In the hearts of fellow geographers like myself Karst is enshrined in a special place, as from a natural point of view and studying this phenomenon as young geography students it was then still something quite unexplored. Cavers are always discovering new caves and parts of cave systems and Postojna and the Postojna cave with Karst Research Institute – ZRC SAZU plays a big role in this field, also being the headquarters of the global Speleological Federation and the headquarters of the only doctoral studies of Karstology in the world. From this year it is also the UNESCO educational centre of karst.
Today I love to bring conference guests to this part of Slovenia and without exception they are all thrilled by the landscape and its offer, especially so in the high autumn congress season, when the karst woods are the most beautiful and full of sumac, a shrub with small flowers and red autumn leaves.
The word karst stems from an old word for stone and a name that has typically spread around the world as both a thought and concept, similar to how all volcanic phenomena are named after the eponymous ‘Volcano’ in the Aeolian Islands. The Karst landscape is extremely interesting for congress and conference participants, as it offers many experiences that certainly complement congresses in Ljubljana, that long with new hotels completely offer you your own congress and incentive stories.
The easiest way to start exploring Karst is from its centre in Postojna, after which the largest and the most visited tourist cave in Europe is named. It can pride itself on numerous natural and cultural attractions and the unique ‘human fish’. For organised meeting groups, there are several different programmes available, from classic tours to more adrenaline ventures. In Postojna you can satisfy your professional curiosity in two Karst museums that show the full dimensions of this exceptional phenomenon. Furthermore, the regional hotel offer in Postojna will soon be joined by the renovated Hotel Jama, which will complement the rich offer of the Jamski dvorec mansion.
Major events in Postojna Cave
It will be remembered by many sports fans across Europe as a spectacular draw in Eurobasket 2013. For the purposes of television and other media they stretched two kilometres of optical cables inside the Postojna cave, where there was room for 650 people and for 10 x 4 metre stages, as well as for a basketball court where a historic first basketball game in a natural cave was ever played. In the same cave, where it is 100-percent humidity and a constant temperature of 8 degrees Celsius, there have been many other similar events carried out – a 3,000 square metre concert hall is definitely the most special congress hall in Slovenia and also Europe!
Apart from the Postojna cave, the Karst region offers many other caves that are worthy of the attention of congress organisers, either for incentives or organising an event. Vilenica cave, located at the Sežana – Lokev road, is one of the oldest tourist caves in the world. It has long stirred the visitor’s imagination and locals believe that there are fairies living inside.
Škocjan caves are the most important underground phenomenon in the Karst region and in Slovenia. They belong among the most important sinkhole caves with an underground river and canyon in the world. The Škcojan caves were listed in 1986 on UNESCO world heritage as a result of their importance.
Križna cave is a world famous karst cave, special because of its underground lakes with sinter divisions and a cave bear bones site. Besides the mandatory visit of Postojna cave there are just some of the many opportunities to take your participants to the karst underground.
Castles as a special venue
The region also has some of the most prominent special venues in Slovenia. Snežnik castle stands on the eponymous mountain Snežnik in the Loka Valley. Today’s form of the castle was created after many reconstructions, but it still roughly retains the renaissance contours of the 16th century. The castle complex also includes a wreath of outbuildings and the Manor Park, which in in its harmony of nature and architecture creates an exceptional cultural – a landscaped space reminiscent of an English or French mansion, suitable for receptions, outdoor events or events in a well-preserved interior.
Predjama castle is part of the Postojna cave offer, located just a stone’s throw away. The Patriarchs of Aquileia ordered the building of the castle and it was first mentioned in 1274. Certainly one of the most famous residents was Erazem Predjamski, who was killed on the toilet after a long siege.
Today it is interesting to look at the dungeon, living spaces, weapons collection, oil paintings and the chapel. The Erasmus tunnel is especially interesting, as it was hidden and used as transportation route for food and drink. In the beautifully decorated surroundings, it is possible to organise receptions or implement various teambuilding programmes with a medieval flavour.
The miracle of Lake Cerknica
Cerknica lake, which lies in the southern part of Cerknica field, is an intermittent lake with an area of 26 square kilometres, but when the karst field is flooded the surface can be up to 38 square kilometres. At its full size it is 10.5km long and 4.7km wide, and is the largest lake in Slovenia. It is largest mainly after the autumn rains and in the spring, when the snow is melting, and it fades a little in May or June, sometimes even in the winter,
There is not one conference participant who would not be impressed by such a magical landscape; the lake is interesting in all seasons, but we especially recommend a visit with »drevak«, a traditional lacustrian vessel. In Cerknica and on the way to the capital, there is no shortage of authentic restaurants, which will impress even the most demanding of gourmets.
Štanjel is a picturesque karst settlement in the Municipality of Komen. It is terrace-arranged towards the 363-metre high hill of Turn. The village is characterized by narrow streets with stone houses containing a variety of stone-cutting products. A very special location for outdoor receptions is the famous Ferrari Garden with its extensive park. The Garden Park in Štanjel, or Ferrari Garden, has its cultural, landscape, architectural, art, historical and other exceptional features of particular importance for Slovenia, and is therefore a cultural monument. You can breathe Karst in Štanjel at every step, even while walking the lookout route, which wraps around the whole town and from where your vista stretches far across the karst landscape and on to the Alps. You’ll feel the genuine pulse of life after a few steps on the Štanjel streets with their stone houses, which are a reflection of folk architecture. In the centre of the town, at the intersection of two streets, it an authentic regional house decorated with an ethnological collection.
Lipica Stud farm
The Lipica Stud farm is a world-renowned original stud farm of the Lipizzaner horses, an excellent equestrian centre and a prestigious area of cultural tourism that represents the brand name of the Republic of Slovenia and one of the main sources of development in the Karst. This is a remarkable cultural landscape on a global scale. We recommend to the congress guests a visit to the Lipikum museum that displays centuries of history and the Lipizzaner stud farm. Events can also be held in the Hotel Maestoso or in natural surroundings. Lipica also boasts a golf course. Congress visibility here builds on the initial story of Lipica as a home of the Lipizzaner horses and its 430 years of tradition by incorporating the elements of the rich cultural heritage and natural values.
»Osmica« (Eight) is the time permitted to homesteads dispensing homemade wines. As in the Hapsburg monarchy such authorization was by special decree and lasting exactly eight days, it got the nickname “osmica” (eight). Besides wine, they also offer homemade delicacies typical for Karst and are recognizable by the wooden signpost and ivy branch. Today, the Homestead can organise “osmica” a maximum of twice a year, for a period of ten days. It is worth visiting them, as your congress guests will be closer to the karst way of life through the local dishes. In the village of Lokev we recommend viewing the real Fabian’s museum shop, with items from up to half way through the 20th century. On display are approximately 7,000 original items and your mind will be cast back 30 years and to former way of sales and communication with customers.
Ljubljana Marshes and Bistra Castle
Karst begins at the Ljubljana Marshes with the karst springs of the Ljubljanica river. You can experience it with a visit to the Technical Museum of Slovenia and its picturesque surroundings. In the vicinity of the former monastery Bistra can be found some springs of the Ljubljanica river, into which water flows directly from Lake Cerknica and Rakov Škocjan.
The Castle park is one of the most prominent special venues in Slovenia with great potential for numerous innovative events. The offer is complemented by the exceptional Bistra Inn with accommodation, headed up by Iris Kociper, a professional with extensive experience in the field of congress tourism. The Inn has its own hotel and hostel, which can be used for smaller incentive groups.
The Park of Military History Pivka
For a leap into the exciting recent history we recommend you to take a walk around the Park of Military History in Pivka. The vast collection of light and heavy weapons in the facilities part of the former military post will surely make a big impression on you.
The Park of Military History Pivka holds one of the biggest and possibly most diverse military history collections in this part of Europe. It was established in 2006, when the first so-called pavilion was opened on the grounds of the abandoned Italian (and later Yugoslavian) army barracks in the town of Pivka, which is also the main initiator of the project. The park deals with the military history of Slovenia and also of the region around Pivka, as well as with the wider military related technical and political heritage of Europe.
Today the park represents the biggest museum complex in Slovenia, it has grown and developed gradually by renovating and occupying the barracks. As of 2015, there are four main exhibition spaces, a courtyard and even a historical trail in the surrounding area. The park hosts various lectures and educational events, organises an annual festival and presents other occasional events.
The Komanda Premise is a former Command Center that nowadays hosts a tourist-information center and a well-stocked museum shop. The multimedia room is placed on the first floor while the second floor was rearranged into an exhibition and event space. The visitors can rest and lunch in the museum restaurant Kantina Pivka.
WHAT'S HOT IN 2015
In June 2016, Postojna cave is re-opening the Hotel Jama, which has 80 rooms. The hotel is located next to the most visited tourist cave in Europe, which is waiting for a batch of newly-born baby “dragons”.
Though established in 2014, the Floating Castle Festival actually started a year earlier as a Burning Castle Festival in the picturesque surroundings of the Snežnik Castle. It derives from the experience of the HISTeRIA Festival (held in Istria) and mirrors its concept of the “folk-puppet-music-theatre site-specific event”.
Like the park, the annual festival of military history began in 2006. It has taken different forms, but its main components are still battle re-enactments, usually based on important historical moments.
All year around
Experience the harmony of sights and tastes of Green Karst and taste traditional dishes at the local farmhouses.
All year around
Rowing along the stream bed surrounded by trš’ca (reeds) when the lake is half-full provides pleasure to every boating enthusiast.
QUALITY MEETING DESTINATION
5 – excellent meetings destination
4 – quality meetings destination
3 – reccommendable meetings destination
2 – average meetings destination
1 – so so
BEST INCENTIVE IDEA
COMPARISION WITH THE REGION
Due to the natural and cultural values Karst has great potential for the development of boutique congress tourism.
It should be based on the unique aspects and comparative advantages of individual areas associated with a rich cultural heritage, cultural landscapes and a preserved natural environment. As an integrated product it is not yet developed at this time, so it is more likely to complement the rest of the Slovenian congress destinations. For its breakthrough it is necessary to raise the visibility and competitiveness among meeting planners who are today looking for exactly such authentic spaces. We believe that it will be recognized as a product with great potential based on its main tourism carrier, the Postojna cave.
KARST PROSCIUTTO – Prosciutto is dried pork leg. It is air-dried for nine to sixteen months, rarely also for longer than this. The most appreciated prosciutto is Karst Prosciutto, which was traditionally eaten at the end of major events and during the holidays. It was mostly prepared for sale and was an important source of income for karst farms. The production of prosciutto is still an important economic activity; in the karst area several important producers can still be found.