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A herdsmen settlement on the Velika Planina plateau

Photo: Igor Modic

This is considered one of the rarest settlements of this size preserved in Europe, and is recognisable by its typical architecture.

Velika Planina   is the oldest and best-preserved high-mountain herders' settlement in Europe. The highest point of this highland plateau in the Kamnik-Savinja Alps is Gradišče, which lies at an elevation of 1,666 metres. The different parts of the plateau are known as Velika Planina, Mala Planina (respectively Big Pasture and Little Pasture), Gojška Planina (its name refers to the village of Gozd), Dovja Griča and Velika Griča. 

Herders built several camps or settlements on Velika Planina, with more than a hundred distinctively shaped herders' huts – today the plateau's trademark. Also on the plateau are two natural sights of interest: the caves of Velika (Big) and Mala (Small) Vetrnica. Over the course of centuries, woodland has given way to pasture on the gently sloping plateau. The soft green turf between the dolines and other depressions offer ideal conditions for the summer pasturing of cattle. Man has been present on Velika Planina since prehis-toric times, as demonstrated by archaeological finds, Herders first settled on the plateau in the Middle Ages. including the discovery of the remains of the oldest hut, from the six-teenth century, and subsequent research of its layout or floor plan. In terms of its size and shape, this hut was almost identical to the present-day Preskar's Hut, which serves as a kind of prototype for later herders' dwellings.

Besides the characteristic huts, other items of ethnographic interest on Velika Planina include a range of wooden artefacts such as spoons, knives, ladles of various shapes and potato mashers, and also capes made of bark to keep off the rain. Culinary curiosities include a special cheese made on Velika Planina called Trnič. This is a pear-shaped hard cheese that herders used to make during the summer pasturing season from a combination of curd cheese, cream and salt. Trnič was an ancient symbol of fertility and love. The shape of the cheese, which was customarily embellished with stamped decorations, is in fact reminiscent of the female breast. According to tradition, a young herder would give two Trnič cheeses to the girl he was courting (one for each breast). If she accepted the cheese, this meant that she accepted his courtship – or even consented to marriage. 

Text by Tanja Glogovčan