152-153: Quick Silver: Idrija Mercury and Lipica Lippizaners

What an amazing weekend 🙂

152- Saturday 19th Sept 2015: Quick Silver – Idrija Mercury Town

A relatively slow start and no a.m. run … we were on top of a steep hill after all!  We free wheeled down to the town and went into the TIC, our usual first port of call.  Yes, everything open, BUT three smaller museums are satellites of the main museum in the castle and you need to book one of the guides from there to open them up for you.  OK, so we re-planned our itinerary.  Castle, 3 satellite museums, cycle the Kanal to see the Wild Lake, lunch and the the mercury mine.  However, the museum was actually really interesting and we spent longer there than planned so our itinerary became:

  • Castle Museum:  built for the Austro Hungarian administrators and as the mercury store.  The museum contained the history of the mine: mining started in 500 and closed only in 1987, when the toxic health effects became too unpalatable.  It is the second largest mercury mine in the world (No.1 Being in Spain).  Also info on the lace making, the interwar occupation and geology.  Given a helpful quick intro and orientation by one the students working there.
  • Lunch and back to the castle to pick up the student guide.  Him on his moped and us trying to keep up on bikes after wine! He was actually excellent and openly answered our inquisitive questions on partizans vs collaborators today, politics, sense of national feeling etc.
  • Francis Museum of Technology:  mercury being such a valuable commodity, the mine was the cutting edge of technology and the machines of late C17 to present are preserved.
  • Miner’s House:  ground floor furnished.  Would have housed 3-4 families.
  • Kamst Wheel: the preserved biggest water wheel in Europe.  14m diameter.  It drove the mine water extraction pumps, was erected in 1790 and operated until 1948!  Also displayed are some of the above ground engines.
  • Anthony Mine:  30 min film about how the Mercury was found here and its uses – still used in fluorescent lamps, computer chips etc despite its massive toxicity.  Miners started work age 15 and we lucky to make 40!  Donned hard hats and jackets and went into the mine.  Side shafts showed the different eras of mining: clothing and kit, with sound and dust amplification.  The guide explained how shafts were back filled and a new one opened up.   As the hill of the mine is so riddled with tunnels, there is a LOT of ground movement and when the mine was closed, they used the probe to establish lightly back filled shafts and then fill them with cement.   12 miners are still employed to maintain the areas open to the public and continue the cement filling.
  • Cycle to the Wild Lake and back along the narrow canal that fed the Kamst water wheel.  The Wild Lake is a natural phenomenon: divers have reached a depth of 160 m below the surface., which as deep as they can physically go to explore the lake.  The emerald green surface of the lake is usually idyllic and peaceful, but only a few days of strong rainfall and the water starts spewing out and there is a bubbling dome.  It was all calm when we arrived … shame would have liked to see the turbulence.

Back up steep hill to Chardonnay  – so steep, we had to push the bikes!  When we arrived a quick chat to Lyn and Ian, parked next to us and with such good taste, they have a Bessacarr too!

Iron ball floating in mercury. The mercury has oxidised hence its milky colour. H&S actually kicked in here - the museum covered the dish with glass as ladies kept dipping their hands in and their rings were melting!

Iron ball floating in mercury. The mercury has oxidised hence its milky colour. H&S actually kicked in here – the museum covered the dish with glass as ladies kept dipping their hands in and their rings were melting!

So much wood was needed in shaft construction, that the mine had acres of forest. They used to damn the river, store the timber below the damn and let the fast and sudden flow of the released water carry the logs down to the town. These spikes 'caught' the logs in the town. It all stopped in 1926 when they flooded the town.

So much wood was needed in shaft construction, that the mine had acres of forest. They used to damn the river, store the timber below the damn and let the fast and sudden flow of the released water carry the logs down to the town. These spikes ‘caught’ the logs in the town. It all stopped in 1926 when they flooded the town.

After a few months of Italian 'ownership' between World Wars, the populace were 'Italianised"!

After a few months of Italian ‘ownership’ between World Wars, the populace were ‘Italianised”!

All these lace bobbins .... we'd struggle keeping track of four!

All these lace bobbins …. we’d struggle keeping track of four!

But is was most beautiful. And the women and girls had to make money somehow where the menfolk died so young. There is a lace school now in Idrija.

But is was most beautiful. And the women and girls had to make money somehow where the menfolk died so young. There is a lace school now in Idrija.

A map of an Idrijan company's businesses .... James' questioning hand .... where has Ireland gone?

A map of an Idrijan company’s businesses …. James’ questioning hand …. where has Ireland gone?

Cutting edge of technology restored equipment.

Cutting edge of technology restored equipment.

Cutting edge technology - Skoda built

Cutting edge technology – Skoda built

Cutting edge technology - as miners spent so long under ground they were vitamin D deficient and were 'radiated' with these lamps ... as if the mercury poisoning was not enough!

Cutting edge technology – as miners spent so long under ground they were vitamin D deficient and were ‘radiated’ with these lamps … as if the mercury poisoning was not enough!

Typical miner's house

Typical miner’s house

The Kamst - largest surviving wooden water wheel in Europe

The Kamst – largest surviving wooden water wheel in Europe

Massive wheel ... massive tools! And our lovely student guide.

Massive wheel … massive tools! And our lovely student guide.

Liquid lunch!

Liquid lunch!

Idrija

Idrija – church and top of Francis shaft

.. means good luck, which is what all the miners used to day as they descended to work.

.. means good luck, which is what all the miners used to say as they descended to work.

Each miner given a numbered token and told where to work, so if the token did not reappear at the end of the shift, hey knew where to look.

Each miner given a numbered token and told where to work, so if the token did not reappear at the end of the shift, they knew where to look.

All kitted up ... but no 'off to work we go' for us!

All kitted up … but no ‘off to work we go’ for us!

Mercury found in pure liquid form .. you may just make out two small dots, or as a compound with cinnabar that had to be heated to 600-800 deg C to be turned to gas and then captured.

Mercury is found in pure liquid form .. you may just make out two small dots, or as a compound with cinnabar that had to be heated to 600-800 deg C to be turned to gas and then captured.

Compressed air used here

Compressed air used here

The Wild Lake. It is very small and I could not get a shot to show how steep and high the rock walls are.

The Wild Lake. It is very small and I could not get a shot to show how steep and high the rock walls are.

Our pitch for two nights and our new neighbours.

Our pitch for two nights and our new neighbours.

Panorama of the view on top of our hill - we had been 98m below our pitch in the mine!

Panorama of the view on top of our hill – we had been 98m below our pitch in the mine!

 

153: Sunday 20th Sept:  Quick Silver – Lipizzaners

We arose early to drive to Lipica – the home of the Lipizzaners Stud farm.  Under Hapsburg rule, a stud farm was established in 1581 and they have been developing the breed there ever since … with some ups and downs.  The wars and Italian rule of the area all caused problems with horses being moved, stud books being held by other countries and lack of investment.   The Slovine government sees this as a major part of the country’s heritage and subsidies their work to the tune of 60% and several million on current redevelopment.   They now have several hundred horses and cross breed with other Lipizzaners stud farms worldwide.

We did a tour of the stud stables, which was not brilliant – guide spoke fast with a heavy accent and was too full of facts of breeding.  We went back to Chard for a rest and lunch, but then the MAIN EVENT started.  The annual show.  Beautiful sunshine and about 10,000 people watching the dressage etc.  Amazing to watch the stallions doing vertical leaps and jumps on their hind legs.  But the best part was the guest performer.  Lorenzo – a chap from France who is essentially a horse whisperer, who gets his horses to do amazing tricks just by his voice, hand gestures or a gentle flick of his whip.  Really stunning!

Another motorhomer told us that we could stay in the Lipica carpark, so we did.  J had paid to watch the All Ireland Football Final – Gaelic, that is.  So we watched in the Lipca Hotel with free wifi, a splitter, two head sets and a bottle of wine and something to eat.  A most excellent day:  amazing horse training and the Dubs won!  Up the Dubs!

Mares are bred every two years. Foals are all normal horse colours, but 98% turn grey / white by the time they are about 2

Mares are bred every two years. Foals are all normal horse colours, but 98% turn grey / white by the time they are about 2

thumb_P1060746_1024thumb_P1060763_1024

thumb_P1060842_1024  thumb_P1060845_1024thumb_P1060843_1024

And the Great Lorenzo!

thumb_P1060772_1024

thumb_P1060776_1024

thumb_P1060823_1024

thumb_P1060834_1024

thumb_P1060832_1024

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One thought on “152-153: Quick Silver: Idrija Mercury and Lipica Lippizaners

  1. Very beautiful country! I love the tall miners house! They must have had great legs from climbing to the top! The Lake looked gorgeous! The horse show very reminiscent of our childhood trips to the RDS! Lovely photos! I shall feel I know all these countries by the time you’ve finished! I still feel you could publish these blogs in book form Katherine! Xxxxxxx thank you so much for them and your much appreciated and valued support! Love you both! Xxxxxxxxx

    Sent from my iPad

    >

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s