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Milling as Remembrance of Times Past in Prekmurje

Mills - cultural monuments of the past times

Mills have been standing on the Mura River since the 4th century. At the beginning of the 19th century, the biggest number of mills operated in the Prekmurje villages of Mele, Petanjci, Dokležovje, Veržej, Ižakovci, Krapje, Melnci and Hotiza. Mills used to serve for milling wheat, maize, rye and buckwheat, and today serve primarily as cultural monuments of the past times.

Milling on the River Mura project

Over 90 floating mills used to work on the Mura. Photo: Krajinski park Goričko

The municipality of Beltinci, in cooperation with the local institute for tourism and culture, the Prleška development agency and the municipalities of Veržej and Razkrižje, recently finalised the Milling on the River Mura project, in which it included the mills on the Mura in its offer of natural beauties, and ensured the preservation of that cultural and ethnological heritage and milling tradition. Over 90 floating mills used to work on the Mura, and today only Babič’s in Veržej remains active.

Bujraštvo (river damming)

Besides bujraštvo (river damming), weaving and tilemaking, milling falls within the traditional crafts in Prekmurje, which supported the majority of the people from Prekmurje. Today, almost nobody makes a living from this old craft in the region, but the local mills have been maintained in very good condition.

The best preserved and also the most famous today are the mills in the village of Veržej, especially Babič’s mill, which has a rich history, and also the mills in Ižakovci on the so-called Island of Love.

Interesting destiny of the Babičev mlin (Babič's Mill)

In 1912, in Veržej, the Babič family bought an old mill which was actually floating on the river, but was completely destroyed in a fire fifteen years after. They constructed a new mill at the same place a year after, and in a bid to protect it from another disaster, they set up the mill house by the river bank and put the mill wheel on special boats, called “kumpi” in the local dialect. This mill was washed away by the river, and the family was forced in 1947 to build a new mill.

The mill which can be seen today in Veržej is therefore the fourth mill constructed since the original, but all of them are known as Babič's Mill. Today we can witness the traditional milling of grain in the mill.

The floating mill on the Island of Love in Ižakovci is no less famous. The Mura river has been playing through the centuries with nature along its course and created a natural island that the locals named the Island of Love.

“Bujraški dnevi” 

Tourist societies soon started taking advantage of the island, which is known for its features, beauty and unspoiled nature in its close and far surroundings, so that today visitors can take a trip to the island and attend various events. The most famous are the“Bujraški dnevi” (bujraštvo is a traditional craft of fortifying and damming the riverbed of the Mura River), which have been traditionally organized in the second week of August.

The”Bujraški dnevi” are primarily dedicated to commemorating the life and work of the people who lived along this turbulent river through decades. Visitors of the “Bujraški dnevi” can also see presentations of everyday works related to the life along the Mura River.

The newest acquisition on the island is the floating mill- the locals set it up later on – which is the only structure of its kind in Slovenia and one of the few in this part of Europe. The floating mill is a particularity of the Panonian landscape. It partially or even completely floats on the water. The most frequent floating mills in the past were of the kind present in the past on the Mura River. There is also a permanent exhibition on bujraštvo - river damming - in Ižakovci.

Milling on the Mura River - technical, cultural and natural heritage

Photo (source): gremo.ven.com

Milling on the Mura River represents three values to the people of Prekmurje - it represents technical heritage, because the floating mill, with its simplicity and adaptability, is one of the rare very old technical achievements still in use; it represents cultural heritage, because eventful social and cultural life takes place around the mills; and it indirectly represents natural heritage, because floating mills even today are an example of a successful symbiosis of humans, with their energy needs, and the nature.

The purpose of the recently established project named “the Millers’ path” is to preserve this heritage and present it to a wider public and tourists. Prekmurje is becoming an excursion destination for many Slovenian and foreign tourists.

Text ba Anja Hreščak, May 2008