Ajd literally means “heaten ” in Slovenian, but it also denotes a sort of supernatural quality.
This rock formation, known as “Ajdovska Deklica” but traditionally known to English speakers as the “Heathen Maiden” that resembles a human face can be seen in the northern face of Mount Prisojnik near Kranjska Gora, in the Julian Alps in northwestern Slovenia.
When you arrive at the top of the Vršič Pass, park your car and take some time to admire the high mountain peaks that look at the valley below: they are the guardians of the last remnants of Zlatorog’s kingdom, an alpine paradise with vast green meadows and colorful mountain flowers that was devastated due to several unfortunate events.
Zlatorog (in english, Goldenhorn) was a mythical majestic chamois with golden horns who lived in these mountains in ancient pagan times. Together with his white goats gazed the high alpine green meadows in a world shared with ancient gods, giants, good white fairies and dragons became lost in the vail of time. His main task was to lead the good white fairies through the dangerous mountain slopes safely and to protect the remarkable treasure hidden within Mt Bogatin.
Just 15 minutes of walk from the parking stands the mountain hut, Poštarski dom. From there you can see the rocky cliffs of Mt Prisank and, if you look closely, you will be able to see the sad face of a maiden petrified to eternity.
According to local folklore, the maiden was a good-hearted villager who often guided travelers through snowstorms. In some versions, she was even a nymph or forest spirit and she also had prophetic abilities as she could foretell the fates of unborn babies. One day, she prophesized about a boy who would grow to become a hunter and catch Zlatorog himself. Infuriated that she foresaw the death of the chamois, the maiden’s siblings placed a curse on her: when she returned home on Mount Prisojnik, her body was transformed into stone.
Still today, the maiden’s cursed form remains on the northern wall of Prisojnik, and her stony eyes are still staring from Mt Prisank down to the Trenta Valley.
In any case, the tragic story of the kindhearted giantess trapped in rock holds the truth about an ancient trading route linking Sava and Soča Valleys: look at the steep mountain slopes and you can still imagine the agony of the travellers who got caught in snow, fog or heavy storms, and you can easily understand the strong wish of survival that gave birth to the story of this powerful protector in the massive rock.
Now, she is no longer able to help weary travelers on their way across Vršič, but It is said that thankful locals from the Trenta Valley kept bringing her food until the outbreak of the World War II. Now the new road can safely bring you and your car from one valley to another in less than an hour, but Vršič Pass is still closed during the winter months due to the unpredictable weather conditions and frequent avalanches. And Ajdovska Deklica is still here to remind us on the powerful forces of nature.
Images from web – Google Research