The Kočevje region (Kočevska in Slovenian) is forested karst landscape by the Slovenian – Croatian border with specific historical and geographical characteristics. The central part of the Kočevje region administrative belongs to the municipality of Kočevje, which is with area of 555,4 km2 the largest municipality in Slovenia. Due to a high forest cover the municipality is at the same time sparsely populated. In the 74 settlements live 16.500 people, including nearly 9.000 in the city Kočevje, the only urban settlement of the whole area.
The Kočevje landscape is one of the most naturally preserved areas of Slovenia and Central Europe. Ninety percent of the land is covered with forests, mainly with Dinaric silver fir-beech forests, in which alongside with many other animal species live also all three big European beasts: a bear, a wolf and a lynx. The bear is even an unofficial symbol of the area. The wealth of the intact nature with many carstic caves is complemented by the gorge of the Kolpa river, one of the most beautiful Slovenian rivers. Therefore the Kočevje region with its well-preserved primeval forests more and more people discovers as a natural pearl. Again, since before the Second World War, the area between Kočevska Reka and Kolpa valley, was visited by travellers from homeland and abroad.
Historically origins of the Kočevje region are dating back in the period on transition from 13th to 14th century, when the Counts of Ortenburg had begun to settle by then mainly unsettled area at first with the Slovenian, and then also with the German settlers. Name of the Kočevje in documents first appeared in 1363, and in 1471 the emperor Frederick III gave to the settlement city rights. At that time already have stood the Friedrichstein castle on a hill above Kočevje, which was built as a ”love nest” for Frederick, a family member of the Counts of Celje and the Veronika of Desenice. At the end of the 18th century Kočevje under Auerspergs acquired the status of a dukedom. On the mighty generation still today reminds the duke bench in the town church, work of the famous Viennese architect Friedrich von Schmidt.
With the eviction of most Gottscheers, which in winter of 1941 – 1942 on Hitler’s command left the region to inhabit the homes of the exiled Slovenes in Lower Styra, the German language island in Kočevje region ceased to exist. In the war and post-war period has been destroyed more than half of the gottschee settlements and many cultural monuments. On them reminds only modest remains, which are more and more overgrown with forest.
On emptied territory after the eviction of German inhabitants developed partisan movement. That is why Partisans in October 1943 in the hall of Šeškov Dom (named after the national hero Jože Šeško) prepared the assembly of the representatives of the Slovenian people, which was the biggest political gathering during the National Liberation War. One of the key roles Kočevje region, which wat after the Second World War marked by big Slovenian traumas, from mass murders to political prison camps and mysterious closed area around the Gotenica, performed also in in a period of Slovenia’s independence, as there were established foundations of the army of emerging Slovenian state. Time of independence was marked with a economical regression, so nowadays Kočevje region belongs among weakest developed regions in the state.
Despite all these facts the Kočevje region can offer a lot to a curious visitor. There is something for everyone, not just the beautiful nature, but also other attractions, for example: the pillory – ”pranger” in Predgrad, the fairy-tale Bilpa wall, where already the Valvasor had seen a face of the devil, our the second largest castle complex in the Kostel, the thickest nut tree in Kočevska Reka… Andi f you want to know, where was born one of the fathers of Slovenian national flag or how Peter Klepec obtained his tremendous power, you will also find answers in Kočevje region. Come and see for yourself!