Before heading off en masse to enjoy their lengthy summer holidays at various beaches, islands and exotic locales, Slovenes play host to one of Europe's largest festivals and one hell of a street party. For fourteen days beginning the last week of every June, well over half a million people descend on Maribor, the country's second largest city and capital of the hospitable wine-soaked Štajerska region, to witness hundreds of performances by local and foreign artists in virtually every medium imaginable.
Officially billed as an international multicultural festival, Lent takes its name from Maribor's elegant old waterfront district, which somewhat confusingly has nothing to do with the forty day period leading up to Easter. The festival is currently in its 17th year, and developed out of a smaller international folklore festival called Folkart which, along with the Jazzlent and Street Theatre festivals, still runs concurrently during Lent.
Other than finding an available bed, your most difficult task will probably be deciding on what to actually see and where to see it. Internationally known musicians, dancers and theatre groups have to compete for audiences with mimes, magicians, acrobats, fire dancers, stand up comedians and just about every other type of street performer you can imagine. There are over 30 venues and stages located at various points around the compact and easily navigateable city centre with nearly every square, park and major thoroughfare getting in on the action and transforming the entire city into one enormous open air performance area.
While there is no 'main stage' per se, a lot of the festivities are of course centred along and around the namesake Lent waterfront district, which out of spatial necessity is supplemented with a large floating stage temporarily erected off the banks of the River Drava. Other notable venues include the beautiful art nouveau National Theatre on Slomškov Square, the city's 500-year-old synagogue just off the waterfront and the vast City Park on the northern edge of the centre.