Seconds after my colleague waved to me to come closer, I catch a glimpse of the chamois. A majestic animal that isn’t afraid of taking chances and instantly disappeared from the steep walls above Kolpa river. “We might spot another one,” says a fellow hiker. But immediately after that, I forget about the timid cavicornian creature because a fantastic view has opened before us: a multitude of small and larger hills adorned in light green colour, between them a meandering river, and above the remains of vapours of morning mists, topped with a blue sky, interspersed, here and there, by a white cloud. However, the black-clout vagrant that gave name to the old-growth forest, is nowhere in sight!
Krokar (TN: the raven) is one of those areas where man let nature run its own course. Not quite, is how the forester Tomaž Hartman, who in 2014 together with five photographers published a bilingual monograph about the old-growth forest, would correct me. Even protected areas cannot be protected against polluted air, acid rain and similar. Human stupidity knows no bounds! As Mr Hartman likes to point out, the primeval old-growth forest offers us an insight into the distant past. At the beginning of last year, he told me that “our perception of the world isn’t the only one that is correct or true”. And he is right.
Primeval forests of Kočevska region
There are 6 remnants of primeval forest in Kočevska region, and thus it is something special, particularly for foresters. Krokar, a part of Borovška gora, extends over an area just over 74 hectares and gives shelter to bears, wolves, mountain eagles, peregrine falcons, black woodpeckers, wood grouses, lynxes, etc. And a plethora of small animals that are barely detectable with the naked eye. There an almost inaudible teeming pervades the decaying trunks, only because the reins are in nature’s hands.
What cannot resist the natural calamities, falls down and rots away. Yet those to overcome, thrive and dominate. And this area is predominantly covered with beech wood, which – according to the experts – has survived here during the Ice Age and has throughout the millennia spread across northern Europe. That is why, the Krokar primeval forest has been listed on the UNESCO’s Natural Heritage List since 2017. Bojan Kocjan, MSc, of the Kočevje Regional Unit of the Slovenia Forest Service, points out that “the entry is the result of long-standing 120-year efforts.”
A thick dossier, covering five years of collecting materials, conducting inspections and checks, is proof of how Krokar attained importance on the global level. “It was only here that the beech tree could survive. Further north, there was only ice. As the ice began to recede, the beech tree spread from here,” is how Mr Kocjan explains the remarkable development of beech tree ecosystems that took place around 12,000 years ago. Along with the beech tree, other plants and animals have spread throughout the Europe as well. The list includes 63 areas of old-growth and primeval beech forests from ten countries. In addition to Krokar, the list also includes the Slovenian Snežnik–Ždrocle area.
“The primeval forests retained their old-growth primeval character because someone decided to leave them be,” explains Bojan Kocjan, MSc. An important role was played by Leopold Hufnagel, who excluded the initial old-growth forest remnants by creating the first forest management plan. “Those two, that is sections 38 and 39, mentioned in his notes from 1892, are gone. They were cut down after World War II,” adds Mr Kocjan. Notes in literature record that there was a vast primeval forest which had existed on Borovška gora that was cut down after the war. “Krokar is a remnant of a wider area that was left untouched on Borovška gora.”
We do not enter into the primeval forest!
Let us not forget that the entry onto the Unesco’s Natural Heritage List brings with it responsibilities and obligations. That is why you should not walk along a well-beaten footpath that would mislead and lure a care-free hiker and lead him into the primeval forest! Visitors can reach the edge of Krokar from the direction of Cerk. However, entering the primeval forest that is marked in blue, is strictly forbidden. Only foresters are allowed to venture there to measure trees that are more than ten centimetres thick. And, as a forester from Kočevje adds, they enter it after the end of the growing season so that the development of primordial nature would be impaired as little as possible.
– Tomaž, Hartman. 2014. Pragozd: pranarava Kočevske.
– Kocjan, Bojan, MSc. 2019. Interwiev with Petra Šolar.
Are you planing a visit to Kočevska region? Meet a famous local hero Peter Klepec!
This post is also available in: Slovenian