The western part of the Semič municipality is covered by a forested, rocky and difficult-to-access karst landscape. The villages of the Kočevje Germans in this wild landscape of Kočevski Rog defied nature for 600 years, until the emigration of the Gottscheers in 1941. Today, these villages are mostly abandoned and in ruins, some vanished. Well-preserved historical sources and numerous books successfully preserve the stories of the Gottscheers from oblivion.
The marked shepherd’s path around Mirna gora also leads through Ponikve. This Gottscheer village stood on the edge of a vast karst field below the western slope of Mirna gora mountain. Two sinking wells and occasional lakes next to them provided residents with enough water to survive. Meadows and good water resources enabled the villagers to raise livestock.
As WWII approached, a wood gas engine generator (36 horsepower) powered a new sawmill operating in the village. The sawmill was constructed during 1935 and 1936 and was in use until a fire in 1939. Soon afterwards the Brinskelle family built a replacement sawmill that began operations in March 1940. In 1941 the sawmill was purchased by a man named Kunstel from Vrhnika. He began a conversion of the sawmill’s gas engine to diesel power. As occurred to the entire village Mr Kunstel’s sawmill was burned down during the war by the Italian soldiers. The scattered ruins can still be seen among the massive spruce trees that have overgrown the former site.
The inhabitants of Ponikve used to be buried in the cemetery on Planina. Today, it is beautifully managed and testifies that their memory lives on.
The Gottscheers have been strongly associated with nature for many centuries. This connection can also be felt by the modern traveller walking through the vast flowering meadows of Ponikve. In these peaceful and tranquil expanses, we can somehow feel the pulse of the past in the breeze, when the playful screams of shepherds was heard across these pastures.
Today, these expanses offer us truly beautiful walks in nature, where the human foot rarely steps. Walking along marked forest paths is full of surprises if only we have the eye to spot them and ear to listen to them. You can walk along the tracks of the Črnomelj-Leseni kamen forest railway or along the Planina-Mirna gora forest educational trail.
The richly illustrated books Here They Lived (Tu so živeli) and Pearls Around Us (Biseri okoli nas) by Rozi Mohar are indispensable in the research of the Gottscheer traces related to Semič.