Wow, I can’t believe it. Today is the 6th anniversary of my move to Slovenia. The time really has flown by. I wonder how many hundreds, or perhaps thousands, of kilometres I’ve walked, cycled and run around Slovenia during that time! Slovenia is a fantastic place to visit on holiday, particularly for those, like myself, who love being outdoors. However, it certainly isn’t an easy place to live, or rather to try and make a living and it definitely hasn’t all been plain sailing. There have been a lot of highs and low and I’ve been trying to find a word, or words, to sum up the past 6 years but it’s proving harder than anticipated and therefore I think the following pairs of words are more apt:
• Happiness (the good times) and sadness (the bad times)
• Hope (the promise of new work) and despair (it never materialises)
• Elation (actually getting the work) and despondency (feeling like giving up the fight)
• Excitement (conquering a mountain or a tough bike climb) and frustration (finding it difficult to conquer my fears of going downhill, but what goes up must come down!)
• Freedom (being outdoors enjoying the beauty and sounds of nature) and frustration (bureaucracy, bureaucracy, bureaucracy)
• Joy (getting invited somewhere, a hope of meeting new people) and dejection (see despair).
Friday was a public holiday – Prešeren’s Day, which is celebrated in the memory of the death of the great Slovene poet, France Prešeren. I went to Kranj, the capital of the Gorenjska region and just a 20 minute drive from Radovljica, where every year on the 8th February the Prešeren Fair takes place. All around the old town there are links to him including: Prešeren Grove, the cemetery where he was laid to rest, Prešeren Theatre, Prešeren Monument, Prešeren Street, with its Gothic and Baroque townhouses and Prešeren House, now a museum, and where the poet spent the latter years of his life and died. The fair combines a street market with re-enactments of traditions from Prešeren’s times; clothing, music, dance etc. and its always really busy and buzzy. I have been for the last three years and it’s always a pleasant and different way to spend a couple of hours.
On Saturday it was carnival time in Radovljica! Well not just in Radovljica actually. The tradition of ‘Pust’ is a celebration of the harsh winter giving way to spring and a new cycle of farming and nature, though personally mid-February seems a bit optimistic to celebrate this when the snow covered land stills feels incredibly wintery to me! I can but hope that someone, somewhere up there is taking note and it might actually stop snowing soon!
A number of events take place across Slovenia for the Pust Festival. The largest Pust Carnival takes place annually in Ptuj from 3rd – 12th February where up to 150,000 people attend the 100 or so events taking place during the carnival period. The second largest carnival takes place in Cerkno. Pust is synonymous for its ornate costumes and masks (pictured below) with each region having its own variations, customs and habits. If you happen to be in Slovenia during this period, perhaps on a skiing holiday, you should take some time out and go and visit one of these carnivals, wherever you are, there is bound to be one happening near you.
Here in Radovljica, the Pust procession took place on Saturday. Children from the local area all get dressed up in costumes and parade through the town and the streets are lined with people cheering them on.
On Pust Tuesday, children get dressed up in costumes and masks in what resembles a curious mix of Halloween, complete with trick-or-treating, and Pancake Day, albeit with doughnuts being eaten rather than pancakes! Not wishing to be a party-pooper, and of course in keeping with tradition, I did my bit by munching through several doughnuts too!
I remember shortly after having moved here, seeing children dressed up and going from house to house however at that time I didn’t know what it was all about – I assumed they must celebrate Halloween in Slovenia in February!