Start amid waters ...
... literally. The route starts in the centre of Medvode at the shopping centre , but before departing, take a look around. In the vicinity is a town hall, a library and something not so obvious: the confluence of Rivers Sava and Sora . The confluence is the most interesting at this moment, so approach it. Walk past an interesting, round, brick-built library. Rocks mixed with concrete lead to the confluence and enable the approach right in the middle of 'med vode' (the middle of the waters) where the Sava River flows from the left and the Sora River from the right. Now you know why the town is called Medvode. It emerged amid the waters of the Rivers Sava and Sora. With its 940 kilometres, the Sava River is the longest Slovenian river (Slovenian section is 218 km long), and the Sora River is, despite its 51 kilometres, still quite long for such a small country. The path runs out at the headland between the rivers. Ahead is only clean water. You might be tempted to refresh, but quite a long way is ahead, so save the refreshment for the end. Turn back left and you will see a typical, somewhat heavily built chimney of the Donit factory which you shall pass soon.
And now for real. You do not have to return to the shopping centre; just continue past the town hall and along the Cesta komandanta Staneta Road. Observe remarkable old market houses on the way. Proceed past the Donit factory and the chimney seen from the confluence before, and you are at the bridge over the Sava River.
Electricity from water
Medvode Hydroelectric Power Plant is left from you . Before it was built, the Sava River ran on the rapids over the rocky threshold and after the dam was built, Zbiljsko jezero Lake was created. It is approximately 60 years old. The power plant is of the run-of-the-water type and it needs the lake in order to regulate its own activity with the help of the water collected in the lake. When the consumption is bigger during the day and the river does not provide enough water, the lake begins to be emptied and during the night, when the consumption declines, it is filled up again. Just behind the bridge over the Sava River, a staircase leading to the hill can be seen. Go up to the forest path on the top. The staircase is not appropriate for a bicycle. If you have it with you, you should proceed along the main road and to the first crossroads (Harlekin Pizza Restaurant) where you turn left and at the flagpoles again to the left. You will meet people who took the staircase at the end of the asphalted road.
As the forest path leads
A nice forest path runs past the power plant , then along the edge of the Zbiljsko jezero Lake, but not close to the bank. Behind the power plant, there is a smaller island on the lake, measuring approximately 10 x 30 metres. It is overgrown with forest which makes it a unique feature. The forest hides most of the view of the lake in the course of the road, except if you descend to the embankment . The forest has its own advantages. It offers nice cool refreshment in the heat of the summer. With global warming in mind, this is becoming more and more relevant. One of the main reasons for global warming is, supposedly, the greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere. Enormous amounts of gas are released during power production. A great share of energy is still extracted from fossil fuels, which cannot be blamed on Moste Hydroelectric Power Plant. It can boast with the title Zero Emission because it is water-powered. A kilometre after the power plant is the settlement of holiday houses after which turn right up the hill. Ascend to the hill, called Čevč by the locals. An hour was spent for this section of the route. Continue along the ridge towards Smlednik. You soon reach a clearing where power line runs. This is the Brezovec slope, but you will not ascend it as the road starts to descend. You come from the forest at the clearing at Smlednik. Past the Church of St. Ulrich and cemetery and on to the village. On the embankments beneath the church, the locals used to grow saplings of garden crops and decorative plants called flance in Slovenian. The area is still called flančniki, although the activity died out when the embankments were flooded by the water of Zbiljsko jezero Lake. However, you can see the Church of St. Ulrich which is said to be one of the biggest in Slovenia and other interesting buildings in the vicinity, such as the Baroque Chapel of St. Ulrich which is unfortunately unfurnished. Continue to the ruins seen on the hill above the village. This is Smlednik Castle, also known as the Old Castle in order to distinguish it from the one on the plain, called Lazarini's Castle. Follow the signposts to Kalvarija where you will ascent to the top to the Old Castle.
The Chapels of the Stations of the Cross
Asphalted, but a very narrow road leads to the lower station of Kalvarija on Smlednik Hill. Kalvarija is a local sight and it is well-frequented. Baron Franc of Smlednik ordered its building in 1772. Not possessing proper land, he was forced to gain it from a local called Jeraj. The men concluded a purchase contract, which is, of course, nothing unusual. What is unusual is that the contract was partially written in Slovenian. All the contracts used to be written in German back then. It was one of the first (if not the first) contracts that the nobility allowed to be written in Slovenian language.
Zigzag, zigzag, the turns appear along the road. Each turn has its own chapel, 14 all together. When you see the last one you will have almost reached the top. Three big crosses await there, marking the end of Kalvarija. Turn left now and continue along the forest path that leads to the Old Castle.
There is a firm built defence tower made of stones which also served as the basis for many early medieval castles. It was considered high technology back then. Tall, firm tower of square ground plan was a safe refuge, so the rest of the old castles in restless areas were built in the same fashion. Due to security reasons the towers had no windows, only embrasures. Yet, the balcony was one of the common features of the towers. Not a real one, but good enough for surveying the area. The balcony was made of wood and built on the highest floor. It ran around the defence tower. Towers were built on visible tops which enabled an excellent view of the surroundings . The enemy was spotted already from the distance and the defence could be organized in time. If the enemy came close, the balcony enabled a successful defence from up above, which was definitely better than the attack from below. Such towers prove themselves a very successful defence device. Long term dwelling was uncomfortable, so accommodation premises were built in the vicinity, enclosed with the walls all together. And this almost completes the image a person gets when he or she thinks of a castle.
Such a keep, originally about 30 m high, is located at the top of Smlednik Hill. Although the lower outer section has been nicely renovated, the interior is decaying and thus not showing the original image, but it is still impressive enough to give you a picture of its former glory. It was then probably one of the biggest stone buildings in the vicinity, all the others were wooden.
Do not be disappointed when you turn left from Kalvarija to the forest path, hoping that the latter will bring you to the Old Castle, and when the signpost at the crossroads next to the National Liberation War monument directs you past the castle and to the right towards Repnje and Sv. Tilen. This is the right route, just as it was planned in advance. The curious ones and those who have the time are recommended to turn left round the memorial monument and set for the castle. There you can admire the mighty towers which the ravages of time did not spare, but have been recently nicely renovated. It is worth ascending to the castle. You can reach it by a plain footpath or a steeper, but short hiking trail, protected with wire rope. You will be rewarded with a rich view, besides, the places which you will pass later on, are also nicely seen (e.g. Valburga) . An inn is also at the castle and you could use a rest, since you have been on your way already for 2 hours.
From one hill to the other
From the crossroads on, follow the signposts for Repnje or Sv. Tilen (St. Giles). After 20 minutes of walking, turn from the road towards sv. Tilen and continue left to Hraše. The marked path leads downhill to the village Hraše where you join the main road Vodice-Medvode and continue left along it and walk for about 600 metres to the equestrian centre where you turn right to the macadam road. Walk past the paddocks to Hrače Ponds . The first pond , the biggest and most beautiful, is on the left. You will see the second one when you turn left after the first pond to the cart track towards Valburga. It is on the right, but is so overgrown that it is barely visible. Asphalted road awaits in Valburga. Turn right to Moše. A large castle or a manor can be seen by the road and it is known under the name Lazarini's Castle . Historically speaking, it is the descendant of the Old Castle on Smlednik Hill, which you have passed earlier on. Despite being well preserved, it is not possible to see it from the inside. Valburga settlement got its name after the Church of St. Walburga , located opposite the castle.
Another power plant (or two)
There is more than two kilometres of flat road from Valburga to Moše with no special sights. Stick to the direction of Moše. It is impossible to go astray and the traffic is scarce, so you can peacefully enjoy the beautiful views of the Kamnik-Savinja Alps and Karavanke.
Finally in Moše. Four hours were spent to get there. Approach the Sava River in the village and see Mavčiče Hydroelectric Power Plant , and accumulation reservoir Trbojsko jezero Lake behind it. The power plant and the reservoir lake were named after the settlements on the opposite bank. The lake is somewhat bigger than Zbiljsko jezero Lake, but younger too, and is thus not as developed with regard to tourism. However, it has similar potential. Besides water energy, the power plant also utilises solar energy via photovoltaic cells built in the construction. The power of this solar power plant is barely one five-hundredth of the one provided by water. However, this is not negligible.
At the dam-barrage of Mavčiče Hydroelectric Power Plant, the asphalted road ends and the route continues along the left bank of the Sava River. You are headed to Dragočajna. Walk past Camp Smlednik , through Dragočajna and past Hotel Kanu where the famous Kanu (Canoe) Club used to operate. There is a port below the hotel, reserved for a scenic boat which takes you to Zbilje. If there is no chance for a boat trip, proceed on foot. When you reach the main road, turn right to the bridge over which you cross the reservoir of the HPP Medvode, i.e. Zbiljsko jezero Lake , which starts somewhere at Hotel Kanu. A short section along the road follows; at the end of the first right turning, proceed along the path that branches left. You will get to Zbilje this way.
Swans are huge birds with a wingspan of up to 1.8 metres. They are not frequently seen in Slovenia, but when that does happen, they are quite an attraction. They are migratory or partially migratory birds. In the time of nesting, they live near water, rich in water plants which they feed on. A male and female swan built a nest together and the male is involved in raising the brood. It is typical of swan couples to remain together for many years, even for life.
If you were lucky, you could observe swan couples already at Hrače Ponds. If not, you will be able to see them at Zbiljsko jezero Lake, as there are tenths if not hundreds of them there. Many stay during the winter time, although they are migratory in their nature. It might have something to do with the climate change.
When the forest ends, continue at the edge of the meadow to the wider road which crosses yours. Follow that road to the left and descend to the lake. You can see numerous swans rocking peacefully on the water. These are the mute swans (Cygnus olor) and got their name due to their typical formation at the end of their beak. They are a common species for this part of Europe.
The closer you are to the boathouse, the more swans there are. This is quite logical as they like to hang about where the visitors feed them. Sports and recreational areas can be seen on the way. Not even a nicely arranged children playground is missing . When you get to the inns you feel as if coming to riviera or some bigger and more developed tourist resort at the seaside. Numerous visitors and gastronomic offer are seen at every step. There is enough space for a rest. It would suit you quite nicely after five hours on the way and 16 kilometres into the route.
The world is ...
"beautiful" you may say. Indeed, it only has to be experienced in the right way. Go past Dotik Bistro and the boathouse along the bank of the lake. First continue past houses and then through the forest. You reach the main road at the next inn and proceed to Medvode. Right of you is the famous Zbiljski gaj settlement , known after the real estate affair, causing a stir few years ago. Continue past the retirement home to the main road with a roundabout. There's an arranged underpass for pedestrians and cyclists. Svetje is on the other side. Na klancu Pension is your last chance to try the local tourist offer. Descend down the slope past the power plant. Another one, you might think, but it is the same HPP Medvode, now seen from the other side. At the crossroads at the Dornit factory, turn left to get to the starting point.
The journey took seven hours. A magic number. We just hope you had a magic time as well. And do not forget the swans. In winter, they will be grateful if you bring them a snack, either warm or cold. If you don't bring the food with you, you can buy a special bag of food for swans at the boathouse.