Sunday, September 14, 2014

Walking Tour of Ljubljana

Ljublinica River
Munich was the appetizer course of this trip. Croatia was the main course. And Ljubljana, Slovenia, is the dessert. We took a two-hour free walking tour of the historic core of the Slovenian capital.

Franciscan Church of the Annunciation in Preseren Square
The tour started at 11:00 a.m. in front of the Franciscan Church of the Annunciation in Preseren Square. Preseren Square is where the famous Triple Bridge crosses the Ljubljanica River.

Triple Bridge
Pedestrian traffic on the Triple Bridge
The Triple Bridge was an ingenious design by architect Jože Plečnik (the architect for most of  Ljubljana) to relieve traffic off a single span. At the time, the bridge was open to car traffic, so the two side spans were for pedestrians only. Now the entire bridge is pedestrian-only.

Statue of France Preseren
Preseren Square is named after France Preseren, the national poet of Slovenia and the author of its national anthem. As he is a poet, he is commemorated in bronze with a mythological muse over shoulder. The muse was topless, which did not go over well in turn-out-of-the-last-century Slovenia, especially since the statue was located outside a major church (the Franciscan Church of the Annunciation). Finally, a compromise was reached so that trees were planted (such as the one to Mr. Preseren's left) to block the view of the muse's naked bosom from those exiting the church. A fair compromise for one and all.

Naja, our tour guide
Meet Naja, our tour guide from the free walking tour company. She's wearing yellow, the color the brochures and flyers advised us tourists to look for. We walked across the Triple Bridge into the historic Old Town

Saint Nicholas's Cathedral
Over to the semi-unfinished Butchers' Bridge, which is where the town meat sellers used to ply their trade.

Butchers' Bridge
For some reason, this is now the place in Ljubljana where lovers lock locks to symbolize their love. On the Butchers' Bridge. (Oh the symbolism there.) This locking locks somewhere is all the rage in Europe. This happens to be the place where that happens in Slovenia.

Tour group at the Dragon Bridge
From there it was on to the more evocative Dragon Bridge, which is guarded by four dragons. Why dragons in Ljubljana? Jason and the Argonauts.

One of the Dragon Bridge's dragons
In the story of Jason and the Argonauts, on his quest to steal the Golden Fleece (from somewhere on the Turkish Black Sea coast), he sails up the Danube, which empties into the Black Sea, in order to avoid an ambush at the Bosporus and Dardanelles. He sails WAY up the Danube, to the Sava, and finally up the Ljubljanica River into a swampy basin. And where is this swampy basin into which Jason and his Argonauts sailed? Downtown Ljubljana. So the dragons that Jason fought in that swampy basin became the city symbol.

Then it was back towards the Butchers' Bridge to look at its statuary.

Prometheus, disemboweled for his crime of giving fire to us mortals 
Adam and Eve
We circled back to Saint Nicholas's Cathedral for a look-see.

At the front door of Saint Nicholas's Cathedral
This is the main cathedral of Ljubljana. The doors are incredible.

The other free walking tour tour guide explaining how all of Slovenian history is displayed on the door
All of Slovenian history is depicted on the front door, from the earliest days at the bottom, through the modern era as you get higher.

The door

And at the top of the door?

Looking over the scene
Pope John Paul II, as these doors were newly-installed in commemoration of a papal visit. But event the side door is ornate.

Side door of Saint Nicholas's Cathedral 
In use
The tour continued down through the Old Town:

The main drag of Old Town Ljubljana, paralleling the Ljubljanica River
Past City Hall:

City Hall
Not sure what they were thinking when they put this combination together in this statue thing next to City Hall:

Corrected to read; Statue under repair
It's a neoclassic statue-fountain at the base, with a wooden obelisk at the top, looking more rocket ship than wooden obelisk. Actually, the top part reminds me of the World's Largest Thermometer in Baker, California, only it doesn't light up. ADDENDUM and CORRECTION: The statue is under repair. The Baker thermometer look is only temporary. When the cracks in the obelisk at repaired, it will again be all-stone and tasteful.

Street view
The street is very Austrian looking at this point. Except for food and language, this would not be a Slavic town at all.

Kongresni Trg, with Steber Sv. Trojice
It was then across the Shoemakers' Bridge, to Kongresni Square (where we were parked underneath). This was named for the Congress held in Ljubljana to redraw the map of Europe after the downfall of Napoleon.

We then ended the tour in a building on the University of Ljubljana campus designed by Jože Plečnik.

At the tour terminus
Naja gave us the modern history of Slovenia, through the world wars and the Homeland War upon the break-up of Yugoslavia, and Slovenia's eventual entry into the European Union. The building was ornate and beautiful, which was unusual for a building constructed in the Communist Era.

Look at the details 
Everyone taking pictures
The ornate beauty proved to be the downfall of the great architect of Ljubljana Jože Plečnik. The Communists decided this building was too "bourgeois" for the Revolution, so they forbade Plečnik from ever designing another building.

At the exit
Forced into retirement, the great Jože Plečnik died soon thereafter. another victim of Communism.

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