There still are places in Europe where the presence of us humans is almost non existent. Where you don’t lock the doors against thieves but against wild animals. Places where nature is the boss. With 555 square kilometres and only 16.000 inhabitants the forest of Kocevje is such a place. It’s huge, it’s wild. If you go and wander into the forest you might never return. Kocevje is a special place and I was one of the few privileged cyclists to be guided through the forest by three locals by bike. It was an unforgettable trip.
The bike with which I conquered the gravel roads of Kocevje.
No better time of year for a tour in the forest than fall.
There are endless gravel roads in Kocevje.
Often they are even the main road
There are hundreds of brown bears living in Slovenia of which the majority lives in the forest of Kocevje. We didn’t meet any though which was kind of an anticlimax.
Queen of the forest is the 51,5 metre tall and 500 year old silver fir tree Debela Jelka (fat fir).
Until you break your chain
And sometimes you’re lucky you brought an ex professional and bikeshop owner (Primoz Cerin) along.
Podstene is a village without inhabitants. In 1890 67 people lived here. The German inhabitants of Kocevje (in 1941 12500) were evacuated in the Second World War to Pomurska. The Slovenian inhabitants there were deported to labour camps in Germany. Only a few hundred of the original German inhabitants remained in Kocevje. The Germans came to Kocevje (Gottschee) in the 14th century and have always kept their own culture in this secluded region.
There are more black pages in the history book of Kocevje. After the Second World War partisans executed thousands of prisoners of war, the majority Slovenians, in the forest. The bodies were dumped in mass graves of which the Cave below Kren is just one.
Nature is blind for the horrors of humanity and remains beautiful; a tiny token of solace.
And for recuperation we drink.