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News - 21 May 2023

Hiking in Slovenia:
a magical experience between myths and legends

Hiking in Slovenia does not only mean immersing yourself in natural beauty and getting lost in breathtaking landscapes. There is much more.

An enchanted world, made up of myths and legends, still envelops the mountains, rivers and valleys of this alpine world at the foot of the Triglav mountain. Stories, songs and poems tell of ancient vestiges of gods and fantastic creatures, of eternal battles between good and evil, of unfortunate loves. The purpose? Making sense of natural phenomena inexplicable to our ancestors but for which they had deep respect.

Fortunately, many stories have survived to this day, handed down from generation to generation. ‘The magic’ still lurks in the woods and valleys, waterfalls and rivers. You have to know how to see it, yes, but it’s less difficult than you might think. In today’s article we will tell you about two curious stories that will concern you closely if you decide to go hiking in Slovenia.

Hiking on the Slovenian paths…following the wings of a butterfly

The ‘myth’ on Slovenian trails can literally be breathed at every step or rather… at every trail sign. Those who have already had the good fortune to go hiking in Slovenia certainly know the famous red and white marking circle that has been accompanying hikers for almost 150 years, showing them the way along the route. Known under the name Knafelc Marking, this hiking sign is considered a real national heritage, so much so that it even deserved a monument of its own in the town of Novo Mesto. The rules are very clear: the mark must be between eight and ten centimeters wide and the internal ratio of red and white dots in the cross section should be 1:2. Impossible not to meet him on the way: with around 10,000 kilometers of mountain paths and markings placed approximately every 200 meters, it has been calculated that there are around 50,000 in Slovenia. According to legend, in inventing it, its creator drew inspiration from the wings of the Apollo butterfly, a purely mountain moth that prefers meadows and flowery valleys but also rocky slopes. If it were true, you could say, once your hike in Slovenia is over, that you were guided by the wings of a butterfly. If this isn’t magic….

The Apollo butterfly from which the creator of the slovenian marking circle drew inspiration and which you will find on th paths hiking in Slovenia
Butterfly Apollo (Parnassius apollo)

Hiking in the Triglav National Park: the kingdom of the Golden Horned chamois

This legend is perhaps the best known in Slovenia. Once upon a time, it is said, in the mountain paradise above Lake Bohinj lived the White Ladies, kind-hearted creatures, who used to graze their herds on the mountains. These herds were led by a large white chamois with golden horns, the Zlatorog, which were the key to an immense hidden treasure. He was unbeatable because if he was wounded his blood made the beautiful roses of Triglav grow, and by feeding on them he immediately recovered his strength.

One day, out of love, a young hunter from Trenta valley decided to go find the Zlatorog, take his golden horns and, with them, take possession of the treasure. He was madly in love with a beautiful girl from the valley who unfortunately was being courted by a wealthy Venetian merchant who showered her with gifts from morning till night. The only way to compete with that wealth was precisely to take possession of the treasure. After days of walking, at dawn, he saw the Zlatorog and shot it. The mythical animal fell to the ground wounded but did not die: the blood from his wound made the roses of Triglav grow, the chamois ate them and recovered all his strength. The chamois with the golden horns then fled up the steep slopes of the Valley of the Triglav Lakes pursued by the young hunter. At one point the horns of the mythical animal were illuminated by the sun, dazzling the young hunter who, blinded, made a mistake and fell into a crevasse to his death. From that time on, the Zlatorog disappeared forever from the Valley of the Triglav Lakes and with it the White Ladies also disappeared. His treasure is still hidden in the mountains below Triglav.

The myth of the Zlatorog is lost in time. Even today, from time to time, some hikers claim to have glimpsed it, furtively, among the rocky slopes of the Triglav Lakes Valley. Who knows, it could also happen to you on your next hike in Slovenia. Surely, however, you cannot fail to notice its presence in Slovenian shelters since its effigy dominates the label of one of the two best-known Slovenian beers.

Chamois from the Slovenian Julian Alps
Chamois from the Slovenian Julian Alps

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