Bela Krajina, a southerly Slovenian region known for its gentle landscape of birch trees and vineyards, is also famous for an ancient springtime tradition: decorated Easter eggs. Easter eggs also exist elsewhere in Slovenia, but Bela Krajina’s “pisanice” are especially valued because of their intricate patterns.
The root of the word “pisanice” comes from “pisati” – to write – and the ornaments of the Easter eggs are indeed created with a pen-like tool. The device is used to apply molten wax to certain parts of the eggs. The egg is then dyed red, but because the wax prevents the dye from sticking to the areas where the wax was applied, a portion of the eggshell retains its original color, revealing the ornate pattern applied by the artist.
The process is typically repeated with a dark dye, resulting in a design that includes three different hues – natural eggshell, red, and black. Some patterns, passed down from generation to generation, can be surprisingly intricate.
The making of “pisanice” was once widespread throughout Bela Krajina, but it now survives primarily in the area near the village of Adlešiči. In part because the craft is now rare, the painted eggs are highly valued as souvenirs and an as an authentic example of Slovenian folk art. They have become far more than just Easter eggs. In fact, most of the eggs now have their yolks removed before they are decorated, so their eggshells can be preserved as works of art for years. For the women who make “pisanice,” their work is a passion – a perfect way of keeping the traditions of ancestors alive.
Another, lesser-known tradition survives in the nearby town of Metlika. There, Easter eggs are known as “drsanke,” and are created using a very different process: The dye is applied first, and a floral pattern is then carved on the eggshell.
While they are by no means as famous as their Ukrainian counterparts, Slovenia’s Easter eggs --“pisanice” and, to a lesser extent, “drsanke” -- have become a symbol of their region and one of the most recognizable Easter traditions in Slovenia.