The summer of 2020 was special at least as much as the whole year in general. Due to the well-known situation I decided to spend my vacation at home, in Slovenia, and I invited a friend from Germany who hasn’t been to Slovenia yet to come with me, as she found the destination interesting and above all safe (and honestly, she also owed me a visit).
I got 12 days to show her Slovenia. Ok, let’s do it. In addition to the classic points (Ljubljana, Piran, Bled and Bohinj, Brda), it was clear that I was also taking her to my hometown Kočevje. But what are we going to do there? In Kočevje there is only forest and some mountains that we climb every weekend when we want to sweat a little.
Kočevsko is a destination for active holidays
I procrastinated on the decision (you know, I just thought “we’ll do something, I'll for sure get a good idea, this is my home”), but the day we planned to visit Kočevje was approaching fast. Of course, I wanted to be a good host and present her a real 5-star experience promised by Slovenian tourism. And so, under the pressure of time (which is always a great motivator), I remembered that I know Tomaž, who supposedly rents e-bikes and is also a tourist guide. “I don't ride a bike, but Kočevsko is a destination for an active holiday and I’m also in quite good shape, so I'll be able to do it”, I said to myself.
And so I called Tomaž and told him about my idea - I would like to take my friend somewhere for about 4 hours, i.e. half a day.
He immediately suggested a trip to Kočevski Rog, to the sawmill Rog, once the largest forest plant in this part of Slovenia. We’ll go back past the virgin forest and across the Rajhenav. A nice circular path. Well, all right, let's go. I whined a bit more about me not being used to cycling and that I worried about my buttocks but he assured me it would be ok.
Into the forest we go
The day was sunny and hot. Which, for those of you who remember summer of 2020, was a rarity. Perfect conditions for a trip to the woods. We met in the morning, properly dressed (sneakers and suitable sportswear) and with a thick layer of sunscreen on. First, Tomaž chose the right e-bikes for us - the size depends on person’s height, explained how this thing works and gave us the helmets. And then we went.
We drove through the town towards the village Željne, and then to the road that leads to Kočevski Rog. The road soon started to ascend slowly, so I quickly started testing the throttle and different levels of power (i.e. help). For anyone who thinks e-bike is like a motor bike - no, you still need to push the pedals, but the motor helps you with that. If you set the power to 2 (out of 5), you will have to push quite hard when going up the hill. It must also be taken into account that the bike is quite heavy - due to the battery, it weighs more than 20 kilograms.
Interesting history of Kočevski Rog
Our first stop was at the mass graves. These are quite a well-known point for all of us who grew up in the Kočevje region and around. Here, Tomaž explained everything about the horrific mass shootings that happened after the Second World War, and we also walked to the chapel and the edge of some abysses, where they discovered the remains of many who suffered this unfortunate fate.
We then mounted our bikes again and spent the next good half hour ascending further towards the Rog sawmill.
The forest here is really beautiful and cycling on a macadam road is a pure delight, especially because with the help of e-bikes you move nicely despite the slope. However, we still arrived on the meadow at Rog sawmill a bit out of breath.
The Rog sawmill operated between 1894 and 1914 and 1922 and 1932 and was the largest wood processing plant in the Kočevje region. It was founded by the princes of Auersperg and employed 200 workers at its peak. There are not many sawmill remains left - besides the clearing and some building foundations, we can only see two large rainwater collectors built to supply the sawmill with water and on the way to the sawmill the remains of a 35 km long forest railway line. We had a snack there (Tomaž also surprised us with an excellent local beer Matt) and then we headed back along the same road, where we soon turned left towards the virgin forest Rajhenavski Rog.
Virgin forest - a landmark that cannot be seen
For those of us who grew up in this part of the country, virgin forest is nothing special. We learned a lot about it, went on school trips to its vicinity. Recently, due to the inclusion of Krokar virgin forest on the UNESCO natural world heritage list, it has become a popular landmark. The virgin forest is an invisible sight, it is just a forest. But it is important, because by its planned non-management, we keep nature as it has always been. We never enter virgin forests, but here local artist Marko Glavač created 2 sculptures called Portal, which mark the entrance to it.
A little further down the road we stopped at another big landmark, a big fir tree, the Queen of Rog.
It doesn’t look like anything special from afar, but when you approach it, you see that it is truly magnificent! There, Tomaž also showed us some footprints and food scraps of forest inhabitants, which you get more familiar with if you go to animal-tracking experience with Tomaž’s agency Poyek Wildlife Adventures.
We were on two thirds of the way and the “more fun” part followed as we started descending towards Rajhenav. There we stopped at a beehive, which is part of the Bear-Friendly project. And then I started to feel that we were almost at the end.
It aint over till it’s over
But boy was I wrong. From Rajhenav we still descended to the main road Kočevje - Koprivnik, where the ascent began, which truly gave us hell! Throttle level at 5, but we were totally out of breath. But it was worth it. When we arrived at Laze, the views of the entire Kočevje valley opened up. Then a real descent began, which fortunately only gave us a hell of a messy hair. After a good 4 hours we arrived back to Kočevje. The buttocks hurt (but that supposedly can’t be avoided) and we were pleasantly tired. But also thrilled, especially my German friend. At the end of our Slovenian holiday, she told me that the days in Kočevje were her favorite. And hearing this from a person who just saw all the main tourist attractions of Slovenia is really good to hear.