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First Festival Dedicated to Gottschee Heritage

Dolenjske Toplice, 11 September - The first ever festival dedicated to the Gottschee Germans is opening in south-east of the country later on Friday to showcase the heritage of a sizeable German-speaking community that used to live there.

Občice pri Dolenjskih Toplicah
A cultural centre of the Gottschee Germans.
Photo: Rasto Božič/STA

A maypole will be erected in the village of Kočevske Poljane near Dolenjske Toplice in the afternoon to signal the beginning of the week-long festival. Its honorary sponsor is President Borut Pahor.

The Gottschee heritage is still much alive in these parts, so the organisers want to upgrade its preservation with tourism offerings to attract even more visitors to the municipality, known for its spa.

Officials from the local associations involved have told a recent news conference that they want to bring attention to the language, architectural and other traditions of the Gottschee Germans.

Highlights among more than 15 events include a painting ex-tempore, a hike taking in Gottschee landmarks, and a brief course in the Gottschee vernacular.

There will also be the screening of a film in original Gottschee speech called "Gotscheabar lont" or the Lost Cultural Heritage. Traditional dishes will also be served.

The Gottschee, named after the German word for the region of Kočevje, are descendants of the German-speaking group that settled there in the 14th century.

Data from the Gottschee Association (Gottscheer Altsiedler Verein), which was set up in 1992 and has some 200 members, indicate the community was at its strongest in 1870 counting 26,500 members.

Due to emigration provoked by the economic crisis in the 1930s, their numbers reduced to 12,500 before WWII. Most of these moved out during the war.

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© STA, 2015