Innovation: Kayaking through the Underworld of Mount Peca
Applicant: Podzemlje Pece, d. o. o.
ABOUT THE INNOVATION
Over more than three hundred years of mining, miners from the Mežica mines have dug over a thousand
kilometres of shafts that extend over 64 km2 and from a depth of 268 metres above sea level up to 2060
metres above sea level beneath the peak of Mount Peca.
In 1994, ore production in the Mežica mines was discontinued. In doing so, they stopped pumping water from the mine, which is why the lower parts were flooded up to the water shaft, along which the water discharges from the mine. Water also flooded the large stopes excavated by the miners that are now magical underground lakes.
The trail of the underground adventure starts in front of the mining museum on Glančnik in Mežica where tourists board a real life mining train. The train takes them along the 3.5 km-long Glančnik pit to the Unionski vpadnik slope mine. From there, they descend down to the water level by stairs that take them around 95 metres deep into the Earth. Before entering the water, visitors receive the necessary protective equipment (neoprene waders, a floatation jacket, and a caving helmet with a lamp) and then descend into the water-filled pit where the special three-person kayaks await them. Accompanied by guides, they kayak along a small underground river to the lakes that are almost 700 m beneath the Earth’s surface where the magical ride continues. Visitors can row by themselves on the calm and clear water and explore the underground labyrinth, water-filled pits and stopes. At the end, they pass a narrow pit and small rapids to reach the starting point.
After the kayak ride, they walk through abandoned cave worksites to the station of the mining train. Along the way, a trained guide recounts stories to bring back the days when silence didn’t rule the mine and the numerous miners worked with their tools and machinery.
After a mining snack, they ride the train out of the mine and visit the museum with numerous interesting collections. These testify to the life and work of the miners in the heart of Mount Peca, their everyday life on the surface as well as the ores and minerals they mined – the beautiful creations of nature.
ABOUT THE APPLICANT
Podzemlje Pece, d.o.o. is a private limited company pursuing the museum and tourism activity as its principal activity. Based on the potentials and numerous sources from the rich natural, cultural and technical heritage, we were able to set up a varied offer of innovative products over the years of our activity.
Mount Peca and the valleys beneath it are tied to mining that provided daily bread to numerous families for centuries. Over the centuries, miners dug a labyrinth with around a thousand kilometres of mine shafts. After mining was abandoned in 1994, the strong initiative of the employees and the local residents lead to the protection and preservation of the rich cultural, technical and natural heritage for tourism, educational and research purposes. After renovation, the old mining administration building was turned into a mining museum with numerous collections. Visitors are taken on a tour of caves and mining worksites in the heart of Mount Peca by a real-life mining train. Visitors can also ride mountain bikes through the mine or go on an adventure through the water-filled mine shafts in kayaks. The usual offer is complemented by numerous cultural events that take place 600 m beneath the surface.
Originality and quality are confirmed by the Silver Sower (Sejalec) award bestowed on us by the Slovenian Tourist Board in 2004 for the innovative product entitled Cycling through the Underground as well as by the nomination we received for the 2007 European Museum of the Year. In 2011, we also received the golden award from the Municipality of Mežica. The underground area of Mount Peca is also the central point of the cross-border Karavanke (Karawanken) Geopark that joined the European network of geoparks, which operates under the auspices of UNESCO, this year.
Mining museum: At the old mining administration building (listed as a cultural monument), a mining museum was created after the renovation of the building. The museum features numerous collections: ores, minerals and fossil remains, a “cave measuring room”, an ethnological collection with an installation featuring the culture of living of the Mežica miners, and a collection of photographs by the naturalist photographer, Maks Kunc.
Tourist mine: Mines feature presentations of the mining methods and mining equipment used by miners in various periods of history, from the beginnings of mining here 340 years ago to the final days of mining in the previous century. Visitors are taken on a tour of caves and mining worksites in the heart of Mount Peca by a real-life mining train.
Take a bicycle to the underground: Accompanied by a guide and the light from a miner’s head lamp, you can safely cycle the more than five kilometre-long unique underground trail from one valley to another and experience an unforgettable adventure.
Kayaking through the underworld of Mount Peca: In the water-filled parts of the mine, visitors explore the underground world in kayaks. The ride along mine shafts and stopes dug by miners over the centuries is an extraordinary experience.
Discovering minerals: Mineral enthusiasts can visit the protected deposits of the world famous Wulfenite mineral in Podpeca accompanied by an expert guide.
Events and shows: The usual offer is complemented by numerous cultural events that take place in a small “hall” situated 600 m beneath the surface. Many foreign and distinguished Slovenian musicians have performed here.