The seasonal home of supermodel cows, love cheese and traditional shepherds’ food.
The other day we had a work team building thing and we went hiking to one of Slovenia‘s most popular destinations: Velika planina. The name literally translates to the Big Pasture Plateau, as it is one of the many Alpine plateaus that has traditionally been used for summer pasture between June and September.
In the past, shepherds would drive their cow herds up to Velika planina for the whole grazing season and stay with them in small cottages, and they still keep to this tradition today. The herdsmen’s settlement on Velika planina is one of the few still preserved traditional settlements of this size in Europe, and the cottages with their distinct architecture have become a famous tourist attraction. They’re typically wooden, with a low slanted roof covered in pine shingles called šinkli.
These days there’s a similar tourist settlement near the old one and you can rent a traditional cottage if you want to extend your stay at Velika planina. They’re usually quite large though, for up to 8 people, so it pays to bring friends and book well in advance. There’s also a small chapel of Snow Mary, which was rebuilt after it was burnt down by the Germans in WW2, as well as the local Preskar museum.
Impressions of Velika planina
There are several different ways to visit Velika planina, which can be roughly divided into:
- The very easy way: Take the cable car and chair lift to the top to avoid hiking at all, then there’s mostly walking around on flat ground up there.
- The medium way: Park at the highest parking lot called Za Ušivcem and hike to the top, which is relatively easy and will take you up to 1 hour. That’s what we did.
- The hardcore way: Park at any of the other, lower parking lots or hike all the way up from the bottom, which will take you up to 3 hours, depending on the way you choose.
All parking lots cost 7€ per car (as of September 2021) and you can also hike to the nearby mountains and hills from the top, or visit the Veternica and Dovja Griča caves. Once you are on the top of Velika planina though, you simply must try the traditional shepherds’ lunch, which consists of buckwheat žganci (a sort of cooked flour lumpy mush) with ocvirki (pork cracklings) and sour milk.
You can find the best traditional food at the active shepherds’ cottages, where they also sell delicious fresh cow’s milk cheese and other dairy products. However, they’re only there during the summer season, which is also the best time to visit Velika planina and attend the traditional events (you can go skiing in winter, but the ski slopes are not very big or particularly interesting). If žganci and sour milk is not your thing, there’s a larger restaurant Zeleni rob at the cable car station and you can find some other mountain huts serving hearty hiking food nearby, which are open all year round.
One of the interesting culinary specialities of Velika planina is the traditional hard cheese Trnič, which is sort of pear shaped and known as the symbol of love. There would always be two Trnič cheese clumps decorated with the same pattern and the shepherd would gift one to his beloved as a promise of marriage and keep the other. If she accepted his offer, it meant that she agreed with his courtship. As a cheese lover I obviously think that’s very romantic. 🙂
However, the real stars of Velika planina are the cows, and they know it! Since they were all giving me all these professional poses, I figured I’d do a little cow fashion show recap on my Instagram stories, and you can see how it went below: