CULTURE OF SLOVENIA
Small Is Beautiful. And Smart.
Slovenia is an excellent destination for experiencing Europe on a small scale. The small green country between the Alps and the Adriatic is a crossroads of a number of different cultures. Its infrastructure allows almost any place to be reached by car in an hour or two, driving through towns and villages, passing by fields adorned with hayracks, and meandering between hills crowned with churches and castles.
The cultural heritage ranges from a unique Neanderthal flute that is 60 thousand years old – the world's oldest known musical instrument – and the priceless Vače situla to the telephone set designed by Slovenian designer Davorin Savnik, exhibited in MoMA in New York. Slovenia is also home to the oldest wooden wheel ever discovered in the world. A visitor will discover artefacts from antiquity, medieval buildings, and baroque and art nouveau works, but also forged iron creations from Kropa and bobbin lace from Idrija. Carnival celebrations and popular creativity fairs, as well as the Škofja Loka Passion Play at Easter and the Lent Festival in Maribor in summer also form part of Slovenian culture.
The museum network comprises hundreds of renovated castles and manors, and also the Idrija Mine, included on the UNESCO World Heritage List, and the Mojstrana Alpine Museum. The Walk of Peace connects places and museums related to the Isonzo Front, immortalised by Ernest Hemingway in A Farewell to Arms; the Kobarid Museum, dedicated to the Great War, has received several awards.
The Slovenian capital, Ljubljana, offers what any metropolis does – in a ‘user-friendly’ way. The layers of Slovenian heritage are complemented by the work of Jože Plečnik (1872–1957) whose architecture can be found not only in Vienna and Prague, but also a number of bridges, churches and monumental buildings in his native Ljubljana. In the alternative art centres at Metelkova City and Rog Factory, the young generation adds value to the traditional urban centre of the capital. Marked culture paths, accessible on foot and by bike, wind through its historic streets.
The two largest Slovenian towns, Ljubljana and Maribor, boast symphony orchestras and opera and ballet theatres. There are theatres in all major towns; individual productions often, and very successfully, tour the European and other continents, primarily those favouring avant garde aesthetics. Slovenian film makers regularly participate at international film festivals and have received numerous international prizes. International graphic art and design biennials are organised in Slovenia. Artists from around the world have participated in Forma Viva sculpture symposiums in Kostanjevica na Krki, Portorož or Ravne na Koroškem. Several excellent photographers are also active in Slovenia.
The year 1550 marks the beginning of Slovenian literature, which reached its first peak with the Romantic poet France Prešeren (1800–1849), followed by the Modernists, Srečko Kosovel (1904–1926), Edvard Kocbek (1904–1981) and Tomaž Šalamun (1941–2014). Poetry is the connecting thread of two renowned literary festivals – Vilenica and the Days of Wine and Poetry in Ptuj.
Across the country and throughout the seasons, obviously more often in summer, there are many festivals for different publics and of various types. Every year, Ljubljana Festival presents some really famous classical music performers, while the renovated castles resound with exquisite concerts of ancient music. The Mediterranean town of Piran, birthplace of composer and violinist Giuseppe Tartini, hosts a number of cultural events. Slovenian newly composed ethnic music of the Avsenik Ensemble and other similar groups is popular not only in Slovenia, but also in other Alpine regions. All around the country, one can hear various musical genres, from jazz – Ljubljana Jazz Festival is one of the oldest in Europe – to heavy metal and punk rock: the Metaldays and Punk Rock Holiday festivals are held in Tolmin, at the confluence of the Alpine Soča and Tolminka rivers.
Cultural diversity is an excellent reason to visit Slovenia and explore its boutique, affordable and easily accessible offer of authentic contacts with artists and cultural content for any taste and all generations.
You are cordially invited to visit the site www.culture.si.
Welcome to Slovenia.
The national identity of Slovenians emanates from their culture, which underpins everything – its political awareness, its place in Europe, the Slovenian state and it also inspired our future. Slovenian language, art, music, poetry constituted the Slovenian identity through many centuries and guided the Slovenian people towards independence. The first book in Slovenian was printed in 1550, however the first written document in the Slovenian language – the Freising Manuscripts - was written about 500 years earlier. Academia Philharmonicorum, predecessor of the Slovenian Philharmonic Orchestra was established as early as 1701.
The importance of culture to Slovenians is not only reflected in historic records but it features in every aspect of Slovenian life. In the old town of the capital Ljubljana, one can visit Prešeren Square with a statue not of a military or political leader, but the Slovenian national poet France Prešeren. Public squares and markets in Slovenia are filled with artworks and monuments dedicated to artists, architects, musicians, and writers. Markets in Slovenian towns are also where festivals, carnivals, concerts and sports events take place. Cultural events in Slovenia are very well attended – various festivals (especially in the summer months) thrill visitors who come from near and far. Theater and concerts are popular. Slovenians also love to read, sing and play music. Almost every Slovenian has a passion to be a writer, painter, poet, cook, dancer, wine-maker, musician, director, actor, blogger, or craftsperson. In addition to traditional skills handed down from generation to generation, Slovenians are world renowned in modern art.
Before the 18th century, the music performed in Slovenian lands was mostly of the folk and religious types. At the same time talented Slovenian composers like Jacobus Gallus (1500- 1591) worked in European music centers like Prague and Vienna. Slovenia has rich tradition of choral singing. The roots go back to the late 15th century when Jurij Slatkonja, the Slovenian-born bishop of Vienna established the Vienna Court Cappella, later known as Vienna Boys Choir. Choral singing has always been very popular among Slovenians. Another popular music activity with a long tradition is wind bands.
In 1970s and 1980s an alternative and diverse rock scene developed with numerous bands and popular festivals such as Metalcamp and Punk Rock Holiday in Tolmin, and Schengenfest in Vinica, Bela Krajina. Slovenian jazz groups and jazz artists are of high caliber and collaborate with international musicians. In the last two decades cappella jazz vocal ensembles became popular. Among these, the most internationally recognized is Perpetuum Jazzile.
In the minds of many foreigners, Slovenian folk music means a form of polka that is still popular today, especially among expatriates and their descendants. However, there are many styles of Slovenian folk music beyond polka, kolo and waltz. Landler, štajeriš, mafrine and šaltin are a few of the traditional music styles and dances.
Folk costumes in Slovenia are most widely used for festivals, contests, or on holidays. Dancers wearing traditional dress also perform as a way to preserve and share Slovenia's culture. The traditional dress for a Slovenian woman consists of a shirt (usually white), skirt, apron, decorated headscarf, and white socks, and may include a belt and scarf or a sash. As in other Central European national costumes, the Slovenian traditional dress varies by region. The male version of the traditional Slovenian costume consists of a white shirt, vest, cropped pants sometimes made of leather, white socks, leather boots or shoes, and sometimes a pocket watch. Different styles of hats can also be worn for the male Slovenian costume, depending upon the region from which the costume originates.
Like other modern European literatures, Slovenian literature began developing during the Protestant reformation. Interest in the Slovenian language and national identity continued during the Enlightenment and blossomed during the period of romanticism, when Slovenian literature reached its first peak in the poetry of France Prešeren (1800 – 1849). Slovenian literature and writings of the second half of the 19th century were dominated by realism. A second peak in Slovenian literature was reached during the period of Moderna with writer Ivan Cankar. After WWI, expressionism and social realism were two dominant and coexisting literary movements. In the late 1950s Slovenian literature was influenced by new Western literary trends – post-symbolism, existentialism, modernism and postmodernism. It also remained close to the Central European tradition, characterized by a dominance of lyric poetry over prose and drama. Tomaž Šalamun, also known in the United States, was the most prominent modern poet. His most distinctive works were translated into English, along with those by Drago Jančar, Boris Pahor, Lojze Kovačič, Dominik Smole, Andrej Blatnik, Vladimir Bartol and Edvin Flisar.
Until the late 19th century, houses of regional design with an openhearth kitchen dominated Slovenia. In the early 20th century, regional differences began to vanish as houses were rebuilt, following trends in urban architecture. Some beautiful examples of Alpine, Mediterranean, and Pannonian variations of houses were saved and restored.
The most abundant and characteristic wooden architectural structure is the kozolec (hayrack), a free standing, mainly wooden, partiallyopen yet roofed structure which is used for drying and storing hay and grain. A double linked hayrack, known as a toplar, is also unique to Slovenia. Traditionally, stone in Primorska and Istria, logs in the central Slovenian and in eastern Slovenia regions, and mud were used as building materials. Modern architecture was introduced in Slovenia by Max Fabiani and, in the mid-war period by Jože Plečnik and Ivan Vurnik.
In the second half of the 20th century national and universal style were merged by the architects Edvard Ravnikar and Marko Mušič. Slovenia has numerous churches and chapels that date as far back as the 10th century. Slovenia also has hundreds of wayside shrines, often Alpine in character, built since the end of the 15th century.
Production of theater performances on Slovenian soil began in the sixteenth century by students of various religious schools (mainly Jesuits). The text of Škofjeloški pasijon ('The Škofja Loka Passion') is a fine example of Baroque religious theater. The official theater tradition began in 1789, when the stage of the State Theater (normally a venue for German plays) hosted Anton Tomaž Linhart's production of his comedy Županova Micka. In 1867, as a result of nationalist movements, a Dramatic Society was established, which performed newly written Slovenian theater pieces.
By the end of the First World War, the only professional theater in Ljubljana had become a well-developed company. The second oldest professional Slovenian language theater, which remains a successful company to this day, is in Trieste, which today is part of Italy. With the creation of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, these companies were combined in 1919 by the theater in the town of Maribor.
The years following Second World War were characterized by a veritable explosion of new professional theater companies: Ljubljana City Theater and Slovenian Youth Theater, followed by theaters in Celje and, a bit later, in Nova Gorica. In the past two decades, theaters have also been founded in Ptuj, Koper and Novo Mesto. There are also two opera and ballet houses: in Ljubljana and Maribor and two professional puppet theaters.
It is of little surprise that in the past three decades theater has been the art form that has received the most media recognition and won the most praise internationally. Also within this framework, the prestige of modern dance expanded with Betontanc (Concrete Dance) and by Matjaž Farič, Slovenian dancer, choreographer and director, and especially internationally renowned dance troupes such as choreographer Iztok Kovač's En Knap.
The visual arts have traditionally been important in Slovenia. Fine local church painters appeared as early as the 12th and 13th century. But what could be perceived as national painting developed slowly and became recognizable as such only during the Romantic period. Painting with a high artistic value only began to blossom in the beginning of the 20th century and was linked to Impressionism: Ivan Grohar, Rihard Jakopič, Matej Sternen and Matija Jama presented works of Slovenian Impressionism at an acclaimed exhibition in Vienna in 1904 and reached the pinnacle of Slovenian painting.
In the years following Second World War, this relatively small club of excellent artists began to expand with the development of the Academy of Fine Arts, from which emerged new names of great renown, such as Gabrijel Stupica, Riko Debenjak, Maksim Sedej, Božidar Jakac, Veno Pilon and France Mihelič. After 1960, the Ljubljana School of Graphic Art, in close association with the Ljubljana Graphic Art Biennial, rose to prominence with artists such as Janez Bernik, Andrej Jemec and Jože Ciuha. Until his death, the city of Paris was the creative environment of Zoran Mušič (1909–2005), Slovenia's most renowned Modernist painter.
Modern Slovenian sculpture has progressed along much the same path as painting. The wave of Slovenian sculpture began with Alojz Gangl and later with Jakob Savinšek and Kralj brothers, both also painters. A number of conceptual visual art groups formed, including OHO, Group 69, and IRWIN. The history of Slovenian photography is also very rich. The oldest and the most precious are glass-plate photographs by the Slovenian photographic innovator Janez Puhar.
The website Culture.si covers information on cultural producers, venues, festivals and support services in Slovenia, all in one place. It encourages international cultural exchange in the fields of arts, culture and heritage. Culture.si offers an up to date address book that can be searched by the region, discipline or type. Culture.si strives to broaden and promote international cultural cooperation, as well as knowledge and recognition of Slovene culture. Read more