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Natural history collection

The center of nature of Bela krajina

The Slovenian name for Kessler's gudgeon would translate to Kessler ‘pigeon’. This may lead some to assume that it was a bird. So they would benefit from knowing that this species has fins, not wings! If you are observant, you can find it in or natural history collection BELA KRAJINA NATURE CENTRE.
Where does your mind go when you hear the term tender beauties of Bela krajina? Surely you think of the white birches in the local characteristic steljniki (copses with eagle fern undergrowth). However, the meadows of Bela krajina conceal a plethora of other beauties, such as for example the stunning wild orchids … Seek them out in our natural history collection!

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Historical collection

The “Semič in 20 images” local collection

Have you ever heard of a puntek? This congenial word denotes something small and pleasant used to decorate Semič brides. You can find a puntek in our SEMIČ IN TWENTY IMAGES history collection. Don’t miss the simple and modest, yet very beautiful bridal garb that preserves the memory of the ancient customs of our ancestors.
In the whirlwind of decades, centuries, and millennia, numerous interesting traces were preserved in the wider Semič area ... they are waiting for you in our museum!

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Viticulture collection

Viticulture collection

Not many people know that, many years ago, the famous Bela krajina wine festival Vinska vigred was initially held in Semič, before Semič gifted it to Metlika. Through our museum house’s VITICULTURE COLLECTION, you will learn plenty more interesting titbits about Bela krajina’s wine-growing tradition, for example about soseske zidanice (communal wine cellars) a.k.a. wine banks, where the rovaš notched stick was frequently used to keep tabs of the wine debt. Simple yet precise bookkeeping existed long before the computer age!

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Mysterious creature of the Semič underworld

Jalžić’s Congeria cave shell

The Bela krajina karst area in the south-eastern part of Slovenia, at the junction between the high Dinaric karst and the Bela krajina karst plain, was formed over the course of 200 million years. This area, with several endemic cave species, contributes significantly to the underground biodiversity of Slovenia, which is one of the richest countries in the world in this respect. The groundwater has dug numerous channels, crevices, and caves in the limestone, where life has developed independently of the sunlit surface, making Slovenia one of the areas with the greatest underground biodiversity in the world. The vast majority of underground species are endemic, meaning they live only in a certain area of the world.

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The Secrets of the Houses of Semič

Through the centuries, the centre of the market town of Semič gradually developed around St Stephen’s Parish Church. Numerous houses that were once home to interesting individuals and families still stand here today. Many unique memories, stories, and anecdotes about them continue to circulate, thanks to a native of Semič, a history professor Rozi Mohar, who has collected and recorded many mysteries of Semič houses. We are more than happy to share them with you on our guided tours of our beautiful market town centre!

Houses of Semič

The Brunskole House

The Konda House

The Ljimani Ice Cream and Cake Shop

The House of the Caritas Organisation

St Stephen’s Church

The Tabor House

The Presbytery

The Šušteršič House

The Zurc House

The Štrumbelj (Sever) House and the Reading Society’s Pavillion

Semiški Hram – The Čofl or Novak House

The Ancel House

Matiček’s – Sepaher’s i. e. Sever’s House

The Bukovec House

The Paraplegic House

Bartl’s Teacher House (currently Bezek’s House)

The Town Hall Building

The Semič Museum House

Nekdanja Brunskoletova hiša (danes last družine Jakša)

Old firehouse

Səmonč or Simonič or Šuštarič house

The Brunskole House

Already before World War I, Semič’s wealthy Brunskole family owned two houses. One stands at the top of Taborska ulica street, leaning against the eastern side of the tabor encampment's defensive walls. It served as a store up until a few years after World War II, though it hosted the 15th Brigade’s field hospital for a few weeks during the war; between March 1944 and the end of April 1945, it served as the office of chief prosecutor for Slovenia Vito Kraigher. After the war, a kiosk and hair salon were set up in the spaces on the ground floor. Today the building is owned by the municipality and is used by the music school and various societies and institutes.

The Konda House

One of Semič’s oldest houses leans against the north wall of the tabor encampment’s defensive walls. It was formerly owned by the notable Semič-based Štricelj butcher family. Between 1943 and 1958, it was the location of the Bukovec family butcher shop (the family of the former mayor Janko Bukovec), a purpose it continued to serve later as well.

The Ljimani Ice Cream and Cake Shop

This building is also among Semič’s older houses leaning against the old defensive walls. Its original appearance hasn’t changed very much. For several decades it belonged to the renowned Malenšek family of bakers and merchants. The building’s penultimate owner Jože Malenšek went down in our little town’s history as a nationally conscious, liberal-leaning, and active townsman. He was among General Maister’s fighters, a member of the SOKOL society, and, at the close of World War II, the municipal secretary and bursar. The entire family was nationally conscious and actively participated in culturally-enlightening life. Jože’s wife Marija played an important role in the later creation of the Semiška ohcet folklore ensemble. Even before the war she “plaited” the brides and their bridesmaids for weddings (she made their “naplet” head dresses, crowns, “puntek” hair sponges, and bouquets). The family bakery and store was operational throughout World War II. In 1971, the house was bought by Gajur Ljimani, who turned it into an ice-cream and cake parlour, which is locally known today as the best ice-cream place.

The House of the Caritas Organisation

This old house was most probably built after the partial removal of the tabor encampment walls and defensive tower in the 19th century.

This was the first town hall building; however, before the first and after the second World Wars, mayors spent more time officiating from home than here. The cellar formerly served as the municipal prison. The last to officiate in this building was secretary Tomc. Before it finally passed into the private ownership of families Lipar and Muc, it was used by the police.

In 2010, the Semič Parish bought the house and set it up to house the Caritas organisation and the Orel Cultural Society of Semič. The house began serving this purpose in 2016.

 

St Stephen’s Church

The church most probably stood already in the second half of the 12th century during the reign of Hungarian King Bela III, while its earliest written mention dates from 1228, the year the Parish Church in Črnomelj was consecrated. In 1268, the Semič Parish came under the rule of the Teutonic Order. The beginning of the 15th century marked the start of 170 years of Turkish raids. To protect their lives and their most essential possessions, the Semič townspeople erected defensive walls around their parish church forming a counter-Turkish tabor encampment. It was erected before 1526. It enclosed the church, the presbytery, and the cemetery and preserved its original form until the mid 19th century. Most of the defensives walls remain preserved today.

The interior of the baroque-classicist church is adorned by Metzinger’s paintings The Last Supper and St Stephen, Potočnik’s Stations of the Cross, and a valuable Venetian chandelier.

Since 2018, the interior has been undergoing exhaustive remodelling under the meticulous supervision of Parish Priest Luka Zidanšek, while the façade and church exterior are set to be renovated in 2022.

 

The Tabor House

This building stands inside the preserved counter-Turkish tabor encampment. It received its present-day appearance in the mid 19th century at which time it served as a utility building. It was probably erected on the foundations of an older building, being that storage spaces in which Semič townspeople hid their belongings from the Turks were formerly located within the defensive walls. Today the building is used for the parish- and municipality-run cultural activities.

The Presbytery

The presbytery’s foundations have probably been standing for as long as the church; particularly parish chronicles often mention the presbytery building during the times of Turkish and Hajduk raids. The presbytery was expanded in the 1820s and renovated at the start of the 20thcentury. Judging by photographs from 1938, it was a two-story building with a conical defensive tower – a proper fortress similar in appearance to the presbytery today.

  

The Šušteršič House

The Šušteršič family left a strong mark on the economic, political, and national-consciousness history of Semič between the mid 19th century and the end of World War II. The family had profound commercial and entrepreneurial acumen and built at least five houses in the Semič town centre. The most lavish among them, the Šušteršič house located in the market town centre (today, the Vrščaj house), was most probably built already in the 1880s. It was exhaustively renovated in 1930 but preserved its original outline throughout. The spaces on the ground floor always served commercial purposes. After World War II, the structure was used for various purposes.

The Zurc House

This house was built as early as 1876 also by the Šušteršič family. After the first World War, it was bought by the Zurc family. In the renovations during the period between the World Wars the house’s L-shaped floor plan was transformed to its present-day shape in order to adapt to the functional requirements of commercial use. Ivana Zurc never resided anywhere else but at the house in the Semič square, while her husband Josip mostly lived at Krupa Castle. She was an intellectual from the known Begunje-based Avsenik musical family and was a notable force in the enlightenment movement among the people of Semič. With the exception of a few smaller alterations, the Zurc house still retains the shape it received in the renovation between the two World Wars.

 

The Štrumbelj (Sever) House and the Reading Society’s Pavillion

This house was most probably built by the Šušteršič family in 1881. As evidenced by old Semič postcards, it stands unchanged to this day. It was later bought by merchant Anton Sever, who, in turn, passed his house and commercial activities on to the Štrumbelj family. Anton Sever and the Štrumbelj family had a big impact on life in Semič between the two World Wars. Sever was one of the most important forces of enlightenment and proponents of cultural activities in town. The nationally-conscious activities of Sever and Štrumbelj were certainly profoundly influenced by the Semič Reading Society, which initially operated out of the pavilion outside Sever’s house in the very centre of Semič. The lower – commercial part of the house was nationalized after World War II, and later returned to its owners, who used the spaces to host numerous activities of various kinds.

Semiški Hram – The Čofl or Novak House

This is the most authentic building in Semič. From the time of its construction in 1753, it remained virtually unchanged. This is attested by all photographs taken during the last 120 years and the date of construction carved above its entrance. The house’s most renowned master was innkeeper Mihael Novak - Čofelj, who is recorded in the town’s history as Semič’s most active enlightenment worker between and after the World Wars.  After World War II, the downstairs spaces were nationalised for a few years. Later they were used as a communal storage space until a cafeteria opened there again, which remains open to this day. For the last eighteen years, it has been managed by Drago Mohar Jr, who bought the entire building from the descendants of the Novak – Čofelj family in 2017.

 

The Ancel House

The Ancel family is rooted in Semič's distant past, with their family name appearing already in medieval land registers. The present-day building was built by Anton Ancelj in 1905. The utility building was constructed using manufactured stone and rafters sourced from the Smuk Castle, which was already falling into ruin at the time. They ran an inn on the ground floor and kept a garden, which various society chronicles frequently mention as the location of celebrations and social get-togethers. Between the World Wars they were an integral part of everyday life in Semič. Their young descendants exhaustively renovated their home under the watchful eye of the Institute for the Protection of Cultural Heritage of Slovenia but retained the house’s original architectural outline.

  

Matiček’s – Sepaher’s i. e. Sever’s House

There was no Semič resident alive in the last hundred years who wouldn’t know the Matiček family and the magnificent garden stretching behind their house. The garden is adorned by a three-hundred-year-old lime tree, a mighty chestnut tree, and tall hornbeam trees. Formerly, a vibrant social and cultural life took place in their shade: parties, games, gatherings, performances … Anton Sepaher, whose family line (Matiček) stems from Brezova Reber, married Marija Kenda and built a mighty new structure in 1898. He was a major landowner; he opened an inn on the ground floor of his building, kept a butcher shop in a separate smaller structure in front of the house, and ran a teamster business.

Like their neighbours, this family was also an integral part of national-enlightening activities in Semič. Both families stayed active after World War II. Present day owners Tatjana and Janez renovated the house in such a way as to preserve its hundred-year-old majesty.

 

The Bukovec House

The Bukovecs are one of Semič’s oldest families. They have lived here for several centuries with their last name appearing in medieval land registers. The older Bukovec house was built in 1820; next to it, stands Janko Bukovec’s newer house. There is a large garden behind the houses, which is an extension of Matiček’s garden. This was formerly the location of an ice house serving the needs of the family slaughterhouse, butcher shop, and inn and restaurant with the capacity of serving a hundred people. During World War II, the Bukovec buildings were occupied by Italian soldiers. After the arrival of partisan troops in September 1943, Leopold Bukovec became commander of Semič. In 1944, the homestead was converted to serve as a transit centre for the wounded from partisan hospitals in Kočevski Rog, who were being transported across Črešnjevec to the Otok airfield. It included an assembly base for shot-down allied pilots and fugitives from German camps. The family has always been involved in all manner of Semič activities and remains so to this day.

The Paraplegic House

The house, which has always been in the possession of the Derganc family, hasn’t changed in the last 160 years. This was where the notable Slovenian doctor Dr Franc Derganc was born in 1877. His children followed in his footsteps; his son Franci went down in history as a notable partisan doctor. In 1974 they named The General Hospital of Dr Franc Derganc Nova Gorica in Šempeter after him. After his mother Heda’s death, the homestead was inherited by Dr Vinko Derganc, one of her sons. He liked to spend his holidays in Semič. In 1983, his heiresses gifted the two-story house and its surrounding garden to the Slovenian Association of Paraplegics. Though the house was thoroughly renovated, the appearance of its exterior and some of its interior spaces was preserved.

In 2009, the fruit garden was also renovated and rejuvenated. In time, it evolved into a neatly ordered educational garden named Dr Viktor Derganc’s Educational Garden after the man who bestowed it.

Leta 2009 so začeli preurejati in pomlajevati sadni vrt. Z leti je prerasel v lično in poučno urejen učni vrt, ki nosi ime po darovalcu – Učni vrt dr. Viktorja Derganca.

Bartl’s Teacher House (currently Bezek’s House)

School superintendent Matija Bartel was born in Mirna Peč in 1849. He took the helm of the Semič school in 1886 and held it for 32 years before he retired. Alongside Dean Aleš, he was a known Bela Krajina’s patriot and one of the most active townsmen, which won him eminent state and municipal awards. His daughter Minka was also active in the community as a renowned cultural worker. Matija Bartl died in 1922 and is buried at Sv. Duh (Holy Ghost). Bartl’s house long served as a residence of numerous Semič’s enlightenment workers. At the end of the 1960s, it was sold to cobbler Bezek.

 

The Town Hall Building

All its photographs from circa 1900 show the house as it appears today. During its last major renovation an extension was added to the eastern part, which features the present-day main entrance with an internal staircase. The last long-term owners were members of the Plut merchant family.

The house’s upper part always held residential apartments, even after World War II, while the ground floor spaces were used for various economic and other activities throughout the 20th century. The Begrad construction company bought the house from the Pluts and thoroughly renovated it. Municipal administration moved into the house in 1997.

 

The Semič Museum House

The Museum House is located in the former Semič school building, which was erected in 1838. After the school was relocated to a new building in 1931, the municipality and different societies used the old school structure for a variety of purposes.

During World War II, the building served as the Italian Carabineer Station; after the Italians left, national security courses and meetings of newly founded organisations, such as the Liberation Front and League of Communist Youth of Yugoslavia, were held there ... In 1956, it housed Dr Lojze Mihelčič’s Medical Post, which ran until 1960. Later the spaces were used by the police and post office.

In 1973, at the initiative of known Semič cultural worker Alojz Kočevar, the town museum collection opened in the building under the auspices of the Bela Krajina Museum, Metlika. In the cellar, the Society of Winegrowers established a winegrowers’ museum collection. In October 2019, after two years of thorough renovations, a modern and attractive museum house opened, which came to life within the framework of the Misterion Project.

 

Nekdanja Brunskoletova hiša (danes last družine Jakša)

Aside from the house on present-day Taborska ulica street, the Brunskole family also owned a structure on Roška cesta road. This was where one of the Brunskole brothers practiced sewing and tailoring; they also ran sewing courses, educating many seamstresses and tailors, as attested in a preserved contemporary photograph. Today the building is updated.

Old firehouse

Semič received its voluntary fire brigade on November 15, 1894. The president of the founding committee was the dean Anton Aleš, the first commander Anton Sebahar, and the long-time secretary of the society the superintendent Bartel.

They were also engaged in public education work: they had their own acting group, they organized singing performances and participated in all important events in our town. Firefighting tools were kept in a shed at the Semič fairgrounds.

In 1935, firefighters began preparations for the construction of a fire station, and the grand opening was on August 22, 1937. The new fire station served them for 52 years. Firefighters contributed a great deal of volunteer work to the construction of the home, and the money was raised through the organization of festivities, the sale of wine, and the collection of voluntary contributions and materials. The carpentry work was done by carpenter Martin Judnič from Omota, and the masonry work was done by craftsmen Henigsman, Mekiš and Florjančič.

After the construction of the modern fire station in 1989, the old one served various purposes, including events during the resounding Semič carnivals. For the last decade, it has housed a pharmacy and a restaurant in the basement.

Səmonč or Simonič or Šuštarič house

The house gained its present appearance around 1930 - at the time when a new school building was being built in Semič. It was renovated by Anton Simonič, a well-known Semič landowner and innkeeper. The original foundation of Simonič's house was a lower and smaller house owned by Terezija Fuks.

The Simonič family ran an inn on the ground floor of the house until the end of World War II. The house has not changed its image to this day; they just whitewashed the facade a few times and covered the balcony. The interior of the house has also remained almost the same. Most of the old joinery has been preserved as well, so the house is still very interesting to see today.

There was a well-visited fairground near the house between the two world wars, so there was no shortage of guests in Simonič's inn. The house was a meeting place for the Semič dignitaries who shaped the fate of Semič between the two world wars. During the war, the upper rooms of the house were occupied by Italian soldiers.

The Simonič family was large, numbering 14 members in the post-war years. They have always been highly respected among the people of Semič, as they are humble, hard-working, honest and highly active in our community.

 

Impressions of visitors

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