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The Days of Gottscheer Culture: a joint project of three municipalities

Do you know who Gottscheers are? Do you know how to say “Good day” in Gottscheer dialect? Do you know how to make pobolitsen? Do you know where Gottscheers used to live?

For 6 years, the Days of Gottscheer Culture have been trying to answer all of the above and many other questions. The event came to life in 2015 at the initiative of individuals from the Municipality of Dolenjske Toplice. The Mayor Jože Muhič with colleagues and representatives of relevant associations came up with the idea at a meeting of the Municipality of Dolenjske Toplice. The aim of the Days of Gottscheer Culture was to preserve the heritage of the native Gottscheer inhabitants, who have inhabited this area for almost 700 years. Indeed, everything is also perceived in the broader concept of tourism development in this area.

It started in 2015

Already during the preparations of the first Days of Gottscheer Culture they came up with the idea of handing over the “relay” to the organisers who are next in line. In fact, with the support of the mayors of the Municipality of Dolenjske Toplice, Semič and Kočevje and at the suggestion of the Association of Gottscheer Organisations, the event takes place every year in another municipality of the former Gottschee language island, and has thus become a project of three municipalities.

Folklore group of the Association of the Gottscheers – natives, Days of Gottscheer Culture, 2017. Photo: Primož Primec.

However, it is not so unusual that the idea was born in the Municipality of Dolenjske Toplice, since we are proud that our municipality is still home to the Gottscheers, who still speak the Gottschee language, cook old Gottscheer dishes and nurture their identity in numerous other ways.

The main purpose of the event is to present the living cultural heritage of the Gottscheers (language, work of societies, presentation of customs and habits, etc.) as well as the inclusion of people of other nationalities in the events and their preparation to the general public, because all citizens can take part in the preparation of events with their work and ideas. Besides the Association itself, two societies are particularly active in the event organisation in Dolenjske Toplice and Semič, i.e. the Society of Native Gottschee Settlers and the Mošnice – Moshnitze Institute.

Pupils of the 4th grade of Elementary school of Dolenjske Toplice attended the workshop Bees swarming prepared by The Putscherle Institute. The pupils made bee swarms out of paper and twigs. 4. Days of Gottscheer Culture, Dolenjske Toplice, September 2018. Photo: Anja Moric.

First Days of Gottscheer Culture in Dolenjske Toplice

The first Days of Gottscheer Culture officially kicked off by setting up a maypole in Kočevske Poljane, with which we have tried to draw attention to the linguistic, architectural and other heritage of Gottscheers, former residents of German descent under the auspices of the local municipality. This was followed by a colourful week of events, and it should be particularly emphasised that for this purpose we reopened the legendary Marica Gril’s Inn in Kočevske Poljane. It was reopened for at least one week during the events.

Former Grill’s Inn in Kočevske Poljane. Photo: Primož Primec.

However, we realised two additional new features for the first Days of Gottscheer Culture; i.e. in Kočevske Poljane we set up an information board for the village that lists and marks all the buildings that belong to the Immovable Cultural Heritage Register. The regular feature of the Days of the Gottscheer Culture include the following: the painting extempore, hikes, photography courses, conversation evenings, performance of a folklore group and folk singers, holy masses, children’s workshops, an opening and closing event, cooking courses, etc.

In addition to the afore-mentioned, TIC Dolenjske Toplice, Cultural and Congress Center of Dolenjske Toplice, Dolenjske Toplice Primary School, Dolenjske Toplice DPŽ, Association of Winegrowers Dolenjske Toplice, the Toplice–Poljane Parish, the Kočevske Poljane and Pod Srebotnikom village communities, the Novo mesto Fire Brigade and Laško Union Brewery also participated in the implementation of the programme. The days ended with the handing over of the relay to the Municipality of Kočevje that organised the events in 2016. In addition, the Municipality of Kočevje created a complete visual identity for the events.

Singers of the Gottscheer Folklore group. Performance at the Days of Gottscheer Culture in Občice, 2018. Photo: Primož Primec.

In 2017, the Days of Gottscheer Culture were organised by the Municipality of Semič, and the Municipality of Dolenjske Toplice took over in 2018. In 2019, the turn came to the Municipality of Kočevje and this year, despite the coronovirus epidemic, the Municipality of Semič more than successfully carried out the Days of Gottscheer Culture at the end of August.

Performance by pianist Erik Šuler and American Gottscheer bass baritone Steven Scheschareg in Kočevje, at the invitation of the Putscherle Institute. 5. Days of Gottscheer Culture. Photo: Anja Moric.

We are also very glad that Borut Pahor, the President of the Republic of Slovenia, was the honorary patron from the very beginning of the Days of Gottscheer Culture. The project is also co-financed by the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Slovenia.

In our previous post you can read more about Christmas customs and beliefs in the Kočevje region.

This post is also available in: Slovenian

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