Kurentovanje Ptuj, Slovenia – Is one of the World’s Top Ten Carnivals!

Kurentovanje or the Kurent Festival has been described as one of Europe’s top ten festivities and dates back to Pagan tribes. 150,000 visitors, 10,000 participants, 4,500 masks and over 150 events!!

Friday, 14th February 2020

Tuesday, 25th March 2020

Days to start

What is the Kurentovanje or Kurent Carnival?

Courtesy of www.ptuj.info

The Kurent Carnival is one of the world’s top ten carnivals! Kurentovanje brings magic, joy and a touch of mysticism to everyone. The Kurentovanje is a 10-day long spring and fertility carnival that is all about chasing away the winter spirits and welcoming in the spring.

The Kurenti Carnival has been described as the Slovenian version of Mardi Gras. It is Slovenia‘s most popular and significant carnival, but also arguably one of the most popular carnival celebrations throughout central Europe as well.

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The carnival attracts more than 150,000 visitors every year and carnival groups from Austria, Croatia and Bulgaria also come and partake in the celebrations, assisting the local people of Ptuj to build up the land of the Kurent.

The carnival aims to maintain Slovenia’s incredible cultural heritage and traditions. In 2017 the Kurent Festival was penned onto the representative list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

Where is Kurentovanje?

kurent festival
Courtesy of www.ptuj.info

The Kurent Festival takes place in Ptuj pronounced “pah-tooey” which is Slovenia’s oldest town. Ptuj is located in the northeast of Slovenia and Is home to around 17,000 inhabitants. The locals of Ptuj are known as Ptujčani in Slovene.

Ptuj is full of history and charm! It has Roman shrines, cobbled streets, churches and monasteries. Its most famous attraction is the town’s Renaissance castle. This fascinating town has been inhabited since the late Stone Age.

Ptuj dates back to Roman Settlements in the first century. It actually developed from a Roman military fort. Ptuj was a strategically important sitting on the Drava River that was part of a prehistoric trading route that ran between the Baltic Sea and Adriatic.

The main carnival is held in Ptuj however there are also smaller lesser known parades that occur in the nearby villages that are more intimate and don’t attract the tourists. One of those Kurentovanje celebrations occurs in a small municipality called Markovici just south of Ptuj that has no fences separating onlookers from the festivities, so the parade attendees and parade participants all mix together.

How do they celebrate Kurentovanje?

kurenti carnival
Courtesy of www.ptuj.info

Kurentovanje is a week full of parades and events. Carnival here is a joyous time full of fun, mischief, colour, culture and tradition. Everyone wears carnival costumes and during the day there are lots of street performances as well as artists and musicians performing and adding colour and energy to the city’s streets and squares.

The nights are about feasting and drinking. It is important that one must consume copious amounts of the local donuts known as Krofs. Carnival in Ptuj is about honouring customs, traditions and carnival characters that have been kept alive for centuries and passed down from generation to generation.

The International Parade is the peak of carnival and the event closes with the burial of the carnival masks. Kurentovanje is the time of year when customs that have remained hidden all year come to life. It is a time when you can get loose and let your hair down, be silly and wear any mask or costume you desire.

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What is the history of Kurentovanje?

The origins of Kurentovanje festivities are strange but it seems to have evolved from early Slavic, Celtic and Illyrian traditions. The name of the festival is taken from the central carnival character the Kurent. Back in ancient times it was believed that the Kurent had the power to usher in spring by chasing away the winter months.

The Kurenti

kurenti carnival
Courtesy of www.ptuj.info

If you attend carnival in Slovenia, you may notice large hairy sheep looking creatures which stand up-right and dance around. They may look a little scary but that’s only because they are meant to ward off the evil winter spirits. These folkloric characters known as the Kurenti also known as the Kurent or Korant are the main and is the most famous carnival character in Slovenia.

Kurentovanje features about 4500 people who dress up as Kurents. The Kurenti in ancient times was believed to posses’ powers to chase away the evil spirits. They represent fertility in many realms including agriculture as well as animals and humans

Kurentovanje Carnival features hundreds of people dressed up as Kurents. There are two types of Kurents the ‘feathered’ ones and the ‘horned’ ones. The Kurent costume is essentially a mask and a sheepskin hat and outfit with cow bells hanging from a belt and red or green socks with black boots.

The Kurent costume mask is considered a major folk art in Slovenia and in the whole country there are only two masters of Kurent masks left! The Kurent mask is made from leather with holes for both eyes and mouth that are surrounded by red paint.

Traditionally only unmarried men were able to be Kurents but today anyone is allowed women, children, married men and even animals can be a Kurent.

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When is the Kurent Carnival?

This 10-day spring and fertility festival is celebrated in the lead up to Ash Wednesday. The 2020 Kurentovanje will begin on the 14th February and ends on Tuesday 25th February 2020. Here are the estimated 2020 dates for the following events:

  • Friday 14th February, The Kurent’s Jump
  • Saturday 15th February, Obarjada which is a culinary carnival event
  • Saturday 15h February, The Opening Ceremony and Ethno Parade
  • Friday 21st February, Night Spectacle
  • Friday 21st February, Carnival Charity Auction
  • Saturday 22nd February, Bourgeois Parade
  • Sunday 23rd February, International Carnival Parade
  • Monday 24th February, Children’s Parade
  • Tuesday 25th February, Shrove Tuesday

UNESCO recognised door-to-door rounds of the Kurenti

kurenti festival
Courtesy of www.ptuj.info

One of the most unique aspects of this carnival celebrations is the door-to-door rounds that the Kurenti do. This is a Shrovetide custom that sees groups of Kurenti and one or more devils go from house to house throughout the village.

They form a circle in the owner’s yard and jump around the owners whilst loudly ringing noisy cow bells and brandishing wooden sticks to chase away all the evil spirts. This is also supposed to usher in happiness to the owners.

The Opening Ceremony & Parade Kurentovanje

kurent carnival
Courtesy of www.ptuj.info

This will be held on Saturday, 23rd February 2019. It will begin at 11:00 a.m.

Parade route: Prešernova ulica – Slovenski trg – mestna tržnica

On the first day of carnival only the Kurent’s will parade through Ptuj in an opening ceremony. One of the Kurent’s is selected and named the Prince of Kurentovanje. The prince will rule over the city for the duration of carnival! The other characters featured at this parade include Diggers, Gypsies, Plowers and Rusa.

Night Parade Kurentovanje

kurenti carnival
Courtesy of www.ptuj.info

This is held on Friday, 1st March 2019. It will begin at 6:00 pm

This will take place across the streets and squares of Ptuj

This is a fun event that occurs after dark. That is because it is when all the mysterious and magical creatures and beasts come out and wander the town at night. You will see lots of cool costumes wandering about the town. The whole town is overtaken by shadowy demons.

Bourgeois Parade Kurentovanje

kurenti carnival
Courtesy of www.ptuj.info

Saturday, 2 March 2019, 10:30 am

This will take place across the streets and squares of Ptuj

The Bourgeois Parade began way back in 1873 when the locals were enchanted with Pustovanje. It has been a tradition ever since then for the people to dress up in bourgeois fashion and parade through the streets and squares of Ptuj. It certainly feels like you have gone back in time!

International Carnival Parade Kurentovanje

Kurenti carnival
Courtesy of www.ptuj.info

The highlight of Kurentovanje is the massive masked parade which takes place through the town centre. In this parade the Kurenti can appear tame in comparison to the other costumes. This parade takes place on Carnival Sunday also known as Shrove Sunday and several thousand people will participate in the Kurentovanje International Carnival Parade.

The parade is led by the Carnival Prince and Princess who are surrounded by guards dressed in 17th century outfits and following them is the carnival procession. The parade features hundreds of Kurents who dance around making an insane amount of noise from the cow bells attached to their Kurent costumes.

Other carnival groups are also dressed in other traditional carnival costumes. They could be dressed as gypsies, fairies, bears, flamenco dancers and there are also amazing colourful floats. Accompanying the performers and characters are lots of marching bands who play live music and traditional Slovenian folk music.

The carnival parade also features the whip crackers that make lot of noise and who are also there to chase out the winter away. The Kurent characters and their incredible Kurent masks and Kurent costumes are the absolute highlight of the carnival parade.

Groups from all over Slovenia, Serbia and Croatia participate in the parade. Massive amounts of tourists and locals crowd together along the parade route to witness the spectacular event. It is a festive day filled with lots of fun and celebrations.

Children’s parade Kurentovanje

Kurent festival
Courtesy of www.ptuj.info

Monday, 4 March 2019, 10:00am

Parade route: Vičava – Dravska ulica

To ensure the tradition of Kurentovanje gets passed onto the next generation there is also a very adorable parade for the kids. Lots of cute costumed kids parade through the streets of Ptuj and it is a fun day for the whole family.

The burial of Pust Kurentovanje

Courtesy of www.ptuj.info

Tuesday, 5 March 2019, at 11:00 am

Kurentovanje will finish on Shrove Tuesday with the burial of Pust which symbolically close carnival for another year.

How to get to Ptuj?

Well Ptuj is not difficult to reach as it is positioned quite close to several larger cities. It is only 25km away from Maribor which is the second largest city in Slovenia and the capital city is only 120km away. So, it is very easy to fly into the airport of one of these major cities and then Ptuj can easily be reached by car bus or train.

Ptuj is also quite close to Hungary with the border only being around 80km away and the Croatian border which is only 16km away. Its distance to Budapest is around 300km. To Zagreb is 86km, Vienna is 285km, Belgrade is 480km or Prague which is around 600km away.

You can easily get to Ptuj by car from Maribor which is only 25 milometers away of the from the capital Ljubljana which is only 120 km away and has an airport. There are also frequent bus and train connections from Ljubljana.

Where to stay in Ptuj?

kurenti carnival
Courtesy of www.ptuj.info

There are several accommodation options in Ptuj from hotels, hostels, guesthouses, B&Bs or renting a private apartment. Many locals will also rent out their rooms during carnival which can be a great budget alternative. Price will be anywhere from about $60US to $200 US depending on how comfortable you wish to be.

Check out some accomodation options here.

What to do and see in Ptuj?

Ptuj is full of history!! One of the most outstanding attractions in Ptuj is the Ptuj Castle. This castle dominates over the town, sitting proudly on a hill above the town. The castle is also home to a museum that hosts the biggest collection of musical instruments in the whole of Slovenia.

The castle is only one of the incredible things about Ptuj. Another incredible attraction is the Roman tombstone from the 2nd century! Ptuj is actually a really trendy and cool town with great bars, hotels, restaurant and cafes. There is something new to discover behind every corner whether it be some unique architecture, and interesting backyard or a cool café.

The surrounding region of Ptuj is also stunning and offers some of the best wineries in Slovenia. You can walk along the river, explore the town square and cobblestone laneways or eat some delicious local cuisine in one of the local restaurants.

Kurentovanje is a carnival celebration not to be missed. It is one that inspires you because of all its cultural richness and the natural beauty and incredible architecture of Ptuj. Attending this carnival is an absolute must because it transports you to a different time and place!

For more information about tours, things to do, sightseeing tours, day trips and more click here.

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