Foot of the hill
The starting point of today's route is at 301 m height above sea level. There is a car park at this height above sea level in Tacen where you'll start, no matter if you came there by bike, car or bus (LPP bus nr. 8 and 15) or even on foot. Leave the starting point and head west. Walk to the first crossroads along Kajakaška Road, then turn right and proceed to Grad Inn. You'll notice a narrow footpath at the eastern border of the car park, which leads straight uphill. When the path ends, cross a wider path and turn straightforward to the slope (mind the signpost). After the initial staircase , the road widens into a real mountain 'motorway' with all necessary fixtures. The width itself enables arbitrary overtaking, while there is enough space on the right for the slow ones. There are a lot of beaten paths along the way, which appear as emergency lanes. Traffic signs are replaced by blazes and direction boards. There is a lot of traffic as it is typical of a motorway, only the speeds are lower. May the runners, despite the steep slope, not surprise you.
The slope gently straightens out and the hike along the wide path becomes more pleasant. You've come to the section called Kuhinja (kitchen). It is not quite known why is it called so, but various stories speak about the origins of the name. One of them tells that the Turks arranged a kitchen there when they camped below the mountain. You would probably choose a location closer to water as it is indispensable in the kitchen. When you cross the flat section, follow the blazes. Turn to Partizanska steza at the crossroads (it is marked). The path which soon resembles a cart track can get muddy and slippery when it rains, so, despite the roots, continue at the edge which is well-trodden. Quite a steep ascent brings you to the Shrine of Our Lady of Sorrow , placed there at the end of the 19th century. You can rest on the near bench or continue slightly to the right, following the board that reads Pot svobode. Stick to this path for some time.
Pot svobode (Path of freedom)
Pot svobode , along which you walk, encircles Šmarna gora and Grmada approximately in the middle of the slope. It was planned already in 1946, but it was not completely finished. It thus occasionally runs along the lines of some other paths. It is marked with red and white circle blazes and a white letter S below. It soon leads to a larger crossroads where Šmartinska pot and Partizanska steza join. You'll return there later, but now continue straightforward and follow the signposts for Pot svobode. You are on the southeast slope of Šmarna gora, and, although you're quite high (473 m) no views open up due the forest. With few differences in altitude also cross the eastern slope, and then the path starts to ascend a little. The road is not as beaten as before and the hike becomes somewhat more demanding. Where Skaručenska pot joins, there are some wooden steps which can be slippery, so be careful. Only a few metres altogether, but pay attention nevertheless. The road gets better further on , but not for long. The last section before the shrine is rocky.
The Turks marked Šmarna gora and Grmada in many ways. They first appeared in Carniola and in the vicinity of Ljubljana in May of 1415. Another invasion followed the same year in August. After occupying Bosnia in 1463, the number and power of the invasions only increased. There were three to four invasions per year. The Turks intended to economically and morally weaken the land in order to conquer it later with ease. They used the tactics of plundering expeditions in which they killed a lot of inhabitants, took away the cattle and other booty as well as people who were enslaved. Slovenian cities began building walls and many other settlements gained town privileges which ensured them a right to the walls. Even the peasants, who remained unprotected, organized themselves and started building defence walls around churches in locations that were difficult to access. Such forts were called camps. However, the Turks attacked unannounced, so it was difficult to retreat to a safer location in time. Early informing was crucial and a vast network of observatories and signal posts were established that warned about the Turkish danger. One of them was at Grmada, while Šmarna gora had a well fortified anti-Turkish camp . In case of danger, a shot with mortar was fired and a bonfire was lit thus signalling to almost the entire region of Upper Carniola that the Turks were coming. Even between the invasions, the Turks did not leave the land. Some small groups of horsemen continued plundering and intimidating the inhabitants. Martoloses or Turkish mercenaries, who were Christians, helped the invaders. But the Turks did not always win. Regional army of Carniola also occasionally captured a Turk or two. Some of the lucky survivors were traded for the captured Christians, others stayed and were Christianized. One of these Turks supposedly had a sign, at the end of the rocky section in front of you, built. It is called Turk's sign , but it originates from the 19th century when the Turks have been long gone from this area. The original sign was supposedly erected by a Turk who stayed in Šmartno during the Turkish invasions, was Christianized and later married there. The surname Turk which has been appearing since the 17th century in Šmartno implies that the story was possibly true.
At Turk's sign, the route turns towards south. Only about 300 m separate you from the edge of a forest which you reach at the beginning of the pasture, which is always full of small livestock in the summer. A fence prevents you from proceeding. Crossing is possible at some areas where ladders are arranged , but beware of the electric fence. A nice view of Sedlo with Grmada on the right and Šmarna gora on the left opens up. Continue towards a house at Sedlo, i.e. to the south. You finally reach the road where you cross the fence by stairs again. You're at 574 m high Sedlo, on the road that leads from Zavrh to the top of Šmarna gora. Turn right to Gorjanc Homestead . The original house has a venerable age, as the architectural elements and construction method show that it was built already in the 17th century. Somewhat further is Gorjanc chapel which was built simultaneously with the house. You have an opportunity to take a break there.
Next 400 m run along the road, then the crossroads follows where the road turns to the right (into the valley towards Zavrh) and you continue straightforward (it is marked). You're now at the northern slope of Grmada. This is still Pot svobode, as indicated by blazes. Kovačeva steza Path branches on the way, which you could use to get to Vikrče if that was your direction. The path is becoming worse and less trodden . You might get a feeling of being led astray. Do not worry - you're on the right path, as there is no other in the vicinity, so stick to this one. From western direction, you're going to the south. Rocks appear and the road starts descending. Traffic noise from the valley disturbs the silence of the forest. Finally, you'll see direction boards and a bench where you can rest. Join Westrova pot which runs there from Vikrče. The path was opened in 1927 and got its name after Josip Wester, a mountain literature writer and a great admirer of Šmarna gora. Turn sharply to the left and proceed up the hill. Continue along the western ridge of Grmada, but it will take time as the path is difficult due to numerous rocks . Soon after the first slope, a turning for Pot svobode can be seen which circularly runs over the southern slope of Grmada. However, continue straight along (as it appears) the steeper ridge. You'll soon reach a rupture where a more gentle, but exciting, ridge path to the top starts . The ridge of Grmada bends in direction east-west and divides the mountain into northern and southern slope. The northern is, of course, shady and humid, while the southern has more sun and warm winds which blow from the valley. Variegated vegetation is also the result of these factors. It is really interesting to observe how the plants vary on these two slopes. Thermophilous plants are predominant on the southern side (e.g. ash tree and hornbeam) and beech tree on the northern. The border where the trees differ is really obvious (not as much in the pictures, though). Left are only beeches and on the right only ash trees and hornbeams and in between is the path. There isn't a single hornbeam or ash tree on the left, nor is there a beech on the right. The only trees that appear on both sides are oaks, although they are sparse on the northern side. The path becomes less steep - a reminder that the top is near. Indeed, the forest opens up and a clearing appears in front of you. You're at the top of Grmada, at 676 m above sea level. Make a stop there and enjoy marvellous views which include the entire southern part of the Ljubljana Basin. The view is indeed enchanting, but you must proceed onwards. The path starts slowly descending and after a few metres you'll reach the place where bonfires were lit in the time of the Turkish invasions. The ground is still completely black due to remains of charcoal .
The route leads from Grmada, again to Sedlo , only from the other side this time. You'll reach the top of Šmarna gora along Romarska pot. Whether you'll continue on the road or on the steeper path past the Chapel of St. Sunday is up to you. The road is, of course, a faster and more comfortable way. In this case, turn right after a homestead to the populated road, continue past the hermitage of St. Anthony with the famous wish bell and proceed to the camp walls at Šmarna gora (667 m). After passing the walls, you can stop by at Ledinek Inn where you can order a drink or a traditional home-made dish, such as ričet (barley porridge with beans). Take a look at the anti-Turkish camp from the 15th century and the Church of Mother of God from 1711. The camp has been well preserved and renovated. Its defence towers have been arranged into a gallery and accommodation facilities. One of the towers was remade into the belfry . On the southern side of the walls, a monument to Jakob Aljaž has been erected. He was a priest and an honorary Slovenian who had the famous Aljaž tower built on Triglav. The monument is a work of France Kralj and is positioned above the observation platform. The platform itself is also somewhat special. The top of Šmarna gora offers unique views of the southern and eastern part of the Ljubljana Basin, and if you walk around the walls to the northern side, you can observe the Kamnik-Savinja Alps and the Karavanke in all their beauty, as well as the spacious fields which extend below. Šmarna gora is definitely an observatory top so it is not surprising that it was populated already in prehistoric times. The Romans had their own stop there as well, while the castle was supposedly located there in the later period, as written sources indirectly suggest. No traces of it can be found today, so it is difficult to confirm these claims. It is possible that the ruins of the castle were used as construction material for the defence walls and the church in the period of Turkish invasions. When you've rested and recharged your batteries, continue ahead. You'll leave the top along Partizanska steza which starts at the eastern side of the walls.
Partizanska steza Path is very steep. It winds in bends along the eastern slope of the hill and finally joins Šmartinska pot. During World War II, the partisan couriers used it, as they had their post at Šmarna gora. Protected, marked and opened for mountaineers was it only in 1955. It is interesting that the occupying forces did not reach Šmarna gora in the first two years of World War II. It was only when the partisan courier patrols started to appear in greater numbers that the occupying forces organised some expeditions over the hill, but they were almost always unsuccessful. Machine-gun and mortar shootings from gendarmerie station in Šmartno were more frequent. Zigzag, zigzag does the route winds between bushes and rocks, until the slope finally ends. You're almost at the crossroads which you've crossed at the beginning. At the crossroads turn left to Šmartinska pot (also marked). This path is also quite steep, but has no stairs or roots for support, so you have to walk slowly and carefully. After about 300 m, a cart track appears on the right and runs along the gorge . Somewhat further cross the second cart track and continue on it. If you went straightforward, you'd get to Šmartno , but that would complicate your return to the starting point. So turn right to the cart track (it is paved with waste tiles in the beginning) and you'll soon reach a smaller clearing in the forest. The cart track continues towards west and you follow suit. Spruce-lined alley is soon in view which is a sign that the first houses are close by. Indeed, as you come out of the forest, you'll walk on the asphalt again.
Back in civilisation
Asphalt, finally. You've walked for three hours, so it would be suitable to end this route. Walk between houses with neatly arranged gardens and start descending towards the Church of St. George in Tacen which is seen in the valley. The settlement is denser still and the church is no longer in sight, so be mindful where you turn right. The right way is before the crossroads with Tacenska Road. When you change direction, the Church of St. George can be seen again, which used to be a castle chapel of Rocen Castle. The clearly visible walls indicate that this used to be a camp church as well. Despite many renovations, the middle of the nave has still preserved a platform which locks the entrance to the tomb of the Rocen noblemen. The tomb is, however, covered nowadays. Continue past a nicely renovated well along the narrow asphalt road towards west. Asphalt runs short after a few houses and the road becomes a path, but it is still passable. On the other side of the narrow opening is the crossroads where you turn left and continue on the asphalt to Thumova Street and then right to Grad Inn where you started the route, and finally proceed to Kajakaška Road. At the crossroads with Kajakaška Road turn left and proceed on the pavement to the car park - the starting point and the end of the route.
You've encircled the solitary hill, once called Holm. You've walked approximately 9 km and conquered more than 720 m difference in altitude. You've seen plain and mountain meadows, thick and dark as well as sparse and sunny forests, and also climbed some rocks. You've also enjoyed fresh air and beautiful views and possibly treated yourselves with traditional ričet or sour milk at the top.