The weather wasn’t all too winter-y, though it was well into the season. A fact which I was grateful for, being that I didn’t pack well enough for cold weather. My spring trench coat and hooded sweater had served me well enough so far though, thankfully.
My plan was to walk aimlessly around the streets of downtown Ljubljana (capital city of Slovenia) & hopefully end up at the castle on the hill. I started just outside our hostel which was located in Metelkova Mesto.
As I walked and took photographs, I was joined by an elderly lady that walked me through her neighbourhood and told me that contrary to current, popular belief, Ljubljana did experience explosive fighting during the ’10 Day War’.
Though some would say I was entertaining the conversation of a ‘crazy lady’ (…and perhaps I was!), I did find an article that seemed to confirm this.
The LA Times reports from 1991;
Slovenian President Milan Kucan said on the republic’s television, “We agreed in principle on the cease-fire . . . but we do not know if the army is going to stick to the agreement.”
Explosions continued to rock this barricaded capital city even after 9 p.m., when the cease-fire was supposed to take effect, and attack aircraft screeched repeatedly over its hilltop castle and steepled churches. Toward midnight, the city became quieter.
Slovenian officials contend that the federal army is acting on its own, disregarding efforts by the powerless central government in Belgrade to bring an end to the deadly chaos that has transformed this serene territory into a war zone.
She showed me her home, the facade somewhat worse for wear, and pointed out what used to be shelling damage – and what was natural erosion (though she blamed the expedited ‘natural erosion’ on cracks/holes that occurred during the war!).
‘And this got worse and worse after’ she said.
‘No money for fixing!’
Though the origin of this erosion/damage could be argued, there is no arguing that many of the residents of Slovenia would say that in some way, they experienced war in the early 1990’s.
Ljubljana is a fascinating city to walk. There are plenty of places to shop and explore, cafe’s to relax at for some good people watching – and the prices are VERY AFFORDABLE.
After a Habsburg takeover in the late 1200’s, Ljubljana was known by its German name ‘Laibach’ – which also happened to be the name of the river that Ljubljana was built around.
It was in 1918 that Ljubljana started going by its current, (pre-Habsburg) title.
‘Ljub’ (sounds like; lyoob) means ‘to love’ in Slovene, that much is known, otherwise there is a fair amount of controversy about the names origin.
The city has a symbol – the Ljubljana Dragon. You can find it at the castle, in the coat of arms and on the ‘Dragon bridge’ that crosses Ljubljanica River, downtown.
It is said to symbolize power, courage and greatness. It certainly looks intimidating! There are several explanations of how the dragon came to be known as a Ljubljana symbol – theories primarily based in the middle ages.
Wikipedia goes into detail, if you are interested.
Ljubljana has a varied human history that includes a primitive lake dwelling people who lived in stilt homes along the marshes (archeological remains are now preserved as a UNESCO site).
The land was also inhabited by Celts, Illyrians, Romans, Huns and Ostrogoths followed by the Slovenes in the 6th century.
Ljubljana received town status in 1220. Around the same time, the right was granted to hold market in the town square.
Major political change has occurred in the region, as a direct result of war. From 1809 to 1813, the area belonged to France, and then from 1815 until 1918, Austria was in primary charge.
Ljubljana joined the ‘Kingdom of Croats, Serbs and Slovenes‘ after WWI, and after WWII it became the capital of the Socialist Republic of Slovenia – part of Communist Yugoslavia – until fighting for its independence in 1991.
Slovenia also had soldiers in the Yugoslav army, which meant that Slovenes were not just participants in the 10 day war, but also the ensuing Yugoslav Wars – where they found themselves on both sides of the conflict – sometimes fighting each other.
There are a few well documented stories of the Slovenian Army ‘victoriously’ shooting down Yugoslav military units just to find they had killed a fellow Slovenian who was still serving the old Yugoslav regime.
A terrible time.
Slovenia joined the EU in 2004.
The first recorded mention of Ljubljana Castle was in 1112, when it and the surrounding farm land were given as a gift to the Patriarchate of Aquileia, which was an early centre of Christianity.
After circling the city, it was time for me to make the grand ascent up through the steep alleys and pathways to the Ljubljana Castle, known as ‘Ljubljanski Grad’ locally.
I was excited to explore the castle without any encouragement, but seeing the positive English graffiti along the way definitely added to my emotional state!
Additional photos in the slideshow.