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The history and development of Idrija, a town of some seven thousand inhabitants, has been inextricably linked to its mines ever since the discovery of mercury here in 1490. During the eighteenth century, the growth and success of the mines – which are now in the process of being closed down for good – spawned a number of other local industries, most importantly forestry and medicine; during this period, the town could justifiably claim to rival Ljubljana as a centre of scientific and technological advancement. Lace-making has also played a significant part in shaping the town's identity; originally a seventeenth-century cottage industry, the craft grew to such an extent that Slovenia's first lace school was established here in the late nineteenth century, an institution that still functions today.
Despite its modest size, Idrija can comfortably summon up enough attractions to rate a full day's sightseeing, more if you're looking to explore the surrounding countryside, with the mysterious Wild Lake within walking distance of town.