Ljubelj (Loibl) Pass
The steepest and most beautiful route to Europe
No route in Europe is as steep and beautiful as this one. This is the heart of the land of Tržič. Ever since there have been people in this region, there has been a route over the Karawanks to northern Europe here. For many long centuries it enabled smithing, tanning, and shoemaking to flourish, as Tržič inhabitants sold their highly esteemed craft products to faraway parts of Europe.
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The oldest road pass in Europe is also one of the most beautiful
Ljubelj Pass at the top of the valley is adorned by two stone obelisks. The road to the pass is today closed to cars apart from in September, when vintage cars and motorcycles roar through here in the International Oldtimers Mountain Race. In winter there is an extreme sledding run for the crazy and adventurous, and below the pass is Slovenia's first adventure park.
The road leading to the oldest mountain pass in Europe tells countless stories about history and the people who have travelled along it:
- The Romans used this route across Ljubelj to connect the settlements of Emona (the "precursor" of Ljubljana) and Virunum, the capital city of the province of Noricum, located in Zollfeld;
- In 1036 the blessed Countess Hemma of Gurk was crossing the pass when she learned of the unfortunate death of her two sons:
- In 1239 the Patriarch of Aquileia made a gift of several estates to the Church of St. Leonard on the Carinthian side under the condition that the property be used to support the priest and a few servants charged with guarding the pass against robbers;
- In 1492 the charter granted by Emperor Frederick III elevating Tržič to the status of a market town was carried from Vienna over the pass;
- Towards the end of the 15th century Christoph Lambergar crossed Ljubelj on his way to Vienna to fight against Pegam;
- In 1560 repair and reconstruction of the road was begun, which lasted 20 years;
- In 1567 Primož Trubar fled by way of Ljubelj riding on a donkey;
- In 1575 a short tunnel (length 100 m) was built just below the top of the pass, one of the first mountain tunnels in Europe;
- In 1689 Janez Vajkard Valvasor wrote in his work The Glory of the Duchy of Carniola "A few years ago I myself had the intention of digging a hole through the mountain (Ljubelj) at its foot in the same dimensions as that above, such that it would be possible to ride a horse or drive a cart through it. And I had everything all measured out. The hole would go in at St. Anne and come out at St. Leonhard. In this way it would go directly straight from entrance to exit..." and thus first presented the idea of the present-day Ljubelj tunnel. How far ahead of his time he was is attested by the fact that the present-day tunnel (length 1.8 km) was opened only in 1964;
- In 1728 the provincial governor Wolf Waikard Gallenberg, upon learning that Emperor Charles V would be travelling over the pass, had a tunnel dug and a road cut. To commemorate this event the Carniolan provincial landed gentry had two obelisks erected that still stand there. The rock was brought in from Ljubljana on 20 wagons pulled by 187 draft horses;
- On 16 November 1875 a postal wagon that travelled over the pass between Ljubljana and Klagenfurt every day made its last trip over Ljubelj;,
- In 1912 the Austrian heir to the throne Franz Ferdinand stopped at Ljubelj;
- In April 1941 the German occupying army invaded Gorenjska from Austria by way of the pass.
You can learn more about the history of this route over Ljubelj at the Tržič Museum.
To get to Ljubelj Pass, which lies at an elevation of 1369 m, leave your car at the plateau before the entrance to Ljubelj Tunnel, where there is a parking area. A gravel road leads to the pass, not quite two kilometres in length, with 13 serpentines. It is closed to car traffic. There is a renovated mountain hostel at the pass; in clear weather there is a good view of the Ljubljana and Klagenfurt basins.
In winter the road to Ljubelj Pass is used as a sledding run (at your own risk), in August there is a traditional EU dance without borders, and in September the popular Hrast Memorial, a mountain race for oltimer cars and motorcycles, passes here.
Part of the old Ljubelj road, from the border crossing of Ljubelj to the pyramids on the Slovenian side of the old border crossing of Ljubelj, has been declared a cultural monument of local significance.