The Pivka Park of Military History – A Historic Year!

It’s been quite a year thus far for the Park of Military History in Pivka. Visitor numbers are up by an astonishing 40%, as word spreads about this fascinating museum and its extensive and diverse collections. Last week the park celebrated its 10th birthday – in true military style of course – with a week of events culminating in the annual Festival of Military History, which I attended on Sunday.

It’s easy to reach Pivka, which is in Slovenia’s Green Karst region. It can be a destination in itself, or you can combine it with a visit to one of the other nearby attractions in the area, such as the Postojna Caves, Predjama Castle or the Lipica Stud Farm. The park is also an ideal place to visit on those pesky rainy days!

For those without transport, a bonus is that it is easy to reach Pivka by train. Direct trains run from Slovenia’s capital, Ljubljana and onwards toward Rijeka in Croatia. On arrival you can already see the imposing renovated barracks in which the museum is housed. When exiting the train station, just look for the museum symbols marked on the pavement.

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After crossing the tracks, head downhill, following the green signs, and within 10 minutes you are there!

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One of the biggest draws at the Park is undoubtedly the P-913 Zeta submarine, which visitors have a chance to go inside, accompanied by a guide, to experience the cramped conditions the submarine crew worked under.

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Photo: Simon Avsec – http://www.slovenia.info/

The renovated barracks housing the museum collections were built by the Kingdom of Italy around 1930 in order to defend the Rapallo border and were later home to the Yugoslav People’s Army. Since 2004 the Park has been developing and has now become the largest museum complex in Slovenia, as well as one of the largest military historical complexes in this part of Europe.

Of the numerous military-related events that take place at the Park throughout the year, last weekend’s 10th Festival of Military History, which was meticulously organised, is the largest. Below you can see some of the action that took place.

Demonstrations of tanks operating in combat situations.

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A dynamic display of anti-terrorist measures with the helicopters of the Special Forces and the Slovene Army.

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Recreations of various World War II military camps – Partisan, Soviet, American, and German. At times I felt like I had walked onto the set of MASH!

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There was even fresh Jerry soup!

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A chance to walk through a cavern. Provided, of course, you could get past the guards!

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There was plenty of opportunity to get involved, ask questions, and, of course, pose for a few snaps for posterity!

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A chance to get ‘hands on’ with the ammunition. The first, and hopefully only, time I will be holding such a weapon!

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Not even the occasional torrential downpour dampened the spirits of these strapping Romans (from Ptuj)! Can you spot the odd one out?

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There was also archery, a small market area, a collection of old-timer cars, and free transport to/from the railway station. The festival was a roaring success and another testament to the Park’s popularity.

You can find out more about the Park here – http://parkvojaskezgodovine.si/en/ and also read more about other things to see and do in the area, including the 17 intermittent lakes, in a previous blog from earlier this year – https://adeleinslovenia.com/2016/05/05/pivka-pause-ponder-play/

You don’t need to especially be a lover of museums, history, or military history (I wouldn’t consider myself to be!) to enjoy a visit. The exhibits are fascinating and there’s something for all the family. I highly recommend a visit!

© Adele in Slovenia

 

Award-Winning Olimje – A Very Special Slovene Village

The village of Olimije is located in the east of Slovenia in the Styriatajerska) region, right on the border with Croatia. The whole area is idyllic, awash with unspoilt nature, lush green forests, hills, vineyards, and far from any major roads, industry and pollution. It’s no wonder, then, that it has won several ‘best kept’ village awards.

The star of the show, which has people flocking to see from far and wide, is the Olimje church, Minorite monastery and old pharmacy.

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Olimije is almost a direct extension of the town of Podčetrtek, which has a tourist information centre, numerous accommodation options, eateries and a handful of shops. The town is also served by special ‘spa trains’, operated by Slovenian Railways, which run from Ljubljana. Visitors arriving by train are also entitled to special discounts and benefits. More information here – http://www.slo-zeleznice.si/en/passenger-transport/around-slovenia/the-spa-train

Once there, the dinky tourist road train is a perfect way to get around and see all the area’s sights of interest.

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During my 3-day visit I stayed at the Olimia Thermal Spa, which makes an ideal base for exploring the area, and where you can also indulge in some luxurious treatments and water-based activities at the Orhidelia Wellness Centre that has for the last five consecutive years been voted the best in Slovenia. You can read plenty more about that here –https://spasinslovenia.com/2016/06/07/terme-olimia-the-best-wellness-centre-in-slovenia/

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From the spa I went by bike on the cycle path to Olimje. My first port of call was a visit to the Olimje church, monastery and old pharmacy. This place, formerly a castle, was first mentioned in historical records in 1208 as a place of the Shrine of the Assumption of Mary. The castle was then turned into a monastery and pharmacy – now one of the oldest pharmacies in Europe.

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For over 120 years it was inhabited by the Pauline Monks, who, in 1665, were responsible for building the magnificent and extremely ornate Baroque church, which features one of the biggest golden altars in Slovenia, as well as numerous other notable pictures, frescoes and statues.

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The Pauline Monks produced their own natural remedies, and, according to their monastic rule, the monastery had to have a room for any sick brothers with an adjacent room for medicine and remedies. The frescoes in the pharmacy were painted by Lerchinger in 1780 and represent various biblical scenes.

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I was astonished at the number of people, hailing from all over Europe, that were queuing in the pharmacy to buy herbal teas, tinctures, syrups and apiculture products. There seems to be a ‘cure’ for every ailment imaginable, all of which are grown and produced by the monks-in-residence.

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Adjacent to the monastery building is the Syncerus Chocolate Boutique (Čokoladnica Olimje). Yes, you’re right, that was the MAIN reason for my visit!

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I was, literally, like a kid in a sweet shop trying to choose from all the delicious handmade chocolates on offer and I might, just might, have bought a few (kilos!). The shop is open daily throughout the year, from 10am – 5pm in winter, and from 10am – 7pm in the summer season. More information here – http://cokoladnica-olimje.si/

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My next stop, just a few minutes uphill from the monastery, was the Jelenov Greben deer farm. The estate comprises a guest house and apartments, a restaurant, a shop selling homemade products such as venison sausages, jams, juices, honey etc., the Star Ata winery and, the stars of the show, the deer and mouflon which roam the estate freely and seem largely unperturbed by humans – meaning you can even get right up close to feed them. More information here – http://www.jelenov-greben.si/

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Also within close proximity is the Amon Estate, which is a family-run business and the oldest private winemaking company in Slovenia. The estate features a 9-hole golf course – A Golf, a guest house, and a small shop selling homemade products. It was a perfect spot for me to sit back, take a break, and enjoy the tranquillity and the views. More information here – http://www.amon.si/index.php?si

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More information about all the above, and more, can be found here – http://www.turizem-podcetrtek.si/en/

© Adele in Slovenia