TO THE CONQUEST OF THE CASTLE!
A little over 100 meters above the level of the Medieval Quarter rises the castle whose first phase dates from the 12th century. The current construction is the result of restorations derived from fires, earthquakes, and military assaults.
Its last set-up is aimed at the enjoyment of the landscape and its cultural use in whose structures countless exhibitions and events are held even of particular use, such as weddings, or anniversaries.
Although it is possible to get in by taxi, we have other more interesting options that will mark us. On one side there is a tourist train that leaves from the Tourist Office, which is located on one side of the “triple bridge”. On the other hand we can use the funicular that leaves from the market square which allows us to enjoy the views as it ascends due to its transparent cabin ($ 3.5 ), and finally we have the walking option, although it can be somewhat tiring, there is no doubt that the walking ascent gives us another view of the city as a forest is part of that road, about 20 minutes at a quiet pace. Combining the funicular ascent and the walking descent we can have the most complete experience.
Once at the Castle we will be able to enjoy spectacular views from its battlements and turrets. From there, we can see a small town that soon meets nature. From the northern part we will see the Julian Alps where the “Triglav” (three heads) is located. They are the three highest peaks of the country and whose silhouette we can find on the Slovenian national flag. And in this line, we also appreciate how the river divides the centre of the city, being the part that is at the foot of the castle the oldest, known as the Old Quarter.
Although entrance to the lookout is free, the visit to the castle requires paying a ticket if we intend to tour it and/or visit its museum and temporary exhibitions.
Address: Grajska Planota 1. 1000 Ljubljana.
Within a very simple gastronomy and undoubtedly influenced by its Austrian and Italian neighbours, if there is something I like to take every time I am in this city is its bread, although not any bread, but Belokranjska Pogaca.
We will easily recognize this circular bread of about 30 cm in diameter decorated with squares and toasted on top. It is due to coating it with egg before being baked. The cumin and its salty aspect give it that characteristic flavour. Directly without accompaniment is a delicious snack but we can accompany it with a Klobasa (smoked sausage), cold meats and cheeses. This has all the tickets to be the protagonist of the perfect picnic on the banks of the river Ljubljana.
As in other countries of its surroundings, traditionally, the mid-morning stop was used to make a small lunch based on bread, cold meats, cheeses, savoury cakes… although from the 17th century until today the coffee habit is more widespread both by Austrian and Italian influence, especially in the middle class; bourgeoisie, university, officials. There is still this custom of traditional breakfast for those who perform more physical activities such as agriculture, construction… That is why it is more common to find it in the area close to markets and industrial areas.
It is common for the restaurants to serve pieces of this bread arranged in baskets to accompany the dishes ordered by the clients although in recent years it is being normalized, especially in those of higher category and/or directed to tourism, an individual version of it, using mini savoury cakes.
If we visit the city over Christmas or Easter, we will also be able to try its sweetest version of cookies and honey.
To give this delicious bite without getting away from our route we can find it in different stalls of the Central Market and in the restaurants close to it.
Vodnikov Trg. (Vodnikov Square) 1000 Ljubljana
Kopiteva arjulica, 2. (Kopitarjeva Street) 1000 Ljubljana
CENTRAL MARKET, THE CENTER OF ALL SHOPPING
It is no coincidence that this market is located and has been like this for so many centuries since as it is located between the Castle and the river. This is the main entrance of products from faraway places, as the waters of the river reach the Black Sea through the Danube, which already gave it the possibility of trading in distant territories since the Middle Ages, mainly the present-day Austria, Hungary, Serbia and Croatia.
The open-air part is dedicated to fruits, vegetables, florists, bakeries, spices… Usually we do not find large stalls with a great variety of products but rather small stalls where a small offer is available. There are even those who only have potatoes and some vegetables. This is because it is a family business that sells what they cultivate, they tend to be the same products, specializing and thus creating a fixed clientele. The stands are all equally formed by tables of about 3 meters and each one has a canopy that covers it to protect the product from the sun and rain. These tables are provided by the municipality being part of the payment that the merchants make to the municipality to be able to sell their products. This guarantees us the safety and quality of the product.
In the covered area, next to the so-called Bridge of the Butchers, we will see an elongated white building with columns, built for the sale of meat and fish; the handling of the product and its cutting made it necessary for the place to require a better infrastructure. It is formed by some cold meat and cheese stalls, although it is easy to find these also in the outdoor area. In the area closest to the “Three Bridges” there are some cafes. In front of this area rises a white building with many windows designed for multifunctional use. For a long time, it was the business place of the city, where taxes were paid, or product departure and arrival were accounted for. Precisely next to this side opens a small square (Pogacarjev Trg) where we will see how the open-air market extends a little further.
To take the real pulse of the city we must not let escape this chance of walking around the different stalls enjoying the colourful products and the simplicity of the traders. Among the different areas there are street food stalls where one can taste some of the typical products of the country, such as the famous Belokranjska Pogaca (Slovenian bread)
Because of its attractiveness to the visitor, in recent years have settled there some craftsmen of the glass or the wood where they offer their products, not always original.
Krekov Trg. 1000 Ljubljana
Pogacarjev Trg 1000 Ljubljana
BRIDGE OF DRAGONS…. Schss! don´t wake them up
Next to the Central Market is this emblematic bridge over the river Ljubljana. At its two ends, two pairs of wrought iron dragons guarding the bridge, which was built in 1901. Its original name was Bridge of Francis Joseph in homage to the Austrian emperor.
Legend has it that Jason and the Argonauts on their return journey after the search for the Golden Fleece with which they could regain their kingdom, lost their course from the Black Sea and had to go back to the Danube river. As following the course of this river took them even further from the Mediterranean, they linked with the river Sava in the west direction that in turn linked with the Ljubljana. When they arrived at the birth of the river, which is located in the mountains to the west of the city, they discovered that at the end of the river they could no longer continue without having any choice but to dismantle the Argos. The name of the ship that gave name to the crew of 50 men and continue on foot to the Adriatic Sea. The inhabitants of the area offered to help them with labour, guidance on the route to the sea and necessary supply, in return they were asked to end the life of the dragon that had the inhabitants frightened. After giving death to the dragon they resumed their route leaving a grateful village who could prosper.
That is why a dragon appears on both the shield and the flag of the city, with the colours white, green and red. Curiously across the Julian Alps, already in neighbouring Austria, we find the city of Klagenfurt, where the dragon is also the symbol of the city and even with a similar shield both by the protagonist and as the colours, even if the legend in this case is not the same. In this case it was the inhabitants themselves who built a trap and killed the dragon to avoid the continued devouring of the young people of the place… It is possible that both dragons were relatives because throughout Ljubljana it is known that when a young woman passes through the Dragons Bridge, one of his sculptures moves the tail relegating to such a precious bite, for instance, take much care…
I recommend taking the picture from the opposite bank to the market as if we go into the frame we will be able to have the market itself, the domes of the cathedral and the hill with the castle in the background.
Crossing Petkovskovo nabrezje / Resljeva basket. 1000 Ljubljana
METELKOVA MESTO; down the guns and up the art!
During the summer months there are several international street music and theatre festivals in the city that have been attracting many international artists leaving their mark and internationalizing local talents. It was logical that by uniting these experiences to the beating of a young nation and the university heart of the city, in a spontaneous way. This cultural centre of modern art will emerge with the claw and conviction of giving the capital of the country that meeting point between the transition of a republic of the former Yugoslavia in the late nineteenth century and the pulse of a small country that claims its place in the Europe of the 21st century.
Metelkova Mesto was born in the abandoned structures of some military barracks of the former Yugoslav army, while the political powers litigated about the use to give to the place this was taken by a generation of urban artists who sought a space where to create their art. They transformed it into the area of the most artistic, intellectual, and creative environment of the country. The buildings are decorated with graffiti, sculptures, murals; during the day we will be able to enjoy their exhibition halls, workshops of different artistic disciplines, private art galleries and in the evening bars and discotheque flood the atmosphere with sound… and the day arrive to its dawn in Metelkova mesto.
The old prison of the barracks serves as an original Youth Hostel where young people arrive from different places of the world searching and sharing experiences.
It is located next to the railway station, just over 10 minutes’ walk from the Dragons Bridge, giving us the opportunity to jump from the most medieval Ljubljana to the most cosmopolitan.
Metelkova ulica (opposite railway station). 1000 Ljubljana
LOOKING FOR THE MAN OF EMONA!
Although archaeologists found "the oldest wheel in the world" (3100 BC) in the former Ljubljana reservoir, it was not until the Romans founded the city of Emona that we find the oldest urban structures. As is usual in cities founded by the Romans, its origins are those of a military camp, later becoming a place of war veterans, merchants and craftsmen, it belonged to the province of Pannonia whose inhabitants were called Illyrians, hence under French rule of the area (1809-1813) it was called the Illyrian Provinces.
In 1836, during construction work in what is now the city´s central square, a golden statue of about 50 cm in height appeared in what was later found to be the cemetery of Emona (Roman Ljubljana). It is believed to represent a powerful Roman dignitary, as his ashes and other valuables were found next to the statue.
Like many other remains it was taken to the Slovenian National Museum, but it was decided to make a replica to mark the place where the original was found.
We have already mentioned that it is a central square, but let us bear in mind that the cemetery was located in the north of the town of Emona, and that the square we are looking for, even though it bears a name related to politics... and it is not the Republic, has in it the most important seats of culture and study in the town.
Where "the star" is, there is the statue... do you dare?
STATUE OF FRANCE PRESEREN of the voice of love to the voice of the homeland
In the square that bears the name of this famous romantic poet of the 19th century is its statue in which we can see how the sight of the poet is directed toward the other end of the square right at number 4 of the Wolfova ulica. At the height of the first floor arises a half-body sculpture of a young woman, she is Julija Primic the main unhappy love of the poet.
France Preseren was born in 1800, he studied law but was not a prominent lawyer, just two years before his death in 1849 he managed to establish himself independently, until then he worked for other lawyers and devoted himself to literature. He was the first writer to stop writing only in German and began to use Slovene instead, which is why he is considered the first great Slovene-language writer and to use his work to call for the unity of the Slovene people, so much so that his verses are part of the national anthem and the day of his death, 8 February, is the National Day of Slovene Culture.
His most praised work is Sonetni Venec (Garland of Sonnets), which consists of 14 sonnets that are linked to each other in such a way that the last word of the first one is the same as the beginning of the next one. In the sonnet called Magistrale, if we read the first letter of each line vertically, we find the acrostic "Primicovi Julji", which means "For Julja Primic", which is the young woman the poet is looking at from his position in the square. Some historians claim that the 17-year-old girl rejected the poet after a series of chance encounters with him, while others claim that the young woman was not aware of Preseren´s work and simply never knew of his love.
If we return to the sculpture of Preseren we see a lady holding a laurel crown. The sculptor wanted to represent his other great muse whose love was not so unfortunate, but reciprocated, the Slovenian homeland.
Preserven Trg. 1000 Ljubljana
THE CITY OF JOZE PLECNIK
The urban planning that existed in the city at the beginning of the 19th century did not resemble the great European cities, Ljubljana was the result of a small city rebuilt without order after the passage of both earthquakes and invaders.
After the end of the Austro-Hungarian Empire with the end of World War I, Slovenia became part of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes, the city becoming the capital of Slovenian territory. With the idea of fitting into the new Europe of nations comes the need to give it a more cosmopolitan and orderly air. For this purpose, Joze Plecnik is contacted, who, while being Slovenian born, was trained in the school of architecture in Vienna where he also carries out his first works even if his international fame comes from the project of restoration of Prague Castle in 1920. He is invited to become a professor at the University of Ljubljana and is in charged with the new urban project of the city. Taking as reference the Athenian architecture but personalizing it and adapting it, he develops the project that will be carried out in the interwar period world, mainly in the 1930s.
I invite you to visit the two most important areas; let´s start with the river promenade, from the Dragons Bridge we can already see the covered building of the Central Market where he created a colonnade promenade and in the middle of this design the so-called Butchers Bridge, we continue upstream towards the Three Bridges of Plecnik (Tromostrovje) in the Preseren Square where he added to the existing bridge another 2 bridges on its sides for pedestrians. Further on we will see old bridges that he restored, such as the Shoemakers´ Bridge (Cevljarski most) until we reach the St. James Bridge (Sentjakbobski most), not only the bridges but also the ornamentation of the promenade are part of the project. From this last bridge we access another area, taking Zoisova Cesta street we find on our right the Francoske Revolcije Trg (French Revolution Square) we find a building known as Krizanke (current seat of the famous International Festival) which in the past belonged to the German Teutonic Order of the Knights of the Cross, Joze Plecnik rebuilt the whole complex to be part of the University as well as the next building which houses the National and University Library. On the other side of the Zoisova Cesta we see the ancient city walls and the remains of Emona, the Roman name of the city which was built by Emperor Augustus in 14 BC, this area was also restored by Plecnik with the intention of highlighting the historical value of the city, this is also the neighbourhood where the architect lived and where his house museum is located (Karunova ulica, 4).
In other neighbourhoods of the city there are more buildings that form part of Plecnik´s legacy as well as the Tivoli city park promenade next to Mount Roznik, and many other projects were put on paper after his death.
TERRACES ON THE RIVER
As in many other cities through which a river passes, it was decided to channel the course of the river by raising walls on its margins to avoid floods. Although it was not so pressing here, as the flood was near its birth and lacked great unevenness. For this reason, it was not so damaging. The idea than was to rather try to emulate the urbanism of other cities such as Rome, Paris, or Vienna itself.
The river Ljubljana is completely integrated in the centre of the city being its pedestrian margins a meeting place and walk of residents and visitors. Its terraces are prepared for any time of the year and invite us to be part of that area in which the most playful and cultural part of the city is developed. Viennese-style cafes, breweries, and wine shops where you can taste even little-known Slovenian wines but of high quality.
The atmosphere of each zone is changing as we are close to the market which it is mainly developed at mornings. Following the direction of the three bridges where the pedestrian zone is wider, children can play while their carers have a coffee. Following the direction of Sustarski Most (bridge of the shoemakers), the breweries and Enotecas (wine repositories) proliferate where a more dynamic and young environment that offers us the proximity to the university is mixed with the officials of the municipal and state offices found in the Kongresni Trg ( Congress Square ) and Republika Trg (Republic Square). Fairs, Festivals, Cultural Events… Life passes through the banks of the river.
Sitting to drink or eat, no matter the time of the year or the time of the day, you will always find a corner to feel part of the scene.
From Dragons Bridge (Resljeva cesta ) to San Jaime Bridge (Zoisoca cesta)
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