Kamnik WW2 Forest Hospital
If you are an American (especially) or anyone else on the planet interested in a tragic story of human bravery and sacrifice in the face of pure evil in a place so beautiful you can hardly imagine.. then read on.
We were walking along a pretty path deep in the Slovenian forest, when we happened upon a tiny sign that said "Bolnisnica".. so out of curiosity and with our basic Slovene indicating to us that the sign said "hospital" we followed the new path.
The forest got deeper and thicker and then suddenly the most amazing place revealed itself.. a camp, no, it was the remains of a secret hospital, set up by the local Partisans to treat and hide injured soldiers, Allies, Partisans and enemy alike.
And a powerful story also emerged to us as we explored this secret monument in the stone and the trees..
We read with amazement and awe at how Lt Otto Hind from Carolina was brought here to this very place after baling out from his bomber and suffering what turned out to be fatal injuries. We learned how for several weeks he was cared for by complete strangers at risk to their own lives. He was able to write his last farewells to his family and was buried in a secret spot near the hospital to be returned to his homeland after the war.
Earlier in the day we had hiked to the spring of a stunning river and had just climbed up a waterfall and admired the amazing nature.. Now the hairs on the back of our necks stood up and we gasped in awe at the power of this story.
When you first arrive at a special place like this you don't realise how special it is. We almost ran around from rock to rock trying to imagine how the hospital looked. We saw where the main building would have been, nestled against a high cliff with a cave next to it. We saw the concrete basement of the kitchen hut and then we noticed the photos and infoboards left by a local society and some of them in English.
We read hungrily for as much info as we could get and the camp started to reveal itself more with a network of paths. We went to see the Mancina waterfall which was dry but we could imagine the torrents of water flowing into the river, providing covering noise and resource to the hospital and flowing into the Bela Bistrica (white) river further down.
We walked down the river a little bit to the edge of the camp and our bones were chilled to see the rock remains of one of the 3 machine gun nests facing the entrance to the camp.. we would not have known this without the sign to inform us, but it became obvious when we knew this.
This hospital was called Kamnik "Bela" (white) after the river and was one of a network of secret hospitals set up by the Partisan local fighters during WW2.
Indeed, Slovenia is pretty much the only place in the world where you can find these secret WW2 hospitals as it had a unique set of conditions.. massive sprawling forests and a set of local people fighting a foreign invader to the death using their expert local knowledge and secrecy to out fox their enemy in the Slovenian "jungle."
Slovenians are not the kind of people to trumpet from the roof top how beautiful their little country is and we are also quite sure they do not realise that visitors would have any interest in these very special secret places!
But we are visitors, just like you, so we know just how unique and fantastic a day trip here to fab nature with this incredible history could be.. other visitors who might spend just 2 days for the entire country and plod around lake Bled or queue up to get the furnicular into Ljubljana castle cannot possibly have expected that little old Slovenia has such depth of attraction and culture.. but it does.. and lots of it!
Slovenia is bang in the centre of one of the most violent continents on the planet and every army in European history has left its mark here.. you just need to know where to look and where to hike and you can still have a great day out in nature, but also discover the history that is as thick as the forest all around you.
So there are many such historical places from many wars to be found all over Slovenia and they are so often in such green beautiful locations that it is difficult to imagine the inhumanity of man, but you can also have a wonderful and powerful experience here in awe of the nature AND the history.
We would like to sincerely thank the local society that maintains Kamnik Bela secret hospital and provides some English info so visitors may learn the secrets of this incredible place in the middle of a Slovenian forest and never forget.
These secret hospitals were often quickly abandoned or relocated as the incredibly brave volunteers were betrayed, tortured and executed.
This was the fate of Bela Kamnik.
We took comfort that Lt Hinds and many other injured soldiers were here in this very spot amongst friends in the shadow of those enormous rock mountains and we are pretty sure that any American visitor to Slovenia on vacation would also want to know about this incredibly beautiful spot and the kindness that was shown to one of their own.
So how do I get there?
The hospital is hidden in the forest of course, close to the beautiful medieval town of Kamnik and part of a hiking trail to the Organ waterfall.
The hike is absolutely fantastic and the walk out of the hospital down to the river and the waterfall car park is particularly amazing, when you consider these tiny forest paths and signs that you are following nowadays were not here in the days of the hospital.
If you would like to know exactly where the hospital is and how to find it, then we also wrote an article about the visiting the waterfall and a fantastic spring and gorge nearby with more details about how to find them all in one half day trip if you want. Just go to Kamnik Gorge and Waterfall.
The car park for the hike is just 1 hour 20 from the Lodge and you could easily combine a visit here with a trip up the fabulous Velika Planina Heaven on Earth mountain plateau or a visit to the old town in medieval Kamnik.
We absolutely love writing these articles in clear, simple English to help visitors to Green Slovenia truly discover the amazing secrets on offer here, but we would like to say how much this secret hospital moved us with the stunning nature and human story which is by no means unique here in Slovenia.. it was a particular pleasure and honour to write about this amazing secret place and we sincerley hope you go hike it and like it!