I spent 9 days at the beginning of July exploring 17 different historic towns around Slovenia. This is thanks to the play contest organized by The Association of Historic Towns of Slovenia. Slovenia combines all the different times of Europe at incredibly easily reachable distances between the Alps, the Adriatic, the Pannonian Plain, and the Karst. You can experience the ancient iron age and modern ironmongery, life in a time of Roman legions and the blooming of medieval towns, mining in the mysterious underground world of mercury mine, or the tranquility of the mystical passionate performance. For more information about this play contest check out my previous post about that here.
The beginning of the challenge where I had to visit these 17 towns has finally come. The first town on my list was a small town of Šentjur. A town that is about one hour of drive from the capital city of Ljubljana, has a lot of things to offer. It has long been shaped by the railway ever since the Southern Railway was built. The history of rail transport in Slovenia dates back to 2 June 1846, the opening day of the Graz to Celje section of the Austrian Southern Railway. The events that day included the inaugural run of the first train to operate in Slovenia and one of the stations along that track was Šentjur.
My day started by parking the car in the parking area next to a local elementary school. From there it was just a short stroll uphill to reach the old part of Šentjur. This area is mainly occupied by Zgornji trg (Upper Square). It is an attractive old market square which has a special place in the history of Slovenism and patriotism. Furthermore, it has been declared as the prettiest town’s square in Slovenia in 2015.
The Zgornji trg Square is home to the Ipavec House, the protocol building of the Municipality of Šentjur, where a permanent exhibition on the life and work of the greatest Slovenian musical family Ipavec is located. Alongside the Ipavec House in the shade of an ancient linden tree and Plečnik Fountain is a venue where many cultural events are held in the summer. At the entrance and at the portal of the neighboring buildings grows the descendant of “bleu de Cologne”, the oldest vine from Lent in Maribor which is about 440 years old!
Then I continued to the famous archeological park on a hill called Rifnik. On the way there I made a stop at Šentjur train station where you can visit the Museum of Southern Railway and experience how a train station and traveling by train felt like in the 19th century. Next to it, you will also notice a tree that does not exactly looks European. When a first train stopped at the station in 1846, a large crowd of people gathered at the Šentjur railway station. During the stop at this station, people from the Viennese court, who were passengers of the ceremonial train, planted an exotic Japanese pagoda tree or Sophora japonica, which till this day commemorates this festive even. This means that this tree is more than 150 years old!
The road was starting to get more and more narrow and curved on the way to my next destination. After some time I finally saw a sign for parking in the middle of a forest where I decided to park. Luckily, when I got out of the car there was already a sign for the Rifnik Archeological Park. This park is located on the top of Rifnik, a hill that has been continuously inhabited since the Early Stone Age. Today it is a popular hiking spot that offers beautiful views of Šentjur and the surroundings. While walking through the forest I reached an opening where I noticed ruins of a castle. The ruins of the Rifnik Castle stand on a rocky prominence of the hill bearing the same name. The castle was first mentioned in 1326 and was once owned by the Counts of Celje, as well.
The hike itself was not that difficult and the weather also cooperated a bit because it was not that hot yet at that time. The park is open all year round so no need to worry if you see ”temporary closed” on Google maps. In the park, you can see the foundations of two early Christian churches, seven houses, and defensive walls with guardhouses and a fountain. The history of Rifnik is displayed on exhibition panels in an interesting reconstructed prehistoric house. Archeologists found a huge amount of interesting items in this area during the excavations. Most of them can be seen in the Museum Collection Rifnik which is located at the Zgornji trg in Šentjur. The excavations can be seen in the Museum Collection Rifnik and its treasures, located at the Zgorni trg Square in Šentjur. For a better perspective of the area, I also wanted to try out my drone for the first. Little did I know that you need a cable to connect the controller to your phone so I was not able to make any aerial shots then (#fail). Make sure to walk a little bit left of the ruins through a little forest where you will end up at a beautiful view spot from where you can see Šentjur and all the hills surrounding it.
I had more things in my plan to see in this area but unfortunately, this was all the time that I had to explore Šentjur. Luckily, practically all places in Slovenia are less than 2 hours away from where I live, therefore it is always easy to return. Šentjur and its area are definitely worth a visit because there are absolutely no tourists here so you will have all the places to yourself. In my next post, I will be writing about the top 10 places to visit in Šentjur.