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Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Mythic park Rodik: Stories tell, science explains

By: Lucija Kavčič

In Rodik, a village on the geological border between the flysch and karst worlds, and its Mitski Park, the local intangible cultural heritage has found a renewed home, interpretation, and upgrade. Each Rodik story carries its own fragment of truth about the place and the lives of its people. Visitors can uncover it layer by layer, first with the help of the interactive exhibition “Myths and Other Realities”, located on the upper floor of the village house, and then embark on one of the two walking paths of Mitski Park.

In 2021, the Mitski Park Rodik received the prestigious Valvasor Award, the highest recognition in Slovenian museology, for its special presentation of the narrative heritage, the preservation of intangible cultural heritage, and the prepared exhibition for both organised paths. This year, they will also submit application forms for inclusion in the Register of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Slovenia. With this, Rodik’s stories and heritage will be protected at the highest state level, while the heritage, as we will read later, is presented tangibly and vividly, close to people and nature.

Saved from oblivion

“The purpose of Mitski Park is not only for people to enjoy the beautiful nature and hear some new stories, but also to educate all visitors. We tell them why these stories were created, and, above all, how they have changed over the centuries. If we had not arranged Mitski Park in Rodik now, they would have completely disappeared from memory, despite being recorded in Rodik,” said Valerija Pučko, manager of Mitski Park Rodik. She explained that the foundation for it was the work of Jasna Majda Peršolje, a local resident who collected and recorded Rodik’s stories as they were told by her grandparents, neighbours, and friends, thus saving them from oblivion just in time. It was only about 20 years ago, when the book was published, that it sparked the interest of ethnologists. The paths of Rodik’s stories were then paved by ethnologist and anthropologist Dr Katja Hrobat Virloget, with the help of a local historian and other colleagues. She, along with other team members, is also a co-author of the exhibition “Mythical and Other Realities in Mythic Park Rodik”. The Rodik’s stories are connected to a specific places in the landscape. “That is why we have prepared two thematic hiking trails through the project: the upper Lintver path and the lower Babi’s path, which together include twelve selected points. The points are marked by stone markers and stone sculptures, which are the artistic work of Špela Šedivy. In collaboration with colleagues and students of the Sežana College of Stone Design, they designed the stone in such a way that it tells a story by itself. Each point highlights one or two stories, but multiple stories can also be associated with them,” explained Valerija Pučko.

Narrative Festival

The exhibition centre is open to visitors every day. Visitors can choose to explore individually, but they also accept pre-announced groups visits. The visitors are first guided through an interactive exhibition, where Rodik’s stories are presented and explained from different perspectives: what they are about, how they have adapted to new social circumstances, and thus how they have changed over the centuries. “Equipped with knowledge, visitors can then explore the designated marked path with a guide or on their own. Babi’s path is also wonderful to visit by bicycle, and we have a few available for rent in the park itself,” added Valerija Pučko. As she emphasised, they do not have a specific target group; they are visited by many families and groups of schoolchildren from primary and secondary schools, as well as students and other tourists; there are more and more tourists from abroad, especially from Germany, and recently also organised visits from various companies that take part in team building. Events are also organised in Mitski Park: in September, it is usually the Night of Researchers, when, among other things, they host world-famous storytellers. Two years ago, the event was hosted by Giovanna Conforto from Italy. Next weekend, April 2nd, the Narrative Festival will take place in Mitski Park, where the actors Janez Škof, Jasna Majda Peršolja, and Valerija Pučko will tell their Rodik’s stories. The scientific interpretation will be given by Katja Hrobat Virloget.

Before the visit

The programmes they prepare for visitors are tailored to their age and interests: immersive storytelling for children, and for adults, they have a scientifically in-depth explanation of the mentioned stories that relate to history, microclimate, and geology of Rodik. At the top of Ajdovščina hill, which the story describes as the home of the Ajda giants, there is the best-preserved archaeological site dating back 800 years BC. Cikova jama is connected to the story of a shepherd boy who fell into the deepest cave pit – abyss, which as confirmed by cavers, is the deepest among the three local pits – Cikova, Fukova, and Globoka Jama. Similarly, the story of Lintver, a large green snake with a red rooster flower on its head, living in a small lake on top of Čuk Hill, which is filled with water up to the top, is true. Geologists have confirmed that water always remains in the flysch layers of the hill. According to tradition, Lintver causes dark clouds and storms directly above Rodik, and meteorologists explain that it is precisely above the village where air masses of different temperatures meet, creating storm phenomena. But what stories are associated with the points Kobilja Glava, Njivice, Pod lisičino, and others? I believe your curiosity will not let you rest…

Visitors of Mitski Park first see the exhibition. (Photo: L. K.)

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