During my student years, which I labelled “good ol’ times”, I quenched my thirst for new experiences by spending a good part of the year travelling. It was abroad that I learnt that the most remote places are often the most pristine, that the people “who don’t have much” usually give the most. That, in fact, true small treasures hide behind each turn, along the river, in the treetop of the linden tree, on top of a ruin, in a local bar, at a festivity, market place, in the sound of the guitar, in the smile of a passer-by and the curious touch of the children’s hands. You can spot them if your eyes are wide open. If you let your hands feel, let your nose explore the smell, let your legs take you, and let your mind be free… Journeys through “foreign” countries have thought me to observe the world that was unravelling around me. And my home environment, as well!
I discovered that true treasures lie hidden in my home Kočevska (Gottschee) region. Those are not only the footsteps of bears in the primeval forest, but also the rich, yet so far overly neglected, cultural heritage. That is, the things our predecessors created through centuries and which we are now creating ourselves, albeit in a different shape and form. However, a person often has to first gaze beyond the domestic threshold, hill, turn, pine tree, lair to notice the true value of what remains “hidden” in plain sight at home. It is much too often that the local place of origin remains a mystery, while we have travelled and combed through half of the globe.
A lack of knowledge about cultural heritage is especially evident in the Kočevska region. To the majority of the inhabitants of Slovenia, the mention of this locale brings forth an image of vast forests and bears. Although the region does not only offer natural sites but also a rich cultural heritage, the latter has not been sufficiently recognized.
The reason for this lies in its tragic history. The fact that most of the German-speaking population emigrated from those settlements during the Second World War, and only ruins were left of many derelict villages, while most of the churches and chapels were demolished during the postwar era because of ideological reasons, whereby a rich, intangible cultural heritage was lost. During the 1950s, new immigrants from other regions of Slovenia came to this nearly vacant region, starting their new lives there. However the disruption in the continuity of settlement, the demolition of cultural monuments, and the establishment of the so-called closed-off area of Kočevska Reka have curtailed the relationship, or knowledge, of the former cultural heritage of the region which to these days remains poorly researched.
Therefore, from now on we will venture out together hand in hand and discover the hidden gems of Kočevska, or Ländchen, as it was called by our Gottscheer predecessors. We will get to know the region, its present-day and former inhabitants, our quirky and less strange habits, peculiarities, and things from everyday life, etc.
Anja Moric and Petra Šolar will report from the field as frequently as possible.
This blog is intended for sharing experiences and the readers are kindly invited to share these snippets, as well as their photos, memories and impressions.
The blog is created by The Putscherle Institute, Centre for Research, Culture, and Cultural Heritage Preservation and is part of the “Life in Sylvan Embrace” project, which was co-funded by The European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD).