Urbs vineae

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Vineyards here, vineyards there, vineyards everywhere. . . .

If someone invited you to see the oldest vine in the world, you would perhaps reply: "Hey, I just do not feel like exhaustive-walking!" or "Sure I like nature, but just going to see a single vine?" Well, you would be wrong, since the oldest vine in the world lies in the strict center of the one beautiful middle-European town - Maribor!

This respectable plant, over 400 years old, has seen things we can only dream or read about. It has seen burning of witches, revolutions, great celebrations and all other kinds of good old times.

This is far from being coincidence. This area (Styria) is one of the best world areas for growing vines and producing wine. The town is surrounded by vineyards, starting on its edges almost within the city. No wonder Maribor laterally lies on the one of the biggest European wine- cellars. Still, (un)luckilly it is too far from France to be part of it.

Below: The oldest vine in the world.

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History

Medieval period

In the pre-medieval history there were several settlements - Illyrian, Celtic and Roman, however none was permanent up to today. In the 6th century area was populated by Slavs; However, they were never able to set a permanent independent state.

In 1164 the Maribor settlement was mentioned for the first time in connection to the above-lying castle, which is today no longer existing. In 1254 Maribor was for the first time mentioned as a town and in 1278 it was fortified.

The Turkish invasion did not bypass that area. In 1532 hundred thousand men under Sultan Suleiman II failed to capture the town. However, Maribor failed to avoid another medieval catastrophe - plague - that ravaged the town five times. It left Maribor also one of the most beautiful monuments - Plague Memorial.

Another thing that should be mentioned is a Cathedral - a Catholic Church of St. John the Baptist. It is the oldest architectural treasure in Maribor, first mentioned in 1248. It was building and rebuilding many years, so in this monumental building many different styles mix - from Romanesque to Baroque.

Below: The cathedral.

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Modern period

From its founding on, Maribor was a part of German, later Austrian empire. Because of its prominent location and resources, he became prospered and important industrial town. So it was able to keep up with advantages in other parts of Europe.

In 1758 the first secondary school in Maribor - Gymnasium - was established. In 1859 famous Slovenian bishop and patriot Anton Martin Slomsek made two important changes: Maribor's main church became Cathedral and the first high school was established - the Theological faculty.

In 1918, after the disintegration of Austrian monarchy, the municipal corporation was transferred to Slovenian hands and so remains ever since, with an exception during the Second World War.

Different styles changed appearance of the town significantly. Medieval details, from the Castle to the Cathedral, as well as Renaissance and Baroque appear in the town's nucleus. The architectural Golden Age is characterized by neoclassical Austrian architecture, from the Post office to the Gymnasium building. Mixture of those styles makes Maribor typical middle-European town.

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Maribor today

Position and people

Maribor has a privileged position. It lays on the border between the alpine and flat world. The beautiful Pohorje mountain, lying literally next to it on the South-West, provides to inhabitants skiing during the summers, trips during summers and the fresh climate although the year. Lowlands are extending South-East of the town providing various food, while hills on the north are simply made for vine-growing. River Drava, which is at this point already a strong but still a tranquil river, gives the town special sensitivity. The climate is of middle-European to panonian type; However, a special position and vast forests around and even inside the town make both winter and summer much milder.

Maribor is the second largest city in Slovenia and the cultural, educational and administration center with the University. It is also the center of the Styrian region and the strongest Slovenian industrial center. It has around 160.000 inhabitants.

Maribor is the first! . . .

Because of the strategic position of the town, as a crossing of East-West and South-North roads, on the important river and as the door to the South-East Europe, Maribor was the first one to enjoy new civilization advances in this part of Europe. It was the first to get railroad connection in 1846, as a part of the connection between Vienna and Trieste. In 1918 it was the first city to have electric power, generated in near-lying hydroelectric plant on river Drava.

In the present times, Maribor keeps up to be the first in advances. He was the first city to have University Computational Center and a large VAX machine, and the first city to get a cable television. Those advances helped to remain as the strongest industrial center in Slovenia and the second strongest in whole former Yugoslavia.

Maribor's prides

Besides the above-mentioned vine and the Cathedral, Maribor has still a lot to show and to be proud about. It could be without any reservation proclaimed as a Green City. Numerous tree-rows and parks are dispersed all over the town. Northern forests are only a kilometer or so away from the center, while Strazun forest penetrates deep into the town structure from the South-East. There is not as many block conglomerates as in similar towns.

Last years were successful also for the Slovenian National Theater in Maribor, as it became a prominent one both home and abroad. Many celebrated artists work there and its production got many international awards. Special attention is called by drama and ballet.

Below: The Slovenian National Theater.

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