Slovenia is a land of legends and myths. If you visit the places that they are describing, you will get to know quite a different Slovenia. Here are some beautiful folk tales from all around the country, which are also a great reason for an excursion.
The Ljubljana dragon
The first legend that the tourists hear in Slovenia is definitely the legend about the origin of Ljubljana. Legend has it that the city was founded by the Greek mythological hero Jason, who had stolen the Golden Fleece from King Aetes and fled with his friends on a ship called Argo across the Black Sea and up the Danube, Sava and Ljubljanica rivers. Since there was not enough water, the Argonauts disassembled their ship and carried it on their shoulders to the Adriatic coast, where they continued their journey back to Greece. But on their way through the Ljubljana Marshes, they stumbled upon a dragon, which Jason fought and killed. Today a dragon adorns the City of Ljubljana’s coat of arms, as well as the famous Dragon Bridge, which is known locally also as the Mother-in-law Bridge. Allegedly, the sculptures of the dragons wag their tails each time a virgin passes. But no one ever saw it happen, not once in the history of the city. Well, who nowadays still believes in legends anyway?
Naughty Perkmandlc from Idrija
The beautiful town of Idrija is a real treasure trove of legends, most of them associated with the ore. One of the legends says that in 1490 a local tubmaker found shiny substances in the stream, which turned out to be mercury. Today, the Church of the Holy Trinity stands on the spot where the tubmaker made the discovery, in the centre of today’s town Idrija. Soon the ore miners from all around the world began migrating to Idrija. The most beautiful legend is about the Anthony’s Mine Shaft – a 700 km labyrinth, which is now opened for the visitors. Word has it that the shaft is the home of a very special resident – a small gnome Perkmandlc, who has been guarding his underground treasures for centuries. Famous Slovenian historian and polymath Janez Vajkard Valvasor was writing about him in the 17th century, in his existence believed miners from all over Slovenia. Perkmandlc loved to play pranks on them – he would blow out their lamps or hide their shoes, but he would also warn them of imminent danger and showed them where to find rich ore, so, out of gratitude, they often left him some of their food. Given the fact that the Idrija mine once extracted as much as 13 percent of the world’s mercury output and that it used to be the second largest mercury mine in the world, this cute little gnome obviously did bring them a lot of luck.
Saint Socerb and his cave
Legends from beneath the surface can also be found in Istria. Not far from the village Socerb there is the only underground church in Slovenia, bearing the name Holy Cave. In the 3rd century AD the cave was a shelter of a young Christian saint Socerb. He was only 12 years old, when he heard the call of God. Later in his life, he miraculously healed a lot of people and died as a martyr. People of Trieste always believed that they were under a special protection of the saint; they honored him with naming a part of the city after him and with annual pilgrimages to his cave. After World War II, the cave was banned to the public, the altar destroyed. Altar made of natural stone was something special; behind it there is still a small spring and a shallow karst basin. It never dries up and supposedly has healing powers, but pilgrims can only drink this water, it disappears, if someone washes his hands in it. In 1990 the cave has again begun holding masses, especially on every 24th of May – the day of the saint’s death. In 2006, English healer Stephen Turoff showed up, claiming to be the reincarnation of the saint, designated to energetically cleanse the cave and bless again the altar. Allegedly, he is performing miracles during his sessions in the cave and is therefore attracting many followers. But, this is probably just another of the many legends associated with the village of Socerb.
Martin Krpan – myth or truth?
Legendary folk hero Martin Krpan from Vrh near Sveta Trojica in the region of Pivka is a fictional character of the writer Fran Levstik created on the basis of the Inner Carniolan oral tradition. It is a story of the strongest man in Slovenian lands, who defeated a brutal Turkish warrior Brdavs and thus saved the imperial Vienna from the enemy. Levstik wrote his novel in 1858, during the time of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, which Slovenia was then a part of. In the story Krpan is talking about his native village called Vrh near Sveta Trojica, but, unfortunately, a village with that name does not exist in reality. The exact location of his home thus remains a mystery – it is almost like searching for the Holy Grail, as every village wants to take him for his own. It is said that Levstik found the inspiration for his story in the castle Kalec, where he once met an unusually strong local blacksmith. But Krpan was not the only hero in this part of the country. There was also a bold cook from a nearby town of Šilentabor, the largest fortress against Turkish invasions in the region, which in times of danger could accommodate up to 150 people. During one of the particularly long-lasting sieges almost all brave men have been killed and the cook decided to intervene. She started with throwing stones and pouring boiling tar over the enemy, but then she came up with an excellent idea – why not use bees to chase away the bloodthirsty Turks. When beehives fell on enemies’ heads, angry bees attacked them and did all the fighting.
A voracious dragon from Slovenske Konjice
In the Old Town Square of Slovenske Konjice stands a beautiful church of St. George, the saviour and protector of this ancient town. He is the hero of a beautiful legend, which left a strong mark on the region. Legend has it, that Konjiška Mountain used to be hollow with a huge lake inside, where a terrible dragon found his dwelling. People feared his dreadful roar would make the mountain explode and the water would flood their homes. Together with the lord of the nearby castle they decided to make a deal with the dragon. But the price was high – every year they had to sacrifice six virgins. And then the day came, when a beautiful daughter of the lord – Marjetica had to face the dragon. But just moments before the tragedy, St. George has rushed in on a white horse to help the maiden and kill the beast. His blood turned into a river, which today is flowing through the centre of the town, dividing it into two parts. Grateful lord built a church in honour of St. George and the saint’s horse became the symbol of the town. People dammed the spring of the lake beneath Konjiška Mountain with a giant rock, named after the unfortunate virgins – “Gospodična” (Miss).
Love quarrels in the Celje castle
Although the old castle in Celje is only partially preserved, it has once been the largest fortification on Slovenian territory. Particularly impressive is the four-storey Frederick’s tower, offering breathtaking views of the city, the river Savinja and the surrounding mountains. The tower is connected with the legend of the unfortunate count Frederick II. Frederick has killed his first wife so he could marry Veronica, a beautiful young girl of poor descent. But that angered his father Herman II so much, that he imprisoned his son into a tower and made him starve. Veronica was accused of witchcraft, but managed to clear her name, however, Herman later got her drowned. Frederick survived thanks to an underground tunnel, through which he was secretly being supplied with food. There are also many other interesting myths related to this castle, one of them about a farmer Dolinar and his daughter Marjanca. One day, count Ulrik laid his eyes on a handsome girl and ordered his soldiers to bring her to the castle. Her father tried to save her, but he was too late – Marjanca died dishonoured and of violent death. Upon learning this, Dolinar cursed the castle and Ulrik by saying these words: “I curse the castle you reside in, let only owls and crocks live in it!” The curse soon came true, though not entirely – today, numerous visitors and cultural events do not give rest to the old walls.
Island of love in Prekmurje
Not far from the village Ižakovci mystical river Mura formed a small “island of love”, named after a sad local legend about forbidden love between a noblewoman and a peasant – the boy drowned, and the young lady died of grief. The island has often been a secret meeting place for couples, despite the fact that they had to cross a fast-flowing river to reach it. Many love stories suggest that this is the place for true romantics – today, you can visit an old floating mill and a traditional wooden ferry, sit on a bench for lovers or try a love potion that allegedly makes the most secret desires come true.
Author: Saša Suhadolnik