Start below the castle
You come to Podgrad along the road towards Kresnice and then right through the railway underpass. Continue to the end of the settlement. At the Arbo factory the road is very narrow, there is no room for more than one vehicle at a time; therefore, caution is required. A little bit further, the road turns sharply left, but we continue straight (on purpose!) onto the forest path, over the bridge and left to the forest turning point which is at the same time a convenient place for timber storage. There you start today's hiking trail. It is called "hiking" trail because you will go on a true hike with an illustrious name "Ostrovrhar Route" around very renowned areas. A large information board notifies you about it at the beginning, at the edge of the asphalt road. It is about the old times and brave local knights led by the noble Ostrovrhar whose heroism is praised even by Prešeren in a poem called Rosamund of Turjak. From the turning point, head off uphill along a good path, if not almost a forest road , which you will find at the slope. It will take you straight to the castle. Well – not exactly straight.
Pristava or a castle
Grad (Castle) is the popular name of the former New Osterberg Castle. When further specification is required, it is also called Povše Castle, Kansky Villa or Red Castle. All of these names refer to the same yellow three-storey building on the edge of the Kašelj Hill towards which you're ascending at the moment. The historians do not agree on its origin. Some claim that it was built at the time when the Old Osterber Castle was abandoned; you will visit this castle later. Its inhabitants supposedly moved to the valley because of comfort and they built pristava (administrative building) on the hill for the purpose of estate management. It was later developed into the present villa, called Grad by the locals. This interpretation is only partly true because certain facts speak against it. One of them is a part of the wall of an older building which juts out from the present villa and is suspiciously strong for a pristava. It is 100–200 cm thick and around eight metres high. Even an amateur soon finds out that such a mass was not put together just to hold a roof over the head; thus, the wall almost certainly had a defensive function. And if this is taken into consideration, another story is provided, which testifies that a fortified castle was located there long before the pristava was built. It is possible that it was abandoned over time or, perhaps even more likely that the deserted castle fell into ruins. It is also plausible that its ruins were later used for the construction of pristava which operated for some tens or a hundred of years until it was eventually abandoned. All this options and stories are only partly plausible but, of course, they are not true. However, one thing is certain: in 1789, Jožef Kalasanc, baron Erberg, a lord from Dol pri Ljubljani, demolished the remains of the pristava or whatever the building was, piled them up and built a new, smaller and lovely summer villa in the old German style. The lack of money (very unlikely), laziness (unlikely), thrift (possible) or simply a sense of art and history (most likely) inspired him to keep a part of the original thick defensive wall. He thought of using it for one of the walls in his new villa. The idea was an excellent success and the baron shone with pride as he was showing his brilliant achievement to numerous distinguished guests he had invited to his home. Naturally, he did not forget to mention the beautiful view from the castle and the story about the confluence of three rivers nearby. At that time these rivers were the Sava, the Ljubljanica and the Kamniška Bistrica. There were even four of them earlier, as the Besnica Stream joined the aforementioned rivers. Nevertheless, four river sisters did not coexist together without arguments. They frequently pulled each other's hair so badly that they burst into tears. This, of course, caused floods so there was no other way than to separate them violently. The Besnica was, although the smallest one, apparently the worst (its name says it all - Besnica indicates rage in Slovenian), so it was left on the spot – where it can rampage – and the other three were taken away where they now live in peaceful coexistence. This can be clearly seen from pristava. And there have also been no floods since then...
White point on a red shield
Continue along the ridge path – towards the Old Castle (Stari grad). Stride past the information board describing the history of the castle, as it is already known to you, and walk along a comfortable path to the crossroads leading to the Old Castle. Keep to the left. The route is so wide that it could be passable by a cart. It is also not steep which makes you think that this is an old route that used to connect both castles. When walking along it, you constantly look for the views in vain – they are discreetly hidden by trees . But be patient – today's route is not over yet. Closer you get to the Old Castle, more frequent become the sings with the Ostrovrhar coat-of-arms – a white point on a red shield. It is obvious that the white point symbolises Ostri vrh ("sharp peak" in Slovenian) to which you are headed. What about the red colour? Heraldists claim that the red colour on coats-of arms symbolises power, courage, dignity and love which somehow matches with Prešeren's version of the story about Ostrovrhar. In any case, you have to follow this signs if you want to come to the end of today's route. While thinking about lords and their coats-of-arms, you approach a deep gorge with a spring. Don't worry; you will not wet your legs as laid branches take care of the crossing. In general, the slope is full of water which comes to surface in numerous springs. The next sign shows you the Ostrovrhar Spring which supplied the Old Castle with fresh water. Naturally, only for every-day use as the castle also had a reservoir, cut into the rock. There is usually a glass at the spring; however, nothing ensures you that the water is drinkable. It would still be perfect for refreshing your face and washing your hands. After a few steps, you again come across two signposts – one directs you to the right and the other downhill. The feeling tells you that it is too early to return to the valley, so follow the one that insist on your direction. You soon see an area on the saddle (resting place) with a millstone, information board and yet another signpost . It is obvious that you got to the foot of the rocky summit where the castle used to be situated. Read the basic information on the board and ascend along a steep slope to the ruins . In the meantime, cross a small moat, cut into the rock . Undoubtedly, it used to be bridged by a drawbridge. On the top, there is a small flat area, full of ruins. Everything is rather overgrown. The remains of a large building and parts of a wall , on which the plaster is partially preserved, are visible. The wall is made of local stone; lime mortar was used for the binder. It does not seem to be very solid and strong since its thickness does not exceed 60–80 cm . The size of the castle does also not make a powerful impression: you can quickly determine that it is about 20 steps long and 10 steps wide. Since almost everything is demolished, it can only be anticipated that the building had two approximately equally-sized rooms on the ground floor – the southern one had a basement underneath as a vault is visible . If the Ostrovrhar knights used to live there, they undoubtedly felt quite cramped. Therefore, it is no wonder that they rather moved to a more comfortable home in the valley since there was not enough room here even for servants. After visiting the ruins (they are in bad state, so it is not advisable to climb them), descend along the same path to the resting place at the saddle and find the path that leads steeply down near the millstone.
Millstones of Ostri vrh
Initially a gentle route turns into a footpath and starts to wind down the slope very steeply. It is true that wooden logs are arranged along the footpath, but it is so steep that you are not quite sure if you want to continue. But thrust us; it is worth it, especially for the first time. In addition, you will not return along this path. Somewhere in the middle of the castle slope, the footpath becomes flatter and turns under the overhanging rock face where an ancient quarry used to be . Millstones were cut there in the past. The remains of this activity are still visible today . The raw material was quartz conglomerate; probably one of the best that has ever been found in the near and distant surroundings, as the quarry would otherwise not have been situated on such a high and inaccessible place. Grains (pebbles) in the millstone must be precisely the right size, hardness, arrangement and form to sharp and mill well. The walls of the quarry are full of round holes which nicely show what kind of stones were cut there. The largest holes are more than one metre wide which would correspond to millstones of a diameter of 36 Vienna inches (95 cm) and a thickness of 8 to 10 Vienna inches (21 to 26 centimetres). When the heavy round plate weighing several hundred kilograms was carved and cut off the wall, it was transported into the valley by a timber slide. On the plain by the Besnica river which is still called Knapovska draga (Miner's Dale), the millstone was finished and prepared for the transport to customers. Certainly a lot of hard work ... And how much did they earn? Definitely less than millers, their clients, who have been long known for their wealth, but still something. Based on the old notes and considering today's prices of comparable goods, a large millstone cost around 800 to 1,000 euros a piece (depending on the quality and thickness).
Rjavi breg (Brown slope)
Go back to the castle through the quarry along the circular footpath on the steep slope. Nevertheless, it is a little bit easier this time as the section has a fence . When arriving to the castle, circle it and again get to the saddle. Go back approximately 100 metres towards the Ostrovrhar Spring to the aforementioned double signpost where you have to turn right. A nice and wide road leads you to the valley of Besnica. When you come below the castle, you can see many rocks and smaller stones, lying scattered around . It looks like they somehow rolled down. They might be the remains of the Old Castle which rolled downhill during a major earthquake. A little further on the bend you can see interesting examples of large rocks of quartz conglomerate . Nearly at the bottom of the valley is another signpost which directs you to the right towards the Besnica. Carefully cross a small muddy area and a wooden bridge called Brv Rjavega brega (Footbridge of the brown slope) over the Besnica Stream. You are now on the road from Podgrad to Besnica.
On the ridge of Murjevka
Step across the road into the forest and follow the footpath which soon shows signs of greater steepness. When you later ascend the western slope through dense bilberry bushes, it really is very steep. There are bilberries to the left and to the right . You cannot believe that they can grow into one metre high bushes, but there you have the living proof. Traffic noise from the road below slowly dies down with the height, but the steepness does not ease off. The route drags a bit and just as you doubt whether you are on the right path, you unexpectedly step on a wider and solid forest road . It runs straight along the ridge. Due to the steep slope, it could not be expected, let alone seen. You are now on the Murjevka Hill. The signpost directs you to the left and you soon get to the resting place . Take a break and read the contents of the information board. Between the trees on Murjevka is a nice view of the hills on the western side where you wandered a while ago. You can soon see two typical peaks: the left one is wide and rounded and the right one is narrow and pointy. If you did not know their real names, you could call them Debeli vrh (Thick Peak) and Ostri vrh (Sharp Peak). The Old Osterberg Castle is located on the latter, the one you've only explored a while ago. It is not entirely ruled out that the name Osterberg derives from Ostri vrh, as Valvasor claimed. It is mentioned in some old documents as Oster verh which sounds very similar to the German Osterberg. What is more, berg means hill in German. What about Debeli vrh? Its real name is Debni vrh or Deben vrh which could origin from Debeli vrh.
Pri Lazarju Tourist Farm
You cannot restrain your adventurous streak, so you get up and head on. You continue along a good forest road towards the next destination: Pri Lazarju Tourist Farm. When the forest opens up, only a meadow separates you from the farm . You soon notice it. People there are kind and their homestead is nicely arranged . They welcome visitors in the house and larger groups are served under the hayloft. Even the children are not forgotten: there is a small zoo of various domestic animals , as well as a large playground and a farm garden arranged in the old style – garteljc . It is a real museum piece and contains all ingredients and accessories that belong to this kind of a garden, including a wooden fence and flowers. Go past the garden and through the old orchard to the panoramic edge above the valley. There are benches, binoculars on a pedestal and a real old-fashioned swing, stretched between two trees. There you can watch the sunset and enjoy the magnificent views of Ljubljana and its surroundings . While watching the changing of colours on the sky at sunset, you can easily linger there for too long. However, you do not have to worry. It is not dangerous to return in the dark since the route runs only along roads (partly illuminated). Although a shortcut through the forest exists, you will probably not use it in the dark and, moreover, you will not gain much time with it.
Below the castle again
Since the beautiful views made quite an impression, it is hard to leave the panoramic point and go on – well, back, actually. A wide macadam road takes you into the valley to the settlement of Podgrad . The marked route is a shortcut through the forest but it is steep and quite overgrown, so you may not want to use it anyway. Lower at the water reservoir, it joins the road so there is nothing wrong if you take the road throughout. At the junction with the main road in the middle of the settlement, a memorial pillar is located, erected on the 750th anniversary of the first mention of Podgrad. Turn left there and continue through the settlement along the main road. "The local consciousness" is at an enviable level and the citizens work hard for their prettier surroundings. Many houses are adorned with Ostrovrhar flags and most of them have wooden boards with house names . Yes, names – not numbers! Naturally, houses have numbers, but next to them, on special, uniformly designed boards, local names of homesteads are written as well. When you walk around the settlement, you soon come to the former Arbo factory which is just a stone's throw away from your starting point.
Two castles with rich history, three-quarters of a millennium old settlement, half a millennium old millstone quarry, more than a century and a half old chemical factory and a brand new blister on your foot are today's collection. More than enough, even if you disregard the blister! An informative route in all seasons, informative and useful in the early summer when bilberries ripen and again in autumn when mushrooms grow. All well and good, only the time you spend on the route prolongs unpredictably if you comprise the usefulness. Even without this it took you more than two hours and a half but, as for the food, tasty and fast just do not go together...