Visiting Črnomelj in Bela krajina – do it right!
Located at the heart of the area known as White Carniola (Bela krajina) in south-eastern Slovenia, Črnomelj is a town which name non-Slovenian speakers find really hard to pronounce.
Therefore, to make it a bit easier let us also mention its first original names: Schirnomel and Zernomel (dating to 13th century, when first written sources of the town were attested).
Visited by Let’s go Slovenia in August 2020
Why Črnomelj, why Bela krajina?
When mentioning Bela krajina to someone from Slovenia, they usually go a bit romantic. Most are quick in telling you, how very unique and authentic this place in the south-east corner of the country is.
But in reality, the region has never reached the popularity of the Gorenjska region – where Bled and Bohinj lakes are, or the region of the Slovenian Istria. For the obvious reasons, of course.
Bela krajina is where you don’t come for some big attractions, but rather for small, local experiences.
It might take a bit more organisational and travelling skills to get around and visit certain places. Still, if you ask us – it’s all worth it. Especially if you have enough time for a relaxing, curious and a bit more adventurous travel experience.
Črnomelj – a town on three bridges
Remember what we said above about Bela krajina not being so visited? Well, that’s certainly changing now! Even more, this summer it was mentioned several times in the Slovenian media and local tourist outlets as one of the fastest growing destinations in the country.
“Bela krajina – where good-hearted people live” – is a tourist slogan of this region of Slovenia.
The biggest share goes to growing popularity of Kolpa river, which was awarded Slovenia’s European Destination of Excellence (EDEN) in 2010. From swimming, kayaking, rafting, stand-up paddling (SUP), to providing source of inner piece – Kolpa is considered the longest Slovenian “coastline” and one of the warmest and intact rivers in Slovenia.
But Bela krajina towns and villages like Metlika, Črnomelj, Vinica, Dragatuš (and Lahinja Natural Park), Adlešiči, Semič are getting their moment, too. We picked Črnomelj for our 3-day Bela krajina stay, as we found its position most convenient for our plan of action. This also included a day at the Kolpa river, which we accessed from Vinica, some 18 km from Črnomelj.
Be active, but don’t skip the Črnomelj beat!
Even though there’s a lot to do around Črnomelj – especially in the summer by the river Kolpa, don’t forget to see some of Črnomelj, too. Though a bit sleepy on the surface, it can turn out as a really interesting and pleasant town.
First of all – they have their own micro beer brewery here, called Vizir. Honestly, it’s worth visiting Črnomelj just for the sake of trying it. Their beer is simply great & beyond all expectations (and much cheaper than in Ljubljana)!
Second, for an unforgettable local gastronomy experience go to Gostilna Müller Restaurant at Ločka cesta 6, where you will find tasty and all traditional Bela krajina food. We are still under the spell of their “belokranjska gibanica” (local specialty dessert)), that richly rounded up our adrenalin full day in this beautiful region.
Hard to beat, and definitely to LIVE for!
Črnomelj is also a historical gem
The Črnomelj main square (Trg svobode) is surrounded by some of the town’s oldest and most important buildings: the Črnomelj castle (where today the municipal administration has its offices), the mid-17th-century Commandery and a grand old bank from the turn of the 20th century.
An interesting part of Črnomelj is also its old town; though it might not be as vibrant as the old towns usually are in some other little Slovenian towns, it’s worth to take a walk through it.
At the premises of the Ethno museum (follow @belokranjsko_izrocilo), you can take part in one of the creative workshops: from learning about the Bela krajina traditional embroidery (with the famous Bela krajina traditional motifs), its respectable wool making and linen, to making local culinary specialities (eg. črnomaljska presta or Črnomelj pretzels).
INTERESTING FACT: As we were preparing for our trip, we were extremely happy to learn that during World War II a world traveller and writer Alma Karlin lived in Črnomelj for some time. She was staying with the Fabjan family, in a house right by the main road. The house is still standing today.
After the bombing of Črnomelj during WW II, Alma Karlin wrote: “The city was an image of devastation. In the ditches overturned railway carriages, new line completely destroyed, tracks removed. If nothing else, the Germans realized, at least after all this devastation, that it was not worthwhile for them to retake Bela krajina. In the middle of the road lay giant trees with branches, so that driving on them was not possible, and often hidden bombs or explosives were hanging under them. After the air raids, only ruins remained behind the factories. But another mill was operating. ”(Alma M. Karlin, My Lost Poplars, p. 232).
For the views, climb to Griček
Griček is one of the Črnomelj sites, where the monument to the victims of World War II is situated (Bela krajina was the cradle of the partisan movement, as attested by memorial plaques on several local houses).
The hill above Črnomelj is a tranquil spot, where locals let their dogs run freely around the park. The big stone monument at the top of the hill is known for the abstract stone figures, which are work of the Slovenian sculpturer Jakob Savinšek (1922 – 1961).
Our ACCOMODATION in Črnomelj
During our visit to Črnomelj (and its surroundings) we stayed at SAMARIN INN (Gostilna Samarin). It’s located cc 1 km outside the city – by the main Črnomelj – Vinica road.
The SAMARIN Inn is renowned for extraordinary hospitality and great service, not to mention exceptionally tasty dishes (especially meat specialties) and fine wine. They also have Vizir beer, which is a great thing to know!
Besides all-day great food they also provide a nice stay – their really lovely room come at 50 – 80 euros per night/per room (we reserved via Booking.com). The communication with the owner Erika is very pleasant, too. She strives to meet all the guests requirements.
In short – you can expect TRUE Bela krajina hospitality here.
SOME ADDITIONAL USEFUL INFORMATION
Črnomelj Tourist Information Centre (TIC) is one big positive experience. You should visit them, even though you think you are fine discovering Bela krajina on your own (it’s right in the centre of Črnomelj).
They are so committed to visitors there. A lady we spoke to took a whole hour to discuss our travel plan with us. She gave us the best tips, especially on HOW TO GET from Črnomelj to different places of our interest (which might be a bit challenging if you’re not exploring the area with a car).
Also, all sorts of great souvenirs for purchase can be found here. From Bela krajina traditional dancers (ceramics) to Bela krajina “pisanice” (Easter eggs drawn with ornaments).
Did you know that Bela krajina is also home to black human fish (the scientific name Proteus anguinus cormorant)? You can even observe it very near Črnomelj!
Read more about it HERE!
Last, but not least …
We kindly recommend you to step inside the first covered organic market in Bela krajina, which has opened in Črnomelj in 2018. We run into it as we were already heading for the train station on our way to Metlika. But we really wish we could spend more time here.
A local family Raztresen from the nearby village of Rim bought the decaying empty house on the town’s main street. A covered market was arranged in the large ground floor space. Today, every local farmer with a certificate for organic farming is invited as a provider.
Here, you can buy everything from local honey, sunflower and pumpkin oil, herbal/medical teas and herbs, diary products to pottery, ceramic products, organic fabric etc.
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