Secret Partisan Forest Hospital
If ever there was a definition of a Slovenian secret place then imagine this.. standing deep in the middle of a stunningly beautiful Slovenian forest and visiting a secret WW2 hospital that was hidden away from the Nazis and staffed by incredibly courageous people who tried to help others at huge risk to their own lives.. now that is a secret place!
Slovenians do know about these few surviving forest hospitals, but they dont realise how special, rare and interesting they would be for us visitors to discover and experience.. We just don't have these kind of places in our countries, so for people from outside Green Slovenia, visiting a secret Forest hospital will be a magical and powerfully unique experience.
You see, these secret hospitals are pretty much only found in Slovenia due to the natural cirmumstances here.. Slovenia is the third most forested country in Europe and had a strong Partisan resistance movement during WW2, so actually it made perfect sense to fight back with the tools of nature and local forest knowledge they had at their disposal to create a secret network of forest hospitals! These secret hospitals were a very clever and effective way for the brave Partisans to treat injured Allied soldiers, their own people and even the enemy at times.
But the risks were terrible, villages could be burnt down and villagers executed for helping, so they had to remain hidden and very secret.. only a few people would know their location and even those who washed the linen and provided food would not have any idea where the wooden buildings were.
The builidngs were often scattered separately around, deep in the forest to avoid detection and injured soldiers were blindfolded whilst being taken there. Hospital buildings and camps were quickly abandoned, suddenly moved around and completely relocated to avoid detection AND betrayal.
So now some of these incredible facts and human circumstances have been explained.. how about visiting the Zalesje secret hospital.. deep in the forest and just 35 mins drive from the Lodge!
At this secret hospital the buildings were also kept apart.. nowadays you can visit three buildings along a beautiful forest walk. There is a kitchen hut, a sleeping building and an underground bunker housing the operating theatre.. basic and sparsely furnished.
All the buildings have been carefully recreated and an amazing job also has been done building a path network and info signs with wooden steps, where necessary, between the three.
There are 2 wooden huts, one for sleeping and the kitchen, both are very basic and show how life was. But by far the most amazing building is the operating theatre, still completely hidden inside a forest bunker with a trap door.
Without the dozens of wooden steps down to here you would never find it.
It is incredible to think how the surgeon performed his work hidden inside a building like this, but this hospital is a place where history and bravery comes alive for you.
So how do I get to see the Zalesje secret hospital?
This hospital is hidden deep in the forest near the unpronounceabubble village of Ostrozno Brdo between Postojna and the route down to the equally unpronounceable town of Ilistrica Bistrica near the Croatian border towards Rijeka.
You will not find a sign anywhere in English either, so as the 7.98 billion non Slovenian speakers have no idea that a word like "bolnisnica" means hospital, then you would merrily drive past the sign!
So you need to get to the village and then easily find the village hall like building next to the lovely church. The hall has a small museum dedicated to the staff and hospital history.
The local Tourist Association TIC in Ilistrica Bistrica (00386 599 66 278) should be able to provide an English speaking guide if you ask them in advance and then you can maybe drive to the forest car park and visit the hospital site with them.
BUT you won't get inside the museum or the 3 hospital buildings without a key, so you need to take a guide or at least meet them here at the hospital site.
What about Hiking or Biking there?!
We think it would be a really excellent idea to park at the museum in the village and either hike or bike to the hospital along the gorgeous stone forest track that leads there.. it is actually pretty straight with just a few side roads to confuse you and is a very beautiful road.
Then maybe meet the guide at the tiny secret hospital car park. This would really make a half day of it and when the guide has finished showing you the hospital, you could explore the forest a bit more, maybe have a picnic and make your own way back to the village.. what an unexpected adventure!
But you could easily spend the whole day in this Brkini mini region just biking or hiking around the hundreds of tracks and trails that intersect one of Slovenia's biggest apple growing regions. Or drive to some of the other local attractions such as Prem castle or the national Tank museum in Pivka where they also have a wonderful exhibition explaining Slovenia's war of independence in 1991.
For nature lovers there is a really fab view and half day hike available at the nearby Weather mountain (Vremscica) and also really close to here is the Museum of 17 Disappearing lakes (yes 17!) back towards the Lodge at the little town of Pivka.
So know you know how many amazing green things there are to do and see even in this mini region.. so it might just swing your plans to try to find some more Slovenia secret places and of course the "ultimate" secret place.. a secret hospital!