Ptuj — Slovenia’s oldest town

On our Slovenian road trip, although the weather was skiing-friendly, we decided against spending all our time on the slopes, opting to visit not just Maribor but Ptuj as well. And I must say that I was extremely pleased with our decision!

Ptuj is situated in the Northeastern part of Slovenia, in the Drava region, and is the oldest town in the country, dating back to the Stone Age. But I did not know that when we arrived. Disclaimer: because Ptuj was rather optional in our schedule, I hadn’t done my research, so I was expecting a little Slovenian town/village with a castle in the middle. However, my expectations were not confirmed in reality. Not at all.

We arrived in Ptuj at lunch, so we started our tour with a very nice meal. We went to Ribic, a restaurant located very near the Drava River. Hot tip: if you visit Ptuj, eat there! If it’s warm, even better — have your meal on the terrace. The food was fantastic (the specialties are fish-based, just so you know), the staff was extremely nice, and the location was amazing. We were lucky enough to get some February sun, and so we had our coffee outside. Needless to say, it put us in a very good touring mood.

Ribic Restaurant in Ptuj

We walked around the old city center until we reached the castle. The city’s roads were mostly paved with cobblestones, and the streets were narrow, so it all had a very cozy feel. The houses on the left and right were clearly historical; although they were not very well preserved, they definitely added personality to the town. It was fun to see that Ptuj even had a small cinema with an old-school sign on top. Looking back, it all seemed to be from a different day and age. I’m not sure I can express this feeling, but it was quaint and lovely.

Ptuj is very well known for a ten-day carnival held in the spring. Called Kurentovanje, the carnival represents an ancient Slavic rite of spring and fertility. There are weird figures called Kurenti dressed in sheep skins (apparently), accessorised with all sorts of masks, feathers, and ribbons, all very colourful. These figures go through town making noise with cow-bells and wooden sticks. But fear not, for they do not move in vain — they walk around to send off the evil spirits of winter. We got to see some of these costumes at the castle’s museum, and I’ve gotta admit that they reminded me a little of home. Romania has a few customs (especially around Christmas and New Year’s) that involve grown people dressing up in animal skins and walking around the streets. But even though I’m personally not very fond of these customs (because they’ve always scared me and even gave me nightmares as a child), they’re still important in some Romanian villages.

We went on to visit the castle, which was truly amazing. Everything was very well preserved and cared for; from the furniture in the rooms to the art on the walls, it seemed like time had not passed there. Of all the exhibits and rooms, the highlight for me was the musical instruments exhibition, consisting of many rooms with a lot of music from a lot of different times. I won’t say more, so as not to spoil the castle’s dedicated Eastern Chronicles article.

We ended our much-too-short stay in Ptuj with a cup of tea at a local café, but we would have liked to stay longer. I felt like there was so much more to explore, especially in terms of getting the feel of the town. I still daydream about walking the streets, stopping by the Drava, reading a book, then heading to Kava Bar Orfej for some coffee. Ah, one can dream, right? I’m on the lookout for a nice apartment to stay for a few nights sometime. If you know of anything, drop us a line.

Photo credits: Flavius Neamciuc

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This story was originally published on Eastern Chronicles.

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