In Maribor Lent is the name of the city’s historic old quarter on the northern bank of the Drava, and a two week arts festival held every year around the end of May/beginning of June, of which the majority of events are held in that part of the city. Many of Maribor’s oldest buildings were either lost or extensively damaged in World War Two so the historic quarter is quite small but gradually the buildings that can be restored are getting a new lease of life.
Lent covers an area between the Stari most (the old bridge) and the new market place about half a mile to the west along the Drava and from the river to Koroska cesta and Glavni trg. The best know attraction is the celebrated "Stara Trta" – the old vine (see my review in this journal) which is claimed to be, at over four hundred years old, the world’s oldest. The house on which the vine grows is also an outpost of the Maribor tourist information office and plays host to regular exhibitions on different aspects of Maribor history and Stajerska life. There are also frequent wine tasting events held here in the House of the Old Vine, as it is known.
Apart from a small handful of bars and clubs, you’ll find the Maribor pub scene very democratic with a mixed crowd at most of the cafes along the river front and on the little pedestrian lane that runs from the bottom of the stairs that drop down by the old casino building on the northern end of the Stari Most (the Old Bridge). Verdi (look for the sign with the three rats) does reasonable pizzas while Gril Ranca is the place to go for cevapcici and pljeskavica – nothing else is sold here.
Lent is slowly being regenerated but there are still many buildings in a poor state of repair. This part of town should be buzzing with gallery spaces and organic cafes but progress is slow. Some of the buildings look a bit run down but are actually used for events such as the international arts festival, also called Lent and held here at various locations on the north bank of the Drava over two weeks every year in May/June. Likewise there are a number of bars known as "Lent bars" which operate only during those two weeks.
A few buildings such as the old water tower and the Jews Tower have been fully restored and serve a number of purposes. The water tower is a part time wine bar and is an excellent place to try some of the finest wines produced in this part of the country. This sixteenth century tower was built to resist Turkish raiders. Just across the road, looking down on the water tower is the Jews Tower. At the other end of Lent is the circular Judgment Tower (Sodni stolp) dating from the 14th century. It was here that sentences were passed down to women found guilty of witchcraft.
Behind the Judgment Tower, looking onto the old marketplace is the Minorite Monastery and the Church of Mary’s Assumption. The monastery, built in the thirteenth century pre-dates the church. In 1747 people started to make pilgrimages to this church to see its statue of Mary but Emperor Joseph II abolished the monastery in the 1780s and the building was used instead as a military barracks, a purpose it retained until the late 1920s. In 2010 the Maribor Puppet Theatre moved into redeveloped building of the monastery giving it a much needed new lease of life.
The oldest streets in Lent formed the ‘Jewish ghetto’; Dravska ulica, Usnjarska ulica (the name means Leather Street – this was where Maribor’s renowned leather workers were situated) and Ključavničarska ulica (Locksmiths’ Street) are wonderful narrow lanes where you can lean from the windows and shake hands with the people across the way.
It is sad that Maribor lost so much of its old town as a result of the Second World War, even more so that it was not better protected in the years thereafter but there is certainly a lot being done to restore and protect what remains.