The Slovenia Times

Slovenia's only exotic park opens to the public

Newly opened Rafut Park. Photo: Nebojša Tejić/STA

On a hill overlooking Nova Gorica, a park with hundreds of exotic plants, the only one of its kind in Slovenia, has long been dormant, closed to the public and slowly overgrowing. Now, it has been restored to its old glory and opened to the public for the first time.

Spanning over 55,000 square metres, the formerly private park is home to around 140 plant species from around the globe, including a giant redwood and the oldest cork oak in the country. It is designed as a garden, with organically winding paths.

First laid out in the late 19th century by a local industrialist, it was completed in the early 20th century by Anton Laščak, who worked as an architect in Alexandria and designed many oriental palaces in Egypt.

The park will now be used as a public space and one of the venues of the European Capital of Culture, hosted by Nova Gorica and Italy's Gorizia in 2025.

Rafut Villa, a neo-Islamic building in Rafut Park. Photo: Nebojša Tejić/STA

In the middle of the park Laščak also built a villa, known as the Rafut Villa, which is one of only two examples of neo-Islamic architecture in Slovenia.

The park work having been completed, at a cost of €2.8 million, the focus will now shift to the villa, which has been slowly falling apart since its last tenant, the local chapter of the country's health insurance fund ZZZS, left in early 2003.

The Culture Ministry has earmarked €4.1 million for the villa renovation. The work is scheduled to start in 2025. Mayor Samo Turel says a decision on what content to present there is yet to be taken, but it will certainly be related to nature protection and conservation.


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