Conserving a 17th Century Cottage
Brecljevo, Slovenia – August 2010
AiP volunteers had only been working in the village of Brecljevo for three days before just about everyone in Slovenia knew what we were up to! Word spread fast thanks to a segment on the popular news program, Slovenia Chronicle, that featured our intrepid volunteers from Australia, the US and Slovenia.
Slovenia is a popular travel destination, providing small communities with a means of building their economies through heritage tourism. AiP’s local partner, Zavod Etno Eko, works to educate citizens about the benefits of properly maintaining their unique historic architecture. The 17th century cottage we came to repair appeared sturdy, but had serious problems resulting from recent repairs that had actually damaged the structure.
Nine preservation volunteers worked under the guidance of conservation architect Stephen Booker to restore a partially collapsed stone wall, repair the foundation, and prepare the interior oven for restoration by a local craftsman. The team focused first on removing Portland cement mortar from the stone foundation and replacing it with lime mortar. We then rebuilt a portion of the stone wall, piecing it together like a jigsaw puzzle.
Next, we moved inside to work on the ancient stone oven. There we found, buried within a loose section of the masonry oven wall, an earthenware pot with a coin inside. According to folklorists, the pot would have been placed in the oven during its construction (late 1600s) as a good luck charm.
The group contributed 441 hours of volunteer labor, although the definition of labor was laughter, learning, and discovery along with a bit of sweat.
Learning alongside us were a group of 10-12 year olds participating in an ethnology camp. They learned what life was like in the 1700’s, from cooking to cottages to games.
We took time to explore Slovenia’s rich culture, travelling first to the old port city of Piran, traversing the narrow stone streets to visit the historic church and fortifications. We went on to see Predjama castle, built into a mountain using a series of the interconnected caves.
This was Adventure in Preservation’s third project in Slovenia, and we have come to know a great many people working in the heritage field. Two of them, Jasne and Celio, talented art conservators, invited our group to their home for a fabulous grilled dinner, accompanied by dancing and folk music late into the night. Impromptu lessons from Celio in gilding and Jasne in paint conservation made the evening even more memorable.
Leah Elliot, who traveled from Australia for her adventure in preservation, was ready for more, saying:
I’d definitely be interested in doing it again!