Kočevski Rog – WWII footsteps

Ok, so I’m a bit late with this second post… But it’s a long post… Sorry. =)
As I said in previous one – Camping in Griblje, Kolpa, these two topics are totally different.
Second day of our weekend away from typical civilization, we packed our tent and stuff a bit early. We thought about going in a water for a swim before we leave, but we decided we will swim at some other location, a bit more upstream. We had a plan to eat at some well known restaurant at the river bank, about half hour drive from where we were. We drove through some god forsaken villages and woods, and when it seemed the road leads nowhere, you get to that restaurant where parking lot is full of cars and water front is crowded with people. Restaurant was so packed we couldn’t get a table, so we waited in the nearby shadow for a free table. Finally one table was free and we headed in that direction. When we were about 1m away from the table a guy in his 60’s ran around the corner and practically threw himself on a bench and said to us: “Ha! You were too late!” We were so shocked that we didn’t really knew how to react on such egoistic act! Then the guy said that he actually had a table inside the restaurant so we can eat in there… At that point we were still shocked and hungry and this got on our nerves so we just left and decided to head somewhere else.

Our next stop was at Kočevje, a city I’ve never been to before. To be honest, I had no reason to go there, and now that I’ve been there, I must say there is not much reason to return, though the countryside there seems pretty nice and we even found a huge lake that we had no idea it was there… Slovenia – we live here for our whole life and we still find places we had no idea they exist! You have to admit, we are small, but we are really diverse country. =D So my idea about Kočevje is that this is another city that started to die when its industry began to fail… I wouldn’t know for sure, I never read about this part of Slovenia so I have no idea what actually happened to the area, but yes, it seems like it’s dying.

Anyway, we had lunch at some restaurant just out of the city and after that we decided to return home through Kočevski Rog. It was a larger distance and more or less nobody would pick this road unless they wanted to see the forest itself. Here is the oldest forest in Slovenia, and it’s by far the largest and most remote. I’ve never been to this area before, I just knew there is forest everywhere you look and that there are bears. So hey, why not, a road trip (with fear of crossing roads with some bear…)! My boyfriend knows quite a lot about this place, unlike me, so he was able to tell me a bit about the area and he knew which direction signs we had to follow (not that you have many options).
When you are driving on those empty woodland roads deeper and deeper in the forest, the more uncomfortable feeling you get. You know that there is more or less no people in the area, maybe some lumberjack here and there and maybe about five tourists like us in the whole 500km2 of forest. Suddenly freaky large wooden statues appear along the road that really make an impression. They all show some sort of suffering of people. All this is because of large caves full of few thousand dead people that were killed after the World War II. For decades people that knew about these caves had to be quiet, then the truth slowly got out and much later, about 20 or 30 years ago, some of these caves were actually discovered, or better to say, they were allowed to be found. There is still no one that would take the responsibility for all these deaths, though there are some proofs and speculations, but you know, when it comes to war and politics everything gets complicated. All I know about it is that Partisans killed the people that were considered the traitors, or traitors families, but if you ask me, nobody really had much choice. Either you joined one side or the other, if you didn’t obey you were good as dead. I am not here to judge or to point fingers, because I am no expert on this topic, all I know is that it is a fact many people were killed there.
At Jama pod Krenom – the cave with the largest number of victims – there are some ceremonial grounds, a pavilion and some place that I think it’s a church. I must say, these two buildings are impressive, almost amazing, though mosaics obviously tell a cruel and sad story. You are reminded of the deaths on every step because there is a cross almost everywhere you look. And when you look at the caved in grounds under which you know there are so many bodies you can’t stay emotionless. The whole empty forest makes the whole experience even worse.
The second cave we went to see, Jama pod macesnovo gorico, is a few kilometres away and you have to walk about 200m on a path through forest to reach it. The feeling there is even worse, because there are no buildings, only few statues, so you feel even more isolated. The sign there says that few people actually escaped from this cave and few others, so they survived and much later told their stories.
As we were driving through the forest from west to east we passed few more signs for these burial grounds, or better to just save caves, but we only stopped at two or three smaller ones, though they all look pretty much the same. To be honest, it’s not much to see, it’s just the whole story behind it and the feeling you get when you realize there are so many bodies in those holes… Man, women and maybe even some children.

After these depressive caves we made a stop at Baza 20 (Base 20), that was once a hidden military camp of Partisans, probably the ones that did the killings at those caves. The camp is on the east side of Kočevski rog and even though you almost get to see the valley and surrounding hills, you actually can’t. It is still well hidden and if there wouldn’t be any signs you probably wouldn’t find it. There are few wooden houses and on every one of them there is a sign describing the function of it. All the different signs tell the history and describe the life in that camp during the World War II. Quite interesting to see, though it’s hard to imagine people actually lived there. Buildings are scattered around the hill and once they were probably even better camouflaged so they were not visible from the air our the ground. There is also a bunker, but we didn’t go to see it because it’s much further into the forest and I was already panicking at every suspicious sound behind the bush, though usually it was just some bird jumping around… Stupid brains, telling me there must be a bear nearby… =D
At the main road that leads to this camp nowadays there is a huge parking lot and some large modern building that used to be a restaurant or something, but it seems that plans to make this a tourist attraction didn’t worked out as they wanted to, because the building is closed and parking lot is empty most of the time.

Ok, enough said, I’ll rather post some photos to give you a bit better perspective of what I’m trying to say, though I think all the feelings and fear reach you only when you are actually there.

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