VISITORS will decide which shepherd makes the best žinčica.
"Sheep breeding has deep roots here. The municipality even has a sheep in its coat-of-arms," says Miroslav Žabenský, director of Orava Cultural Centre.
He adds that several significant master shepherds and sheep tenders worked here, some of whom even became the inspiration for founding the local folk-music group Grúň, which bears the name of the hill rising above the village with a view over the whole Orava region. The local mayor is one of its members.
"He is a great singer and his daughter, Zdena Hubčíková, is the only female producer of violins in Slovakia," Žabenský says.
The visitors can see for themselves whether or not the mayor is a good singer on the festival's second day, Sunday, when Grúň will be one of the performers in the Cifrovačky programme. This music show, running from 14:00 in the local amphitheatre, will feature soloists on tubas, bagpipes, and pipes, including fujara - a long wooden pipe with a deep sound.
The programme of the entire Shepherd Days starts on Saturday at 17:30 at a local elementary school, with a display of traditional cow bells, shepherds' belts, pipes, and carved wooden mugs (črpáky) used for drinking žinčica, a special drink made out of sheep milk. There will also be demonstrations of processing the sheep wool and exhibitions of the Malatiná traditional cotton carpets. Later, shepherds will recall their encounters with bears and wolves while living in the shepherds' cabins.
On Sunday noon, the school will hold a public competition for the best products made out of sheep milk. Women from Slovakia, Moravia, and Poland will bake traditional pastry in the amphitheatre. Before the cheese results will be announced the stage will belong to those who can crack the whip.
"Almost nobody keeps this tradition alive anymore," says Žabenský, explaining that even though the whip was used more with cattle than sheep, shephers in the past used its cracking sound for communication.
"I set myself an insurmountable task and I had to travel half of the country to find some people who would still do it."
The Shepherd Days run from July 12 to 13 in Malatiná (13 kilometres east of Dolný Kubín). Admission is free. For more information contact the Orava Cultural Centre at 043/5864-978 or the municipal office at 043/5895-124.
7. Jul 2003 at 0:00 | Third annual presentation of shepherds' customs and skills