Vršič (1,611 m) is the highest mountain pass in Slovenia that connects the regions Primorje and Upper Carniola region (Slov. Gorenjska). It passes right through the heart of the Julian Alps and the views from its trails are captivating for any traveller. Most of the roads and bridges in this area were built in World War I by almost 10,000 Russian war prisoners on the command of the Austrian forces. The side including the road from the top of the pass to Kranjska Gora is named the Russian Street.
THE PAGAN GIRL
Few hundred metres down to the valley stands the Pagan Girl (Slov. Ajdovska deklica). The Pagan Girl is the rock face of a maiden that found its own special place in folk fable. Legend has it that the Pagan maidens foretold the people of Kranjska Gora their fortune at birth. They also advised the people when to sow their crops and when to harvest them. One of the maidens foretold the son of a hunter that he would kill the Goldenhorn, the white buck which inhabited the surrounding mountains and guarded a hidden treasure in the mountains. This prophecy angered the other maidens who punished Pagan girl by turning her into rock.
THE RUSSIAN CHAPEL
The Russian Chapel (Slov. Ruska kapelica) was built to honour the memory of those who died and to serve as a reminder of the follies of war. The Russian prisoners built the neat little chapel between 1916 and 1917. The chapel has two small towers built in the traditional Russian style. All around the chapel and along the roadside are the graves of Russian soldiers.
In the First World War, Vršic was a strategic point providing the Austrian troops a more accessible route to the Isonzo Front (Slov. Soška fronta). The supply of arms was crucial and the road to Vršič had to be kept clear at all times, including during the winter months. Therefore, in winter, huge amounts of snow were cleared from the road by the Russian war prisoners under close supervision of the Austrian army. One day, a huge avalanche buried the Russian prison camp, killing more than three hundred Russian prisoners and ten of their guards.