Monthly Archives: December 2013

Symbols of Slovenian Identity

Slovenia has many national, cultural and ethnic symbols, which give the country a uniqueness and make it more recognisable. I explore several of the most prominent here:

Triglav

Triglav, with its 2864 metres, is the highest peak in Slovenia. It is located in Julian Alps (Julijske Alpe). On the top of Triglav stands »Aljažev stolp« (Aljaž Tower), named after a Slovenian priest and mountainner Jakob Aljaž. Triglav is one of the most visited spots for Slovenians, in fact every Slovenian should  go there at least once in a lifetime – that would mean that you are a real Slovenian. Triglav is also represented in a national coat of arms.

Triglav National Park

Triglav National Park

Linden tree

The Linden tree or »lipa« in Slovenian, is another symbol of Slovenia. It is considered a magnificent tree. Nowadays we can still find linden trees near to the churches, villages and town squares, where they often mark a space for receptions and socialising. A linden tree symbolises friendship and love. It also has health benefits, so no wonder many Slovenians prepare »lipov čaj«, a linden tea from linden flowers.

A linden leaf

A linden leaf

Hayrack

A hayrack (»kozolec«) is a Slovenian feature. It is a wooden building, primarily used for drying grain and grass. Hayracks are distinctive in the Slovenian countryside. They come with a single or double structure, the latter of which are called »toplarji«. Well, they are also a good place to relax  and to hide from the summer heat. They can be also a pantry for all kinds of tools.

Toplar

Toplar

Lipizzaner

»Lipicanec« is a breed of horse typical for the Karst region. Its name comes from a town of Lipica, where Lipizzaner are bred. Their characteristic is a beautiful white colour, which is a consequence of depigmentation which appears with age. You can admire Lipizzaner in the Lipica stud farm.

Lipicanec

Lipicanec

National anthem

The Slovenian national anthem is called »Zdravljica« (A toast) – a song written by our greatest poet France Prešeren in 1844. For the anthem, the seventh stanza of Zdravljica is performed. Here is  the original version:

Žive naj vsi narodi ki hrepene dočakat’ dan, da koder sonce hodi, prepir iz sveta bo pregnan, da rojak prost bo vsak, ne vrag, le sosed bo mejak!

It is written in older Slovenian, so it can be barely translated in other languages, but luckily I found one that comes close. The English version:

God’s blessing on all nations, Who long and work for that bright day, When o’er earth’s habitations No war, no strife shall hold its sway; Who long to see That all men free No more shall foes, but neighbours be.

Here you can find translations of Zdravljica in some other languages.

Slovenian Legends: The Legend of The Little Dragon Jami in Postojna Cave

Legend has it that years yonder, fire-breathing dragons used to dwell in the infamous Postojna Cave. The dragons plagued the people of the region until the Pivka River rose, broke it’s banks and swept the dragons away (plot hole: it’s possible that these dragons couldn’t fly, or were simply caught off guard by the powerful waters).

The Pivka waters took all but the little dragon, Jami, who unlike his brethren, was a ‘good’ dragon; peaceful, friendly and a lover of nature. Although he desired to play with children, understandably, they were terrified of him and what he might become.

Living alone, he became depressed. At the bottom of his despair, a drobnovratnik beetle came to his rescue and befriended Jami. The beetle introduced him to the other small inhabitants of the cave. Jami had no idea, he was shocked.

Jami’s circle of friends quickly grew.

After establishing trust, his new friends soon asked for help. The recounted their story, explaining their appointment to guard a treasure of pearls hidden deep within the cave. The prize they protected was under constant threat from a malign goblin, Switch. Jami gladly agreed to help and guard the pearls. Unfortunately for all but Switch though, Jami snores loudly, as snoring dragons do, and the cave walls shook with each breath.

The ill-willed goblin set off towards the din to investigate. Delighted at his find, and unintimidated by the dragon, he started loading up all the pearls he could carry. Jami awoke.

Jami snatched the goblin up, rendering Switch helpless. The goblin begged to be freed in a panicked voice, realising the seriousness of his confrontation with the little but powerful dragon.

The goblin, realising that he could not outmatch Jami in a game of strength turned to his wit. He told Jami he could perform magic and would grant his every wish if he should free him. Despite his new company, Jami still longed for the company of children, for playmates. He asked to be turned into a human being.

Switch agreed to grant the wish, chanted some ancient magic words, upon which a din, like a crack of thunder boomed through the cavern and both the goblin and dragon were enveloped in a cloud of smoke.

Jami felt himself grow smaller. His friend, the beetle had followed the thunderous noise and came rushing into the pearl filled cavern. There. On the top of the pearl treasure was a small dragon with human-like skin.

And so Jami forever became a human fish, destined to play with his cave-dwelling friends and guard the cave pearls.

Switch the goblin never returned. Some of the cave’s inhabitants will tell you that he has been spotted from time to time, and continues to lurk in the deepest, darkest depths of the cave. People often report hearing him scratching about in the distance. If you visit the cave, ask any small creatures you see about the legend, they may point you in the direction of where Jami is playing, or to the last spot Switch was suspected to have been.

Jami Postojna Cave Dragon

(image credit: Postojnska Jama)