Churches and castles
Slovenia is pre-eminently a country of churches and castles. Enthusiasts can indulge themselves here. You will find churches in almost every village and on every mountain/hill. They are well maintained and are many times full on Sunday morning. About 80% of Slovenes are Roman Catholics and Christianity is still very much alive here, especially when I compare it to the Netherlands. Most primary school children attend a Bible class once a week where they are taught by the pastor or a sister. The sacred sacraments (baptism, communion, confirmation) are therefore still often done here. In most places, you can still see the girls in white »bridal dresses« and the boys in suits when doing communion. I kind of like it J. Unfortunately, many pastors are still very old-fashioned and persistently stick to old traditions that no longer fit in today. We have such a pastor in Žužemberk and he is the reason we decided to stop Lexi from attending the bible class a few years ago, which is also the reason she did not do her confirmation. Very unfortunate but for us, it was the right choice.
Most churches are very beautiful and certainly inside richly decorated. Usually, they are open and as a tourist, you can just walk in to take a look. The church in Žužemberk is maintained by the inhabitants of Žužemberk and surrounding villages. Every month a different village is obliged to clean the church. This is done by the women. The men mow the grass around the church and provide firewood for the pastor once a year so he can keep warm in the winter…. In our village Gradenc there is also a church, but masses are held just a few times a year, only when »ordered« by a villager. For example, people order a mass on the day of their parents’ death. They have to pay for this. A few years ago, the altar of the church had to be renovated. One of the villagers will go and collect money from the others. The church does pay part of the renovation, but the inhabitants often pay the largest part. Money is also collected once a year for the pastor, as a kind of personal thank you to him and money is also collected for the annual village blessing mass.
You will also find many small chapels everywhere. In our village, there are three and one cross. Traditionally, these chapels were built by local families who wanted to give thanks, for example, for the safe return of a son from the war or for a rich harvest. Most chapels are still being maintained by that family (or next of kin). They really belong to the street scene here.
Then the castles. According to the internet, there are about 175 of them. So plenty of choice. The most famous ones (for tourists) are Bled Castle, built on a 130-meter high rock by the lake, Predjamska Castle, built IN a rock, and Ljubljana Castle, built on a hill in the center of the city. All three worth a visit! Many castles have been very well preserved or restored and often they also have a museum. The oldest castle in Slovenia is Rajhenburg castle in Brestanica. It was built between 1131 and 1147 by order of the Archbishop of Salzburg. Slovenia (then Karantania) belonged to Austria and Germany (the Frankish time) at that time and was ruled by the Habsburgs between 1335 and 1919. A rich history that can be found in the many castles.
The country of Slovenia is, of course, still very young because it has existed as an independent country since June 26, 1991. This self-declared independence was the beginning of a ten-day war. Bine had just had an operation on his appendix and was therefore unable to meet the call of the army. Fortunately, not many casualties have occurred in those 10 days. But because Croatia also declared independence immediately after, »the war« moved there and lasted another 10 years and cost a lot of human lives L. But more about that later.