Destinations Magazine

Franja Partisan Hospital: A Secret WWII Hospital in Slovenia

By Monkeys And Mountains Adventure @Laurel_Robbins

To be honest, I wasn’t all that excited about my visit.  I’m not much into war history, nor museums, and a combination of the two sounded like a less than ideal way to spend an afternoon. I was in Slovenia for a hiking trip with Hedonistic Hiking and would have prefered to have spent my time doing more hiking. But to my surprise, my visit to Franja Partisan Hospital was completely fascinating!  In fact, it was one of the highlights of my trip to Slovenia, along with the time we spent in Triglav National Park and hiking the Kobarid Historical Trail.

Franja Partisan Hospital was created in 1943, inside German occupied Europe.  It was an extremely dangerous mission, and despite several attempts to find the hospital, it fortunately remained undiscovered and operational until the end of the war.

The fact that the hospital was never discovered is to the credit of the Slovene Partisans who chose the secret hospital’s location extremely well.  Located deep in the rugged terrain of Pasica Gorge,  with a hidden entrance and camouflaged buildings surrounded by trees, it was extremely difficult to find either from land or air.

To ensure the hospital’s secrecy, each of the critically 578 soldiers that were treated here, were blindfolded, turned around, and then carried through parts of the river on foot – leaving no trace.  I walked along a nice path along the gorge, which didn’t exist during the hospital’s operation  and observing the fast-moving white water, I can’t imagine the strength it would have taken to carry an injured soldier up-stream all the way to the hospital.  Some parts of the river would be impossible to maneuver through and for these parts  bridges were constructed, which could be retracted in case of an enemy invasion.

It’s difficult to fully grasp the extent of building, let alone running a hidden hospital.  The self-guided tour of the reconstructed buildings (the original ones were destroyed in a flood) shows you glimpses of what it must have been like. One of the most memorable parts of the museum for me was one of the signs. It described a patient who had to perform emergency surgery on himself with no pain meds, only guided by the voice of a doctor through a pipe who was in other part of the hospital during a lockdown as enemy planes flew overhead.  It’s truly difficult to grasp the bravery of the medical staff and the patients who recovered here.  I left the museum in awe, wondering, whether I would be as brave the Slovene medical staff and patients were. I highly doubt it. A couple of months later I still enthusiastically relay the story of the Franja Partisan Hospital to anyone that will listen.

Treacherous route through the Pasica Gorge to the secret war hospital.

Treacherous route through the Pasica Gorge to the secret war hospital.
Hidden bunker above the hospital overlooking Pasica Gorge.

Hidden bunker above the hospital overlooking Pasica Gorge.

Entrance to Franja Partisan Hospital with paths, which didn't exist in WWII

Entrance to Franja Partisan Hospital. It’s much easier to get there today along the paths, which didn’t exist during WWII.

The secret hospital was built in  camouflaged buildings deep in the Pasica Gorge

The secret hospital was built in camouflaged buildings deep in the Pasica Gorge, with an escape route.

Surgery room in the secret war hospital in Slovenia

Surgery room

Know Before You Go to Franja Partisan Hospital

  • You must walk to the hospital’s entrance along a gorge.  It’s flat and an easy walk of ~15 minutes, but not accessible by wheel chair.
  • The museum is located just under 5km from Cerkno in western, Slovenia.
  • Franja Partisan Hospital is open from 9:00 – 18:00 April 1st – September 30th, until 16:00 in October.  From November 1st – March 31st it is only open in good weather or with a group booking.  Call to make arrangements: +386 5 37 23 180
  • Entrance is a very reasonable €4.
  • It’s a self-guided tour and takes approximately an hour to tour all the buildings.
  • Signs at the hospital museum are in English.
  • Visit the museum’s website for further info.

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