A Different Anthem

National anthems are a strange lot. Hailing back from the 18th and 19th century – even most of the new ones composed after the end of World War II and the Cold war are imitating that “Romantic” style – they are pompous, stale, demodé in both verse and music. The lyrics are unimaginative, falling into a few basic categories: either waxing lyrically about the beautiful county and its bestest people, kissing up to some dead guy, or exhorting the hordes to attack, for the flag, for freedom, for the future.

What is your anthem about – country, people, great guy, flag, or battle? Those 5 subjects cover over 99 % of all national anthem lyrics (if we ignore Spain, and Bosnia and Herzegovina, who don’t bother with lyrics at all).

But there is a tiny speck of land, a small country that went for something completely different. Their national anthem is about …

friendship and drinking.

Welcome to Slovenia 🙂

The lyrics of the Slovenian national anthem are taken from a carmina figurata titled Zdravljica – The Toast – written by arguably the greatest Slovenian poet France Prešeren.

Zdravljica is basically a drinking song – the first stanza reminds everyone that the vines did their job and the wine is just about ready for imbibing, and most of the following stanzas are toasts: to the country and its people, to all the fine guys, to all the beautiful ladies (of course), to all the nations of the world, and, lastly, to the merry drinkers themselves.

Prešeren wrote the poem in November 1844 – most probably on or about the day when Saint Martin turns grape juice (actually must, vinum mustum) into wine – and was published after a clash with the Austro-Hungarian censors only in 1848, a year before the poet’s untimely death.

The Slovenian anthem uses the seventh stanza, a toast to the friendship among all nations. That a nation selects a toast, a drinking song for its anthem, is completely unique and it say a lot about the people who live here …

Live all the nations
Who yearn for that bright day
When o’er earth’s habitations
No war, no strife shall hold its sway!

But what do the Slovenian national anthem and the greatest Slovenian poet have to do with this cute little hill we did a … vivacious kite aerial photography session over it?

France Prešeren was born in the village of Vrba in Upper Carniola, on a rather well-off farm led by his father Šimen and his educated and ambitious mother Mina. The father wanted France to take over the farm, but the mother had other plans for the youngster: she wanted him to become a priest, a respected person, a bourgeois. Luckily for her there were a whole lot of uncles and other relatives serving as priests and chaplains all over Carniola, and they could take her kids under their wings, provide them with a place to stay and finance their education.

Thus the young France left Vrba and went to stay and study with his father’s uncle Jožef, who was the chaplain at this very church, St Mary of the Assumption on Kopanj hill, south of Grosuplje in Lower Carniola.

As the cult of the great poet grew (after his death, of course), every place that was remotely connected to Prešeren became a pilgrimage site, and Kopanj is no different – even though the future author of the Slovenian anthem came here when he was seven or eight years old, and stayed at the rectory for a couple of years only.

Kopanj hill is now a part of the Prešerniana, but is very interesting and beautiful by itself. It is regarded as the most beautiful hum, a solitary hill on a Karst polje, in Slovenia. It rises for some 70 meters above the charming Radensko polje, an exemplary Karst field, 4 km long and 1 km wide, full of hydrographical, botanical, and geological wonders.

The geology of Radensko polje – clay sediments on a limestone bed with flood-prone rivers and streams – created a unique wetlands ecosystem supporting a huge number of endangered plants and rare animals. Račna karst field is a landscape park and a protected Natura 2000 area.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Radensko polje is its hydrological bizarrness … The waters coming from Grosuplje basin in the north soon disappear underground in sinkholes and caves, and flow across the field only when the waters are (exceptionally) high. The flow below the limestone hills west of the field comes gushing from the ground in a series of estavelles (called retja from vreti, gushing out), a peculiar geo-hydro phenomenon that functions both as a spring (when the waters are high) and as a sinkhole. One of the estavelles features prominently on our low altitude shots – Špeharjevo retje.

Špeharjevo retje I, a huge estavelle (130 by 50 m)

Kopanj hill is a small – 500 by 200 m, 70 m high – isolated hum, made of Jurassic limestone and dolomite, covered in oak, hornbeam, and spruce forest, topped with the church of St Mary, an old rectory, and a school. A rare artesian spring that reputedly cures eye ailments and helps women getting pregnant, flows out the northern slope.

We have done a couple of KAP sessions on Radensko polje, with, ahem, varying success. The place we flew this time is basically a kilometre-wide valley, with hills rising hundreds of meters above it at both ends, and a 70 m high Kopanj right in front. The wind conditions were beyond difficult, with numerous turbulent layers and with the wind direction swaying through at least 90 degrees. We simply couldn’t penetrate all the turbulence, and with a busy road right behind, a river and a huge estavelle on the right, and a power line on the left the whole session was nervous.

But we got what we came here for. So stand up for the anthem – and drink!

Kite aerial photos shot with Insta360 on Cindy delta kite, made by master Janez Vizjak of Dr.Agon kites.

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