ONCE LEAD, NOW PEACE

Jernej Slapšak, Slapšak educational and view farm

When I stand in from of the entrance to the abandoned mine on our property, I remember how we had to clean it in order to get to the water source for our farm, how we used to excavate the massive quantities of material and build paths with accompanying stone ramparts. Back then, I was a high school student, now I’m the father of two and the caretaker of the Slapšak educational and view farm, including its peculiar cave “Polhova jama”. It contains dripstones, ponds, cave grasshoppers and sometimes people that travel from far and wide because of their interest in mining history. Now, after some 30 years since we’ve obtained this piece of land I know a hell of a lot about this cave. There are more and more guest that visit Laško exclusively because of this ancient lead mine.

 

The Dormouse cave is a sight to behold

The Padež mine was active in the 16th century when those were popping up everywhere! Many of them also in the Laško area. Their ruins can be found in many locations, yet few locals have been tempted to organise this heritage. Our Dormouse cave is thus a sight to behold. The tunnels that can now be shown have been part of the ventilation system. They were dug into an extremely solid rock, 300 million years old sandstone, one of the oldest analysed bedrocks in the Laško area. When you knock on it in the cave, you get a nice echo that shows how solid the rocks really are. Even on those, water can form special forms – dripstones.

The cave has a constant temperature of 9 degrees celsius and so does the water that can be found in a special kind of well containing a 20 meter, original log with a central hole – practically a wooden tube that was used, even centuries ago, to pump out the pristinely clean water that we still drink today.

 

Essence is in the forrest

Our cave is part of the Perkmandeljc’s educational forrest trail and the visitors enjoy spending time in the cave as much as on the the circle trail. What wows them most is simply Laško’s greatest advantage: peace. To here, where they used to mine lead for military purposes, visitors now come for peace. Near the house there is a children’s playground full of carefree joyous chatter, in the forrest, below which are the remains of the mine, there is mostly peace that is experienced by the guests as something incredible – green, fragrant, calm yet lively. From time to time they are surprised by the stones – our sandstone and flint, that used to be dug out and sold in Celje for items that could not be produced at home. This forrest has always been generous to the people around it! To me, it gives materials for my other passion – designing unique wooden products.

 

The wood already encloses a bowl, spoon or something else entirely

Laško’s visitors will find the wood that spent at least some of its time here, in Padež, when they order a board of treats at Savinja pub or get presented with a special spoon on a wooden base at Tabor castle. Yet, the most beautiful things that I find in wood are different, unique. From these special pieces I make the things that I think are already in it. I get rid of what is not necessary and end up with a lamp, bowl, shoehorn or anything else! I live next to the forrest and we were just maintaining some of the park areas. Among the cut trees was a 400-year-old yew, my favourite. Its wood is just exquisite. I use it only for special pieces. I don’t make bows that made yew go almost extinct during the middle ages, but rather friendly things that are worth the work that comes with this obstinate, hard and elastic wood.

 

Even something new might be surrounded by old wood!

Some of my wooden products have been exhibited before. Someday, people might come to Padež also because of its gallery of wooden works! They might also be able to sleep over in old wooden structures that remain since the times of mining. Three wooden buildings await new plans. The materials for their renovation are starting to accumulate. The roofs will probably be homemade – by hand, with a plaid model that still exists on one of them. I’m happy that we found that model that has now already been tested by my brother! Whatever we’ll end up doing will be made in the only way we know how to: in nature, with nature and with this special kind of peace, that this place seems to posses.