38 countries are participating at the IBU World Championships Biathlon 2021 Pokljuka. In addition to biathlon, a number of other things, such as historic facts, people and events, connect participating countries with Slovenia. You can experience these connections at various locations in the Gorenjska region, where Pokljuka lies.
Already in cosmopolitan Bled we can find interesting connections with the countries participating at this year’s Championships. Bled has been twinned with the South Tyrolean city of Brixen (Bressanone) for many years. The Diocese of Brixen has been the owner and leased the Bled estate since 1004.
Herbard VIII von Auersperg was among the tenants in the 16th century and at that time Bled Castle was a powerful stronghold of Protestantism. Primož Trubar, the author of the first two Slovene books – the Catechism and the Abecedarium – which were printed in 1550 in German Tübingen, also stopped at the castle. The books were printed on a Gutenberg printing press. Today, its replica is located in the Castle Printing House, where you can see and try printing on handmade paper with historical clichés and lead letters.
Centuries later, at the turn of the 19th century, spa tourism began to develop in Bled, the initiator of which was the Swiss healer Arnold Rikli. He included the natural features of Bled in his therapies. These were based on a vegetarian diet, air and water baths. His therapies caused a stir, as guests, among other things, walked barefoot in the morning and sunbathed naked during the day, which was unacceptable at the time.
The Swedish landscape architect Carl Gustav Svensson also left his mark on Bled, and in 1890 designed and planted the central park around the Villa Pongratz, where the Municipality of Bled is based. Svensson’s design a few years later inspired locals Matevž and Jože Čop, who created the Spa Park.
The bee house is located in this park among other things and it symbolises one of the richest Slovenian traditions – beekeeping. Anton Janša, the father of modern beekeeping and the first beekeeping teacher at Viennese court, was a great influence on the development of this activity. His bee house with another Slovenian specialty – ‘panjska končnica’ (decorated panels placed over bee hives), is located not far from Bled, in Breznica village in the municipality of Žirovnica.
Slovenia and Gorenjska within it are closely connected with neighbouring Austria and Italy in several areas. Above the village Rateče, near the Nordic centre Planica, there is a popular hiking spot, a 1508m high Triple Border peak, which has been an important crossroads of the three neighbouring nations for decades.
In Kranjska Gora another linking element between nations can be found. On the way to the Vršič Pass there is a Russian chapel, built in memory of deceased Russian prisoners of war, who were buried by an avalanche during the construction of the road to Vršič in 1916. Every year at the end of July there is a special commemorative ceremony organised by the chapel, attended by the prominent representatives of Slovenia and Russian Federation.
In addition to historical ties, Slovenia is connected to other countries in biathlon family also by love. One of the most successful Slovenian cross-country skiers, Katja Višnar, native of Bled, found her love in Norway. She and former excellent Norwegian cross-country skier Ola Vigen Hattestad have a son Ludwig.