Sunday, October 23, 2005

Dolenjska and Bela krajina

Dolenjska and Bela krajina

1. What and where?

Dolenjska and Bela Krajina is a large, mostly forested area of south-eastern Slovenia, dotted with small villages and gently rolling hills. Dolenjska is a land of hilltop and riverside castles, monasteries and small farms, which is dominated by the fast-flowing Krka river, whose rapids are a popular location for canoeing and kayaking. This large unspoilt agricultural area is characterised by low hills and woods, which make it ideal for walkers and cyclists. Dolenjska is perhaps best-known for its thermal spas where visitors come to enjoy the beneficial effects of the waters in a peaceful natural environment. The double hayracks of this region are found nowhere else in Europe.
Bela Krajina is an area of ancient birch forest and a land where ancient customs still hold sway. Jurjevanje, one of the most important celebrations of folklore in Slovenia, is a three-day festival of music, dance and bonfires taking place in mid-June.

2. History

The Romans had a garrison at Trebnje, but there is good evidence of people living here long before they arrived. The Dolenjska Museum in Novo mesto displays priceless finds of jewellery, swords and vessels decorated with birds and figures. Do not miss the Hallstatt helmet spectacularly slashed by an axe.
The Slavic ancestors of today's Slovenians arrived in the 6th century. The land they settled has, until 1918, been part of succeeding European empires including the Carolingian and finally the Austro-Habsburg empire.
Ottoman Turks repeatedly attacked in the 15th and 16th centuries. Castles were built and manor houses fortified with steep roofs and corner bastions; and foreign nobles built grand houses in the 1700s. But the area has remained essentially Slovenian, with a notable flowering of Slovenian arts and letters in the 18th century.
The Church has been important in the life of the country and churches are often prominent landmarks. Many of them look Baroque in style, but are Gothic in origin. Look inside for frescoes and surprisingly delicate and restrained Baroque altarpieces as at Mirna (see left), Šentrupert, Vesela Gora (see page 7) and Stopiče (see map - A). Vaulted ceilings are often painted with a delicate tracery of flowers. If the church is locked, the priest or neighbour will usually let you in.

3. Places of Interest
In Dolenjska and Bela krajina, history is particularly coloured by years of resistance to foreign rule and invasion; and by a strong pride in Slovenian identity. You will find a fascinating heritage of historic places, archaeology, rural tradition, religion, festivals and cultural events.

a) Food and wine
Slovenian cuisine has been influenced by its neighbours so you will find elements of Italian, Austrian, Hungarian and Balkan dishes. Traditional specialities include potica, suckling pig (odojek), spiced sausages (pečenice) and black pudding (krvavice), venision (divjačina), pork (svinjina) and trout (postrv), with local vegetables and salad.
At one of the popular "gostilna", your meal typically might include salami (suhe klobase, salama) and cured ham (šunka) beef soup with noodles (goveja juha z rezanci), meat served with salad and a delicious "štrudel", either filled with apple or cherry, or nuts and raisins, and curd cheese (skuta). You will be offered a selection of good local wines (vino), or beer (pivo); and good coffee (kava).

b) Festivals, fairs and celebrations
· The international festival of naive art at Trebnje in June,
· farm events in many areas in the summer:
- "Igre pod dedovo lipo"
- "Metliške grajske prireditve"
- "Straška jesen"
- "Praznik harmonike"
- "Vinska vigred"
- "Kostanjeviška noč"
- "Topliška noč"
- "Semiška ohcet"
· the choir festival in Šentvid near Ivančna Gorica,
· fairs in Šentjernej, (the largest in Slovenia) and in Mokronog and Vesela Gora,
· celebration of the missionary
· Baraga, in Trebnje in June,
· annual performances of the plays of Josip Jurčič in the open air
· theatre at Muljava in summer,
· Črnomelj's fireman's festival, the Florjanovo, on 4th May, and the grand festival of folk dance and music in June - Jurjevanje.

c) Museums, castles, caves, spas,..
· Turjak Castle,
· Trubar Homestead,
· Podpeška jama cave,
· Ribnica Castle,
· Ledena and Želinje caves
· Kostel Castle(Kolpa river canyon and Nežica waterfall),
· Krška jama cave,
· Dolenjske Toplice health resort,
· island castle Otočec,
· Šmarješke Toplice health resort,
· Rosalnice(a group of three Gothic pilgrimage churches from the 14th and 15th century),
· Lahinja Landscape Park,
· Carthusian Monastery,
· Kostanjevica Castle and the Forma Viva sculpture park,
· Čatež Thermal Spa,
· Mokrice Castle.

4. Municipalities
The municipalities in the region of Dolenjska are:
· Novo mesto (civic municipality)
Novo mesto is the economic and cultural center of the Dolenjska region. It is situated at the crossroads of the main traffic routes in the middle of a hilly landscape just above the Krka river meander.
This area was settled above 1000 years B.C. Arheological excavations shows that the place was inhabited from the end of the Bronze Age until the end of the Roman empire. Most of the excavations are kept in the Dolenjska museum. The town was founded on the 7th of April 1365 by the Rudolf IV. von Hapsburg in purpose to firm a base of the Hapsburgs in their advance towards the Adriatic sea. A grammar-school was founded in 1746 and in 1749 a district office. The town got its primary school and in 1816 a girls-school. In 1850 was estabilshed the gendarmery and the court. In 1875 the National home (Narodni dom) was completed - it was the first in Slovene teritory. The railway connected Novo mesto with the other parts of the industrial Europe in 1894.
In 1958 the highway Ljubljana-Zagreb was built - that caused that Novo mesto started to grow in one of the main economic and industrial centres in Slovenia.
· Črnomelj
· Dolenjske Toplice
· Metlika
· Mirna Peč
· Semič
· Šentjernej
· Trebnje
· Žužemberk


Matej Lenarčič, Peter Vonča, Hudobivnik Luka, Matic Tržan, G2A


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