At the Bloke Plateau in Slovenia, winter lasts nine months. The rest of the year, it is just cold.
That name doesn’t have anything to do with the English word »bloke«, chaps! Bloška planota, in English the Bloke plateau, is an old name for an upland region in southern Slovenia. This name probably comes from the word obloke: meaning low, rounded mountains. And indeed, the Bloke plateau is surrounded by low, rounded mountains. The plateau itself is, as a plateau should be, mainly flat. When you are there, it is easy to forget that it lies at a an altitude of 750 m asl, but not in winter. Then the Bloke plateau shows its true face and it can become bitterly cold. Night temperatures of minus 15°C are nothing out of the ordinary and minus 30°C is reached for short periods. Snow can remain here for months, although this varies and some winters there is little snow, if any.
In Slovenia, the Bloke plateau is well known as the place where Slovenians have invented skiing, entirely independent of the Norwegian skiing tradition. For several centuries, the Bloke people have made heavy skis of the local beech-wood. These were used in daily life: people went on ski’s to visit neighbour and even funerals were organised on skis! Recently, a delightful small museum has been made about this tradition. You will find contact information on the website of county Bloke here: https://www.bloke.si/muzejska-razstava.html This website is in Slovenian, but when you like to visit the museum, you can contact them also in English.
Also in summer, temperatures on the Bloke plateau stay lower than in the rest of Slovenia. This means that daytime temperatures are surprisingly pleasant, between twenty and thirty degrees. Summer nights remain cool, often below 15°C. The landscape on the plateau is mainly open, with extensive meadows. Some meadows are used for hay-making, others for cattle grazing and most for both of these purposes.
Towards the northwestern part of the Plateau, the tiny stream Bloščica meanders through wet meadows. Without a doubt, this is the most important part of the area from a nature perspective. Parts of this area are not in use for agriculture and a bumpy vegetation has developed with tussocks of Purple Moor-grass, where it can be tricky to walk. However, especially this area which is well worth to visit because of the special flora and fauna.
At the Bloke plateau we find a variety of meadows, ranging from dry to wet and from intensively grazed used to extensive hay-meadows. The most extensively used meadows are mown once a year, and not fertilized. Here, we find the most diverse vegetation and in early summer these meadows change into colourful carpets of flowers. The floristically most interesting dry meadows are dominated by yellow-flowering Rattles. In these places, we also find most wild orchid species. Some of the wet meadows are important for orchids as well, with the rare pure-white Transylvanian orchid and Marsh Hellebore. At some of the most nutrient-poor places, we may encounter the carnivorous Sundew.
The wet areas along Bloščica are also the most important for butterflies, which include Marsh Frittilary, Scarce Large Blue and Alcon Blue. Not surprisingly, this is an important area for dragonflies as well. The showiest dragonfly, and in summer hard to miss, is the Beautiful Demoiselle. In spite of its feminine name, it is the male of this species which stands out because of his wings with a beautiful purple-blue iridescence. Careful observers may encounter other, more rare species as well. These include the Club-Tailed Dragonfly and the Balkan Goldenring: the largest of all Slovenian dragonflies.
The stream Bloščica itself is home to numerous fish, but there are just a handful of species. Mostly, we see Chub, Danube Gudgeon and Minnow, while there are few Pike as well. The sides of the stream have many holes, which are especially well visible when the water level is low. These are made by Noble Crayfish, a species which is nowadays under great pressure from an alien fungus disease, the Crayfish Plague. Spores of this fungus can be transported with water and even with wet fishing equipment from one stream to the next. Fortunately, Bloščica’s fish species are largely uninteresting for fishermen, but please be careful and do not step in the stream when your boots are still wet from another stream or river. If Crayfish Plague is accidentally brought to Bloščica, that would be the end of one of Slovenia’s strongest populations of Noble Crayfish …
Perhaps surprisingly for such a small stream, Otters live here. They are not easily seen, but you may find remaining parts of crayfish skeletons and other faeces (»scats«), which are full of crayfish fragments: wherever present, crayfish form an important part of other diets. Roe Deer are especially numerous at the Bloke plateau, and in many places, you can find tracks of Red Deer as well. Other mammals include Badger, Fox and Brown Bear. In many of the dry meadows, there are large populations of Field Voles and (terrestrially living) Water Voles. These, in turn, support large numbers of Common Buzzards, Kestrels and several owl species.