Friday, December 9, 2011

Ljubljana is a Wonderful Old City

After converting most of our kuna (Croatian money) to Euro for the remainder of our travels, we walk up hill to the Ljubljana castle. It's set behind the old town several hundred feet above, providing a great view of the town below.

We have a good lunch in the small restaurant at the castle ordering just before a large group arrives. It's quite foggy, so we nix climbing to the top of the tower (another 100 steps). But, we decide to tour the Slovenian History Museum. What a good choice!

It's a high "tech production" intermixing lots of computerized documentation with displays of objects appropriate for the period being discussed. We are captivated for at least two hours which, for me, could have been several more, but I was tired of trying to absorb the information and of walking/standing.

I wish I could reduce what we tried to understand to a few sentences. Mostly, we began to understand that Slovenia (and the Balkans in general) are the focus of an important culture. In recent centuries they have suffered and overcome many conflicts in their country.

Most recently, a 10 day war in 1991 with Serbia and Croatia after Slovenia voted to secede from Yugoslavia. They "won the war" of independence. Their proximity to Austria and Italy probably gave the war more attention from the west than the other wars in the Balkans at that time. That abbreviated the war.

We spoke with a knowledgeable docent regarding more of the country's progress in the past 21 years since independence, which they celebrate on December 21. They have made great progress. They are full EU members since 2004, and are positive contributors in support of the Euro.

Ljubljanica River runs through the old town. There are at least seven bridges with names like Butchers and Cobblers. The most famous is the Triple Bridge designed by a local architect/hero, Jošef Plečnik. He had great influence in the layout and building designs in Ljubljana and other European cities.

The north side of the river has most of the shops and restaurants, very chic places. The south has the city market as well as the castle. This is a more real town, less touristic. They celebrate their culture, but enjoy life today, too. For instance, the street bands at night are a mix of Country Western Rock and traditional music. The streets are active with shoppers, strollers, and bicyclers (bike-friendly town).

The December outdoor celebrations continue tonight around the main square. Lots of warmed wine, crepes, hot dogs, and music. All ages and families. And, us, too. We like this town lot!

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