Wild flowers of Bohinj
The mountains are stunning in June, covered with the delicate blossoms of wild flowers, some of which grow only in the Slovenian Alps. The natural beauty of the mountains rising above Bohinj remains intact; flowers bloom, and for some of them, these mountains are their only home. This is also the place where the flowers have their own festival – the inhabitants of Bohinj have organised the International Wild Flower Festival, as a form of a 'slow tourism'.
Botanical experts have been always interested in exploring the floral richness of Bohinj and its surroundings. From early spring to autumn, these mountains are a genuine botanical garden. Crocuses are the first to bloom, followed by other flowers heralding the arrival of spring. Next the meadows and grasslands in the valleys bloom and then the botanical treasures on higher slopes take their turn.
The inhabitants of Bohinj are convinced that not many regions in the Alps can boast more diverse flora. This is due to the vicinity of the Mediterranean Sea, supporting thermophilic vegetation on the southern slopes of the lower Bohinj Mountains and Pršivec, a viewpoint summit just above Lake Bohinj. Above Lake Bohinj, there is a relatively small area of various altitudinal belts extending to the highest peaks far above the forest line.
The blooming landscape of Bohinj
The vast majority of meadows in the Julian Alps are human made. Without the diligent work of the local people, the meadows would be overgrown by forest, which would turn into mountain pines and rocks higher in the mountains. The present landscape has been taking shape for many centuries, even over a thousand years, since people first settled in these mountains and valleys. The local people in this area were also occupied with cattle farming and the breeding of ovine and caprine cattle. To feed their animals during the winter, natural resources had to be used with respect and consideration. In order to prepare enough hay for the winter, in the summer months the cows were driven to pasture, first in transitional pastures and then in high mountain ones. Due to a wet climate, elaborate constructions had to be built – hayracks or 'stogas' for drying the hay. The most beautiful specimens are still on display in the villages of Bohinj, especially at Studor. All this has formed a precious cultural landscape, of which the local people of Bohinj are justly proud.
The richness of flora also invites numerous insects, mainly butterflies and bees. With its botanical riches, Bohinj and its surroundings areas are wonderful places for watching butterflies flying from blossom to blossom. It is not surprising that apiculture has a long tradition here. As elsewhere in Slovenia, the beekeepers from Bohinj take good care of the Carniolan bee that, owing to a richness of the colourful wild flowers, produces very tasty and high-quality honey. Locals are able to skilfully turn this honey into tasty and aromatic drinks and treats for which these places are well known.
The flowers and their festival
The more we learn about the world of wild flowers, the closer the friendship we have with a blooming flower. 'Flowers are associated with a lot of knowledge, stories, and ancient wisdom; they accompany us from our birth to our death, inspire our creativity and make our life more beautiful,' the people in Bohinj say. And too often, we overlook that and do not pay enough attention to such natural riches. This floral richness needs our care and protection if it is to be preserved in the future. Numerous species of plants are endangered and some of them are even threatened with extinction.
The people in Bohinj developed the International Wild Flower Festival with a view to raising awareness about the importance of caring for botanical diversity in nature and about the concern for flowers. The festival aims to reveal the floral richness in Bohinj, Triglav National Park and Slovenia in its true value. By teaching the visitors and local people about wild flowers, spreading the scientific knowledge and creativity associated with the flowers, the festival offers the rich experience of Bohinj's nature and its cultural heritage in spring, when the most of the area's botanical treasure come into bloom.
'We endeavour to show to visitors many aspects of botanical knowledge, folk heritage, artistic creation as well as the wisdom of not only what is beautiful but also of that which may be prepared as a dish or put on the table,' Klemen Langus, Director of Tourism Bohinj says, adding that by visiting the Festival 'you can experience Bohinj in a different way and learn many interesting facts about its past, the harmony between a man and nature and about the beauties that are sometimes hidden in imperceptible forms.'
The Festival provides a range of cultural events associated with floral themes — from excursions to various workshops, art exhibitions and musical evenings. After all, natural beauty has always been an inspiration to artists. The festival also affords the opportunity to discuss wild flowers, their preservation and significance. Various workshops and presentations are held: from photography classes to culinary workshops, from learning about beekeeping to art classes. Botanical excursions guided by local and botanical experts are organised, enabling the visitors to explore the floral richness of Bohinj and its surroundings, as well as some other interesting botanical areas in Slovenia.
The Julian Alps and the Festival recognised in the book
The Julian Alps and the International Wildflower Festival recognised in the book 'Wildflower Wonders: The 50 Best Wildflower Sites in the World' written by Bob Gibbons.
This book was recently published in the United Kingdom; one chapter is dedicated to the Julian Alps. According to the author, this beautiful area is an interesting mixture of western, eastern and Mediterranean culture with a rich history and heritage. He describes the botanical riches of the Julian Alps, which are a result of the protected status of the area (Triglav National Park ) and traditional agriculture. At the end of the chapter, the author mentions that these riches were the reason the International Wild Flower Festival in Bohinj was established, and that every year the festival offers a range of guided botanical excursions, workshops, seminars, concerts and other events associated with wild flowers.
Text by Polona Prešeren, MSc., Sinfo, June 2012
Photo: Bohinj Tourism
Bohinj is the place where the flowers have their own festival – the International Wild Flower Festival, as a form of a 'slow tourism'.
In five years, the festival, which is primarily based on respecting nature, has achieved much more than merely increasing knowledge about wild flowers, guiding botanical excursions and revealing the secret habitats of rare wild flowers. With the co-organisation of Triglav National Park and the important cooperation of numerous local associations and organisations, the festival has become interesting for a wide group of guests, who are interested in flowers but even more in active and adventurous vacation and relaxation in nature.
'I have almost entirely conquered the mountain of Triglav and its surroundings more than once and I cannot imagine that I have come across to only a third of its rare plants. My work did not allow me to spend here more than just a short time. Oh, how many times I wanted to live my life here as a shepherd, to be able to explore this landscape full of beautiful flowers! How many rare flowers, which I would be unable to see otherwise, could I find there! The mighty mountain range has a number of different climates; therefore, many various plants grow there! The part that faces the sea is constantly covered with the sun's rays. The northern side does not see the sun at all.'
Balthasar Hacquet (1739 or 1740–1815), renowned Breton natural scientist, traveller and explorer, wrote passionately on the botanical riches of the Bohinj mountains in his Oryctographia Carniolica which was issued in three parts in Leipzig during 1778 and 1789. He climbed to the top of Triglav, the highest mountain in the Julian Alps, from Bohinj. He thoroughly explored the Bohinj Mountains and was charmed and impressed by the rich and versatile flora that he discovered during his trips around the Bohinj surroundings.
Link: Pearls of the Floral Wealth of Slovenia
Approximately 70 plants are endemic, found nowhere else in the world. More than two hundred years ago, the very variety of the plant world attracted natural historians to this land, who saw many plants for the first time here, described them and named them after local places or local people.