Going for the neatest cut
Slovenia hosted the European Scything Championship for the third time between 28 and 30 July, featuring participants from eight countries or regions showcasing their scything skills in this age-old craft.
The event in Moravče gathered the best scythe enthusiasts from Austria, Germany, Switzerland, South Tyrol, the Basque Country, Slovakia, Czechia, Serbia, England, Russia, and Slovenia. Men, women and juniors competed both in speed and precision.
The roots of the competition go back to 1969 when the first international scything event brought together participants from Bavaria and Tyrol. Since then, the biannual contest has grown in popularity, attracting an increasing number of countries. Slovenia made its debut in 1995, hosting the first championship in Kranj in 1999, followed by another one in Cerklje na Gorenjskem in 2011.
Moravče is proud to have been able to host such a big event. Mayor Milan Balažic finds the event "is also a chance to spend time together, to have fun and to help together build, develop and participate in the shared spirit of Europe".
To participate in the event, each competing country had to organise qualifiers. A national team consists of five women and ten men. In 2015, the junior class was added, adding further excitement to the competition.
During the championship, female and junior competitors cut a plot 35 square metres in size, while the men's plot measures 100 square metres. The contestants' performances are evaluated based on speed and cut neatness, with 10 internationally qualified judges carefully assessing the quality of their cuts. The scores for time and neatness are combined to determine the final score of each competitor, with the winning margins often being minimal.
Neža Vidic, a member of the Slovenian team, said that a lot of effort had been put into preparing for the competition at home. "We train, cut grass and hope for the best result and finish. First the scythe must be well peened and sharpened and then you must go all out to win."
The championship's significance is not only in the individual accolades but also in the best country award, represented by a trophy. This wooden sculpture of a grass mower is passed down to the national team with the highest total score, signifying their prowess and dominance in this traditional craft. This year the trophy went to Austria.
Beyond the competitive aspect, the participating countries also seize the opportunity to present their cultural heritage. A sense of reverence and tradition surrounds the event, which commences with a mass and a blessing of scythes, followed by a lively parade of contestants wearing their national costumes and proudly displaying their scything tools which differ a bit from region to region.