Monday, July 25, 2016

Ljubljana, Slovenia

Ljubljana was an unexpected delight. I fell in love with this young and vibrant city. Ljubljana is the capital of Slovenia, and the home of the University of Ljubljana. The university has a population of about 54,000 undergraduate students in a city population of only about 270,000 people.  Considering the fact that Slovenia itself has only about 2 million people, young people play a large part in Slovenian society. The population is composed of 58% Catholic, 2.5% Muslim, and about 2.2% Orthodox Christian. Interestingly to me, 38% do not identify with any religion. The country is bordered by Austria, Italy, Croatia, Hungary and the Adriatic.  The north western part of the country is quite mountainous.

According to Slovenian Facts, there is also one winery or brewery for every 70 people! It became an independent country in 1991 and became part of the EU in 2004.

Hugging the sides of the Ljubljanica river, Ljubljana boasts a cafe society where most people are not only young but also speak English. People were friendly, professional, and seemed genuinely happy to have visitors.

I love this photo with the "Petit Bateau" on the sign.

The population seemed so young to us that we were making jokes about what they did with all of the old people. At home working? In the fields? Died off? I don't know, but compared to Italy, Slovenia seemed very young.

Tivoli park provides a large green space in the heart of the city. Ljubljana is serious about their "green" reputation of sustainability.

Okay. You may think this photo is weird, but I thought it was so cool that they give away trash bags in their park! Not just dog poop bags, but actual trash bags. I might add that there is no trash on the streets or in the park. It is a remarkably clean city for its size.

The hotel we stayed at, was quite lovely, although an odd combination of Victorian and Communism. You'd have to see it to get it.  The service was excellent. Many other famous people had stayed there, including the Dali Lama and Bill and Hillary.

The city is known for its 3 bridges, and indeed Melania Trump, who was born in Slovenia,  supposedly hung out at one of the cafes near here, just to give everyone equal time.

This is a photo of the dragon from the Dragon Bridge. He is made of copper. I love this photo by the Stoic One. The tail of the creature is great.

Now, a minor lesson in theology. Many of the churches we saw on this trip were Eastern Orthodox. The Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches split in 1054...a bit of a time ago. The Eastern church has been centered on the Greek language while the Western church on Latin. The differences get more arcane, and if interested you can research it, but one of the noted differences, at least to a protestant, are the use of icons in the Orthodox church. These are more than just a painting. True believers posit that it is a window into heaven.

The rules about sacred icons are strict. The iconographer must fast and pray before beginning the painting. The icon will never be signed. Everything about the icon is predetermined based on history. The colours, facial expressions, poses are all predetermined. The purpose of the icon is to convey a divine reality.

Here are some photos from the Serbian Orthodox Church of St. Cyril and Methodius in Ljubljana .

As ornate as the church is inside, the outside is very plain. When you walk in and see the colours and the intricacy, it literally takes your breath away.

A few more facts about Slovenia. The prime minister is Miro Cerar. He has been in office since 2014. It was the the first new EU member to adopt the euro as currency in 2007. It has a highly educated work force and has minimum foreign investment. Those of you who might be looking for a place outside of the US should look at Slovenia. The prices are good, the people are friendly and it has great beer and good wine. What more could you ask for?

Next up....Bratislava in Slovakia.

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