Saturday, May 19, 2007

Slovenia - off the edge of the world!

We felt that we were about to drive off of the edge of the world for, horror of horrors - Slovenia was not covered by our GPS maps! After a momentary panic, we remembered those paper map thingies from long ago and got stocked up with a few of them to cover the next several countries. Rustic, but quite scary at the same time. And so it was that we entered Slovenia, bound for Ljubljana. Slovenia, as an independent country is not yet twenty years old and is small both geographically and population wise. In the last couple of thousand years the country has been part of the Roman Empire, the Duchy of Carantania, the Holy Roman Empire, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs, the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (later renamed the Kingdom of Yugoslavia) and the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia until, as Yugoslavia was crumbling, a 10 day war over succession finally led to independence in 1991. In the brief time since then, Slovenia has become a member of the EU, a member of the Council of Europe and a member of NATO and has also been successful in moving their currency to the Euro as of January 2007 (luckily for us). Ljubljana is a university town with a population of about 250,000 and is the capital of Slovenia. The university, surprisingly, is among the largest campuses in the world with 56,000 students - not bad for a country, the entire population of which, scarcely makes the two million mark. Naturally, there is a castle on a hill, the obligatory cathedral and a few other items of interest around town. Ljubljana appears to be a vigorous and progressive city and is regarded as something of a model for countries that are emerging from the stultifying constraints of socialism and seeking a place in the EU. The town is loosely centered around Preseren Square, named for the statue of the Slovenian poet France Preseren. A triple bridge - two foot-bridges and one road bridge = crosses the Ljubljanica River at one side of the square and the Franciscan Church of the Annunciation faces into the square on the opposite side.

Looking downriver toward the triple bridge

One of the triple bridge foot bridges leading to Preseren Square

The second foot bridge with the Franciscan Church
and Preseren statue in the background

France Preseren looking over the square.
One of his poems is the current
Slovenian National Anthem

The Franciscan Church of the Annunciation was built
in the period from 1646 to 1660. Its façade,
finished around the year 1700, was reconstructed
in the 19th century and renovated in 1993

The church is topped by a copper statue of
St. Mary, the largest Madonna statue in Ljubljana

Roadworks, in the parts of eastern Europe we visited,
appeared somewhat nonchalant. Here, a hole in the road
with two piles of cobbles along with an air compressor,
are simply taped off for the night and left

Residents of the square and passers-by were
treated to a corny evening entertainment

With extremely protracted, but empty repartee,
this "clown" teetered about on a ladder juggling
flaming torches, for an hour or more

Meanwhile, across the square, two naked but somewhat
frozen models posed for a bunch of would-be artists
scribbling furiously at their easels

Periodically, throughout the evening, everyones boredom
was redirected by small groups of students, like this three,
parading noisily through the crowd

Looking back across the triple bridge from the square, the
Town Hall with the Fountain of the Three Carniolan Rivers.
The castle clock tower can be seen over the trees on the hill

The following day was market day and also the last day of
the semester at the University. It was both busy and noisy

Flowers for sale at a market stall

Lunch on a side street with another tantalizing
glimpse of the castle. Too much to resist,
off we went to check it out

The castle complex and the clock tower. Along with most
other historical treasures, this had all the hallmarks of
a recent rebuild

The castle church appeared to have been around for a while
and was one of the few accessible "old" items to investigate

This small chapel, however, had a distinctly Disney flavor to it

The market square from the castle

The city to the north

A longer shot shows the Slovenian Kamniško-Savinjske Alpe
in the background with, a little closer, some enchanting
socialist era high rise apartments

Back down from the castle, we visited the small square
in front of the Town Hall with its ornate clock tower

St Nicholas Cathedral can be seen from the market square.
The cathedral is buried among other buildings and no
straight shot is available

Here is another view from the Fountain
of the Three Carniolan Rivers

An external detail of the cathedral

A second external detail

The brass "Papal" entry doors decorated
with the likenesses of numerous Popes

St Nick himself, if I'm not mistaken!

Ornate interior

Interior showing part of the ceiling

Ceiling detail

Organ detail

Detail of Chancel ceiling

A side chapel

Back outside, the main University Building

The Ursuline Church of the Holy Trinity modeled
after Palladio's Church in Venice


blogsi said...

Great photos! One mistake though, those are not Austrian Alps but Slovenian Kamniško-Savinjske Alpe.

Pete said...

Thanks for your kind remarks and also for the correction. The picture caption has been updated.