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Stories and legends about Maribor – Pohorje

As the capital of the Štajerska region Maribor is the second largest city in Slovenia, simultaneously it is pleasantly small and lodged in the wonderful nature of Pohorje on the one side and wine growing hills on the other, with the river Drava wending its way through it. With its diverse and quality offers surrender to the best that one of the key tourist destinations in Slovenia has to offer!
The rich wine tradition of the oldest vine in the world, the throb of the city with its flourishing cultural history, its location amidst wine growing hills and green Pohorje as well as the various possibilities for exploring, recreation, relaxation, entertainment and meetings will convince you that Maribor has a heart and soul and that the people of Maribor are excellent hosts!


Maribor, lying in the middle of eminent wine growing countryside, in its heart also preserves one such treasure that cannot be found anywhere else in the world. That is the Old Vine, which has thrived for more than 400 years in the medieval core of the city, down by the river Drava. It is the oldest living example of a noble vine on our planet. Therefore, as a jewel of natural heritage par excellence, the Old Vine was entered into the famous Guinness Book of Records in the year 2004.

Beside the accurate professional measurements taken by Slovene experts the authentic age of the Old Vine was also confirmed by vine genetics experts in Paris. The vine was planted at least 400 years ago, probably even earlier. Its very old age is also verified in paintings of Maribor, dating from 1657 and 1681, which are kept in the Styrian provincial museum in Graz. In the paintings the façade of house number 8 Vojašniška ulica can be very clearly seen. The house was built in the 16th century and by the time the paintings were done the façade was already exuberantly overgrown with today's venerated Old Vine. Just as at that time also still today the Old Vine is leaning on trelliswork.

The Old Vine is a live tradition of the culture of cultivating vines in the Maribor city surroundings and afar that go back to pre-Roman times. It also represents an extremely rare example of an autochthon Slovene vine with the uninterrupted continuity of a “European” genetic code. Namely, in the second half of the 19th century an epidemic of the vine pest Grape Phylloxera killed practically all Europe’s vineyards and they were renewed with scions imported from North America. But the Old Vine survived the catastrophe and today thrives in all its glory.

The Old Vine yields the noble wine sort of Žametna Črnina or Modra Kavčina. In former times it was popular in Styrian vineyards but it was even better known, also today, in the region of Doljenska in southeast Slovenia. Žametna Črnina or Modra Kavčina is namely the most important sort of the renowned red wine called Cviček. It has palmate lobed leaves and big bunches of grapes are distinctly triangular in shape, and the grapes are juicy. The grapes are left to ripen for as long as possible.

The ceremonious grape gathering of the Old Vine is the main event of the Old Vine Festival. This real city holiday at the beginning of October presents the rich wine, fruit growing, culinary and ethnological culture of Štajerska. The ritual pruning of the vine in early spring is a unique opportunity for re-establishing and strengthening the city of Maribor's links with the world. On this occasion the people of Maribor present scions to chosen places and towns respectively.

In the year 1996 Pope John Paul II himself took a scion from Maribor to Rome, and now the vine is growing beautifully in the Vatican vineyard. Scions of the Old Vine are growing in the Japanese town of Kanigawa, in Australia's Yarra Valley near Melbourne, at the Danish royal castle of Fredensborg, in Poland's Malbork, in Stuttgart in Bad Reichenhall in Germany, near Barcelona in Spain, as well as in Maribor's twin city Pétanga in Luxemburg. In France scions of the Old Vine have taken root in Gap, Tours and in front of the wine museum in the middle of Paris. Vines from Maribor are also thriving in Switzerland, the Czech Republic, and Croatia, on Malta, in Austria's city of Graz and in Italy’s Dolina near Trieste. It can even be found on the hillsides of the Andes in Argentina, namely in Mendoza. In Slovenia vines grown from the Old Vine are growing in more than 30 communes and of course in the capital Ljubljana.

Every year a few hundred artistically designed bottles are filled with the Old Vine's noble wine, and serve for the needs of city protocol. The town seal and the town vinedresser Tone Zafošnik, who in the year 1970 with daring, expert intervention saved the Old Vine from decay, warrant the authenticity of the content of the bottles. Among the most distinguished people to have received a bottle of the Old Vine's Žametna Črnina are Pope John Paul II, the Japanese Emperor Akihito and American President Bill Clinton.

II. Story - Old Vine House, the house of wine traditions and culture

The Old Vine at Maribor's Lent is certainly a unique jewel on the list of Slovene and world natural heritage. It is namely the oldest living vine in the world, and was planted down by the river Drava more than 400 years ago.

In its fusion with the urban surroundings of the old town core the Old Vine already at the very beginning “procured” a unique symbiosis. Namely growth on trellises fixed to the south frontage of the building at Vojašniška 8 (Military street). This means that the building is older than the vine itself. In the spring of 2007 the building newly renovated and decorated bearing the name Old Vine House begins a new life as the central sanctuary of wine culture, as a symbol of culture and natural heritage and the cultural tradition of the city and state.

The Old Vine House was once a component part of the southern defence wall of the town of Maribor. The house was built already in the 16th century and on the spot that was at that time called Ob napajališču (By the drinking trough), which is possible to conclude from the oldest written references about today's Vojašniška ulica dating from 1472. It stood close by the town's Drava Gate near Splavarski prehod (Rafter's Passage). In such a “role” the Old Vine House can be clearly seen on four preserved paintings dating from the 17 century, of which the original or copies are kept in the Regional Museum and Styrian Provincial archives in Graz.

The oldest document mentioning the house at Vojašniška 8 dates from the year 1780. At that time the house was called Pri pristaniških vratih (By the Port Gates). In the year 1844 it is registered in the cadastral register as a “tall, tiled roofed house and a side building in the street Splavarska ulica”. On the ground floor it had a vaulted storehouse and a vaulted cellar for storing provisions. On the first floor there was a stuccoed vestibule, one vaulted and four stuccoed rooms as well as a vaulted kitchen with a pantry. Consequently it was an eminent building. In the courtyard there was a building with a tiled covered roof housing two stables for eight horses, rooms for the household servants and a coach house for carriages. There was also a well with a pump in the courtyard.

The complete renovation of Lent in the 1980s also included Vojašniška 8. However, later on it became obvious that radical intervention in the “invisible” structure of the building, as well as the foundations, was necessary. Thus, the Old Vine House literally and also symbolically now stands on a firm foundation.

The Old Vine House is henceforth a tourist information centre and simultaneously a place with a wide open door for exhibitions and events. Among the permanent thematic exhibits belong the history and significance of the Old Vine and the culture and tradition of wine in our region. On view is also a collection of ampelographic pictures of sorts of vines in Štajerska and other exhibits that bear witness to wine growing and the wine trade on our soil.
The Old Vine House is becoming the centre of wine growing happenings, where among others you can also try very high quality wines or can link you visit to happenings and traditional cultural events of this wine country. Among the most resounding events are certainly the pruning of the Old Vine and the harvesting of its grapes. The ceremonial grape harvest, under the title of the Old Vine Festival, has to date grown in to a unique opus of wine and culinary tradition, the cheerfulness of which permeates the whole city.

And last but not least the Old Vine House with its new purport also represents the honorary seat of Slovene and international associations, sworn to venerating wine and wine culture. Among them are Združenje častivrednih vinskih konventov sv. Urbana (Honourable Wine Convent of St Urban), Združenje evropskega reda vitezov vina (European Order of the Knights of Wine), Združenje slovenskega reda vitezov vina (Slovene Order of the Knights of Wine), Združenje predstavnic Slovenskih in Mariborskih vinskih kraljic (Association of Representatives of Slovene and Maribor's Wine Queens) and the similar.

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