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SLOVENIA | Thursday, 28 July 2022 | Views [156]

view from near the Dragon Bridge

view from near the Dragon Bridge

Zagreb and Ljubljana

Flew to Zagreb from London on Friday to visit the National and City Museums.  Unfortunately, both are still closed due to renovations caused by earthquake damage.  The rest of the city was also pretty barren as everyone heads to the beach on hot days, as this one was.  After first walking around the city and then taking the tour bus, that basically went to the same places I had walked to, I decided to head to Ljubljana a day early.  It was a good thing I did, as my dog and house sitter suddenly had to go back to Vienna a day earlier than planned. As it was, the timing worked out perfectly.   I took the two and a half hour train from Zagreb to Ljubljana on Saturday and the train was packed.  People were sitting and standing in the aisles as there was no place else to park oneself. The travelers were mostly young and middle aged and I saw a number of Eurorail passes in the hands of the younger bunch. I was in a cabin with four ca. 30- 35 year old Croatian women who had intended to go on girls’ trip to Austria, but because of the predicted storms, the organizer of their trip cancelled, so they decided to go to Ljubljana instead.  The storms never materialized.

After arriving at the Ljubljana train station, I walked over to the B& B Concept Hotel, where I had booked a room.  It was early, so the room wasn’t ready, but the receptionist let me leave my luggage in a storage room at the back of the hotel. As soon as the roll-on was deposited, I headed out to see the sights. The first stop was supposed to be the Skyscraper Restaurant that is said to have an amazing view of the city. Unfortunately, I never did find the elevator to get up the high rise. I continued to walk up the street and over to the right hand side, until I came to the Theater and the National Museum.  The National Museum is in the same building as the Natural History Museum. There are fragments of Roman sculptures and gravestones on the ground floor and the rest of collections on first. There was a reasonable number of artifacts representing the history of the country from the Paleolithic to the Middle Ages, and these were accompanied by excellent descriptions. Combined, the plaques were like a history of Slovenia textbook. It is a small, but very good museum, and one that puts the region into a larger historical perspective.

Walking from the National Museum towards the main section of town, I passed by the Parliament and Republic Square, both with large modern buildings. This led to Congress Square with a few Roman ruins and a column with a replica bronze male figure in a toga. The original is on the ground floor of the museum; this seems to be the symbol of the Roman city of Emona, which was located where Ljubljana now is. Congress Square is quite large and is bookended by an Ursulian ca. 17th C church and the 1701 home of the philharmonic orchestra.  Near the philharmonic, is an early 20th C building that now houses the Slovanian University. Apparently, the Habsburg Emperor didn’t allow the Slovenian people to have their own university as universities are traditionally places where intellectuals question authority, so the country’s first institution of broad based higher education was opened in 1919. An academy for the arts, had been available since the 1700s. The park area next to the extensive concrete portion of the square has the few Roman ruins, which includes a portion of the wall and a tomb, (& a replica of an old well); it also has a large anchor to indicate that Slovenia is a maritime nation, even though it has only about a 40 km coastline. From the square, I walked over to Trnovo Church, where a wedding was taking place. On the way I stopped at the City Museum, which is in an older very nicely renovated building. The Museum’s collection is again, small, but nicely laid out. There was a special exhibit on “Plečnik: Metropolis, Place, Garden,” which I found fascinating as I didn’t know much about this architect, who also worked in Vienna and Prague. The exhibition commemorating his birth 150 years ago is on display until February 12, 2023. His works, however, will last much longer than the exhibition, and can be seen in the University Library, which is shaped in a neo-Renaissance style with windows that look like an open book and his columned bridge. Near the City Museum is the Ljubljana Festival office.  In the summer, Ljubljana hosts major artists and musicians in a renaissance courtyard. Concerts and operas are performed from the end of June to the end of September with guest artists like Daniel Barenboim, Ana Netrebko and Placido Domingo.

Continuing my walk around the city, I crossed the bridge nearest St. James Church, then headed back towards the center of the old town and Ljubljana Castle on a hill above St. Nicholas Cathedral. Cafes, bars, restaurants line the banks of the Ljubljana River on both sides, and they were almost all full with tourists and locals alike. The center of town was packed with people clearly enjoying themselves in the lively fun-filled atmosphere.

It was quite hot, ca. 39 degrees celsius, so I stopped for a lemonade at Romeo’s before heading up to the Castle.  There is a funicular to take one up as well as the walking paths. The castle is a museum with rooms dedicated to weaponry, the jail, a puppetry museum as well as to an explanation of the castle’s use over time. The Chapel can be visited as well as a lookout from the tower, which is up a series of winding staircases. The view is spectacular. On a clear day, which this was, it is possible to see from the Alps to the plains. The path back into town brought me to the rat fountain. I never did find out why a rat was so important it was made into a sculptured fountain.  Just across from the fountain is the main outdoor market that closes up around 1pm, maybe the rat has something to do with the market. Down the street heading back towards the main section, passing St. Nicholas Cathedral that is only open for mass, is the town hall, which is a very impressive building.  The street where the town hall is located is the main shopping avenue with lots of local stores rather than the large international chains.

The two sections of the city are connected by a number of bridges, including the triple bridge, which has three paths; the column bridge, designed by Plečnik; the Dragon Bridge, with sculptures of dragons on all four corners; a love lock bridge and the Cobbler’s Bridge, where the shoemakers would sell their wares just outside of the city gates so they didn’t have to pay city taxes. As elsewhere, where a river cuts through the town, there are boats offering river cruises for E12.

Time was short by now and it was late, so I never did make it to the Tivoli Gardens or to the Artists’ Section.  Those will have to wait for a return trip.  & I am sure that I will return to this delightful small capital city.

Tags: cities, history, museums, towns

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