Category: Culture and History

Culture and history articles about Slovenia.

Kurentovanje festival in Ptuj

Ptuj beside the River Drava
Ptuj beside the River Drava

The Kurentovanje festival in Ptuj. Now this looks like fun!

The Kurentovanje is the most important carnival event in Slovenia with a 50-year-old tradition which preserve the ethnographical tradition.

Full details of this 11 day festival (05 Feb 2010 to 16 Feb 2010) and loads of pictures can be found at the Kurentovanje website.

Kurentovanje Festival in Ptuj - © Andrejj at Wikimedia Commons
Kurentovanje Festival in Ptuj - © Andrejj at Wikimedia Commons

Besides the festival, Ptuj is a great place to visit (as well as pronounce!, try Pertooee). Situated beside the wide River Drava, the heart of this medieval town is overlooked by Ptuj Grad which dates back to the first half of the 12th century, but most of the present day castle dates from between the 14th and 18th centuries.

St Florian Column in Mestni trg
St Florian Column in Mestni trg
The castle also houses the Ptuj Regional Museum. The narrow streets and squares are fun to wander through, there always seem to be something interesting around every corner such as the Florian Column in Mestni trg.

Full details of Pjuj’s attractions, accommodation and restaurants etc, can be found at the Ptuj Tourist Information Centre website.

Book – The Food and Cooking of Slovenia

Food and Cooking of Slovenia
Food and Cooking of Slovenia

NEW BOOK – The Food and Cooking of Slovenia: Traditions, Ingredients, Tastes and Techniques in Over 60 Classic Recipes.

This inspirational new book reveals the full potential of this little-known cuisine, a fascinating blend of European and Slavic tastes. Whether one chooses to start with the smoky flavored sweet-and-sour Bean and Sauerkraut Hotpot from the Primorska region close to the Adriatic sea, or the celebrated multi-layered Prekmurje Gibanica Pie from the north east, the selection of dishes gives a delightful insight into the varied and wholesome tastes of Slovenia.

More Slovene cooking books are available from our Slovenia Bookshop.

Shrines in Slovenia

Detail of shrine at Luče
Detail of shrine at Luče

When driving around or, better still, walking or hiking in Slovenia you cannot fail to notice the many wayside shrines. They come in all shapes and sizes but most are beautifully decorated, although some are quite simple. Nearly all are well cared-for.

Slovenia in regarded as a Catholic country and although a Slovene is not obliged to reveal their religious beliefs, the 2002 Census reveals that 57.8% of the population are Catholic.

We are not particularly religious but finding a new shrine is always a delight for us, especially when off the beaten track. Very often there are fresh flowers or a lit candle, even when the shrine is a good distance from the nearest road or house. Its all part of the magic that is Slovenia.

You will find shrines on many of our walks –

Hayracks of Slovenia

The ubiquitous hayracks of Slovenia.

A Studor toplar
A Studor toplar

You will not travel far in Slovenia before you see kozolci, the wooden drying racks that dot the fields throughout the country. They are used during the summer months, making excellent hay from the soft meadow grasses, and in the autumn, when wind blowing through the poles dries the beans and maize. These hayracks are seen in other alpine districts, but the beautiful toplarji, double hayracks with a storage loft and roof, are unique to Slovenia. Many were built in the 17th century from oak and beech with carefully shaped and carved beams. There are some fine examples to be seen on our walk through Studor, still in use today and well preserved.

Kozolec near Sorica
Kozolec near Sorica

Whilst many hayracks are still in use it seems that in many areas mechanised farming and bagged silage is making them obsolete, especially the kozolci. It is not uncommon now to see them falling into disrepair, or even being used to display advertising. Its the march of progress I suppose. Who can blame the farmers though? Bagging silage must be much easier than hanging the hay to dry and give a more reliable source of winter fodder for their animals.

Here is a link to an excellent resource for much more detailed information about the hayracks of Slovenia.

Kozolec at Crngrob, near Skofja Loka
Kozolec at Crngrob, near Skofja Loka

WWI Isonzo Front, the Soča Valley, Slovenia

Memorial on Batognica
WWI Isonzo Front memorial on Batognica

World War One began on 28 July 1914, when the Austro-Hungarian Empire declared war on Serbia.  Two opposing blocks entered the war, The Allies, composed of France, Great Britain and Russia on one side and the Central Powers of Germany, Austro-Hungary, Bulgaria and Turkey on the other.  At this stage Italy had not entered the war, remaining neutral until it signed the Treaty of London in 1915 and joined the Allies. Italy declared war on the Austria, Hungary and Germany on 23 May 1915.

The Isonzo Front ran through the Bovec Basin
The Isonzo Front ran through the Bovec Basin

The war was being fought on several fronts throughout Europe and now another was opened up. Running from the Stelvio Pass at the junction of the Italian, Swiss and Austrian borders, it stretched 600km across Tyrol, the Carnian Alps, and the Soča/Isonzo region to the Adriatic Sea. The 90km section of the front running along the River Soča from Mt. Rombon to the Adriatic was called the Isonzo Front (or Soča Front).


Battle raged for nearly two and a half years and twelve offensives took place. The Italians attacked 11 times but each time were unsuccessful. The 12th offensive (sometimes referred to as the Battle of Caporetto and described by Ernest Hemingway in his book, A Farewell to Arms) resulted in a major breakthrough for the joint Austro-Hungarian and German armies who pushed back the Italians to the Piave river, advancing more than 100km towards Venice. Here the advance was halted and, almost exactly a year later, the war ended with the collapse of of the Central Powers.

The grim statistics are that on the Soča Front almost one million people lost their lives, soldiers, plus men, women and children behind the lines.

Today, it is impossible to imagine the horror of it all and the hardships that the soldiers must have endured, but scattered throughout the Soča Valley and on the surrounding mountains are reminders of that terrible time.  Military cemeteries can be found at Trenta, Log Pod Mangarton, Bovec, Kobarid and Tolmin and other locations in the valley.  Most notable perhaps is the Italian Charnel House that stands on the Hill of St Anthony above Kobarid.  Memorials are everywhere, some being simple plaques, others on a grander scale such as the Memorial Church of the Holy Spirit (sv. Duh) at Javorca, near Tolmin.

Austrian-Hungarian cemetery at Log pod Mangarton
Austrian-Hungarian cemetery at Log pod Mangarton

Remains of the battles can be easily spotted – it is hard to go anywhere without coming across ruined defences, gun emplacements, trenches and camps.  Scenes of battle can be visited too.  In order to preserve this heritage as well as possible, the Slovenian Government adopted a ten-year programme in 2000, named “The Soča Region – The Walks of Peace”, as a national and international project. The objective of the project is to preserve, restore and present the historical and cultural heritage of the First World War in the area of the Isonzo Front for the study, tourist and educational purposes. From what we have seen, we can say they are doing an excellent job!

If you would like to explore the front, there is a detailed map of the Soča Front and the many walks that visit it available in tourist offices and shops in Bovec and Kobarid.

Our Slovenia guidebook has several walks in this area and most of them pass by scenes and memorials from the war.

Austro-Hungarian military cemetery at Log pod Mangerton
Austro-Hungarian military cemetery at Log pod Mangerton

Zlatorog

A tale of Zlatorog, the mythical golden-horned chamois.

Zlatorog
Zlatorog

We have read many versions of this tale but it goes something like this –

Zlatorog’s realm was high on Triglav and his golden horns were the key to a great treasure to be found high on the mountain.

In the valley far below, a young hunter fell in love with and courted a beautiful maiden, winning her heart by bringing her flowers. One day a wealthy merchant came by who gained her affections by giving her golden jewelry and dancing with her. The merchant said that if the young hunter loved her so much he should bring the treasure of Zlatorog to her.

Triglav Lakes Valley, Julian Alps
Triglav Lakes Valley, Julian Alps

Angrily, the young hunter set off and climbed up into the wintery mountains to find the golden-horned Chamois. At length he found his prey aimed and shot. Mortally wounded, Zlatorog edged out onto a rocky ledge leaving a trail of blood behind him which melted the snow and there sprang beautiful red flowers, the Triglav Rose. The young hunter followed Zlatorog out on to the ledge but as he did so the Chamois ate some of the flowers and he was instantly healed. Furious, he charged at the hunter who, blinded by the light from Zlatorog’s golden horns, stumbled and fell from the ledge to his death. Eventually, the River Soča carried his body into the valley. In his hands he held a bunch of Triglav roses.

Zlatorog by Jasna Lake
Zlatorog by Jasna Lake

In his fury, Zlatorog gored his way down from the mountain, tearing up the ground and leaving gaping holes that later filled up with water to form the Triglav Lakes valley (sometimes referred to as the “Seven Lakes Valley”). Zlatorog left the mountain, never to return and his treasure remains hidden somewhere under Triglav.

Today, you cannot go far without seeing Zlatorog. We know of two statues, one beside Lake Bohinj at Ribčev Laz and the other beside Jasna Lake at the foot of the Vršič Pass, just to south of Kranjska Gora. Hotels bear his name, there are painting and murals, plus the nations favourite beer (well, its our favourite at least!), brewed by Laško, is named after him.

Please leave a comment below, or contact us, if you have some up to date information that you think might be useful or any suggestions to improve Slovenia-walking.

Julius Kugy – a mountaineer, botanist and author.

Julius Kugy (1858 – 1944)

At an early age Kugy became interested in botany and this soon led him to Trenta and the Julian Alps. He first climbed Triglav when he was 17 years old and is famous for his ascent of Škrlatica, Slovenia’s second highest peak. In total he recorded over 50 new routes. During his lifetime Kugy explored throughout the whole Alpine region but it was to the Julian Alps that he kept returning and it is these mountains, that most of his writings are about.

He wrote seven books about his experiences in the mountains and the guides who accompanied him on his ventures.

Julius Kugy Monument in Trenta
Julius Kugy Monument in Trenta

His most famous work, published in 1925 is “Aus dem Leben eines Bergsteigers” (From the Life of an Alpine-Climber) and it was through his books that the beauty of the Julian Alps became known to the wider world.

Kugy also helped found the Juliana Alpine Botanical Garden in Trenta.

A fine monument now stands beside the road above Trenta at Hairpin No.48 on the road to Vršič, which we visit on our walk around Trenta. Sculpted by Jakob Savinšek, the statue of Kugy is looking west to the fine peak of Jalovec.