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April 5, 2019

Slovenia: Ptuj


The view of Ptuj from its castle

Three weeks into our road trip we reached the commune of Ptuj Slovenia. By this time in the journey we had crossed European borders ten times. We were completely confused about the language. Even the polite words we knew in the language of the country were in were lost in confusion. Not that we knew any words in Slovene anyway.

Soon after we arrived we did learn how to say one Slovene word, the name of the town we were staying in, “Ptuj”. Ptuj is pronounced in Slovene as “p-too-ee”, which sounds to us a little like a loud sneeze. That made it easier to remember. And now we can at least say we know one word in Slovene.

The tower of St. George’s Church: The church’s construction dates from the 12th Century and it was remodeled in the 15th Century.

Our canine companion Gigi, on the other hand, was having no issue with the languages. On reaching Slovenia she had traveled to 18 countries. In every country she demonstrated full p-mail fluency everywhere she marked. We’re jealous about her dog language skills but not so much the sniffing other dogs pee thing.

Located in eastern Slovenia, Ptuj is off the main tourist routes. It wasn’t always that way; the commune is the oldest recorded city in Slovenia. Indeed, there is evidence that Ptuj has been inhabited since the late Stone Age.

Ptuj is on a strategically important crossing of the Drava River and was the location a Roman military fort. This area was part of the Styria region whose historic capitol is Graz, our last stop. As part of Styria this portion of Slovenia was part of the powerful Austro-Hungarian Empire until its demise at the end of World War I. Indeed, in the early half of the 20th century the majority of the residents of Ptuj were ethnic Germans and spoke German.  But like many areas in Central Europe, ethnic Germans migrated or were expelled from Ptuj after World War II. Today the population of Ptuj is largely Slovene speaking, which didn’t help us at all on the language front.

Ptuj’s town hall

Maria Theresa’s 40 years as the only female ruler of the Habsburg dominions and the last of the House of Habsburg looms large over this region of Slovenia.

In modern times Ptuj is an out of the way medium sized town with a population of around 18,000. The commune has a few notable tourist sites but in October 2018 when we visited there were few other visitors.

Ptuj is perhaps best known for the Kurent or Korant Carnival in the spring. Town members dress in sheepskin and go about wearing masks with long red tongues, cowbells, and multi-colored ribbons on their heads. Organized in groups, Kurents go from house to house making noise with their bells and wooden sticks to symbolically scare off evil spirits and the winter.

Koranti costumes on display at the castle

The red tongue is a bit bizarre.

We weren’t in Ptuj at the right time of year to see the festival, but it does look bizarre in the pictures. Though it would have been interesting to see the Koranti would have surely freaked out Gigi. Though she might be comfortable with foreign p-mail, humans dressed bizarrely in animal-like costumes and making strange noises is just not right. It would have been good cause to bark. In this case, we can understand why.


The “Door-to-door rounds of Kurenti” has be inscribed on UNESCO’s list of Intangible Cultural Heritage.

1 Comment »

  1. […] Ptuj Slovenia we headed to Zagreb Croatian. When we arrived at the border kiosk we handed over our […]

    Pingback by Croatia: Crossing the Border and Trakošćan Castle | Another Header — April 10, 2019 @ 12:14 pm

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