We like to brag here in Slovenia about our geological diversity - the Alps, the Adriatic, the Karst, the Pannonian flatlands, etc. But did you know about the country’s best kept secret treasure, the Slovenian coral reef?
There are traces of reefs from six geological periods all over Slovenia and the largest can be found throughout the area of the country. It is about 140 km in length and 20 km in width, but the whole of it can be compared to the size of the Great Barrier Reef.
As you can imagine, there are multiple locations where it’s possible to find these traces, but here, I’d like to focus on the Dovžan gorge and its surrounding area.
The Dovžan gorge lies just 3.2 km from Tržič, a pretty little alpine town at the foot of the Karavanke and the Kamnik-Savinja Alps, famous for its trade traditions and for general Radetzky.
The Dovžan gorge was carved by Tržiška Bistrica, a river that you can follow on trails or on the road, leading you closer to the heart of Karavanke.Some of these trails take you high above the gorge, offering striking views of the luxurious hills and the restless waters, and the natural peace is disturbed only by the sounds of the river making its way through the narrow gorge, as it forms small rapids and waterfalls.
The gorge is truly a natural museum just waiting to be explored, its 300 million years of natural history offering a plethora of wonders. Six information boards are situated at strategic points along the way, offering to the curious wanderer information on the area, from geology and history, to some of its ethnographic features.
One of the more remarkable things that will greet you on the way through the Dovžan gorge is a tunnel carved into the mountainous rock. The tunnel was created in order to replace a bridge which was so notoriously difficult to cross, that locals had named it, quite unambiguously, the Devil’s Bridge.
Due to the discovery of fossils from almost 300 million years ago, this area has been attracting geologists for over a hundred years. At the time, owing to a more tropical climate, the area was under water, the perfect environment for the formation of corals and shells which remain here in their fossilized form to this day.The most special fossil, discovered here and nowhere else in the world, is the Schwagerina carniolica.
The Exhibitional-educational Centre (RIS) is also situated in the area, in the settlement of Dolina. More information can be obtained at the Centre, and it is a veritable paradise for those keen to explore the multi millennial fossils under a microscope.
The impressive natural monuments that greet the visitor of the Dovžan gorge are called Kušpergarjevi turni (Kušpergar’s towers).