„Miners’ life is hard” they say; and in the town of Velenje they truly know how hard it is. But they not only know, they also show it to anyone who visits Velenje, the town where still the wind and Gorenje rules.
During the way there I couldn’t stop thinking, what can be so interesting in a miner town? I have been to Tatabánya before – though haven’t been to the industrial open air museum yet – and to be honest, I don’t consider it a specifically touristic destination. That was what I expected for Velenje too. And I was right, however, if someone drives between Maribor and Ljubljana, probably even with children, Velenje really worths a visit.
It’s not the town’s charming beauty what adheres those visiting here, that’s pretty obvious as soon as we spot the blocks of flats and the Gorenje headquarters, which is, according to the urban legend so huge, that it’s even visible from outer space (it is not). Most probably the sight of the thermal power station’s not going to pump up the travellers’ pulse either, but there’s a museum of which there are only a very few in Europe. There’s exactly 3 museums in the continent which is concerned with the history of carbon mining. One of them can be found here in Velenje, and this is the „why”, for which it’s worth to take a turn this way and get to know a bit more about the (hard) life of miners.
The Velenje carbon mine – or more specifically the main lignite layer – was discovered in 1875 by Daniel Lapp, and that’s the start of exploitation as well. What’s interesting is that one of the world’s thickest known carbon layer can be found here, which is not less than 165 meters thick. So it’s not surprising that more than 220 million tons of lignite was mined here since the start of the exploitation. It’s good to know that this is one of Europe’s most modern and biggest underground mines, where production is continguous.
Down to the depth!
We had only one hour and a half at the museum, so we could only visit the underground exhibit; as the museum has an underground and an overhead exhibit as well. The overhead one gives introspection to the diggers’ everyday life; how they lived around the turn of the century when they were not working down at the mine. We managed to check the underground exhibit which sounded way more exciting, with the guidance of a great (and quick) English speaker digger.
So we’ve put on a basic miner equipment (a helmet and a coat), and they gave us our provender. Yes, this is really part of the tour, though firts I thought it’s just us they’re showing favour towards. What’s the quickest way of reaching the depth of 180 meters? Of course a mine elevator implemented in 1888, with the speed of 4 meters/secundum. Those with claustrophobia don’t need to worry, we hardly noticed anything, as getting down was so quick, and we arrived to a visibly new passage. From this one, they’d cut off an old passage with the length of about 1 km, where they used to work in the first half of the 20th century.
From the projecting room – where they quickly showed the mine’s history – we went straight to the old mine, where there was not too much light, but lots of air. At this passage they disposed a scene laced with wax figures, light and sound effects, which shows the everyday life of the diggers in the 20’s and 30’s in a really cozy, effective and sometimes moving way. Of course our tour guide told us plenty of interesting things meanwhile, about the „tools” once used for the measurement of gas concentration, or about the reasons why children needed to work in the mine.
Leaving the old mine behind, in a passage lined with benches we could finally check the package we got in the beginning of the tour. A bap, inside a delightfully spiced sausage with matching mustard, and a small box of juice. They couldn’t deny that the target group is children, and parents with children, but is was really nice, especially in the lowest eatery of Slovenia.
Of course, it wouldn’t have been a real experience, if the way back didn’t happen in a mine train; so we had the luck to try this as well. Before and after we could see the miner implements and tools of today, which is „slightly” different from the pickers used before; but they „becalmed” us that work is still hard here. The mine elevator brought us back to the surface and sunlight, and for us that was the end of the mine adventure, which I can advise to anyone travelling around here.
Entrance fees 2019:
Adult ticket: 11€
Note that the museum is closed on Sundays and Mondays.
More info: http://muzej.rlv.si/en/
What can you see in the city?
Velenje’s climate does not really differ from Budapest’s, so at the end of February the quarry pond and it’s area was kind of blank, though in the spring and summer it’s really popular and scenic. You can swim in the pond from May to the end of August, and they greet visitors with colorful events. It’s clearly visible that Velenje is developing; there’s a lot of green areas, with which they’re trying to compensate the dominance of concrete panels, and these areas are visibly well maintained, and renovations are continguous. It’s worth to visit Velenje Castle towering above the city, which was fully renovated and presently it hosts the local art and cultural museum. More info about the city and programmes: www.velenje.si/en/
Egy kedvezőbb évszakban erre a látványra számíthatsz:
Accomodation hint: Did you find an interesting programme in Velenje, or would you choose Velenje as a base for your tours around the area? In one of the 52 refurbished rooms of the 4 star Hotel Paka you can have a nice rest after the long and tiring day.
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