Our tasting travels of the Balkans; unlikely to want to eat pastry for a while again but overall a unique culinary experience of the regions cheap eats. Who needs fine dining and fancy restaurants when the real specialities of new countries are found in stalls, takeaways, markets and roadside cafes.
For the last 54 years the people of Ptuj in Slovenia have been celebrating the end of winter with a festival called Kurentovanje.
The 11-day rite of spring and fertility is most likely connected to Slovene mythology and Slavic Paganism. The original organisers were strongly convinced that this event could help prevent what they perceived as the extremely rapid disappearance of traditional carnival customs in the area.
The Museum at Ptuj Castle houses a large collection of traditional Kurentovanje masks and costumes. We were lucky enough to visit and learn more about this fascinating tradition and it’s costumes.
The celebrations feature many different characters including the Ploughmen, Bears, Fairies, Cockerels, Log-haulers and Mourners. Undoubtedly the stars of the festival are the Kurents dressed in elaborate masks and heavy sheepskin coats. The Kurent’s primary roll is to scare away winter by jumping from side to side, bell ringing and performing rituals.
For the participants, the festival permits a certain amount of anonymity, allowing for much tomfoolery. The greatest disgrace a Kurent could face was to have his mask taken off.
Over the years the festival has grown, with many surrounding towns in the region also contributing. In 2013 the largest population of Slovenians outside of Slovenia, in Cleveland, Ohio, have started to run a smaller Kurentovanje event.
For more information about the carnival and it’s characters please visit http://www.kurentovanje.net/en/