Kolovrat

  
   - darkometer rating:  4 -
  
A “transborder outdoor museum” – or rather a set of war relics and trench reconstructions on the former Isonzo Front of World War One, right on the border between Slovenia and Italy (but mostly in the former country). The site is also part of the Walk of Peace (see Kobarid) along that old front line.    
More background info: See in general under Kobarid, Kobariški muzej and World War One.
  
This complex of tunnels, caves, fortifications and trenches was part of the third line of defence of the Italian Army on the Isonzo Front in WWI. The ridge of Mt Kolovrat was a superb vantage point, and so it served primarily as an observation and command post. But there were also artillery positions installed on the mountain that shelled Austro-Hungarian positions on mountains to the east. 
  
On the first day of the offensive of the 12th and final Isonzo Battle in 1917, Mt Kolovrat was conquered by the German Alpine Corps, in which one Erwin Rommel served who would later write about his experiences on this front … and then went on to rise to highest ranks in Nazi Germany (cf. Imperial War Museum, London). 
  
During the Cold War, the Kolovrat range was part of the border between Italy and Yugoslavia, so technically also part of the Iron Curtain – which at this borderline wasn't as heavily fortified as elsewhere. Today it is an open border (between two EU Schengen countries, hence freely crossable). 
  
Some of the trenches and positions were reconstructed in the year 2002 using original building materials from the site. 
  
NOTE: the name of this mountain range has nothing to do with the Slavic symbol of the same name 'Kolovrat' which is sometimes also referred to as the “Slavic Swastika” (one with eight instead of just four “hooks”). 
  
  
What there is to see: When you get to the small car park, the “outdoor museum” extends to both sides of the road. The much smaller part is the one to the east. There's a viewpoint just yards from the car park that affords a great view of the Soča valley and the mountains beyond. A short walk to the north-west takes you to another viewpoint over that side of the ridge, and there are also a few trenches and a reconstructed position. 
  
Directly at the car park is the sole bit of information: a panel with a map of the site, some historical photos and short explanatory texts about the history of the site as well as a general introduction to the Walk of Peace (see Kobarid). 
  
Behind the info panel the various trails around the main, western part of the site fan out. The most interesting section begins right to the south of the car park up the slope. Here you can find the largest complex of reconstructed trenches, positions and fortifications as well as the access stairs to deeper caves beneath. 
  
In order to explore these deeper parts of the system you need a good torch (flashlight), as it gets pitch-black dark down there. The caves and trenches are largely bare, though, so there isn't that much to see other than these reconstructions themselves, except for the odd rusty bit of metal here and there where you can then contemplate the possible former functions they may have served. 
  
When exploring the caves and passageways you can from time to time lose your bearings, so it might be useful to have the map that the brochures about these sites come with that you can pick up in Kobarid (at the Walk of Peace visitor centre or at the museum). See also the photo below. Note that these maps are “upside down”, i.e. north is at the bottom, south at the top! 
  
If you continue along the old trenches further south and west (“up” on the map!), you eventually come to the lower of the two summits of the Kolovrat range here. This one's called Na Gradu Klabuk, and is also referred to as the “1114 point” (so called for its elevation above sea level). You are now right on the border with Italy, and there are a few modern-day border marker stones. Otherwise you wouldn't know. 
  
From here you get a splendid view over the Italian side of the border – on a clear day you can see all the way across the plains of Friuli to the Adriatic Sea and even the city of Trieste. When I was there it was a little too hazy for the latter bit, but it was still a great view of the last foothills of the Julian Alps and down to the plains. For even better viewing there's a powerful pair of binoculars installed on a column. This is free to use. 
  
Looking down from this point in the other direction you can spot some ruins of buildings in the centre of the valley between the two summits. These are not related to WW1 but are remains of former military structures when this was a Yugoslav border observation point
  
If you clamber down the hillside to the west you can get to yet more underground tunnels, now on the Italian side. Across the valley to the north, the terrain is criss-crossed with former trenches, but most of these have not been reconstructed or cleared so they are just shallow hollowed-out walkways snaking across the land and not necessarily easy to follow with all the vegetation growing inside them. 
  
Further north still you can ascend to the highest point of the Kolovrat outdoor museum. This peak is called Trinški vrh (it's at 1136m elevation). Carrying on further west and south you come to yet another viewpoint and also a couple more trenches and ruins of military installations. 
  
All in all, what makes the side trip to this quite remote location worth it is certainly the combination of historical significance and the great outdoors. The latter isn't very extreme here, though you have to be prepared for mud if there has been rain recently. (It wouldn't be much fun at all to go here when it is actually raining – you wouldn't get the views, for starters!) You might get a bit dirty in the narrower trenches and underground passages, so come dressed appropriately. Then it is also quite good fun – at least for those who like clambering around sites such as this. 
  
But do not expect much commodification. There's very little information at this site (a single panel). If you want to learn more about the history of this place, and the area, then you really have to combine your visit with the Kobariški muzej in Kobarid
  
  
Location: less than 6 miles (9 km) south-east of Kobarid (but ca. 10 miles/15 km by winding road) on the border between Slovenia and Italy.
  
Google maps locator: [46.1861, 13.6607]
  
  
Access and costs: A bit remote, only really accessible by car or bike; free
  
Details: To get to the site you really need your own vehicle – tough cyclists may also be able to do it by pedalling here, but make no mistake: this is mountain territory, so lots of steep ascents and switchbacks. 
  
Coming from Kobarid (which is presumably the most likely departure point), first take the main road out the village to the south-east in the direction of Tomlin (road 102). In the centre of the second village along the way, Idrsko, turn right onto the 903 road towards Livek. In Livek turn off left onto the 605 road – the Kolovrat site is signposted. 
  
Keep carrying on along this road that winds up the mountainside and passes through a few smaller settlements and eventually you will arrive at the small car park at the site. There's also a small hut and the info panel marking the correct spot. 
  
The site is freely accessible at all times, but only daytime makes sense. If you go in high season it may be advisable to get here really early, before any groups may arrive. I got there just after daybreak and mostly had the place to myself. Just two more cars turned up during the time of my visit and our paths barely ever crossed. From a point of view of light, going early is also better for enjoying the far views across to Italy. 
  
Thankfully, there is a Portaloo (mobile toilet kiosk) set back a bit from the road. But other than that there are no further facilities. 
  
NOTE that for exploring the deeper caves and underground passages you need a good torch (flashlight), there is often no natural light down there. Wearing decent boots and appropriate clothing is also to be advised. 
  
  
Time required: Depending on how exhaustively you want to explore all the caves, trenches and viewpoints, between about 30-45 minutes to an hour and a half.  
  
  
Combinations with other dark destinations: Kolovrat is the WW1 site in the area that is the most easily accessible out of a whole host of other sites, many of which are far more demanding, even requiring proper mountaineering gear. The Kobariški muzej in Kobarid offers guided tours to some of these places. And yet more are organized into the Walk of Peace trail that runs all the way from the high mountains north of Kobarid to the Adriatic coast in Italy. You can get maps and further advice about all this from Walk of Peace visitor centre in Kobarid
  
See also under Slovenia in general. 
  
  
Combinations with non-dark destinations: Kolovrat is in itself already a combination of war-historical dark tourism and simply the outdoors with great views of mountain vistas and some good hiking. 
  
Much more of the latter can be done all over the region, plus more demanding activities such as mountaineering or white-water rafting/kayaking. See also under Kobarid and Slovenia in general.
  
  
 
  • Kolovrat 01 - car park, panels, viewpointsKolovrat 01 - car park, panels, viewpoints
  • Kolovrat 02 - mapKolovrat 02 - map
  • Kolovrat 03 - looking down the Slovenian sideKolovrat 03 - looking down the Slovenian side
  • Kolovrat 04 - trench reconstructionsKolovrat 04 - trench reconstructions
  • Kolovrat 05 - insideKolovrat 05 - inside
  • Kolovrat 06 - Italian line of defenceKolovrat 06 - Italian line of defence
  • Kolovrat 07 - with sand bagsKolovrat 07 - with sand bags
  • Kolovrat 08 - clinging to the mountainKolovrat 08 - clinging to the mountain
  • Kolovrat 09 - stairs into the mountainKolovrat 09 - stairs into the mountain
  • Kolovrat 10 - bottom of the stairsKolovrat 10 - bottom of the stairs
  • Kolovrat 11 - deep inside the mountainKolovrat 11 - deep inside the mountain
  • Kolovrat 12 - more trench reconstructionsKolovrat 12 - more trench reconstructions
  • Kolovrat 13 - old gun positionKolovrat 13 - old gun position
  • Kolovrat 14 - mudKolovrat 14 - mud
  • Kolovrat 15 - roofless sectionKolovrat 15 - roofless section
  • Kolovrat 16 - trenchKolovrat 16 - trench
  • Kolovrat 17 - remnants of yet more trenchesKolovrat 17 - remnants of yet more trenches
  • Kolovrat 18 - at the 1114m pointKolovrat 18 - at the 1114m point
  • Kolovrat 19 - looking down the Italian sideKolovrat 19 - looking down the Italian side
  • Kolovrat 20 - road straddling the Italian borderKolovrat 20 - road straddling the Italian border
  • Kolovrat 21 - shelterKolovrat 21 - shelter
  • Kolovrat 22 - Yugoslav-era ruinsKolovrat 22 - Yugoslav-era ruins
  • Kolovrat 23 - cave entranceKolovrat 23 - cave entrance
  • Kolovrat 24 - in the caveKolovrat 24 - in the cave
  • Kolovrat 25 - another caveKolovrat 25 - another cave
  • Kolovrat 26 - ominous mountainscapeKolovrat 26 - ominous mountainscape
  
   
   
 
  
    

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