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Hayracks of Slovenia - Poljanska Dolina Area - Set

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Technical details
  • 31.05.2019
  • Marko Prah
  • Janez Kovačič
  • Agencija za komercijalnu djelatnost d.o.o., Zagreb, Croatia
  • Offset
  • 4 Colours
  • Comb 14 : 14
  • -
About Hayracks of Slovenia - Poljanska Dolina Area

When we talk about distinctive features and symbols of Slovenia, we often mention kozolci (hayracks, drying racks), those characteristic wooden structures and buildings for drying and storing hay and sheaves of corn, as well as corncobs and certain other crops. Several different variants have developed in Slovenia over the course of many years, ranging from the simple, straight kozolec with or without a roof, to the hayrack with a lean-to roof, the double hayrack, the split-level double hayrack (kozolec na kozla) and the roofed double hayack or toplar. There are around ten basic types, but with an infinite number of derivatives. There are also numerous dialect names both for the hayracks themselves and for their component parts. It is in the latter that the mastery of carpentry skills and technological solutions that resulted in true masterpieces are conserved. The large double hayracks of the toplartype, which are presumed to be of more recent origin than the second half of the seventeenth century, are practically buildings, with dimensions that frequently exceed those of farmhouses.

The oldest pictorial record of a single hayrack is found in Matthäus Merian's Topographia from 1649. Moving onto the end of the seventeenth century, Johann Weichard Valvasor provided a description of a kozolec and included a copper engraving of sheaves being placed on hayrack in his great work The Glory of the Duchy of Carniola, published in 1689. There has been much conjecture about the age of Slovenia's hayracks. The latest research, corroborated by relevant written and pictorial sources, suggests that the first hayracks did not appear until the sixteenth century, in the Zilja/Gail Valley (Gailtal in present-day Austria) and part of the Gorenjska region. The oldest known written record to date – from 1558 – is from the Gailtal area. The consolidation of the kozolec and its expansion into central Slovenia and the south-eastern Dolenjska region took place in the seventeenth century, while the construction of hayracks en masse in numerous typological variations did not occur until the nineteenth century, which is when they finally became a characteristic feature of the Slovene countryside. Hayracks could be found throughout the mountainous Gorenjska region, in central Slovenia, in the Zasavje and Posavje sections of the Sava Valley, across the territory of Škofja Loka and in the Tolmin area, and throughout the Dolenjska and Štajerska (Slovene Styria) regions as far as the town of Slovenska Bistrica in eastern Slovenia.

Pošta Slovenije is issuing five postage stamps with selected hayracks from the Zasavje area (kozolec with lean-to roof), the Poljanska Dolina area (double hayrack or toplar and single hayrack with stone supports), central Slovenia (single hayrack with multiple openings or "windows" between the supports), the Dolenjska region (large toplar) and the settlement of Studor v Bohinju (characteristic Studor-type double hayrack known as a stoga). The excellent artistic depictions of these hayracks are by the academy-trained painter Janez Kovačič.

This is merely a small selection from a great wealth of creativity that had its centre in part of Slovene territory, although structures similar to Slovenia's hayracks are also found in other parts of Europe. Today many of these hayracks are falling into ruin, since as the old rural saying has it, a hayrack is most beautiful when it is full! Those double hayracks that are still standing are often used as garages for agricultural machinery and other vehicles, or even for dumping unwanted items that would be better off in an official rubbish dump. Major technological changes in farming and modern haymaking methods involving silos or bales have led to the decline of traditional hayracks. Their disappearance is also changing the cultural landscape, with only a few remarkable, carefully selected examples conserved as a protected part of our immovable cultural heritage.

Janez Bogataj