Without doubt one of the highlights of Slovenia’s event calendar is the annual Pust Winter Carnival, known as Kurentovanje, which takes place in Slovenia’s oldest town, Ptuj, in the north-east of the country. This year the carnival takes place from 2-9 February. During this period numerous events take place, culminating in the main event on Shrove Sunday: The International Carnival Procession.
Carnival events take place in many parts of the country but with over 100,000 people visiting Ptuj for the carnival – coming not only from Slovenia but from many other European countries – the Ptuj carnival is one of Slovenia’s most popular and highly attended events.
The central carnival characters, known as kurents, wear massive sheepskin costumes, and by jangling the cowbells around their waists and brandishing wooden clubs, they aim to chase away winter. I’m all for that!
Visitors to the carnival can also enjoy various arts, dance and theatre performances, which take place through the week, including the Extempore Artfest, Etnofest, a night carnival procession, a carnival party and other events for all the family.
Ptuj was first mentioned by the Roman historian Tacitus in 69 AD and has had the status of a town since the Roman era. It has around 25,000 inhabitants spread across its 10 settlements. This charming compact town is packed with history and fascinating buildings and squares. Below are just some of the highlights that I discovered on my visit. Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t on my side; the heavens opened bringing biblical amounts of rain (cats, dogs, buckets – the works!), but nevertheless I saw enough to know that I want to return to explore the town further.
The 346 hectare Ptuj Lake – the largest artificial lake in Slovenia – is often referred to as the Ptuj seaside. It was formed when the Drava river was damed below Ptuj to serve as an accumulation for the Formin hydroelectric power plant. The vast lake has a marina, the only of its kind in Slovenia, that offers an array of recreative sports – both on and in the water – and is a popular destination for cycling, walking, running, or just chilling!
The Drava river and its four bridges, which have been built and rebuilt throughout the centuries, are landmarks.
Ptuj Castle, set atop a small hill in a dominating position, dates back to the Antiquity. Today, it houses the Ptuj-Ormož Museum which is one of Slovenia’s most visited museums. It has several permanent collections and exhibitions – including collections of traditional carnival masks, musical instruments and glass paintings – as well as the Castle Gallery and temporary exhibitions – some of which can also be found, as the name suggests, in the nearby town of Ormož.
The town centre, declared a protected historic monument, is full of narrow cobbled streets, squares and noteworthy buildings. A particularly nice place to linger is the area in front of the theatre, from where you can sit on a bench and watch the world go by.
The Golden Vine, dating from 1917, is a cutting from the world’s oldest vine, originating from Lent in Maribor. Ptuj has strong links with wine, and wine aficionados should stay at, or at least visit, Hotel Mitra to see the wine cellar, named ‘The Osterberger’s Wine Cellar’ after the original owners of the hotel, the Osterberg family (1890-1945) who produced wine in the nearby wine growing region of Halože and whose award-winning wines were widely regarded in Europe and also as far afield as Argentina.
Other notable buildings include the Minorite Monastery, the Town Hall, the Town Tower, the Church of St. George, Museum Square and the Sunny Park and the Dominican Monastery – seen below – founded by the Lords of Ptuj in 1230.
Ptuj Castle – http://pmpo.si/en/
Ptuj Carnival – http://www.visitptuj.eu/en/pustovanje-2016
Hotel Mitra and Osterberger’s Wine Cellar – http://www.hotel-mitra.si/en/Home
© AdeleinSlovenia 2016