Three countries seek to get hayracks onto UNESCO list


This unique man-made feature of the Alpine landscape that stands testament to rural heritage may be found on a vast area extending from Switzerland to northern Italy and Austria, but it is most prominent in Slovenia, where more than 6,000 can still be found today.

The much adorned kozolec, which often features intricate decorative elements, has been part of Slovenian architecture for centuries and remains one of the most recognisable features of folk architecture.

Born out of the need to dry and store hay, grain and vegetables in a farm-oriented society, the kozolec has over time evolved into a complex structure whose use today is more of a status symbol than anything else.

Slavko Mežek of the movement for the Slovenian kozolec said at a round table in Bled on Thursday that a group of people from Italy's Alto Adige, Austria's Carinthia and Slovenia had recently met and launched the initiative for UNESCO's protection of this common element of architectural heritage.

Slovenian Agriculture Minister Dejan Židan expressed support for the initiative at the debate.

However, as with so many elements of cultural heritage, the traditional hayracks are widely falling into disuse and have become a burden for many owners who have moved on to different agricultural practices or have abandoned farming altogether.

It is hard to simply put the responsibility for protecting the heritage on owners, Mežek stressed, so the panel also discussed ways of helping owners in maintaining their traditional hayracks as a symbol of the Slovenian rural landscape.

Some local authorities have already stepped in to help kozolec owners. For instance, Kranjska Gora provides funding for maintenance of traditional hayracks, while Bohinj gives money to farmers who use them.