Worth a whole day of exploring are the towns of Ptuj (Pa TOO e) and Ptujska Gora (Put ska Gore a). Not only are there historical and scenic sites, but also the excellent wines produced around the area are world class and very inexpensive with free wine tastings with the wines noted for the quality. This is something to consider after a hard day of sightseeing.
Located in the Podraje region, it is the oldest city in Slovenia. Ptuj Castle is situated high on a hill and is impressive as it overlooks the city and the river Drava. The castle was originally built in 9th or tenth centuries and remodeled in the Renaissance and Baroque periods. A fascinating museum now inhabits the castle, with local antique musical instruments, with displays of period furniture, tapestries and paintings of some of the noble inhabitants of the past, and everyday antique objects.
On the second floor, there is an exhibit of a local custom Kurentovanje, celebrated for eleven days ending on Shrove Sunday, the last Sunday before Ash Wednesday and Lent. The main figure or the Kurent, wears a huge sheepskin with huge chains and bells attached around his waist. He has a huge red tongue and carries a wooden club.
The main purpose of the Kurent is to chase away winter and is connected to Slovene mythology and pagan fertility rites. As with all types of carnival or Mardi Gras festivals, masks are everywhere. There are parades featuring ploughman or farmers, a bear, fairies, runners and lots of bands and music. As the days grow closer to Shrove Sunday the festivities get more serious. The Saturday parade has more than 1,500 participants and 9,000 on Sunday with around 800 Kurents.
In the basement of the castle is a huge impressive, collection of medieval weapons and armor of every sort that can be imagined. Included in the collection are full armor, pikes, crossbows, swords and all sorts of weapons from throughout Central Europe that would strike terror into the hearts of peasant and nobles alike.
If you are visiting in more comfortable weather, the castle has beverages and snacks available to partake in and you can relax inside the courtyard of the castle, to reflect on the centuries and the ambience. A truly and relaxing enjoyable time can be had soaking in sites of the castle, the river and the red roofs of the town below.
Located a very short drive away in the village of Ptujska Gora is the church of the Mary the Protector. Inside the church is a statue of the Virgin with her long coat protecting the villagers from the plague. Carved out of one huge stone in around the year 1682, the statue’s villagers being protected are thought to be modeled on actual villagers inhabiting the area at that time. It truly is amazing to view.
Gothic paintings and frescoes also decorate the church from the Gothic period, while the outside is decorated by statues of the Baroque period. A true artistic treasure within a tranquil, peaceful setting and worth the short drive.
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