Tucked away in Slovenia’s northeast, the small town of Vitanje has a big history. It was a thriving market town as far back as the mid-13th century, and was officially recognized as such in 1306, making it one of the oldest medieval markets in the country and it has been an important regional center since the 11th century.
In fact, you can still trace the layout of the original market to this day, such was the slow pace of development in the municipality and the lack of bulldozers and overzealous town planners. The old town, with its market layout and quaint buildings, still has the feel of a medieval market, and even the modern parts that have built up around it retain a community feel. Slovenians have inhabited this area since the 6th century and in 2006 Vitanje celebrated a landmark – 700 years as a market town, and it’s still going strong, so another 700 years of history isn’t out of the question. Lying on the Hudinja River, Vitanje boasts a number of attractions alongside its two castles (the ‘new’ one, and the ‘old’ one). Hilly countryside, an abundance of greenery and a laid-back pace add up to make Vitanje a charming town.
CULTURAL CENTRE FOR EUROPEAN SPACE TECHNOLOGY (KSEVT): Rub your eyes as much as you like, the futuristic silver and glass object you see on the outskirts of Vitanje is not an illusion or mere a figment of your imagination, it’s the new Cultural Centre for European Space Technology (or more simply KSEVT to use its Slovene acronym). Opened 2012, the center owes its existence to one Herman Potočnik Noordung (1892-1929), one of the most influential minds behind the development of space technology in the early 20th century, his family had roots in Vitanje going back generations. After retiring from the army for medical reasons following WWI, Potočnik studied in Vienna, and published his groundbreaking work The Problems of Space Travel in 1929 under the pseudonym Noordung. Sadly he died of pneumonia less than a year later at the age of 36. In addition to a comprehensive exhibition of Potočnik’s life and work, KSEVT presents a range of space related exhibitions including early missile technology, space architecture and Slovenia’s role in space exploration. Info: Na Vasi 18, +386 (0)40 30 00 52, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.ksevt.eu.
STARI GRAD: Offering everything you could hope for in terms of a romantic location, a fascinating history and a great photo op, the Old Castle as the locals call it (there’s is also a Novi Grad, or ‘new’ castle), is perhaps the town’s most historic attraction. It certainly dominates the steep hill on the left bank of the river that it’s situated on. Little more than a picturesque ruin now, it was once known as Castrum Weitenstein, after the family of knights who lived there circa 1140. In its history it has been damaged by an earthquake and changed hands numerous times before being abandoned in the 17th century. But you can still see traces of the brilliance of the builders, who incorporated what are known as ‘Romanesque fillings’ in the gaps between the quarry stones.