Men dressed in sheepskin, horns and feathers start to dance around the bonfire in Ptuj, Slovenia. Shortly they’ll begin their parade of going door to door around the neighborhood. Warding off evil spirits with their bells and clubs, Kurents are the main event of the Kurentovanje Carnival Slovenia.
The festival has been organized by the town of Ptuj since 1960. In 2021 the Kurentovanje festival is from February 5th-16th. What started as a weekend celebration has escalated into a ten-day festival of indulgences and dancing.
By Ekke from Durham
It starts as soon as the clock strikes midnight
Kurentovanje Slovenia was originally a locals only event. Slovenians celebrated the end of winter and start of spring by throwing themselves a pre-Lent festival in the name of the Kurent.
God of unrestrained pleasure and hedonism, the Kurent was believed to have the power to lure in spring and chase away winter.
The costumes of the Kurents were quickly joined by the traditional costumes of cultures around the world. Kurentovanje Slovenia now celebrates people from Croatia, Serbia, Macedonia, Hungary, Austria, Italy, Japan and more.
By Ekke from Durham
The ten-day festival now has over 10,000 participants each year and 150,000 attendees
The first event of Kurentovanje Slovenia is the Kurent’s Jump. It takes place around a massive bonfire. Participants and attendees wait patiently for midnight.
At the start of the new day, Kurents start to dance and make their way from home to home. The following day, the streets of Ptuj come to life with concerts, activities and performances.
Image By: Ganbei
The Folk Parade is the first daytime event of Kurentovanje Slovenia. It starts in the Mestni trg at 11AM. Kurents parade through the city streets and squares. The performances and Kurentovanje Slovenia customs are explained to guests over loudspeakers.
As the parade makes its way through the streets, bystanders can see cultures comes together in celebration. Croatians, Serbians, Italian, Japanese and dance their way through the streets of Ptuj.
So Why Kurentovanje Carnival?
The town is making headway on to their goal as over one hundred thousand people travel to Slovenia to experience Kurentovanje Carnival Slovenia. With over ten thousand participants from around the world, they have established one of the most culturally diverse pre-Lent celebrations.
There is only one way to know why the weekend celebration was worth turning into a ten-day event. The reason lies in the streets of Ptuj, in the costumes of the Kurents and in the festivities that are the Kurentovanje Slovenia.
Apart from the Kurentovanje festival, Ptuj is famous for it’s castle, wines, and spa.
Kuerntovanje Carnival Tips
1# Don’t miss the start of the festival
Experience the Kurent’s come to life at midnight and announce the start of Kurentovanje Slovenia. Arrive in Ptuj the day before the festival to avoid jet lag and travel problems.
2# Bring your own mask
During the International Parade there is a mask judging contest. Attendees are invited to join in, sharing their chosen mask with over 150,000 people from around the world.
3# Be prepared to dance
It is Kurent tradition to approach and dance with female attendees watching the parade. The dance is all in fun and part of the celebrations.
What to Do?
Kurentovanje Slovenia is a tradition directly out of Ptuj. The carnival walks through most of the city and attendees can see most of the city. To take a short break from the carnival and experience more of Slovenia, there are a few activities close by.
Ptuj Castle is right on the river of Drava and is one of the biggest landmarks in Ptuj. A tour takes about forty-five minutes. The castle was built as a defense against Hungarians in the 12th century.
Ptuj Castle housed the nobles who fought against the Hungarians. There is even a tombstone for Friedrich iX, the last lord of Ptuj, in the basement. The castle is still home to many of the Gothic and Baroque artwork that was there in the 12th century.
Pokrajinski Muzej Ptuj Ormoz
Is the regional museum of Ptuj. It houses important artifacts and artworks of Slovenia. It is located along the Drava river, right by the carnival. The museum highlights varying exhibitions of Slovenian and world history.
Exhibitions for pottery and the remains of ancient Ptuj inhabitants are available for tourists. The Pokrajinski Muzej Ptuj Ormoz is one of the best places to learn about Slovenian history.
Ptuj City Theatre Secret
The Ptuj City Theatre is a quaint theatre in the city center. Locals and tourists in the know are aware of its secret. Underneath the stage is a cafe that opens at night. They offer a variety of alcoholic beverages and is popular with young adults.
Where to Stay?
Compared to larger European cities, Ptuj is a budget-friendly option for travelers.
A stay in one of the nicest hotels in the city costs about $100 for a room and a five-star rating.
Hotel Mitra is located in the center of Ptuj. It neighbors the infamous Ptuj Castle and mimics its medieval look. The hotel was built specifically to honor the Slovenian culture, despite being named after a Roman cult.
For this reason, the hotel makes a great stay for travelers looking to surround themselves with the culture of Slovenia. They also offer free parking. Hotel Mitra offers specialty coffee in their cafe, which is thought to be the oldest coffee house in the region.
As the Grand Hotel Primus says, it is time for a more colorful life. After celebrating at the Kurentovanje Slovenia, guests can indulge in active relaxation through one of the many services offered by the top rated hotel.
The Grand Hotel Primus was opened with the intention to invoke health and well being. Guests can enjoy the thermal pools, healthy foods, a few rounds of golf and full parking lot access.
For travelers on a dime, the local Hostel Sonce is top rated but half the price. It is a five-minute walk away from the city center across from the Drava river’s bridge. Each room has a private bathroom, TV, internet and A/C and heat.
Guests can also park their car here. Since the Hostel Sonce is so close to the city center, guests can book rooms with views overlooking the city. The Ptuj Castle can even be seen from here. Nearby are bakeries, grocery stores, bars and restaurants.
Couples and groups can have the option to book a farm stay at the Mestni Hill Farm on the outskirts of Ptuj.
Where to eat?
The restaurants in Ptuj are notorious for delicious food and massive portions. The Kurentovanje Slovenia parades through restaurant-lined streets of Ptuj.
A place like Restaurant Pomaranča, off the river of Drava, is a fancy dinner option. Steaks and indulgent pasta dishes are the restaurant’s speciality. Their dishes are medium to average cost. Note that they only accept cash.
The Carnival Vendors
Throughout the carnival are food vendors with traditional Slovenian foods. Attendees will find foods like the traditional burek. These cheese, spinach or meat filled pastries are handmade by bakers and sold throughout the day.
Gostilna Grabar is an option for attendees looking to fuel up on healthy, delicious foods. They offer vegetarian options as well as European and Slovenian specialties.
How to Get There?
Ljubljana Jože Pučnik Airport connects Slovenia to over twenty other European cities. Most inbound international flights from other countries include a connection into one of these major cities.
Flights are also available in Maribor, Slovenia’s second largest city. A bus ride from Maribor to Ptuj is only thirty minutes, but there are a limited amount of airline companies that fly inbound.
Transit From Ljubljana to Ptuj Via Train and Bus
There are daily trains and buses transport options from Ljubljana to Ptuj. The LP and the ICS trains have varying routes that take about three hours. The train station Ptuj is situated in the middle of the historic center.
Buses depart from Tivoli and arrive in the Ptuj bus station, also approximately a three-hour trip.
To ride the public bus, purchase an Urbana card for €2.00. Similar to a Metro Card, money is put on to the Urbana card with a maximum of €50. A single journey is €1.20 and covers 90 minutes. To get from Ljubljana to Ptuj is not a direct bus ride, and will likely be three single journeys.
Transit From Maribor to Ptuj via Car
Driving from Maribor to Ptuj takes approximately thirty minutes on Route 710.
Transit From Maribor to Ptuj via Train
Travelers also have the option to take one trains that leave Maribor for Ptuj daily. The train ride is thirty to forty minutes long. It’s not direct.
To take the train:
Take the LPV towards Zidani Most
Get off at Pragersko and switch to the RG Hodoš
Arrive in Ptuj
Transit From Maribor to Ptuj via Bus
From the Maribor city center bus station take the bus that says: Maribor-Mikavz-Zlatolocije-Ptuj towards Avtobusna postaja. The ride will take about forty minutes and is direct to Ptuj.
Parking for the festival can be found in the P+R Zadružni and costs €0.60 per two hours. The address is Zadružni trg.
Kurentovanje Carnival History
First Kurentovanje Carnival
The first Kurentovanje Carnival was celebrated on February 27th, 1960 on Shrove Sunday. As the oldest town in the region, Ptuj organized the one-day event.
Slovenians enjoyed the celebrations so much that officials decided to make it an annual tradition. Kurentovanje Slovenia highlights the customs and culture of the region and the people of Ptuj wanted to establish a festival that celebrated it.
In 1994 the decision was made to extend the festival to a weekend event that was more than just the Kurent’s door to door celebration. The weekend featured events and performances outside of the Ptuj’s City Hall.
The inclusion of costumes from other countries was integrated into the carnival and its global notoriety increased. Ptuj is currently striving to make Kurentovanje Slovenia one of the largest celebrations in Europe.