The Gorenjska Museum’s new permanent exhibition Beautiful Gorenjska is on show in the renovated Khislstein Castle. It takes the form of a walk through time in twelve episodes on the first floor of the building and in the attic. The story of Gorenjska and its people is told through more than 1300 museum items, while the content of individual rooms is summarised by selected lines from Prešeren’s poetry and folk songs. The museum narrative is brought alive by soundscapes, photographs, and both documentary and dramatic films.
The Gorenjska landscape that we admire today was shaped over many millions of years. Glaciers and rushing waters carved out canyons, valleys and river beds, while lakes were also formed. But
the oldest traces of humans in Gorenjska date back only a few tens of thousands of years. The prehistoric settlements and burials sites of previous inhabitants have been discovered in many parts of Gorenjska. With the arrival of the Slavs, who intermixed with the indigenous people, the Slavic language prevailed. The wealth of ancient wisdom and customs coalesced, but old names of rivers and mountains were retained. Importantly, the skill of iron-making, which has been present in Gorenjska for 2800 years, was also retained.
Thanks to its forests, rich iron ore and iron-making skills, fertile fields and busy trade routes, Gorenjska (known as Upper Carniola in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries) was economically vibrant.
Its sense of regional awareness and of Sloveneness is rooted in thriftiness, attachment to the land, faith and language. The exhibition Beautiful Gorenjska is a tribute to the region and its inhabitants. But it is also a call for us to have the determination to carefully preserve what we have inherited from our forebears.
Room 1, BEAUTIFUL GORENJSKA, is an introduction to the exhibition. With the help of an interactive model, visitors will get to know Gorenjska and its beauty through images and sound.
Room 2, LIFE IS A PRISON, TIME A MERCILESS EXECUTIONER, tells the story of the land and the hard life of those who tilled it. Archaeological finds testify to the beginnings of iron-making and
the origins of Gorenjska’s villages. Some finds from the later Roman times are also shown.
Room 3, BUILDING CASTLES IN THE CLOUDS, tells of castle life through the story of the hard-hearted countess of Pusti Castle. Selected works of art bear witness to the artistic treasures of Gorenjska’s churches. A model of an anti-Turk encampment with an early warning system reminds us of the dangers posed by Turkish incursions. Documents and a tombstone help us get to know the lords of Khislstein Castle and the latest archaeological finds cast light on the history of the building itself.
Room 4, THE PROVINCE OF CARNIOLA HAS NO TOWN MORE BEAUTIFUL, places the visitor in the midst of the hustle and bustle of Kranj’s market place. We peer into a town house and a craft
workshop, meet the great Protestant writer Primož Trubar in an inn, and in the parish church of St Cantianus learn the fate of the famous Kranj altar that is now kept in Vienna.
Room 5, I’LL GO A-WANDERING WITH YOU, leads us on a trading route. A number of original objects connected with the transport of goods turn the arcaded passageway on the first floor
into a space that tells us of trade routes and transport in centuries past.
Room 6, THINGS WILL LOOK BRIGHTER FOR THE CARNIOLANS, speaks of iron-making as the foundation of Gorenjska’s economy. It developed because of the high quality ore found in the region and the skills of local iron-workers. However, hunger was a constant companion not only for the nail-makers from Kropa, but for all the population until they started to plant potatoes
and corn in 18. century. Life began to improve with modern developments such as compulsory schooling and postal services.
Room 7, THE IRON ROAD IS COMING NEARER, shows the arrival of the railway, which changed both town and country. The trade in timber and rural products flourished, the foundations of
local industry were laid, shops began to appear, and local craft products, such as sieves, began to be sold far afield.
The exhibition reaches its peak in the blue chamber with its original decorations, the room 8, LONG LIFE TO ALL NATIONS, with a presentation of important Gorenjska figures and their achievements. In the mid-19th century Prešeren, Zois, Bleiweis and Aljaž were the pillars of Slovene national self-awareness, but their dreams were finally realised only with the creation of an independent Slovenia. Prešeren’s A Toast, printed in the maelstrom of war on a Partisan printing press, reminds us of the “altar of the homeland” and the patriotism of many of those who went before us.
Room 9, BE MINE BE MINE, is a treasure chest of folk creativity. Embroidery work, painted furniture, paintings on glass, traditional dress and other items were often part of a bride’s trousseau.
Room 10 (in the green chamber), THE WOMEN OF UPPER CARNIOLA HAVE LONG BEEN FAMED FOR THEIR BEAUTY, reveals to us something about the life of higher class town women who maintained their family’s reputation through care for their appearance, education and way of life. An audio backdrop and a collection of letters recount the love story of poet and composer
Josipina Turnograjska and the politician Lovro Toman.
In room 11, the SMALL PROJECTION HALL, you can watch some of the most successful films connected with Gorenjska.
The room 12 is AS I RESTLESSLY WANDER HERE AND THERE, FRIENDS KEEP ASKING “WHERE, OH WHERE?” The start of the twentieth century is symbolised by Bohinj railway tunnel. The century was marked by the development of tourism, the rise of industry, the bloodshed of two world wars and fratricidal conflict. The story of the rise and fall of industry in Gorenjska is told through the products of its most successful factories. The final message concerns Slovenia’s
independence, membership of the European Union and the future of Gorenjska, which is also the future of all Slovenia’s people: prudence, wisdom, good-heartedness and thriftiness are values that have been woven into the Gorenjska tradition for a thousand years, but will we retain them as our guiding light in the future?