Secret WW2 Hospitals
SO here are a few facts coming up that will explain a UNIQUE set of conditions that existed in Slovenia during the Second World War that have left an amazing legacy for you to find and explore..
We will explain here that.. hidden away in secret parts of the Slovenian forest and also kept hidden from YOU, the visitor to Slovenia, for reasons we will explain below and partly as local people here don't seem to actually realise how interested you would be to visit them.. are a hidden network of Slovenia's Secret Forest hospitals!
The first prevailing condition you might know about already, (but if you don't then you will certainly notice when you first arrive in Green Slovenia).. is that only two other countries in Europe have more trees per sq KM than Slovenia and these are both Scandinavian, being Finland and Sweden! So Green Slovenia is over 60% covered in forest.. perfect for hiding a secret hospital!
Even now Slovenia only has 2 million people living mainly in small towns or villages in a huge green paradise 13 times bigger than Greater London. In fact it feels like one big nature park with a few diddly towns in it.. also perfect for hiding a secret hospital!
Towards the end of WW2 Slovenia was controlled by the Nazis, filling the vacuum left by the defeated Italians and the local people here formed Partisan guerilla groups to disrupt the enemy and help the Allies as much as they could.. perfect conditions for hiding a secret hospital!
History has taught the big bully boys that the little guys can do a lot with the right motivation and local knowledge and so the Partisans formed a network of unique secret forest hospitals, completely hidden away in the deep forests with their locations only known to a few people.
There were a couple of dozen of these basic, but functional medical bases located all over Slovenia.. The incredibly brave volunteer doctors and nurses would treat any wounded Partisans, Allied troops and even enemy soldiers.. for example, one German soldier remained at one of these hospitals after he was treated to help and became a porter.
But the risks were so big, entire villages could be burnt down just for helping the Partisans and some of the hospital locations were betrayed or tortured out of people, other hospitals were frequently moved around to avoid detection.
Due to the high risks only very seriously wounded soldiers were sent to these hospitals and the injured were blindfolded and often carried on wooden stretchers overnight along rivers to avoid traces and detection.
The bravery of the Partisans and the medical staff was incredible. Working in tight, cramped, often cold and wet conditions fearing detection by patrols at any moment..this is an incredible story on it's own..
But if you also consider the absolutely stunning locations these forest hospitals were positioned in.. usually by a river for cover and water, but nowhere near a road with all tracks covered.. then you have a recipe for somewhere you very much might like to see?
You might also start hoping that some of these places have been preserved.. Well.. the news is good, very good.. even now.. 80 years later.. some of these hidden hospitals still survive or have been rebuilt and are now either micro museums or looked after by local societies and we have found several to tell you about.
So now you know about them, maybe you could try to visit one during your own Slovenian adventures!
We did mention above that we get the feeling that Slovenians have absolutely no idea that foreigners would have any interest in hiking into the most beautiful Green nature to find examples of unique secret hospitals packed with colour and history.. but we know you would!
So we also need to get you to learn a tricky word in Slovenian which is Bolnisnica, meaning hospital, cos guess what.. you will NOT find a sign to any of these places in English for hospital!
Each of the 5 secret locations we have found so far will require a bit of a hike to get to, but each has a remarkable story to tell and once you get to them you will be in the middle of nowhere, transported back in time and completely surrounded by forest, rocks, running crystal clear water and history!
All of these hidden relics are within range of Lipizzaner Lodge and could be part of your schedule for an amazing day out as each one is close to other fantastic secret places to visit, whether they be caves, mines, castles, rivers, but most certainly there will be lots and lots of trees!
The Franja Secret Partisan Hospital near Cerkno..
This will probably be the only one of these secret places you even have a chance to have heard about, as it does appear in some tourist literature.. In our humble opinion, this is the best micro museum in all Slovenia as the wooden buildings that formed this hospital have been rebuilt in a location so beautiful it is hard to describe in words.
You walk up a path alongside the river that soldiers were carried up on wooden boards to the hospital, higher up in the mountain at the top of the river. There are info signs in English to help you understand the bravery and sacrifice of the people here and when you get to the hospital itself, there is building after building to explore.
It is an unbelievable and extremely powerful experience of nature and history with a hike included.. often our guests have told us they were the only people here visiting and that was also the case on our two visits..
We found an extra longer hike from the pub that was used to assess the extent of the soldier's injuries, with the added bonus that this pub serves a mighty fine example of the local pasta dish that is unique to this mino region!
Franja is the name of the lady doctor who founded this amazing hospital, so look for her name on the road signs if you cannot remember Bolnisnica & it's various derivitives and you can read more here about the Franja secret WW2 hospital..
The Zalesje Secret Partisan Forest Hospital..
We only recently found this hospital, consisting of 3 buildings hidden away in the forest about 25 minutes from the Lodge. There is a small museum in a village nearby and we would recommend arranging to have a guide show you where the hospital is and they will have the keys to open the huts.
You would never ever find the main operating theatre without help.. so well was it concealed.. and it is a totally amazing site at the base of a steep forest hill, completely concealed!
We think it would be really cool to either hike or bike or E Bike here and have a wonderful day in nature to discover this unique piece in Slovenian AND European history. The forest here is deep and so green and if you can read here more about the Zalesje Secret Forest Hospital..
The "Bela White River" Secret Partisan Forest Hospital near Kamnik..
We only found this hospital very recently and by chance.. but we were totally blown away by it's location and the history. It was the one that made us realise that Green Slovenia really does still have this undiscovered network of amazing and unique secret hospitals and this is why we are trumpeting about them all from the top of the roof!
We were heading back from finding a waterfall, which was fab by the way, when we saw a sign in JUST Slovenian for Bolnisnica! Luckily we knew what that word meant (and so do you now), so we followed the sign along a little path half hidden by gigantic ferns and came upon the location of yet another secret hospital!
There were some ruins of buildings, but lots of photos around and some info in English to explain how the hospital was hidden here deep in the forest right up against a big cliff, with a river and waterfall close by.
We read with pride how the Partisans tried to save the life of a downed US airman and you can find out more about the Kamnik Bela secret WW2 Partisan Hospital here.
The forest paths here are absolutely amazing and if you do the hike to here and the other waterfall and maybe also the springs of the Kamnik Bistrica river and another nearby gorge, then you would have the most remarkable day out in nature with this historical location into the bargain as well.. wow.. only in Green Slovenia!
The Secret Partisan Printing Press near Idrija..
Not a hospital, but imagine this.. the only secret Resistance newspapers still being printed every day at the end of the war came from here.. a secret printing press hidden in the mountains above Idrija.
So you see, it fits perfectly into this sub section of Slovenian treasures and we just had to include this unique location into this section as it was alos a big part of the Partisan network here.. also completely undiscovered by the Nazis and hidden away in a quite undescribeably beautiful forest location.. also next to a mountain river!
The operation employed up to 50 people at it's peak and printed over a million pages in an occupied land! The hike here is perhaps the most secret and tricky of them all, but to spot the roof of the hidden printing press is to find a historical golden nugget and you can find out how to get there and read more about the secret WW2 Partisan Printing Press here..
The Secret Partisan Base in the Javorovica hills near Novo Mesto..
We came across an amazing little Partisan's base at the half way point of our 4 hour hike into the massive Javorovica forest.
It was used by a local Partisan Brigade in WW2 and we had NO IDEA it was there until we walked right up to it almost by accident!
Only then do you notice there are 4 different forest paths snaking to it from different directions, one leading off to a river source and another that we took to complete the walk meets up with the river and follows it on an amazing green journey down the hill.
The hike here was nothing short of amazing and the trees in this forest are especially huge!
So there you have it, important parts of the most fantastic hidden resistance network can still be found in this magical little Green country and we hope this page has at least inspired you to try to visit one of these incredible places and to stand there in complete green paradise with the kids and try to imagine how the world was very different, just 80 years ago..