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On the road from Ljubljana towards Kocevje, at a distance of some 40 km from the Slovenian capital lies a sizeable town called Ribnica, which is also the administrative centre of the municipality of the same name.
The name of this urban settlement, Ribnica (from Slovenian riba meaning fish), has long been attested to by the town crest featuring a fish, as well as by the several kilometres long karstic intermittent river called the Ribnica, which flows under the eastern part of the Velika gora mountain, a small distance from the town itself. From a distance the traveller is greeted by the two bell-towers of the Ribnica parish church, which are constructed in a cathedral style after plans by Joze Plecnik. With this stylistic peculiarity, the great Slovenian architect wished during the Second World War to give to the partly destroyed church a particular mark which the whole town had already borne through the ages. Ribnica was indeed one of the original Christian parishes, and the centre of a missionary territory covering the western Dolenjska region at the time of the conversion to Christianity (from the 8th century). This territory stretched from the Ljubljana marshland to the Kolpa river. In this area a total of 45 parishes were established over the centuries.
Ribnica is one of the oldest towns of Slovenia and has a rich history. A special place here is occupied by the local Ribnica woodenware and pottery, crafts which both have a distinguished and ancient tradition and which are closely connected to nature. The greatest resource of this whole area is its forests. The harvesting and use of various types of wood and clay for the production of functional and decorative objects and numerous tools has been preserved right up to the present day. Every first Sunday in September there is the traditional and well attended Ribnica fair of woodenware and pottery, featuring the production and sale of local hand-crafted items. In recent times these activities have of course been increasingly taken over by the industrial processing of wood, represented chiefly by the furniture manufacturing plant of Inles, and by a number of smaller manufacturers which are rapidly adapting their wood products to the needs of today’s markets.
Apart from wood crafts, in recent times there has been a revival of activity in some of the workshops operated by the once famous Riko metal processing works. The town offers a variety of services, transportation, shops and specialist stores. Spiritual needs are catered for by the parish church and by the renovated Miklova House, which incorporates a frequently visited library, exhibition gallery and museum.
The inhabitants of the Ribnica valley make much of the “peddlar’s patent” issued by the Emperor Frederick in 1492. At that time the town faced the threat that because of endless Turkish raids and pillaging the entire population would leave. For this reason the Emperor Frederick III gave them written permission to perform untaxed trade in their products throughout the Austrian lands, and subsequent emperors confirmed the patent. This also explains the origin of the local song “I am Urban from Ribnica, known throughout the world...”
The material culture of the densely populated Ribnica valley, which cultivated the meagre land and made the greatest possible use of its wealth of timber, occasionally gave rise to more spiritual expression. From the end of the 14th century there are records of a 7-grade Latin school, one of the few in Slovenia. Schooling in this area was also set on the map at the beginning of the 19th century, for it is known that the champion of Slovenian poets France Preseren spent his first two years of school life right here in Ribnica, where he was inscribed in the Golden Book of Distinction as best pupil. Ribnica is also the birthplace of the world famous musician Jakob Petelin Gallus (1550-1591), the great patron of the Slovenian intelligentsia Luka Knafelj (1621-1671) and the linguist and Slovenian language scholar Father Stanislav Skrabec (1844-1918). The surrounding area was also the birthplace of the literary and cultural historian, and one of Slovenia’s first university professors, Dr Ivan Prijatelj (1875-1937), the sociologist, politician and Slovenia’s first economic theorist, as well as being a founder of loan societies and associated loan societies, Dr Janez Ev. Krek (1865-1917), the sculptor known at home and abroad, France Gorse (1897-1986), the businessman, patron of the arts and founder of the PEKO factory, Peter Kozina (1876-1930), the organiser of Slovenia’s firefighters Ignacij Merhar (1856-1944) and many others.
Visitors to Ribnica can tour the partly preserved castle, which features a cultural park, a summer theatre and a museum of woodenware and pottery. The cultural park is a memorial park, with 17 different stone plaques bearing 70 names which the Biographical Department of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts regards as deserving contributors to Slovenia's spiritual and material culture. A rather less illustrious episode of human history is embodied in the entirely preserved record of the trial from 1701 in which we learn that in this year in Ribnica the last witch was condemned and burnt at the stake.
In the Ribnica valley, between Velika and Mala gora, the visitor is afforded splendid viewing points in unspoilt nature, the chance of touring karstic caves and chasms, and the prospect of hiking along the trail of the active Mountaineering Society, which maintains a hut on the top of Sveta Ana above Ribnica. The area also draws anglers and hunters in search of wild game. And the lodge on Travna gora offers quiet tranquillity, with excellent skiing in winter. The local church buildings are also well worth a visit, particularly the Baroque church at Nova Stifta and the parish church in Ribnica with the famous altarpiece of St Stephen, the work of painter Ivan Grohar.
Visitors can view the production of woodenware and pottery at the local craftsmen’s workshops, or else they can opt for more active recreation in such pursuits as cycling, riding, bowling, boules and tennis. Catering is provided at numerous local inns in all the larger villages and towns, as well as by a number of open holiday farms.
All 85 settlements in the Municipality of Ribnica, incorporating around 11,000 inhabitants, are connected to each other mostly with proper asphalt roads and partly with good unpaved roads.
Information: Tourist Information Office, TD Ribnica, Telephone: + 386 61 861 986.
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