Venice for Carnival is very touristy. Everybody has heard of it, and from what my roommate says who attended this year, it’s currently rather commercial and not nearly as charming as it should be.
The Slovenian version of Carnival, Pust in the town of Ptuj, is also touristy. The big difference between it and Venice, though, is that while hoards of foreigners descend upon Venice, it’s the just the Slovenians that converge upon Ptuj. I was told something like 60,000 people were expected to visit Ptuj on Sunday to watch the parade. (Which, if you calculate it, about it is 34% of the whole population of Slovenia.) Ptuj is actually one of the most historically important cities in the region, and a major trading center in the time of the Roman Empire.
Ptuj with a ice-coved Drava:
A Funny Thing Happened on The Way to Ptuj:
Anyway. One of the central super cool features of Pust in Ptuj are the Kurenti. I’m going to cheat and quote Wikipedia now, which I can do because I’m not writing an academic paper and I’m lazy:
“Ptuj is the center place of a ten-day-long carnival in the spring, an ancient Slavic pagan rite of spring and fertility, called Kurentovanje or Korantovanje. Kurent is believed to be the name of an ancient god of hedonism – the Slavic counterpart of the Greek Priapos, although there are no written records.
Kurenti or Koranti (singular: Kurent or Korant) are figures dressed in sheep skin who go about the town wearing masks, a long red tongue, cow bells, and multi-colored ribbons on the head. The Kurenti from Ptuj and the adjoining villages also wear feathers, while those from the Haloze and Lancova vas wear horns. Organized in groups, Kurents go through town, from house to house, making noise with their bells and wooden sticks, to symbolically scare off evil spirits and the winter.”
How fantastic is that!? My friends from the area explained the Kurent as mainly there to ward off winter. Accompanying them are people cracking giant traditional rope whips. The idea, I’m told, is to make as much noise as possible. Go away winter, go away! Another detail Wikipedia left out- it’s also traditional for the young women to give the Kurent their white handkerchiefs, and if they don’t, it’s really bad. I’m going to go out a limb and say that this has has something to do with fertility, eh?
Somehow, though, the tradition has expanded to form a giant parade, somewhat akin to a old-fashioned parade you’d see in the U.S., with homespun floats on tractors. It went on for ever. I’m fairly confident at least 20,000 of the 60,000 people that visited Ptuj were in the parade. I’m not joking. It lasted for four hours. Frankly, after about fourty-five minutes we wandered off to go geocatching and eat more Krofi.
Some other non-Kurent sights from the parade:
The Kurenti are apparently going to make an appearance this weekend in Ljubljana, so hopefully I’ll get some better photos for you. My camera died mid-way through, so there are some good sights that I couldn’t get for you.