The village of Vače, about 20 kilometers east of Ljubljana, may look unremarkable at first glance, but its unique position within Slovenia has made it a popular tourist attraction – and a symbol of Slovenian nationhood.
In 1982, a group of enthusiasts, led by Jože Dernovšek and Peter Svetik, came up with the idea of building a monument just outside the village. Mathematical studies had shown that the spot represented the exact geographic center of the Socialist Republic of Slovenia, then one of the six Yugoslav republics. The early ‘80s were a time of gradual political liberalization and the marker was one of the first projects that celebrated Slovenian rather than Yugoslav statehood.
The monument was inscribed with precise geographical coordinates and verses from “The Toast,” a patriotic poem by the 19th century Slovenian poet France Prešeren. The supporters of the new marker – dubbed GEOSS (from the Slovenian-language acronym for “Geographic Center of Slovenia”) — hoped that it would become a gathering spot for the people of Slovenia.
Their wish came true. As Slovenia moved towards independence, frequent rallies and patriotic festivities were held at GEOSS. In 1989, a motto was added to the monument: “We live on and govern our own land.” And not long afterwards, “The Toast” – already inscribed on the marker — was selected as Slovenia’s national anthem. After independence, Slovenia’s new coat-of-arms was added next to the old, socialist symbol, and a new monument to the Slovenian patriot of the Independence War was built.
Today, leading politicians of all political stripes come to Vače to give speeches at GEOSS. Once a year, the site plays host to veterans from Slovenia’s Independence War, and a linden tree, planted at GEOSS as symbol of Slovenian statehood, grows larger every year — as does a lane or stately larch trees connecting the monument to the village of Spodnja Slivna.
The spot has also become a popular destination for day trippers. Local authorities organize tours of the area, and visitors are encouraged to extend their stays by visiting archeological and ethnological collections in eth area, some of them on display at the GEOSS House in Vače.
Even though the current economic crisis has often placed Slovenian national pride under strain, GEOSS still serves as a powerful symbol of unity, representing not just the geographic center of Slovenia, but the very heart of Slovenian nationhood.
Source: RTVSLO.SI | Jaka Bartolj