Visiting Prešeren’s birth house in Vrba
What is Shakespeare to the English, Goethe to the Germans and Pushkin to the Russians – this is Prešeren to the Slovenes. You cannot visit Slovenia without hearing and learning about the greatest Slovene poet France Prešeren (1800-1849). You will come across his statue right in the center of the capital Ljubljana. Also, words of the Slovene national anthem are all part of Prešeren’s poem »Zdravljica« (A Toast).
France Prešeren spent his childhood in a small village of Vrba, in a 16th-century farmhouse. The house, the lobby, and the tiny bedroom are just the way they were in Prešeren’s time. Especially interesting is the kitchen, which was the center of the home.
Not a happy life, but a great poetry
As a son of a well-off farmer and a quite well educated mother, France was provided with a good education. Already at a very young age, he learned Latin, Ancient Greek, and German, which was then the language of education, administration, and high culture in most areas of today’s Slovenia (then Habsburg Monarchy). Against the wishes of his mother, who wanted him to become a priest, he studied law in Vienna. After acquiring a law degree, he returned to Ljubljana, where he was employed as an assistant in the law firm. He constantly strove to become an independent lawyer, but was not successful.
When he was 33, he met Julija (she was 16), the daughter of a rich merchant. She would become the unfulfilled love of his life and his muse. His poems were also about love towards his homeland, Slovene identity, humanity, and also despair over life … After in 1846 he was finally allowed to open his own law firm, he moved to Kranj. He died there on 8 February 1849.
Visit Kranj and walk Prešeren’s traces there.
Prešeren also spent a lot of time at the nearby Lake Bled, he drew inspiration for his poems from the scenery there.
A sonnet to his beloved old home in Vrba
One of his important works are the “Sonnets of Misfortune” (Sonetje nesreče). In its first sonnet titled “O Vrba,” Prešeren reflects on what his life could have been like, had he never left his home village. Up until this day, Vrba remains one of the biggest symbols of the famous romantic poet Prešeren.
In a sonnet to Vrba Prešeren described his love for the village, his family and language.
Prešeren’s birth house was originally built already in the 16th century. At that time it was mainly wooden, as only basements, hall and working premises were built. Today’s image was created in 1856, after the house was partially burnt. Most of the equipment and exhibits are from the 19th century. From Prešeren’s times a chest and a cradle are preserved, as well as benches in the hall. His birth house was turned into a museum in 1939.
Getting to Vrba from Ljubljana
It’s easy! There are busses going from Ljubljana Bus Station every hour. Check out the schedule here!
Vrba is a small place with no more than 200 inhabitants. Following the main road you can reach the house on foot in 3 minutes. The scenery on the way is also amazing. The museum (Prešeren’s house) is well-maintained by Visit Žirovnica. Additionaly, there is also a permanent exhibition on the life of France Prešeren. The museum was enriched with the numerous translations of Prešeren’s poems into foreign languages in 1980’s.
Guided tours can be tailored to school groups, small groups or individuals and families.
»Step back in time, find Francet’s cradle and listen to the old walls. Who knows, maybe the fragment of the poetic soul also settles into you.«
Hike from Vrba to Žirovnica
Since visiting Prešeren’s house won’t take you more than an hour, you can also choose to explore places around Vrba. If the weather permits, you can simply walk to nearby Breznica, where te pioneer of modern apiculture Anton Janša was born. He was employed as a teacher of apiculture at the Habsburg court in Vienna. His birth house in Breznica no longer exists. But visitors can see Janša’s beehive panel paintings on a bee house.
Walking from Vrba to Žirovnica
There are no restaurants in Vrba. If you’d like to stay for lunch or dinner, you can take the road from Vrba to Žirovnica. Which in any case would be a great idea. It took us no more than half an hour to get to Žirovnica on foot. The highlight is a birth house of anoter important ‘pillar of Slovene culture’ – Matija Čop. This linguist, literary historian and critic was a very close friend of Prešeren’s and his tutor. In 1835, at age 38, Čop drowned while swimming in the Sava River. Prešeren dedicated his major poem The Baptism on the Savica to his late friend.
Visiting Žirovnica is also part of the Žirovnica Path of Cultural Heritage that connects the birth places of many notable Slovenes including France Prešeren, Matija Čop, Franc Saleški Finžgar, Anton Janša and Janez Jalen.
Last, but not least: you can complete your day of culture with a nice meal at Restaurant and pizzeria Knafelj by the main road in Žirovnica.