The Dormouse Hunting Museum, Snežnik
The fact that a Dormouse Hunting Museum exists at all is reason enough to buy a plane ticket to Slovenia. The collection covers the myth and culture of the Dormouse in Slovenian national identity, as well as practical examples and diagrams showing trapping methods. The Dormouse was hunted for its pelts, which were used in dandies' hats, but the meat wasn't wasted, and the fat is apparently semi-liquid. The displays are well-laid out vitrines, given a backdrop of leaves and logs, and enlarged engravings of dormouse lore, including an image of the devil seemingly herding the dormouse, to some end.
The Museum is in the grounds of Snežnik Castle, fairly hidden from view. It's a two room affair, opening with a selection of taxidermied local animals. I was relying on my memory of spotters' books, rather than my knowledge of Slovene to identify them, but there were some obvious animals in the tattered collection: wolves, bears, stoats.
The castle itself is surrounded by a moat and locked for all but two months of the year (as we found from the keeper of the tourist information centre, in broken pidgin German: 'Die Schloss ist geoffnet?' 'Nein.' 'Heute?' 'Nein, Juni und Juli'. Within the centre in a cage scattered with half-eaten apples, were two live dormice, small, fluffy-tailed and alien-looking).
It isn't easy to get to, but then that should be part of the quest to get to such an obscure and probably mythical place. First you must leave the main road and drive across the Disappearing Lake of Cernica, which for six months of the year is meadow, then, suddenly becomes a ten by five kilometre wide haven for frogs, storks and reed-dwelling wildlife.
Once the road has petered out to dirt track and you've twisted through the ten-house hamlets of the Cernica lake, you arrive at the confection of Snežnik Castle. The museum isn't large, but it is a comprehensively covered window into another culture with a proud and unique identity and is the stuff of fairytale made real.
Dormouse Museum photos
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