian style, and most of the facades have been renovated in recent years.

While admiring the old town houses, we get to the address Šutna 23, the birth house of Rudolf Maister – Slovene army general, political activist and a poet, whose decisive military action at the end of World War I secured Slovenians northern region. He only lived in Kamnik for six years as the family often moved due to his father’s job, but still the people of Kamnik named the main street, the main bridge across the river Kamniška Bistrica and a primary school in his honor.

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Exhibition about Rudolf Maister’s life on Šutna street

At the end of the Šutna district the Church of Mary’s Immaculate Conception stands, it is a baroque work of architect Gregor Maček jr. (1734). A bell tower next to the church is the remain of the old medieval church.

The legend at the hilltop

After a short break in one of the coffee houses we walked up the town hill to the Little Castle (Mali grad), which was the seat of the of the Andechs rule who also owned a mint.

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From the hilltop there is a great panoramic view of the town’s red rooftops.

Family of the Andechs counts was one of the most important medieval dynasties in Slovenia, and Kamnik was their main administrative and judicial center. Today there are only ruins and a two storey Romanic chapel with a crypt that tell a bit of a story about the long forgotten nobles.

The five genrations of the Andech’s family played a remarkable part in some of the top European developments at the end of the 12th and the first half of the 13th century. After the last members of the family –brothers Ekbert and Berthold, both church dignitaries and their niece, duchess Agnes Neža of Kamnik had no descendants, their properties passed into the hands of other feudal dynasties.

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Of course, there is also a legend, that makes the ruins at the top of the hill more exciting. Her name was Veronika, and she was a beautiful, but evil countess. After she refused to help a beggar, as a punishment she was turned into a hideous monster – half woman-half snake. Some say she still sometimes sits on the staircase in front of the chapel, waiting for the rescuer.

Back in town, you can stop at the Franciscan monastery and the Church of St. Jacob, where the Chapel of God’s Grave and the Franciscan library, built by the plans of the architect Jože Plečnik, are especially fascinating.

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Joyful umbrellas and meeting Veronika

Colorful umbrellas that dangle above the city center certainly arouse the visitor’s attention. As we found out, Kamnik Tourist Information Center (Kamnik TIC) has put them up for promotional purposes, to draw attention to this year’s traditional National Costumes and Clothing Heritage Festival, held back in September.

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Colorful umbrellas in the sky add to the town’s charm.

The umbrellas, which are in the colors of the logo of the event, are brightening the city center and we hope they will stay there for much longer.

Nearby, we discover an old city wall, transformed into a beautiful art exhibition. We stay there for a while, looking at each of the pieces, signed by Slovenian fine artist and photographer Lojze Kalinšek. Is it possible we have found a notorious Veronika of Kamnik?

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A beautiful art exhibition by the Slovene painter Lojze Kalinšek awaits us on the city wall

So, Veronika is not a monster after all, but a sensual woman, eternally admired goddess of life, as the author portrays her in his artistic vision.

As always when visiting a new place, it is good to know where to have a nice meal. We tried out the restaurant Pri Podkvi – The Horseshoe Inn, at the address Trg svobode 1. On their menu there are also some Kamnik specialties, definitely worth trying out.

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The place once used to be a blacksmith’s workshop. Today this is a cozy restaurant, with great service and food. For the price of 10 euros, you get a full menu lunch, with a huge local desert.

Kamnik at its finest!

And at the end, some more of the beautiful views from around the stunning city of Kamnik.

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