A  CITY  WALK  IN  LJUBLJANA


Already the first day of our stay in Ljubljana, we went for a stroll. We passed a house, the big portals of which are surrounded by sculptures of naked people.
"What is this? A museum of pornography", I asked cheeky. But I happily would have swallowed my words again, when I saw, what kind of house this really is. It is the parliament of Slovenia.
       
So geniously done! How could one ever express the function of this house better? The sculptures show men, women and children - workers in different professions, scientists, parents, working, playing - whatever one can express with about fifty different pictures. Why do they have to be naked? Because it is the function of the parliament to represent all those people, but in their essence, where the one is not better than the other.
And every garment would make that we have prejudices, that we would put these people into groups - but exactly that shouldn't be done in a parliament!
The building was erected by architect Vinzo Glanz in the fifties. He was a scholar of Jože Plečnik. But the sculptures were made by Zdenko Kahlin and Karel Putrih.
The parliament is situated on the Square of the Republic, wich earlier, during the time of communism, was called Square of the Revolution. It is a pity, that communism has left something else, which isn't as easily changed as a name. I mean the both towers, which stand on the opposite side of the parliament. Although the facades are constructed by attaching granite slabs with special anchors, almost nine and a half thousand on each tower, the heavy, grey impression is not really esthetical.
It was planned to make the towers even higher, they should have had 22 stories, but it stayed at sixteen, when they were erected after the drawings of Edvard Ravnikar in 1968. Below the surface they are connected by a garage and some tunnels, while above ground one finds a bank and offices inside.
A couple of turns later, we find the Opera house, which originally was built as a theatre, though. Jan Vladimir Hrasky and Anton Hruby were the architects of this building. At that time Ljubljana still was part of the Austrian-Hungarian monarchy, which is shown by the style. The building could easily stand anywhere in Austria as well, like many others of this city, by the way.
The Opera house takes 560 spectators and the ensemble of the Opera gives about 150 performances a year, but quite some of them abroad.
We pass now the Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art and the National Museum and take a short stroll through the Tivoli. The Tivoli is a very big green area to the West of the city, which altogether certainly covers a couple of square kilometres. Seen overall, Ljubljana is a very green city, with many parks, which are located all over of the city.
Now we have finished our walkabout in the northwestern part and leave in the direction of the Ljubljanica. That is the small river, which separates the Old Town from the modern part.
But before we get this far, we take a coffee break on the roof terrace of the "skyscraper" of Ljubljana. It has not more than twelve stories, but when it was built in the thirties, it was the highest building on the Balkan. Even today one has a nice view over the city. On the picture we see the Franciscan church to the left of the center, behind it the cathedral and on the hill the Castle. Ljubljana is situated in a basin, with mountains all around.
We then walk through the Miklošič park, where we also find a statue of this gentleman. It stands on the same place where a statue of Emperor Francis Joseph had been raised in 1908.
But after the fall of the Austrian-Hungarian monarchy, the latter was not as important anymore and had to give way for Franc Miklošič. He was a linguist and mainly interested in the Slavic languages.

   

The next crossing street is named after him too. We follow it and soon stand in front of the house of the Cooperative Bank. It is one of the few buildings, that are built in Slovenian national style. Erected in 1922, it is a work of Ivan Vurnik, who founded the school of architecture in Ljubljana, into which he also had invited Jože Plečnik.
Inside, many of the walls are held in the same style, created by Helena, the spouse of Ivan.
Close to Prešeren Square, face to face with the Franciscan church, we find another house, that is worth a closer look. It is the Union Hotel, which bragged to be the most modern hotel on the Balkan, when it was built by Josip Vancaš, soon after the shift into the 20th century.
Many famous guests have lived here, among others Bill Clinton, the Dalai Lama, the kings Juan Carlos of Spain and Carl XVI Gustav of Sweden, Roger Moore and many others.
Now we cross the Triple Bridge and turn left afterwards, in order to stroll alongside the Market. The colonnade following the Ljubljanica again is a work of Jože Plečnik and guarantees protection to the market stands there, even if the weather is bad. We turn right and go one street upwards, so that we pass the cathedral and finally end up at the proper market square, where there are stands clinging together all over the free space of the square. We walk back to the river diagonally over the market, as we don't want to miss the Dragon Bridge.
The Dragon Bridge is one of the oldest bridges in Europe, that are built with reinforced concrete. In Slovenia it was the first bridge ever to have asphalt paving. Its only arch spans well over 33 metres across the river. The first plans to replace the old bridge date back to the year 1888. With the new bridge one wanted to celebrate the 40-year-anniversary of the reign of Emperor Francis Joseph. But as the Ljubljanica was regulated at that time, and because of a couple of minor reasons, the bridge was finished first in 1901. It had been thought to call it Jubilee Bridge, but the name Dragon Bridge was far more used by the people. That name is the result of the four dragons, each one of them guarding from a pillar of the bridge.
Ljubljana is traditionally connected with dragons - maybe that can be explained with the legend of the Argonauts. One of the well-known versions of their going back home, is that the Argonauts mistakenly went up the Danube from the Black Sea. In the local tradition they then followed the Sava and finaly ended up in the Ljubljanica.
Near Ljubljana, Jason is said to have slain a giant dragon. This is how Ljubljana got the dragon as a symbol for the city.
Again we cross the market square and take on to the road, which leads up to the castle. But we use it only as a shortcut, as we want to get to the Old Square and the Upper Square (picture to the right). There we find the oldest parts of Ljubljana. The oldest buildings date back to the Middle Ages, even if their facades were reconstructed later. Then we cross the Ljubljanica once more and, walking past the City Museum and the library of the university, end up at the Congress Square.
The big park in the middle of it was the first park of the city. It is surrounded by important buildings, like the main seat of the university (picture below to the left), the building of the Slovenian Philharmonics, the Ursuline Church (picture below to the right) and the Plečnik Highschool.
There is also a music pavillon in the park, which was rebuilt in the eighties in its old appearance - but the noise from the main street closeby (behind the church), makes it impossible to have concerts here.
The Square was created, when the "Holy Alliance" was agreed upon, between the Austrian Emperor, the Russian Tsar and the King of Naples. The university was founded in 1919 and moved into its building of today, where formerly the provincial government had had its seat. The balcony over the entrance was frequently used for important, public speeches.
The year 1701 is written on the house of the Philharmonics. That doesn't concern the house though, but the year, when the Philharmonics were founded. Many famous composers, like Haydn, Brahms and Paganini were members of honour in this society.
The Ursuline Church was built during the first quarter of the 18th century, but it isn't known any more, who was the architect of that building. Anyhow, it is one of the most important baroque buildings in Ljubljana. The monumental facade of the backside makes one think rather of a residential building, than a church. The front faces the main street, the Slovenska cesta, where we have started our walk.

It is, of course, absolutely impossible to give a comprehensive description of a city in only one article - an entire book would be necessary. But I hope, that I could pick out many of the most important sights, and that this will be helpful to you, if you come for a visit into this friendly city.

Bernhard Kauntz, Wolvertem, Belgium, 2012


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