ŠENTJUR: The town of saints and sinners

What makes it unique? It definitely isn’t the beautiful St George’s (Sv Jurij) church or enchanting surrounding hills and meadows. The town and municipality’s neolithic heritage and archeological treasures or the Ipavec dynasty and musical-medical prowess may well qualify.

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However, for us the legend of Guzaj stands out as making Šentjur a distinctly notable spot on the territory of Slovenia. Think about how much Robin Hood means, how Sherwood Forest and Nottingham are very much on the map if for nothing else but his life and deeds. His Slovenian counterpart Guzaj, if he didn’t bring you to Šentjur to start with, should be an inspiration for the area’s exploration. Notwithstanding, a description of Šentjur minus a mention of Slovenia’s beloved (and only) Saint is tantamount to ignorance, Anton Martin Slomšek having lived the early years of his life and work in this municipality. All of the above make up an enviable list of sights well worth discovering, the relaxation after which can easily be taken care of at the thermal spa centers in nearby Rogaška Slatina or Olimje. Until the construction of the railway station in the town’s southern part, the upper square (Zgornji Trg) of Šentjur was its focal point, that is since the 14th century, when the town in its current form was first mentioned. The square was also named the most beautiful old market town center in all of Slovenia in 2015. Nowadays, needless to say, hiking, cycling and numerous other outdoor activities are part of the fabric of the community and equally open for the enjoyment of visitors here.

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THE BIRTH HOUSE OF ANTON MARTIN SLOMŠEK: Key figurehead in Slovene nationhood, language and Religious unification, Slomšek, has also recently become its first Blessed (1998). His native village is worth visiting not only for its quaintness, but now his birth-house has been turned into a memorial after it was bought by the Diocese of Maribor in the 1990’s. Again signs are in Slovene only, but an English speaker can be arranged to talk you through his life, achievements and legacy. Briefly speaking, the house and accompanying ‘Slom’ farm came into the family back at the beginning of the 18th Century (giving the name Slomšek), Anton Martin grew up there a hundred years later having been born in November 1800. The house was eventually sold, a generation or so after his parents’ death, most recently falling into the hands of the Diocese. The corridor features several important artifacts, several rooms telling the story in chapters of his childhood, priesthood and bishophood. The hall (upstairs) serves as space for the presentation and other events. Pilgrims get their own room, but everyone can sit at the stone table outside under the old lime tree, perhaps admiring or reading something bought in the little souvenir shop.

 THE IPAVEC COMPOSERS FAMILY HOUSE: Seems Šentjur has something of a connection with music and medicine. Several of its former mayors have been doctors, most notably Gustav Ipavec, brother of Benjamin, who remain the town’s pride and whose home is beautifully restored as a museum. The life and work of the two composers and doctors takes you from the reception room with their busts, to Gustav’s former treatment room in which a piano was played during surgery in some of the first of this kind of therapy. A room is dedicated to each brother upstairs, where you can hear their famous compositions including Benjamin’s opera works and Gustav’s patriotic ‘Slovenec sem’ (I’m a Slovene). The house itself also has a wedding room, wine cellar with a collection from local producers and a garden (preparation underway at the time of writing). Ljubljana’s esteemed architect Jože Plečnik was responsible for renovation work on the house and a well (under a beautiful old lime). A compact outdoor auditorium hosts numerous events through summertime and last but not least, the vine you can see growing at the front of the house is a graft of the oldest in Europe, from Lent in Maribor. Info: Zgornji Trg, +386 (0) 37 49 25 23.

 

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THE TOWER OF LOVE: In the southeastern part of the Šentjur municipality stands Žusem hill, where everything is about love. On the hill you can find the church of St Valentine, the patron of lovers. Each year around 14 February a traditional Valentine night hike takes place. Numerous legends from the times of the Žusem counts contributed to the hill’s reputation as a place of love. You can take a walk on the Žusem Castle Learning Path, the winner of the Best Regional Path title in 2014. And at the very top of the hill sits the Žusem Tower of Love, the highest tower of love in Europe and the highest wooden tower in Slovenia.

EXHIBITION OF RIFNIK AND ITS TREASURES: Exhibiting the finds from the extremely important archeological site nearby, Rifnik, this very attractive and newly laid out museum is housed in the same building as the Tourist Information Centre in Šentjur. It tells a story of almost continuous settlement on the said hill (Rifnik), spanning the Copper Age to Late Antiquity. Despite all the information boards thus far being in Slovene only, a guide isn’t hard to find and will explain in as much or little detail as you like. The artifacts themselves are mostly originals, including copper bowls buried under a rock (presumably when the settlement was under attack), coins and tools, several of which interestingly featuring similar impressions of ducks. A bronze bust on display is a replica, the original having reportedly sat on Himmler’s desk in Nazi Germany (for whatever reason) and is now kept by the National Museum in Ljubljana. Also memorable are the objects found in two graves, precious possessions such as belts and colourful jewelry. Of course seeing this haul is one thing, but you need to see the hill itself and hear its stories to paint a proper picture, should you be fascinated by life in those far gone-by eras. Info:  Skladateljev Ipavcev 17, +386 (0) 74 92 52 3, tic@turizem-sentjur.com, www.turizem-sentjur.com.


CYCLING PATHS IN ŠENTJUR: Explore and be active, and discover the character of the greater Šentjur area on bike. The paths offer a unique experience of green nature and the opportunity to visit many cultural and historical sights. Meeting local people and tasting local cuisine are a great way to create some unforgettable memories, as there are plenty of reasons to stop and rest along the way.