“Maria had decided that, in honour of Metod, she would try to prepare something special to eat and drink and would make the journey to Polhov Gradec, the district’s largest village, 25 kilometres west of the capital, Ljubljana. There, she could collect grocery coupons with which she might redeem staples like oil, flour and other necessities – if she could find them.” p iv The Lacemaker’s Son by Ted Setnikar.
The path to Polhov Gradec winds its way through narrow valleys. Alternating wider stretches are planted to crops of maize. Grazing cows defy gravity as they feed on the luscious pastures of the lower slopes. Clusters of houses and small villages nestle into available spaces on the steep hillsides. Flowing streams tumble and burst out of forest groves. Apple trees and flourishing vegetable gardens groan with autumn readiness. The forested hillsides show signs of winter’s snow and ice damage, the fallen timber reappearing, neatly stacked, in each farm’s kozolec. Do any of the fallen trees take out houses?
In Polhov Gradec it is midday. The church bells are chiming and their echo can be heard rebounding from the surrounding hills. Did Maria hear these very bells when she arrived on her mission that day? And where did she walk to find the things she needed? Am I walking in her steps, too? Was the sun shining, like it is today?
At 13:00 I’m sitting on the stone steps of The Church of Mary’s Birth, having taken a narrow, vertical footpath through flowering meadow grasses: blue, yellow and white. The breeze is a welcome relief for someone more accustomed to walking in flatlands! Along the way I passed a grotto, circa 1715. Did Maria stop here too? I’m surrounded by memories, memories of loved ones whose earthly story has ended. Those who hold their memories and stories have transformed this peaceful place into a veritable garden of red, yellow and orange: marigolds, begonias and daisies. Each resting place is home to several red glass-encased candles. I spot the tombstone of Ivan Cankar. I had no idea he is buried here.
One of my goals had not yet been realised. Without a town map, and with very hilly and winding terrain, I’d still not found the castle or the beekeeping cooperative. I know that might sound ridiculous, not seeing or finding a castle! But this one turned out to be well hidden! I also learned something very important: ALWAYS TAKE THE NEXT STEP. I was on a path leading out of the village heading in the general direction of Crni vrh, and was about to turn back because every bend so far had revealed nothing, when the inner voice spoke. Just 200m more, and there was the entrance to the castle! And up another path, the beekeeping cooperative. I had found my honey, just as Maria found her sought-after treasures that day long ago.