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Črna na Koroškem – the picturesque land of King Matjaž

Text: Mankica Kranjec Photos: Boris Keber / The Castles of King Matjaž

(106 km from Ljubljana Airport)

Everyone round here knows that it was in Črna na Koroškem – a picturesque mountain village that is home to countless tales and legends – that Slovenia's greatest ever female skier first put on a pair of skis.

This is actually the only place in the world where you can chat with world ski champion and quadruple Olympic medal winner Tina Maze and also meet fabulous creatures such as the Forest Man and Perkmandeljc or awaken the legendary King Matjaž from his long sleep below Mount Peca. Everyone knows that King Matjaž is still sleeping there today with his army, and that when his long grey beard has wound nine times around the table he will wake up and redeem his people. The people of Črna may no longer be waiting for him, but every year they hold a unique event called The Castles of King Matjaž in his honour. This event celebrated its 25th anniversary this year and has become the biggest January tourism event in the Koroška region. Over the course of a quarter of a century, teams from far and wide have constructed 1,350 castles of snow and ice and the event – which combines a fun weekend outdoors with almost forgotten winter pleasures – has attracted tens of thousands of visitors.

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The three-day event is accompanied by a varied programme of cultural and sports activities, all connected in some way with the legend of King Matjaž. As the local people say with pride, the event brings people together, helps form connections and opens the door to fantasy and optimism.

The Friday evening is traditionally dedicated to a night slalom among flaming torches, with competitors competing for the King Matjaž Trophy. On the Saturday, to demonstrate their skills and prove that castles are a serious business, teams compete in building snow castles. The event, which lasts the whole day, is accompanied by a varied programme of entertainment, with appearances by musical guests and a fire performance. It ends with the announcement of the winners and the awarding of prizes to the best teams. And if Saturday's events in the King Matjaž Park were not exciting enough, the Sunday is a day full of fun and merriment for families and children. Events in Podpeca reach their climax with the lighting of torches and the proclamation of the most beautiful snow castles in the land.

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