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Traces of Industry in Tržič

In the previous century, shoemaking had a strong influence on the life of Tržič residents. Metal shoeprints on the ground will lead you along the paths of industry. They will direct you through the whole of the historic centre and draw your attention to points where shoemaking was most prevalent through history. The locations are connected together in a circular walk around Tržič that takes a bit over an hour to complete. Along the way you can view some of the cultural and tourist attractions of the town.

Tržič - the home of shoemaking heritage

Tržič is  famous in Slovenia and beyond for its exceptional shoemaking heritage. The earliest shoe factories began to develop there in the 1870s, and in 1903 the Peko Shoe Factory was founded. Today shoes are manufactured in the city and nearby towns in smaller plants developed by local entrepreneurs.

Tržič has a beautiful historic town centre, where the spirit of the past is intertwined with the contemporary. The atmosphere of a 1492 market town, today a city, invites exploration.

TRACES OF INDUSTRY IN TRŽIČ

In the second half of the 19th century Tržič shoemakers began manufacturing nailed footwear. The various layers of the leather soles of shoes, boots, and other footwear were held together by wooden pins or pegs.

Durable footwear designed for use in the mountains, forests, and other rugged outdoor environments were made with hobnails, which protected the leather sole from wearing out too quickly. Nails were obtained mainly from Kropa, and shoes of this type would be worn for several decades since they were so durable.

The metal imprints of the soles (see photo) marked selected footwear plants in Tržič (see the yellow numbers on the map). From the second half of the 19th century on, the development of the town was strongly shaped by the manufacturing of footwear, which transformed handicrafts into an industry.

1. Pǝr Šlósarjǝ

There were more than ten shoemaking workshops on the main square. This house used to be the shoe shipping point of Herman Goeken. Later on they made slippers here – especially popular were slippers with tassels. Goeken opened one of the first footwear factories in Tržič, which was later taken over by Peter Kozina.

To the left of the entrance of the house Pr' Šlosarj', there is an image on the wall in the "firb'c oknu" (convex window) of the patron saints of shoemakers - Saints Crispin and Crispinian.

2. Pǝr Kaštrún

Here is where the notable Kastrun family made footwear. This house is also the birthplace of Joža Gros, the father of Miha Gros, who today owns the company Migi. The trade was passed down from generation to generation – Joža Gros even today is one of the best sources of information about the craft of artisan shoemaking. His life story is presented in the Tržič Museum.

3. Brodi

Today the Brodi company manufactures a range of slippers and other leather products, thereby continuing the Tržič shoemaking tradition - there were always some specialized slipper makers among them.

4. Pr' Hrovat

Hrovat was known for making hiking and ski boots as well as ice skates. Hiking boots were also called gojzarji - a name they acquired after the Austrian town of Bad Goisern, where they were first made.

5. Pər Fôltkə

This is the site of the former Klofutar shoemaking workshop, where custom-made footwear was made as well as ready-made items that were taken to Ljubljana and the Balkans for sale.

6. Pər Razbórškə / Jára

Janez Razboršek established a small shoe factory called Jara in this house in 1929. He employed about a hundred people. Later Trio was located here.

It was widely known that workers at Jara were very poorly paid. The lowest paid earned only a dinar per hour in the interwar period, so people called the factory the "dinar fabərka".

7. Pər Mehlét / Zgórən Vógu

The owner of this house was the well-known shoemaker and Tržič cobbler Konrad Mehle, Sr. He was an excellent shoe modeler and made orthopedic footwear as well as fine hunting boots for Baron Karl Born.

He had two sons, Konrad Jr. and Alojzij; Alojzij was educated in Vienna at the shoemaking school of Robert Knöfl, who founded the first specialized shoemaking school in 1876. Later Alojzij taught at the vocational school in Tržič.

8. Pər Komátelnek

This house was bought by master shoemaker Konrad Mehle in 1935. Prior to that footwear was made here by Janez Andošek.

9. Pər Podgórcə

This was the home of Jurij Miklavčič, a Tržič master shoemaker.

10. Pər Nôšet

The Ješe family were also among well-known Tržič shoemakers - there were over 90 workshops in the town alone. They also sold their products in Croatia, particularly Dalmatia, and further south in the Balkan Peninsula.

11. Pər Nántə

In the 19th century the master shoemaker Ferdinand Salberger lived here, and after him, his son, the shoemaker Jožef Salberger.

12. Pər Bərkè

The well-known shoemaking family Srečnik ran a workshop here, employing a number of workers. The family were known for their cheerful nature. 

13. Pər Prézelnek / Pər Páckə

This house belonged to master shoemaker Matija Pleničar - Radon, who was accepted into the guild in 1826 as master shoemaker. At that time shoes were still made in a way such that the shoes for right and left feet were identical.

During the period between the wars Jožef Zupan, known as Brave Joško, lived here.

14. Špitau

Peter Jurkovič, who previously worked for Ude and Mehle, made shoes here starting in 1942.

Otherwise the Tržič poorhouse used to be sited here.

15. Pər Pútnek

Shoemakers from the Grasmajer family worked here, making up to 20,000 pairs of shoes annually. After the Second World War this factory, like most others, was nationalized, and the owners fled abroad.

16. Pər Grôgcə / Pər Molínet

In this house shoes were made by Janez Slapar during the interwar period. He and his wife were regarded as Tržič legends and the 1975 docudrama film Cobblers' Autumn was based on their lives.

17. The Mally & Demberger factory

The factory operated for a time at No. 10 Glavni Trg (Main Square) before moving to No. 18. It was founded at the beginning of the third quarter of the 19th century. The factory burned down in the 1930s.

Tržič was home not only to individual craftsmen and the Klofutar workshop, which employed a number of shoemakers, but also to two German shoe factories: the Mally & Demberger Amalgamated Shoe Factory (1874) and the Müller & Goeken Shoe Factory (1889).

The Mally & Demberger factory was founded by the brothers Philipp and Christian Demberger, the sons of a Frankfurt banker. They analysed economic conditions in Tržič and took advantage of them to establish a lucrative business. They saw a business opportunity in supplying leather and fabricated uppers to people working from home, then marketing the finished goods. Since they themselves lacked a background in shoemaking, they brought master craftsmen to Tržič who could draw the designs and tailor the leather. This type of organization of the production process did not require a lot of capital: in the beginning they did not need machinery or even a factory.

The company first operated under the name Ohr & Demberger. They rented premises in the abandoned Peharč dyeing factory. Fric Demberger eventually linked up with Karl B. Mally, who saw an opportunity for the more rational utilization of scrap leather and inferior and blemished goods from his tannery.

18. Pər Jelénc

Anton Jelenc operated a factory for making children's shoes in this building from 1921 to 1932  – they were called baby shoes. Quite a few Tržič shoemaking workshops were specialized for manufacturing children's footwear, sold as early as in the interwar years throughout the former Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes, much of it in Dalmatia.

Anton Jelenc is considered the pioneer of Tržić skiing.

19. Pər Gégnə

From 1893 to 1920 Julij Goeken had his shoe factory here. It was acquired, workers included, by Peter Kozina, the founder of what used to be the  most modern factory in this part of Europe - Peko.

SIGHTSEEING WALK AROUND TRŽIČ

Shoeprints with wooden nails (see photo) take you by some interesting sights (see the green numbers on the map), such as:

1. The dragon from the rooster's egg

2. "firb'c okno"

This is a specially designed convex window that is very practical for the curious, and in fact that is its purpose and function for which it is adapted. In order to observe what is going on in the street you needn't even lean out of it. They say it's better than television or rather that at times it replaced television.

Similar windows were known elsewhere in Slovenia and beyond, but the "curiosity" associated with it was supposedly a specific feature of Tržič.

3. Germovka Forge

The Germovka Forge, located in the old metalworking area of the town, is a testament to the once highly developed metalworking trade in Tržič. Germovka is one of the two oldest Tržič producers of scythes. In 1811 it burned down in a massive fire and was later reconstructed in keeping with its former appearance; it is the only one of the once numerous forges and blast furnaces to be preserved after the fire. It operated up until 1945; in the last few decades of its operation primarily garden tools were manufactured there.

Today its interior has been arranged for viewing by visitors. In the blacksmith's workshop the old forges, bellows, power hammer and some other equipment are preserved. On display are also old smithing tools – pliers, hammers, various drills, tongs, etc. In a smaller space, the grindery, is a nicely preserved grindstone with a very rare manner of wetting, powered by a beautifully preserved propeller-driven wheel.

4. The Church of St. Andrew

According to reliable sources, the Church of St. Andrew stood at the upper end of the main square even before 1526. This is when there was a census of all the churches, including St. Andrew, for the purposes of collecting a tax to the Ottomans.

The present-day branch Church of St. Andrew was built in 1865 by the Škofja Loka builder Molinaro. It includes the original bell tower, which acquired its present appearance in 1929, but otherwise a Gothic church stood here as early as in the 15th century. The main and side altars from 1875 are the work of the stonecutter Anton Kalz.

In 1871 it was in this church that the Christmas song Silent Night was performed for the first time in the Slovene language, translated from the German by Jakob Aljaž, who was serving as a priest in Tržič at the time.

5. Kurnik House

Kurnik House occupies a special place in the old centre of Tržič. This beautifully renovated memorial house is an example of architecture from the period after 1689, when Tržič was hit by the first major fire. Most buildings as well as the parish church standing above it were burned down. The present-day Kurnik House was built in the mid-18th century on the foundations of the building that was destroyed by the fire; it is a combination of Tržič and rural architecture of that period.

It changed hands a number of times up until the beginning of the 19th century, when it was acquired by the Kurnik family (known locally as Rodar), who were wheelwrights. One of them was the folk poet Vojteh Kurnik. The house remained in the possession of the family up until the end of the 1960s, when Mici Kurnik, the last owner, bequeathed it to the Tržič Museum.

6. Tekec nativity scene

In the old part of Tržič you can view the private gallery of the Ribnikar family, where the Tekec nativity scene attracts the most interest. The original nativity scene was created over the years between 1935 and 1970 by the late Jožef Ribnikar. In 2000 it was added to by sculptor Vinko Ribnikar, his son. The elaborate and imaginative nativity scene attracts the attention not only of local people but also visitors from other places; each year several thousand visitors come view it. Also exhibited in the gallery are sculptures by son Vinko and paintings by daughter Marica Šmid, with something new added every year.

7. Church of the Annunciation

There are three churches in the town of Tržič.  In the single-nave neo-classicist parish Church of the Annunciation, built in the early 19th century, a silver-plated Baroque statue of Mary by the Scapular Confraternity dating from the 18th century is of particular value.

8. Town Hall

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