The Local Community of Novaki: they want snow most of all


Where the Gorenjska and Primorska regions meet, lies the village of Novaki. It has about five hundred residents. It extends from Log, which is about three kilometers away from Cerkno, all the way to Davča on the northern side of the village and the Robidensko Brdo pass on the eastern side, where it borders on the Leskovica village and the Škofje hill. On the western side of the village you will find Kopa, the highest and most popular hiking destination of mountaineers. The village is quite big; there are more than 140 houses dispersed in the valleys and on the slopes of the hills.

»Noathi«, the new people

The history of the village dates back to the 13th century. Eight farmers are supposed to have lived in the area of the current Novaki village then, who paid their tributes to the diocese of Škofja Loka. According to statements by historians the village was soon affected by plague, which killed all the inhabitants. New residents settled here later. This is why the village was originally called “Noathi”, which means new immigrants. Another theory of how the name of Novaki was formed says that the only surviving villagers called the new immigrants “novi vaščani”, which means new villagers in Slovene and was later shortened to Novačani. Up until the 20th century, the main source of livelihood for the locals was in handicrafts, farming, pub-keeping, and economic activities. After WWII people found jobs in the nearby factories and slowly started abandoning the activities with which they supported themselves before.

White slopes are inviting when they are white

We can access the village via Idrija through Cerkno, via the Poljane valley, through Leskovica, and since this year on the road from Davča again, which has been reopened after the floods in 2007. The Cerkno ski resort, the main reason for tourists visiting the area, offers employment to many residents. However, winters have been very unpredictable in recent years.

Due to weather conditions it is often impossible to make artificial snow.

“Unfortunately, we cannot set the weather. Trends show that winters are going to be less and less favorable to us in the future, as well,” says Matjaž Kosmač, who is responsible for marketing at Hotel Cerkno, which manages the ski resort.

The famous hospital in a gorge

Apart from the ski resort, Franja Partisan Hospital is another well-known attraction in Novaki, which is visited by tourists from all over Slovenia and other countries. Even though the important monument from WWII was almost entirely destroyed by a flood in 2007, the hospital was soon reconstructed with the help of state funds. Renovated and cleaned were also the watercourses behind the hills of Veliki Njivč and Mali Njivč, between which the hospital is located. A large number of trucks and other heavy-duty vehicles, which drove through the settlement of Zanjivč for that purpose, destroyed the road infrastructure at the time, which was then rather forgotten for a while.

Reach the wonderful view

The highest point in the local community is located in the western part of Novaki at the altitude of 1360 m. Apart from a beautiful view of Cerkno, Novaki, and other surrounding hills, the hike to Kopa offers the possibility to learn about the various plants in the region.

The tourist society wanted to present this mysterious part of the hills to visitors of Novaki in more detail, so it renovated and marked a circular recreational trail to the Kopa peak whose markers/blazes are symbols of the traditional Novaki skis. Every year, members of the tourist society organize a traditional hike to Kopa, where they host a cultural program and serve refreshments. On the way to the peak, a botanist usually describes the plants by the path in more detail, which is very interesting for the hikers. A typical plant and also a symbol of the tourist society in Novaki is the pennyroyal. The locals like to dip the herb into home-made brandy and call the drink “polajevec”. Members of tourist society and firefighting department, which are very active in Novaki, organize a meeting under the Črni Vrh hill every June, which now takes place for two days. The Saturday program is organized by the firefighters from Novaki; there is a firefighters’ rally in the afternoon and a proper party in the evening. The Sunday program is put together by members of the tourist society and includes a demonstration of traditional customs. Apart from a performance by Slovene bands there are also performances by local singers, choirs, and folklore dance groups.

Novaki “bow” ski

A symbol of the village is also the Novaki “bow” ski. It first came to this area in 1920 with the arrival of the Italian army. The original ski was a completely ordinary ski, but for easier maneuverability a bow was fitted on to it. The few people who know how to ski on it present it every year at Slovene and also some Austrian ski resorts during events for traditional skiers.

The members of the local tourist society also organize a traditional skiing event at the local ski resort on Črni Vrh every year. The initiative to bring back the Novaki “bow” ski was given with the founding of the tourist society by Zdravko Čemažar, who is also the author of the book called Novaki, Novačani in vaznkaš skozi čas (Eng. Novaki, the Villagers of Novaki, and Vaznkaš through Time).

The villagers of Novaki are proud that their fellow resident Silvo Čemažar received the municipal Bevk award in October 2014, which is given to those who contributed to the development of the Cerkno region in an important way with their achievements in various aspects of social life.

A member of the tourist society, who has traveled through a large part of Slovenia, Austria, and Germany with the Novaki “bow” ski, is proud to preserve the rich cultural heritage. Thanks to him many old things, already forgotten gadgets, and machines have come back to life again. He takes care not only of preserving and reviving old village customs and tools, but he also makes sure that he presents them to people in the best way possible.

Houses with stories

Beside new ones, there are several interesting houses of an older date in Novaki. Below the Franja Partisan Hospital stands the Kamlonarše homestead. The house is constructed in an original historical form with the ground floor built of stone, the upper floor built of logs, and a kitchen without a chimney also known as “black kitchen” in Slovene. Worth mentioning is also the Praprotnik farm, where, in addition to their inn services, they also gladly show visitors their collection of old farming tools. There is a subsidiary elementary school in Novaki, which is still active, but is in danger of closing its doors soon, since the number of children is decreasing and even more and more of those are being enrolled in the elementary school in Cerkno.

Valentin Lahajnar, president of the Local Community of Novaki:

»In the future, we would like to see investments and construction work on individual sections of local and municipal roads. The local community and villagers are going to participate with our contributions. After being elected to the position of president, I wish for good and constructive collaboration with the new community council and hope that together we can contribute to making our village’s pulse all the more vibrant.«