To mark the beginning of spring, the people of Ptuj—the oldest town in Slovenia—celebrate an ancient fertility rite called Kurentovanje. During the festival, which takes place on Shrove Sunday (between early February and early March), more than 500 local people don the mask of the kurent, a mythical, demonic creature.The kurents drive away winter with their fierce appearance: bodies made of stringy sheepskins with noisy cowbells dangling from belts; huge furry caps decorated with feathers and colored streamers; and leather face masks with red-rimmed eyes, trunk-like noses, and enormous red tongues.A kurent--a Slovenian devil that drives away winter--poses in costume.The kurent is also the god of unrestrained pleasure and hedonism—a Slovenian Dionysus. So the festival is not only a way for the locals to embrace an old folk tradition, but also to revel in the everyday Slovenian passion for living. It certainly makes for a good party!A kurent--a Slovenian devil that drives away winter--poses in costume.Ingrid Cercek, WT Trip Leader, Hiking in Slovenia

–Photos courtesy of Camera on autopilot

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