"Come! Come and celebrate Jurjevanje with us!" shout the locals from Bela Krajina who turn the town of Črnomelj with its Jurjevanjska draga and the old city centre into a true folklore capital of Slovenia from 18 and 22 June. The 51st festival called Jurjevanje in Bela Krajina, a partner of the International Council of Organizations of Folklore Festivals and Folk Arts (CIOFF), is the oldest folklore festival in Slovenia and at the same time one of the most recognised festivals in this part of Europe.
The 51st festival takes place at seven different locations and it is visited every year by Green George, a traditional character that chases away winter and announces the beginning of spring. Apart from folklore groups from Bela Krajina, numerous Slovenian and foreign folklore groups participate in the festival. This year the organisers expect tambura groups, folk singers and bands from all over the world. An important part of the event is held at Jurjevanjska draga, which is a natural amphitheatre in the middle of the city. Besides the central folklore part, there will also be children’s folklore groups from Slovenia and abroad. The lively cultural atmosphere will be linked to an ethno-folk music programme (EtnoFolk festival) in the old city centre of Črnomelj and two sports events – a biking tour for families »GONI KOLO« – Cycling around Bela Krajina and Jurjev tek (Jurjev run) that are intended for visitors.
The artisan market, creative workshops for children, bands, gathering of children’s folklore groups »Pastirče mlado« (Young shepherd) and three folklore evenings as well as an entertaining programme will take place in a beautiful natural environment and create unforgettable memories. You will have the possibility to learn dance steps for Bela Krajina dances and elsewhere and the rich cultural and entertaining programme will be concluded by evening appearances of folk bands.
Jurjevanje has taken place in Bela Krajina since 1964. The central character of more than a thousand-year-old pagan tradition is Green George who chases away winter and announces the beginning of spring. He is dressed in a national costume and across the costume he wears birch-tree branches. According to the tradition, young people have to walk through the village where they sing and lead Georgeone day before the festival. They stop in front of every house, sing the Jurjev song and stick a green birch-tree branch in the doorway. The branch has to stay there throughout the year as it protects the home, brings health, happiness and joy into the house, on the fields and in the stable. According to the legend, Green George rode up to the Kolpa river but as he didn`t have a penny to pay the boatman, he had to do a day`s work and thus he arrived in Bela Krajina one day later. People there are still happy when Green George visits them and they give him money, eggs, cake and wine.
The Bela Krajina region enchants with its rich cultural heritage. In Črnomelj there are buildings and city walls from the antiquity and the Middle Ages, in the old medieval town of Metlika there is a museum of Bela Krajina in a castle, in Pobrežje a mighty fort on a steep cliff, a memorial room is in Dragatuš where Oton Župančič spent his childhood, while the famous Easter eggs from Bela Krajina are in Adlešiči.
In the second part of the 19th century, Janez Trdina, a renowned Slovenian writer, described Bela Krajina in his work "Bajke in povesti o Gorjancih" (Tales and stories of the Gorjanci Hills). He wrote: "In the Gorjanci Hills there were three very strange things. There was a tree in a hidden valley and at the bottom of this tree there was a mighty beech tree, in the middle an oak tree and at the top there was a tall and thin birch tree. The birch tree was covered by a haze so that it could not be seen from the bottom. A vine was wound around the immense trunk from the bottom to the top. The vine was as thick as a beam on a hay wagon, its leaves never ran dry and grapes grew ripe in all seasons, in winter as well as in summer. The third and the greatest wonder was the Zlatoper bird (Goldfeather) that made itself a nest in the white haze among the thinnest branches of the tall birch tree." And even today it is not that different.
The quiet Kolpa river became the European Destination of Excellence in 2010. The Bela Krajina region is one of those Slovenian tourist destinations that are known for friendly people, tasty cuisine and an extremely rich natural and cultural heritage.