September 18-20, 1999:
They say that Ljubljana (pronounced Leyoob-leyana) is like a small, up and coming Prague. We'd have to agree (from what Kathleen knows about Prague).
It's a city and a country that take their their Architecture, Art and Westerness seriously.
Their castle has been one of our favorites so far. Not because it's old, but because they've restored it with the coolest 'modern castle' look we could imagine. There's a 3 floor bar lit by candles, 2 futuristic wedding reception rooms and art galleries. Functional!
Here grooves in the marble hold in place cables that make up the banister.
Free for anyone, the Castle Gallery has paintings by Slovenians of their capital city.
In the old section of town, extra touches like these ornamental building columns are common.
They have a committee which promotes 'non-individualistic' art.
Not the institute for art: Parliament.
Their national cathedral hosted Pope John Paul II in 1996. They commissioned this bronze door, which shows the history of Christianity.
It's even more captivating to our modern eyes than the classic doors on the Florentine Baptistery.
This dragon guards the Zmajski Most Bridge and is also a sort of Ljubljana Mascot. She appears on coffee mugs, post cards and bathroom tiles for sale all over the marketplace.
She also gives the bridge its nickname: The Mother In Law bridge.
Why? Because of the long tongue.
Modern incarnation of the dragon.
The Slovenes are also enjoying their newly discovered freedom to pursue western ways. They were always the Eastern block's commercial gem -- friends in Budapest say they used to go to Ljubljana like we go to New York just to window shop at the luxury stores.
And it's true that in the stores there are no bargains. Pretty much western prices for things.
That is the way of capitalism, after all. What price the market will bear. Some lament their headlong rush, but most seemed to be on the rushing side of it.
But even in the midst of the high-price stores, the older, everyday-priced commerce goes on.
Everyone in Slovenia speaks a bunch of languages. Our guide book called it a Polyglot nation.
We were befriended by Edo and Mateja and their daughter Delphine. They were interested in how much our van cost. They spoke to us in German, but when we answered in English they switched right over.
"How many languages do you speak?" Henry later asked Edo.
"Oh, not many," he replied. "Only German, English, French and Croatian. But I don't speak English that well, I like French a lot."
He forgot to mention that he speaks Slovenian.
They took us in for an afternoon sharing with us their alternative ideals, view of the changes in life since the fall of Communism and thoughts on their future.
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