By PAT HARTMAN
What has been going on in the funky little Slovenian town of Ljubljana? That’s pronounced LYOOB-li-A-na and it’s a question that many people ask. The answer is: Plenty. Take, for example, the welcome news from author/professor/entrepreneur Bill Hennessey, of The Swampscott Reporter, who is bicycling through Europe this summer. He implies that Slovenia is, for monolinguist, the perfect tourist destination and the anti-France. (No offense to France, but some returning visitors do say the natives treat non-French speakers brusquely.) Hennessey says:
I had more trouble finding English speakers in London. English is taught from kindergarten and Slovenians’ proficiency in the language is impressive; furthermore, they enjoy speaking English and are eager to practice.
He praises the roads, the drivers, the buses and trains. He speaks of a wondrous hostel called Celica, administered by a student arts group. He admires the architecture (largely the work of one Joze Plecnik), which resembles the architecture of Vienna. There’s a statue of Slovenia’s cherished poet, France Preseren, in the town square. Not a sword-wielding warrior, but a poet! The memorial to this poet is also mentioned by Mike Yardley, a visiting New Zealander, who also appreciates the town hall (which is a marvel) and, of course, the castle. This Yardley bloke has been to 70 countries, and works as a travel consultant, and even guides tours himself.
There’s a classic old hotel called the Bellevue, near Tivoli Park, that’s scheduled for renovation. And a couple of 1930s movie theaters in the city center, lovingly described by Jost Derlink at Spotted By Locals, and here’s the beauty part: they still show films, a mixture of popular and art house fare. Derlink is a guitarist who belongs to a couchsurfing network, so if you aim to visit Slovenia, you might want to look him up ahead of time. He says, “For me, Ljubljana is the best city on the globe. It might not be as big as other European capitals but I think it’s perfect.” An unorthodox local performance artist called Annie Abrahams offers an online work called “The Big Kiss in Ljubljana.” My computer won’t play it, but it looks… interesting.
June was a bit hectic, with the international clown festival, and Brazilian megastar Gilberto Gil singing at the open air theater, and some uncouth incidents marring the harmony of Pride Week when all the LGBT folk gathered. And then, the 50th Annual Ljubljana Jazz Festival hit town.
In July, there was the traditional Ana Desetnica International Festival of Street Theatre. This convention of outdoor talent been going on for more than ten years now, and the city takes it quite seriously. Typically, about 2,500 performers show up. That’s just the people who come to be seen, you understand. The number who come to see them is very much larger. Aljoša Markočič (CalypsoFolie), the photographer whose picture of street performers is on this page, says the name of the festival originates in “an old Slovenian folk fairy-tale that if the tenth child is a daughter, she must leave home when she turns 7 and must not return for 7 years.” Whether Ana Desetnica means “seven years” or whether that was the name of a particular exiled girl is not clear. Nor is the connection with street theatre. Maybe little Ana became a busker. Maybe that’s her in the picture.
Madonna had planned a concert in Ljubljana, but it was canceled. Rumor has it that only 7,000 of the venue’s 23,000 seats were sold. Just last week, a little Belgian girl was brought by her parents to visit, and they were greeted by the Mayor. That toddler was so celebrated because her name is Ljubljana.
According to the archeology wizards, a city has been on this spot for 3,000 years, and it was supposedly founded by Jason’s posse, the Argonauts. They went on adventures, and there was something about a sheepskin… The muses do okay in Ljubljana. Plans are underway for the 24th Vilenica Literary Festival, the 2nd to 6th of September. The 28th annual Biennial of Graphic Arts is coming up in September and October, at the International Centre of Graphic Arts. The theme this time is “The Matrix: An Unstable Reality,” so hold onto your hats.
Examiner Molly McCahan is another of those people who call Slovenia the best-kept secret of Eastern Europe. Shhhh! Keep telling everybody, and it won’t be a secret for long, will it? McCahan describes it as a soft adventure traveler’s playground, what with the skiing and the wine and all. In this article, she concentrates mainly on outdoorsy activities, and gives us perhaps the most helpful hint of all: If you see a sign on a house that says zimmer, there’s a room for rent inside!
photo courtesy of Aljoša Markočič – whose entire PhotoStream is here.