Kamnik – culture and art in the heart of the highlands
If you are already in Ljubljana and would like to do some sightseeing and hiking outside the capital, the town of Kamnik might be exactly what you are looking for. Cradled by the hills and mountains, this small city north of Ljubljana is a good starting point for many hiking trails.
The city of Kamnik is also near Kamniška Bistrica (reachable by bus from Ljubljana), where you can get on a cable car to Velika Planina – the most beautiful alpine pasture in Slovenia and a popular hiking site at 1611 m above sea level.
A walk back in time in Kamnik
Kamnik is a small medeival town with a very rich cultural heritage. It is easy to walk its alleys and enjoy the fascinating history of the city. From the memorial tablets, we soon realize that quite some renowned people of Slovenia were born and/or lived here. The town was also one of the most influential centers of power for the Bavarian counts of Andechs in the region of Carniola at the time.
The name Kamnik was first mentioned in the 11th century. The first time it was mentioned as a town was in 1229. This is when it was an important trading post on the road between Ljubljana and Celje.
The great thing today is that one of the prettiest streets – Šutna is closed for the traffic. What can be better than a peaceful and relaxing stroll in the old town?
Most of the old town center is built in an Austro-Hungarian style, and most of the facades have been renovated in recent years.
While admiring the old town houses, we get to the address Šutna 23, the birth house of Rudolf Maister – Slovene army general, political activist and a poet, whose decisive military action at the end of World War I secured Slovenians northern region. He only lived in Kamnik for six years as the family often moved due to his father’s job. But the people of Kamnik still named the main street, the main bridge across the river Kamniška Bistrica and a primary school in his honor.
At the end of the Šutna district the Church of Mary’s Immaculate Conception stands. It is a baroque work of architect Gregor Maček jr. (1734). A bell tower next to the church is the remain of the old medieval church.
The legend at the hilltop
After a short break in one of the coffee houses we walked up the town hill to the Little Castle (Mali grad), which was the seat of the of the Andechs rule who also owned a mint.
Family of the Andechs counts was one of the most important medieval dynasties in Slovenia. Kamnik was their main administrative and judicial center. Today we can find ruins and a two storey Romanic chapel with a crypt left. They tell a bit of a story about the long forgotten nobles.
The five generations of the Andech’s family played a remarkable part in some of the top European developments at the end of the 12th and the first half of the 13th century. The last members of the family – brothers Ekbert and Berthold, both church dignitaries and their niece, duchess Agnes Neža of Kamnik had no descendants. Therefore, their properties passed into the hands of other feudal dynasties.
Of course, there is also a legend, that makes the ruins at the top of the hill more exciting. Her name was Veronika, and she was a beautiful, but evil countess. After she refused to help a beggar, as a punishment he turned her into a hideous monster – half woman-half snake. Some say she still sometimes sits on the staircase in front of the chapel, waiting for the rescuer.
Back in town, you can stop at the Franciscan monastery and the Church of St. Jacob, where the Chapel of God’s Grave and the Franciscan library, built by the plans of the architect Jože Plečnik, are especially fascinating.
You can contact Kamnik Tourist Information Center (Kamnik TIC) for all the information about the cultural and historical heritage of Kamnik.
The Horseshoe Inn
As always when visiting a new place, it is good to know where to have a nice meal.
We tried out the restaurant Pri Podkvi – The Horseshoe Inn, at the address Trg svobode 1. On their menu there are also some Kamnik specialties, definitely worth trying out. The place once used to be a blacksmith’s workshop. Today this is a cozy restaurant, with great service and food.
Kamnik at its finest!