Sitting in the foothills of the spectacular Karavanke mountains and Kamnik Alps, Begunje na Gorenjskem, or just Begne to the locals, first appeared in the historical records around the 11th century. The village and surrounding countryside is rich in natural beauty and cultural heritage including a number of significant archaeological sites.
At the heart of Begunje is the impressive Katzenstein Mansion and gardens, the onetime home of the Lamberg Counts the building also served as a penitentiary for women before the Second World War and then as an infamous Gestapo prison during the war. The mansion is closed to the public apart from a wing which has been transformed into the Museum of Hostages, where displays detail the horrifying experiences of the more than 11,000 prisoners who suffered at the mansion. Also make sure to have a stroll through the mansion’s gardens which house a magnificent pavilion designed by the famous Slovene architect, Jože Plečnik.
Before taking residence at Katzenstein the Lamberg Counts resided in the nearby Kamen 'Stone' Castle, which dates from the 12th century when it was built by the counts of Ortenburg. Located at the entrance of the picturesque Draga Valley, it is well worth visiting the imposing ruins of the castle and climbing the preserved Romanesque tower. Visiting the ruins is free though be careful as you enter and climb at your own risk. The Draga Valley is the starting point for some excellent hikes up into the mountains and there are many other great walks nearby including themed trails, check at tourist information centre for details.
In addition to its castles and mansions Begunje is also famous for being home to Elan, one of the world’s leading ski manufacturers, and Slavko Avsenik, a pioneer of popular Slovene folk music. You can purchase a set of award winning skis directly from the Elan factory and there are weekly folk music concerts held at the Avsenik Restaurant, or if you miss the show check out the fascinating little Avsenik Museum, which is found next to the restaurant.