The Slovenian village of Podbrezje, located in the Gorenjska (Upper Carniola) region, lies on the terraces of Tržiška Bistrica at the confluence of the Sava River and is known for its produce including fruit, potatoes, cabbage as well as silage maize for livestock. Podbrezje is made up of a number of hamlets which were separate settlements before the Second World War. Of these hamlets, my family originates from Podtabor.
Although the parish church is located in the village, Podbrezje is better known for its second church – the picturesque fortified Tabor church on a rock above the motorway from Ljubljana to the Karawanken Tunnel. It has become a well-known landmark along the motorway, and is visible from every vantage point throughout the village. The view from the family home was special.
Tabor church was built around 1470 as a fortification where the locals could escape from Ottoman raids. The church is sited in an elevated position affording a view in all directions with walls surrounding the church. Today, there are remnants of a moat and dike on the western side of the church. The entrance to the fortification also had a drawbridge. Locals would retreat to the church after warnings from higher neighbouring vantage points of Šmarjetna Gora and Jamnik.
I have fond memories of Podbrezje, having visited family in Slovenia as a 12 year old. Days would be spent riding bikes through the village, sitting under cherry trees picking ripe dark fruit and wandering through the family’s forest holdings, searching for and picking wild mushrooms and native blueberries. These were adventures which I was fortunate to have experienced. For a city kid, I soon became enamoured with this lifestyle and the freedom I was afforded. I became known around the village and was given a warm welcome every time I met a local.
One peculiarity that is steeped in local history is the practice of giving an individual house and its inhabitants a special family or house name. Aliases were widely used by villagers and were widespread, but today it is becoming increasingly rarer. Our house name was Piskac (translation to piper), named so due to the family’s patriarch being an organ maker.