Let’s meet under the lime tree…
3. June, 2020
…was a common phrase used in the old days around villages of Slovenia. Most likely because they were always marked up by lime trees. Once they were planted, they grew into a strong and big trunk offering a beautiful shade and life expectancy of it was very, very long. Some lime trees in Slovenia reach up to 700 years. These oldies are usually found next to churches, on the castle courtyards, on city and village squares, etc. The tree usually marks up a meeting point for social gatherings, in the past they presented an important place for the politics as well – they were many times called old village parliaments since the fate of the village was debated by locals sitting beneath it on benches and stones. Lime trees were sometimes planted on special occasions – well they still are today – and there are numerous examples in Slovenia were you can find a beautiful alley of lime trees connected with a historical moment of our country. Examples of it are numerous “Turkish linden trees” that were planted after a successful push back of the Turkish sieges during the 15th and 16th century or the famous Napoleon’s lime alley, where you find in the length of 2 kilometres over 290 trees planted along a former major road that lead between Ljubljana and Trieste to celebrate the wedding between Napoleon Bonaparte and Maria Luiza – non of them were Slovenians, but at that moment in history (1810) we were a part of the Illyrian province, lead by the famous French general. 
Lime tree has always been a tree of the Slavic people, while the oak was symbolising Germanic people. It grows mostly in the central and southern Europe. In antique days the lime tree symbolised friendship, it was the symbol of conjugal love, hospitality, kindness and modesty. Later the Slavic people lifted the importance of the tree into a tribal object and was worshipped on numerous occasions.  Lime tree is a true symbol of Slovenia. Already in the time of the national revival you can find them on the symbolical coat-of arms of Slovenian lands. Most often we think of the lime leaves from the TV commercial “Slovenia, my land” that was the first tourism promotion clip created for the country back in the 1980s. Because it appeared so much everywhere – on TV, on leaflets, tourism brochures and maps, it grew very fondly in our hearts. As kids we lovingly wrote Slovenia and instead of writing the letters “love” we just draw a lime leaf, because they are heart-shaped. When our first currency was being introduced the idea was to call it LIPA – a Slovenian word for lime tree, but that didn’t go thru and we have got Tolars instead. And when finally on June 25th 1991 our independency was proclaimed, there was a lime tree planted in front of our parliament and since years have passed until today, that tree has grown a bit already with many more years to come. 
As a side kick I love telling the story about the famous Lipizzaner horses to our guests. Everybody knows them, right? And everybody is sure they are Austrian. Which is and isn’t right. At the time when Lipica stud farm was opened, we were in the year 1580 – at that point Slovenia was ruled by Habsburgs, well at least that part of it. The little town of Lipica and now the hint is in the name, refers to a town with a little, small lime tree. We already know that lipa translates into lime tree, lipica is a denominative of a lime tree, meaning a small lime tree.  And since the stud farm was created in that town, no wonder that the horses, that were originally brought from Spain, were called Lipizzaners – horses from Lipica. We can’t claim everything over here, only the origin of the name Lipizzan horse, but the breed as known today was fully developed in the time of Maria Theresa of Austria, whose husband was  a big fan of horse-breeding. To cut the long story short. We have given the stallions the name that is known worldwide and I am glad to help you understand, what that name stands for. 
Lipizzaner horses.
But enough about horses. We are here to talk about lime trees. We have a few also around our villages, but the most remarkable one you can find in the village of Vrba, the birthplace of our greatest poet dr. France Prešeren, the author of our national anthem. This lime tree is really special and one of a kind in Slovenia. It lies in the center of the village and is over 200 years old. Underneath the tree you find 16 stones, belonging to the village. According to the story, each stone belonged to the farm of the village back in the day. In the mornings the housewives gathered around the stones, did laundry and maybe gossiped a little bit. In the afternoon hours kids played around them. Evening hours were reserved for the man of the farm to come down and sit on stones, discussing  politics and matters of the village – which for me in a way also means gossiping a little, but men call it politics. An interesting fact was that whatever it was discussed and decided, it was never written down – it was an oral agreement that everybody respected. Special days were reserved for markets and other gatherings. I am sure that tree has heard a lot. And I am sure it has lots of stories to tell. I am just sorry I don’t understand the language of the trees.
"Village parliament" in Vrba. The stones have stood there for about 200 years.
But I understand the tree has got some healing powers as well. Because nature always has. According to old tales they believed you were not supposed to lie when you were under that tree – maybe this is why so many old parliaments are positioned right on those spots? The old ladies believed that the aromatic flowers could help sleepless kids to fall asleep faster so they stuffed them into their pillows – because of the sweet aroma of the lime flower comes the expression “sweet dreams” or “sladke sanje” a common phrase used in Slovenia before you go to bed.  Lime leaves are also tasty when young – they are usually given to horses and they gladly munch on them or you can prepare them as a healthy salad. But my belief is that this tree gives one of the most tasty teas – dried flowers are mildly sweet and sticky, they should be dipped into boiling water and left there for a while, when the tea cools down add a spoonful of honey and enjoy in the amazing taste. Taste is not everything you will get with that cup – once you drink the tea, it will take care of any potential stress and psychological problems, it will help against cold, fever and asthmatic problems, it helps cure breathing problems and is lifting up immunity. Think of all that when you will pass a lime tree in full bloom and when you will smell the fragrant flowers. And if it starts raining all of a sudden, I hope you will have an empty cup nearby… 
Lime blossoms, just days before opening.

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