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Four Slovenian Villages

By Mojca Peterka (text), Iztok Bončina (photos)

SEE BELOW FOR THIS ARTICLE IN SLOVENIAN / SPODAJ SI LAHKO ČLANEK PREBERETE V SLOVENŠČINI

For an abridged version of this article, click here / Za krajšo verzijo tega članka, kliknite tukaj

Pince in the east, Budinci in the north, Kot pri Damlju in the south and Robidišče in the west are the four villages that pin Slovenia to the map at its four extremitie

Pince in the east, Budinci in the north, Kot pri Damlju in the south and Robidišče in the west are the four villages that pin Slovenia to the map at its four extremitie

Annual meetings in the 1990s brought the people of these villages together. These special events took place in a different village each year, but to the great disappointment of the inhabitants, they were discontinued before the start of the new millennium.

Locals still remember how politicians visited them at these times, these rare occasions when they enjoyed the country’s attention. One story told is typical of those we heard in all four villages: “It was great fun, really great. But a few years ago they stopped organising them. I went to Pince and Budinci; there were speeches, folk dances, performances. Each village had its own representatives and the event finished up with a big party. I do not know why they stopped.”

For us, the idea of exploring these little outlying places where Slovenia comes into closest contact with its neighbouring countries promised to be an interesting experience.

Pince

Our expedition to the northeast of the country takes us to Pince, the easternmost Slovenian village, and Budinci, the most northern. Both are in Prekmurje, close to the Hungarian border, but this is the only thing they have in common. That and the British and other newcomers interested in buying property. For this reason, one of the first questions locals ask visitors is: “Do you want to buy something?”

Locals in Pince collect pumpkin seeds for making their renowned pumpkin-seed oil

Locals in Pince collect pumpkin seeds for making their renowned pumpkin-seed oil

In Pince, which in Hungarian means ‘cellar’, we interrupt Marjeta Pankasz as she is cleaning pumpkins. “You need about two and a half kilograms of dried seeds to make a litre of pumpkin-seed oil,” she explains. “For Halloween we also clean the insides of the pumpkins and put candles in them.” They also make puppets from pumpkins. As one of several old but surviving traditions, these are placed outside houses for the Pumpkin Festival.

Today, the village is home to around 200 people, more than half of them Hungarian. Marjeta herself is a Hungarian who has lived in Pince her whole life and is fluent in Slovenian. “Even my mother went to school over the border, and to church, too. Now there is a bilingual primary school in Lendava (Slovenia) and mass in the village on Saturdays. We used to work at home on the farm; we had cows and pigs. Nowadays you won’t find a single cow in the village. Life in the village is quiet. There are no pubs or anywhere for the villagers to socialize in the evenings, but every so often they have parties in the village centre.”

Budinci

Across the wide plains of Prekmurje, the northbound road descends into the rolling hill country of the Goricko region. In Budinci, we are welcomed with a gentle rustle by a local landmark: three mighty linden trees looming over the village cemetery and watching life in the elongated village.

At Bak's farm they wine they make ages in wooden barrels

At Bak's farm they wine they make ages in wooden barrels

We stop at Bak’s Farm, as it is locally known, where workers are in the middle of bottling must (the juice of the freshly pressed grapes). “Many of our fellow villagers, born here, have been forced to move to Ljubljana to seek a better life,” says the farmer’s wife. “See that house over there?” she adds, gesturing toward a hill in the distance. “That’s still Budinci. But behind those houses is the Hungarian border.”

People go about their business in the midst of unspoiled nature, but even so life is hard. Wild animals sometimes destroy vineyards and crops. People emigrate. Previous generations went to America or France; nowadays the young people go to Austria and central Slovenia to find work. The social life for those who remain centres around a cultural society, sports club and volunteer fire-fighting brigade.

Tourism is a developing sector in the village, as well as elsewhere in Prekmurje. The area has found its way into cycling guidebooks and, thanks to its flat terrain, is suitable for Nordic walking (walking with poles). And, of course, more and more newcomers are seeking to settle.

Before we hasten away, the workers at Bak’s farm thrust something into our hands, saying “Everyone who comes to the house for the first time has to accept some eggs.”

Prekmurje hospitality is certainly more than just proverbial.

The author having fun by the Kolpa River in Kot

The author having fun by the Kolpa River in Kot

Kot

Kot, the southernmost point of Slovenia, is a village – really little more than a hamlet – consisting of six houses lying on the banks of the Kolpa River, which separates it from Croatia. We reach Kot via two kilometres of narrow macadam track that begins in the nearby larger village of Damelj. Above Kot rises an overgrown hill called Sebetih. A couple of cats playing in the street are the only sign of life.

Searching for someone to talk to, we stop at the nearest house, where we are greeted by a friendly lady named Marija Špehar. Marija grew up in Kot, but today only comes to the village to visit her mother. “The village has always been rather cut off from the rest of Slovenia,” she sighs. “There used to be close connections with Croatia across the river. On schooldays children would cross the river by boat to go to primary school in Severin. The children from the two communities were great friends and later it was quite common for boys from the village to marry girls from the other bank, while lads from Croatia would come here to find a bride.”

Until the late 1980s even the power lines came from the Croatian side, and the locals would pay their electricity bill s to the Croatian supplier. Even today the village has no main water supply; instead they rely on a pressurized water-tank system.

This remote cluster of houses has no real gathering place at which to exchange gossip either. There has never been a village pub, the nearest one being in neighbouring Damelj. But villagers adapted, living from hand to mouth with what they produced themselves. Extra eggs – and every now and then a calf – are sold in Croatia.

Above the village, on the slopes of Sebetih, there used to be rich vineyards. These stocked a wine shop that once occupied the middle of the village. Today the slopes are a tangle of bushes and tall grass. All that remains is nostalgia.

Kot’s decline began in 1970s, when young people went off to work in Črnomel, at the Danfoss and Belt factories. But when a young family named Horvat moved to Kot last year, it was like a breath of fresh air. Full of optimism and with a clear vision of tourism development, the Horvats converted a meadow by the Kolpa River near their farmhouse into a picnic area. They hope to attract people and organized groups interested in hiring boats and rafts.

By the tranquil river, Mrs Horvat explains what brought them to this remote village. She talks optimistically about the plans she and her husband have made. They have already renovated a 300-year-old house. They intend to restore the property to its original state and create a small open farm with a room or apartment for guests. They also hope to reopen the wine shop, to sell wine produced in the village vineyards. “My daughters have decided to stay here,” says Mrs Horvat. “Julija Assumpta and Urska Ana are five and seven years old and are currently the youngest inhabitants of Kot!”

We follow a path down to the Kolpa River, today a boundary but in the past a link between two countries. It is so quiet you can hear the whisper of the crystal-clear river, yearning for attention and for life as it once was.

Robidišče

Finally we are off toward the west and the village of Robidišče, which once had a population of 300, but now counts only eight inhabitants. To reach Robidišče, we climb a slope above Kobarid, where the air of Slovenia and Italy mingle. In fact, the village, which lies at an elevation of almost 700 meters above sea level and offers splendid views, is surrounded on three sides by Italy.

Rudi, one of the eight inhabitants of Robidišče, plays with his dog

Rudi, one of the eight inhabitants of Robidišče, plays with his dog

We stroll along the stone streets to the edge of the village, where we meet Mr Dante Škvor. He spent his childhood in Robidišče, but moved away as and adult. Upon retirement, he returned to the village with his wife, Vida, now the president of the Robidišče Preservation Society. Together they would like to give back to the village some of the pulse of life it had in the past. They maintain a small museum with a traditional open-hearth kitchen, and they also have a two-room apartment they let to tourists.

Robidišče was once practically cut off from Slovenia. Until the village road was built in1965, locals would go to the neighbouring community of Logje on foot carrying baskets on their shoulders. Robidišče is actually closer to Prosnid (Prossenicco) in Italy, which is just a 15 minutes walk. But there was a primary school in the village. For a few years after World War II it was attended by as many as 50 children. That was a time of large families of 10 to 12 people. They used to sleep on hay in barns, because it was warmer than in the houses.

Rudi Cencič, a lifelong inhabitant of the village, gives us a picturesque description of village food: “The main dish was gruel. We made frika from cheese: you add oil, bacon or butter, fry it up, and eat with a little salad, chicory, on the side. We also ate potatoes and cottage cheese. You dice the potatoes, boil it, add milk, add the cheese and cover it with butter.”

Despite the tough times, village life was full of variety. Three gostilne (taverns) catered to the thirsty villagers, and there were dances at which the village ensemble of three accordions players sang and played. There were barufe (brawls) every Saturday – over property boundary markers, never over girls: “If she does not like you, there’s nothing you can do about it. You have to leave her to someone else,” chuckles Rudi.

Sadly, back then, when times were hard, everyone who had the chance left the village and went off into the world to seek a living. Fortunately, some come back in later life, like the Škvors, and many have converted their houses into weekend cottages.

Igor from Robidišče feeds his horses

Igor from Robidišče feeds his horses

Also, Igor Cencič began producing sheep’s cheese and cottage cheese in Robidišče 10 years ago. He set up a charming little shop in the old school, right at the entrance to the village, which soon became a popular spot for visitors. Here they can rest and fortify themselves with local delicacies. “You have to offer something, then they will stop,” he explains. He also keeps a small herd of wonderful horses.

Robidišče is therefore slowly reviving. There are even new houses being built. Over the summer quite a lot of visitors pass through, but in the winter the difficulty of access dissuades many from visiting this lovely little village. Every second week in September the locals hold a Šagra (village feast). Many emigrants return to the village for the occasion.

As the last rays of the setting sun caress the village, Rudi Cenčič sighs hopefully and gazes off toward the east. “One day this will be full of people. It is never too late. Perhaps in a few months or a few years, but they will come. This is a beautiful place.”

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IN SLOVENIAN / V SLOVENŠČINI

For an abridged version of this article, click here / Za krajšo verzijo tega članka, kliknite tukaj

Štiri vasi na štirih straneh Slovenije

Pince na vzhodu, Robidišče na zahodu, Budinci na severu in Kot pri Damlju na jugu – štiri vasi, na katere je pripeta Slovenija na svojih skrajnih točkah.

Besedilo: Mojca Peterka
Fotografije: Iztok Bončina

Vsakoletna srečanja v 90-ih so povezovala tamkajšnje ljudi, vsako leto se je srečanje odvijalo v drugi vasi. Na veliko žalost prebivalcev so ta srečanja ugasnila še pred začetkom novega tisočletja: »Fajn, je bilo, fajn. Fino. Že ene par let nazaj so opustili. Jaz sem bil v Pincah, Budincih, bili so govori, folklorni plesi, nastopi, vsak kraj je imel kaj svojega, zaključek je bil z veselico. Ne vem, zakaj je to propadlo,« so bile zgodbe, ki so nama jih pripovedovali domačini vseh štirih vasi. Še dobro se spominjajo politikov, ki so se ob tej priložnosti pripeljali k njim, saj je to bila ena izmed redkih priložnosti, da so bili deležni pozornosti države.

Že sama misel na raziskovanje teh majhnih in obrobnih kotičkov, kjer se Slovenija najbolj skrajno dotika sosednjih držav, je obljubljala zanimivo doživetje.

Pince

Odprava na severovzhod države je vodila do Pinc, najbolj vzhodne, in Budincev, najbolj severne slovenske vasi. Obe ležita v Prekmurju blizu madžarske meje, kar jima je tudi edina skupna točka. No, lahko bi dodali še Angleže in druge prišleke, ki se v obeh vaseh zanimajo za nakup nepremičnin. Zato je skoraj najpogostejše vprašanje, s katerim domačini sprejmejo obiskovalce »Mislite kaj kupit?«

V Pincah, kar v madžarščini pomeni klet, sva Marjeto Pankasz zmotila pri čiščenju buč. »Približno dva in pol kilograma posušenih semen potrebujete za liter bučnega olja«, je pripovedovala med delom, »za noč čarovnic bučam tudi očistimo notranjost in vanje damo kako svečko.« Iz buč izdelujejo tudi lutke, ki jih na praznik buč postavijo pred hišo in tako nadaljujejo tradicijo starih običajev. Danes živi v vasi okoli dvesto prebivalcev, več kot polovica je Madžarov. Tudi Marjeta je Madžarka, ki že vse življenje prebiva v Pincah in tekoče govori slovensko, »še moja mama je v šolo hodila v sosednjo državo, prav tako tudi k bogoslužju. Sedaj je dvojezična osnovna šola v Lendavi, maša pa poteka v vasi ob sobotah. Nekoč smo delali doma na kmetijah, imeli smo krave in prašiče. Danes v celotni vasi ne najdeš ene krave. Življenje v vasi je dokaj mirno. Gostilne, kjer bi se ob večerih družili vaščani ni, priredijo pa vsake toliko veselice pri vaškem domu.«

Budinci

Preko neskončne prekmurske ravnine se pot proti severu prevesi v valovito gričevje Goričkega. V Budincih, najbolj severni točki Slovenije se je leta 1999 ob popolnem sončnem mrku, zbralo več kot 3000 ljudi. Z rahlim šelestenjem naju sprejme krajevna znamenitost. Tri mogočne lipe, ki stojijo ob vaškem pokopališču in nadzorujejo dogajanje nad razpotegnjeno vasjo. Ustaviva se pri Bakovih, kot se kmetiji reče po domače, kjer ravno pretakajo mošt. »Številni sovaščani, rojeni tu, so se bili prisiljeni preseliti v Ljubljano in si poiskati boljše življenje. Vidite, tista hiša tam, tam so še Budinci«, pokaže gospodinja na grič v daljavi, »za hišami pa je že madžarska meja.«

Vsakdan poteka v objemu nedotaknjene narave, a je kljub temu življenje tod težavno. Vinograde in poljščine uničujejo divjad ter divje svinje. Prejšnje generacije so se pogosto selile v Ameriko ali Francijo. Mladi so odšli v Avstrijo in v osrednjo Slovenijo iskat delo. Tisti domačini, ki še vztrajajo v vasi, se združujejo v kulturnem, športnem in gasilskem društvu.

Vas se, tako kot preostalo Prekmurje, turistično razvija. Omenjena je v kolesarskih vodnikih, zaradi ravnega terena je primerna za nordijsko hojo. Nenazadnje jo poseljujejo tudi prišleki, ki iščejo mir v neokrnjeni naravi.

Preden odhitiva v Belo Krajino, nama pri Bakovih porinejo v roke jajca, rekoč: »Kdor prvič pride k hiši, more jajca dobit.« Res je, prekmurska gostoljubnost ni le pregovorna.

Kot

Kot, najjužnejša točka Slovenije, je vas, bolje zaselek, s šestimi hišami. Dosežemo jo po dva kilometra dolgi ozki makadamski poti, ki vodi iz bližnje večje vasi Damelj. Leži na bregovih Kolpe, ki jo ločuje od sosednje Hrvaške, nad njo pa se vzpenja poraščen hrib Sebetih. Ob vstopu v vas naju pričaka le mačji par, ki se igra na »glavni« vaški ulici. V iskanju sogovornika stopiva do najbližje hiše, kjer srečava prijetno gospo. Marija Špehar je svojo mladost preživela v Kotu, sedaj pa v vas prihaja na obisk k svoji mami. »Vas je že od nekdaj odrezana od preostalega dela Slovenije,« zavzdihne, »in preko reke Kolpe je bila tesno povezana le s sosednjo Hrvaško. Otroci so se vsak šolski dan s čolnom prepeljali na drugi breg, kjer so obiskovali osnovno šolo v Severinu. Bili so veliki prijatelji in pozneje so si pogosto nevesto poiskali kar na drugem bregu, hrvaški fantje pa pri nas.«

Tudi električni kabel je bil napeljan s hrvaške strani vse do konca osemdesetih, položnice za elektriko so plačevali hrvaškemu dobavitelju. Vodovoda v vasi pa še danes nimajo, zato uporabljajo kar hidrofor.

Odročna vasica tudi nima pravega zbirališča za vaške »čveke«, prav tako tu nikoli ni bilo gostilne, najbližja je bila v sosednjem Damlju. Način življenja je bil prilagojen razmeram, v katerih so prebivali. Ljudje so se preživljali iz rok v usta, kar so pridelali, so imeli zase. Na sosednjo Hrvaško so prodajali jajca, tu pa tam kako tele. Nekdaj so se tu raztezali bogati vinogradi, ki so ležali na pobočjih nad vasjo, sredi vasi pa je bil vinotoč, namenjen prodaji vina, pridelanega na tem vinorodnem območju. Sedaj je za njimi ostal le nostalgičen spomin, pobočja je preraslo grmičevje in visoka trava. Vas je začela zamirati v 70-ih letih, ko so si mladi poiskali delo v Črnomlju, v podjetjih Danfoss in Belt. Ko se je v Kot lansko leto preselila mlada družina Horvat, je zavel nov veter. Polni optimizma in z jasno vizijo razvoja turizma so blizu svoje domačije spremenili travnik ob Kolpi v prostor za piknik. Ta je namenjen čolnarjem in zaključenim družbam, ki jim posojajo svoje lastne čolne in rafte.

Ob mirni reki nama gospa Horvat razlaga, kaj jih je prineslo v odmaknjeno vas: »Moji hčerki sta se odločili, da tukaj ostanemo. Julija Assumpta in Urška Ana sta stari 5 in 7 let in sta trenutno najmlajši prebivalki Kota.« Optimistično pojasnjuje načrte, ki jih imata z možem. Obnovila sta 300 let staro hišo, ponovno nameravata vzpostaviti domačijo, kot je bila nekoč in v njej urediti manjšo turistično kmetijo, s sobo ali apartmajem. V vasi bosta znova odprla vinotoč, kjer bosta prodajala vino, pridelano na vaških vinogradih. Po poti se spustiva do reke Kolpe, sedaj mejnik med državama, v preteklosti njun povezovalec. Tako je tiho, da lahko slišiš šepet zrcalno čiste reke, ki kliče po pozornosti in življenju, kot je bilo včasih.

Robidišče

In že sva na poti proti zahodu. V vas Robidišče, včasih s tristo prebivalci, sedaj le z osmimi. Iz Kobarida se povzpneva na pobočje, kjer se mešata slovenski in italijanski zrak. Vas, ki s skoraj 700 metri nadmorske višine ponuja čudovit razgled, s treh strani obkroža Italija. Po kamniti ulici se sprehodiva do roba vasi, kjer srečava gospoda Danteja Škvora. Svoje otroštvo je preživel v Robidišču, se kasneje odselil, po upokojitvi pa vrnil v rodno vas. S svojo ženo Vido, ki je predsednica Društva za ohranitev Robidišča, želita v vas vnesti nekaj utripa minulih časov. Sredi vasi ohranjata majhen muzej s črno kuhinjo, imata pa tudi apartma in dve sobi, ki jih oddajata popotnikom.

Vas je bila včasih praktično odrezana od Slovenije, cesto so zgradili šele leta 1965. Prej so do sosednje vasi Logje hodili peš, s košem na ramenih. Bližje jim je celo Prosnid v Italiji, ki je oddaljen le 15 minut hoda. Bili so težki časi, zato je vsakdo, ki je imel možnost, zapustil domačo vasico ter odšel v svet s trebuhom za kruhom. Nekateri se na stara leta vračajo nazaj, svoje hiše so si preuredili v vikende. V vasi je delovala osnovna šola in še nekaj let po II. svetovni vojni je bilo v njej preko 50 otrok. Otroci so v rosni mladosti začeli pomagati staršem, pasli so živino ali kuhali kosilo. Delali so za lastno preživetje, kdaj pa kdaj so presežek pridelanega prodali in tako nekaj malega zaslužili. To je bil čas velikih družin, po 10 do 12 ljudi, spali so kar na stelji v seniku, saj je bilo topleje kot v hiši. Rudi Cencič, od rojstva prebivalec vasi, je slikovito opisal, kaj so nekoč jedli: »Glavna hrana je bil močnik, delali smo frike iz sira, daste olje, slanino ali maslo, to se ocvre, zraven pojeste malo solate, radiča. Jedli smo krompir in skuto; krompir si olupil na koščke, skuhal, zalil z mlekom, dodal sir in z maslom zabelil.«

Vaško življenje je bilo pestro. Tri gostilne so stregle žejnim vaščanom, prirejali so plese, na katerih je pel vaški ansambel s tremi harmonikarji. »Barufe« oziroma pretepi so bile vsako soboto, tepli so se za mejnike, zaradi punc nikoli: »Če te ena ne mara, kaj se boš rinil, moraš pustiti drugemu,« se je zasmejal Rudi.

Igor Cencič je v Robidišču pred desetimi leti začel s proizvodnjo ovčjega sira in skute. Na začetku vasi pri stari šoli je uredil lično prodajalno, ki je kmalu postala priljubljena točka obiskovalcev. Tu se spočijejo in okrepčajo z domačimi dobrotami. »Ljudem moraš nekaj ponuditi, potem pa se ustavijo pri tebi«, je pojasnil svoje mišljenje o prihodnjem razvoju turizma v vasi. Goji tudi manjšo čredo čudovitih konj.

Robidišče se počasi obnavlja, rastejo celo nove hiše. Obiskovalcev je čez poletje kar nekaj, pozimi pa jih težka dostopnost odvrača k obisku te prelepe vasice. Domačini prirejajo vsak drugi teden v septembru šagro in ob tej priložnosti se v vasi zberejo tudi številni izseljenci.

V zahajajočem soncu, ki z zadnjimi žarki poboža vas in njene prebivalce, Rudi upajoče zavzdihne nekam proti vzhodu: »Tu bo še polno ljudi. Prepozno ni nikoli. Mogoče čez nekaj mesecev, ali nekaj let, ampak prišli bodo. To je lep kraj.«