There’s been significant international media coverage about Slovenia during the past week, which is rare for this little country, but then the ice storm that hit the country last week was also a rare and freak occurrence which wreaked havoc throughout the country and whose after effects are still being, and will continue to be, felt for a long time to come.
Fortunately, by Friday, temperatures finally climbed above freezing and the thaw has now begun. Not that this isn’t also without its hazards as large lumps or ice and vast amounts of snow fall from rooftops and trees. The sheer scale of the devastation in the forests will only really become apparent once the roads can be cleared of fallen trees and debris and forest workers can obtain access to begin to assess the damage. Suffice to say it is great; initial estimates are that up to 40% of all the trees in Slovenia have been affected, though this could well turn out to be on the conservative side. As I write, its now pouring with rain, which also brings further troubles due to flooding and avalanches. However, power to most areas has now been restored, even if only temporarily due to the use of generators, and most of the trains are once again up and running, albeit using diesel instead of electricity. Hopefully, slowly, some kind of ‘normality’ will begin to reign. A word of gratitude, on behalf of all citizens, must be extended to the thousands of volunteer firefighters who have so selflessly given up their time to help, often using their annual holiday entitlement, and who don’t receive a single euro in return for their time, effort and sacrifice.
Saturday, February 8th, was a cultural public holiday, Prešeren’s Day, named after the great Slovene poet, France Prešeren, who died on this day in 1849 and the day was chosen as a holiday in his commemoration. In Slovenia, unlike in the UK, public holidays are determined by date and therefore when, as is the case this year, the holiday happens to fall on a weekend then people really miss out because they are not granted that day in lieu. In the UK, public holidays (other than Christmas and New Year) are always on a Monday – ‘Bank Holiday Monday’ – so people always get an extra day off work and a nice long weekend to look forward to. If only that were the case here too. I’m sure if that were put to the vote, as so many things here usually are, there would be quite a high voter turnout!
Slovenes are great lovers of culture and none more so than on 8th February when cultural events take place throughout the country. My home town of Radovljica, being one of the three best preserved medieval town structures in Slovenia, is a popular choice for lovers of culture as it is home to the grand Manor House (graščina), where regular concerts, events and festival are held. To mark the cultural holiday there was a ceremony held in the Baroque Hall and additionally free admission to the Museum of Apiculture, the Town Museum and the Šivec House Gallery.
In Kranj, the capital of the Gorenjska region, the Prešeren Fair, which is one of the most important cultural events in Slovenia, takes place annually on the 8th February; an event which I always like to attend. Kranj is synonymous with France Prešeren who, although born in the village of Vrba, lived and worked in Kranj during the 19th century. The Fair, which takes place in the Main Square, is home to most of the city’s most visited sights, galleries, museums and the Prešeren Theatre, featuring a large statue of its namesake (seen below).
The streets and squares are transformed into an early-19th century experience featuring poetry recitals, dances, period music, demonstations of traditional crafts, costumed performers, a street fair and free admission and guided tours of all the cultural institutions. The weather even played along too, other than a few light showers one could almost, for a short blissful time, forget about the chaos and destruction outside of the confines of the town and they had achieved wonders in removing all the snow too! It wasn’t until I got home that I realised I had managed to, quite by chance, capture almost identical ‘then’ and ‘now’ photographs!
Here are a couple more photos of the event (more to be added to my Pinterest account-http://www.pinterest.com/adeleinslovenia/) and just one of the many poems that Prešeren wrote, which have since been translated into English.
A Wreath Of Sonnets (1/14)
A Slovene wreath your poet has entwined,
fifteen sonnets is the chaplet bound,
And in it thrice the Master Theme must sound:
Thus are the other harmonies combined.
Now from his source like streams in order wind
The sonnets, and the head of each is found
By the last line of the last sonnet crowned;
This is a semblance of your poet’s mind.
From one love all by thoughts arise,
and lo! Whene’er I sleep at night they cease to flow,
But stir when darkness flees before dawn’s rays.
You are the Master Theme of my whole life,
Which will be heard when I have ceased my strife
– A record of my pain and of your praise.
© AdeleinSlovenia 2014