Novo Mesto – city of bells (guest blog post by Susan Curtis, Editor of Istros Books)
The main square of the town of Novo Mesto ( situated in the Dolenjska region, 24,000 inhabitants) seems to be almost constantly ringing with the sound of bells …
The two churches that flank its longer sides – St Leonards on the right and the Cathedral of St Nicholas on the left – both have elegant bell towers that chime the hours – and the quarter hours – with just 5 seconds delay between them, so that each chime is echoed beautifully.
With your back to the Krka river, St Leonards church forms part of the Franciscan Monastery, church and library are situated up an alleyway to the right.
A small group of buildings that date from the 15th century, and originally built by refugees from the Ottoman raids that plagued Bosnia at the time. In 1472, the first segment was built, but later destroyed by fire, meaning that the majority of the church and monastery complex date from the mid 1600s, with the ornate church facade being added in 1866.
There is a famous library here too, containing medieval and renaissance texts, along with Metainger’s altar images. These can be viewed by prior booking (email@example.com).
Further back from the church, are charming side streets meander along the bank of the river Krka. This green and charming water way wraps around the old city in a loop which comes to an apex around the main square.
Being encircled by the Krka means that the town has plenty of bridges, the main one being Kandjski, built by the former Austrian authorities at the end of the 19th century.
In early July a diving completion takes place from its railings, with professionals from across Europe delighting audiences with back flip dives into its cooling waters. The local children have a go to most summer evenings, jumping less artfully from the smaller wooden bridges and piers doted along the banks.
The main square itself is car-free, and the more beautiful for it.
Tiled with square paving stones laid by much later Bosnian immigrants (most of Slovenia’s manual labourers are from this more southern republic, a left-over from the Yugoslav times that still seems to work well for both nations).
It makes a harmonious platform for cafe and restaurant terraces, as well the public stages that appear regularly over the summer as the Novo Mesto Evenings music and literature festival takes place, as well as other celebrations. Much of these evening events focus around the book shop of Goga, which also publish some of Slovenia’s best contemporary authors (they also have some titles in English, so check them out).
Novo Mesto is also known for its comprehensive archaeological museum, which houses a unique collection locally excavated from the Iron Age Halsaat period and the gorgeous metal worked containers native to this region, known as situlas. The exhibition panels are in both Slovene and English and there is an impressive amount of detail.
Also of interest is the section dedicated to the Partizan resistance of the local people during World War Two – another perspective from when this quiet down faced cultural annihilation).
You might also enjoy climbing the clock tower of the aforementioned. cathedral, to the left of the main square, which sits atop of a gentle rise. At the apex of the two hundred or so steps, there is a great view across the town and surrounding countryside, and of course the opportunity of hearing those melodious bells up close. Very close!
But on your way down, please take time to step inside to view the altar, which houses a real Tintoretto – The Vision of Saint Nicholas – the only painting by the Venetian master in Slovenia.
Where to eat in Novo Mesto:
If you come to town on a lunchtime on any weekday, we thoroughly recommend the local restaurant, Gostišče Na Trgu. This school for catering owns a nearby farm where students learn to grow the vegetables they then cook and serve.
They also have cows whose milk is used in the homemade ice-cream served on the ground floor of the same building, along with a wide selection of cakes. If you fancy stocking up on some organic supplies before your leave- including cheese, yogurts and wines – then walk up the narrow side street to the left of the building and enter the second set of wooden doors: you won’t regret it!
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.