Guest Blog Post about visiting Brežice by Susan Curtis, Editor of Istros Books (currently in Slovenia)
As the bus comes off the motorway and turns some sharp bends, you almost feel as if you are going to be pitched over into the Croatian border. Breżice is the the last turnoff on the A2 motorway that links Ljubljana and Zagreb, and sits alongside the pride of the region – the spa of Terme Čateż.
It was a quiet place on the Friday afternoon when I arrived, although they were preparing for an evening concert and setting up the stage on the main thoroughfare. The town runs along its Main Street – typical of the region and the ‘Mitteleuropa’ style – where a few shops, bars and cafes are placed.
The town is dominated by two impressive buildings: the 46 meter high water tower and the squat white towers and walls of Breżice Castle.
As you near its edifice at the end of the high street, there are placards with a history of its construction, which started in the late 12th century. Originally intended as a stronghold against the Ottomans, it was later adapted into a impressive residence for various members of the Hapsburg court and local rulers.
The castle houses the Lower Sava Valley Museum of archeological and ethnographic exhibits in a unique setting of Baroque splendor.
Once inside, the visitor is confronted with the impressive courtyard and three tiers of arched balconies, which can be reached by an ornamental staircase painted in wonderful trompe-l”oeil vividness with allegorical figures representing the four elements.
This theme is continued in the second floor chapel, and taken up in the figures of the four Evangelists.
All credit is due to the curator of the permanent exhibition, who not only writes intelligently on the Christian and Greek mythology used in the murals, but also draws on the work of Carl Jung and others in order to develop and enrich the symbology behind their creation.
Where in many cases in tourist information the English falls down because of lazy or sloppy translation, here great care is evident. I recommend taking at least an hour for a full tour and to take time to read and appreciate the history being explained here.
The cherry on the cake comes almost at the end of the tour, when one enters into the great hall, lit up with the colours of sea and sky and everybody’s favorite gavorting nymphs and goddesses.
Poseidon is there with his mermaid wife, Salaccia….the lame god Hephaestus forging lightning bolts to Zeus, while Bacchus leads Adrianne and his followers in dance.
Breżice may be an unassuming town at the edge of Slovenia, but it hides a gem.
Your only problem might be how to get there without a car, for those who use public transport in this country often end up feeling like paupers. The buses are infrequent and the train station is a long walk out of town, and underwhelming when you find it: no staff, no possibility of buying a ticket beforehand and timetables not in clear view.
I had to change three times and had almost an hour’s wait in order to return to Novo Mesto, a town less than half an hour’s drive away by car.
But with a little careful planning it is possible to organize a few hours for sightseeing, and connections to Ljubljana are much more frequent. The nearby spa of Čateż could be a good place to stay, especially if you have children (the slides and water features are impressive). Breżice Castle would make an good afternoon trip.
Istros Books is London based publishing house, which was set up in 2011 in order to publish and promote literature in translation from Central and SE Europe – including Slovenian authors.