Travel to Slovenia

Day 8 Laško - Ljubljana - Pivka (150 Km.)

(in 91 Km.) Ljubljana: With its 276,000 inhabitants, the Slovenian capital was founded according to legend, by the Greek prince Jason and his travel companions the Argonauts while fleeing King Aitea; who had been robbed of the Golden Fleece. Ljubljana is growing as one of the most popular destinations among European travelers, especially Italians. After separating from Yugoslavia in 1991, the beautiful girl from the Balkans, incorporated into the European Union 2004 and the euro zone in 2007, has barely suffered during the wars in the area, preserving a wonderful natural environment that is dressed with a good offer monumental, natural attractions and active tourism proposals for all tastes.

When you arrive for fist time to Ljubljana, it is best to go up to the castle to see the whole city. This medieval fortress watches the city from the top to which it rises giving a pleasant walk. The exteriors of the complex offer great views of the city and the mountains that surround it. The tower houses a virtual museum, which makes a 3D presentation of the history of the city.

From the Castle you can see the five bridges: the famous three bridges in the old town, the Butchers' Bridge and the Dragon bridge; around which the whole city is organized. Go down and take the opportunity to wander around this lively city, which since 1992 Luibliana has been full of long squares, coffeehouses with open-air tables and numerous street musicians.

Strolling through the old town it is inevitable to compare the Slovenian capital with other European cities to discover its history. Ljubljana remembers Prague for its medieval past and for the reforms Plecnik applied, who lived in the small capital for a while. It looks like Vienna for the buildings built during the Austrian Habsburg Empire; and by Judendstil architecture, which transformed the center after the earthquake that devastated it at the end of the 19th century. With Salzburg, the other great Austrian city, is united by the pastel colors of its Catholic temples, such as the pink Franciscan church of the Annunciation. The resemblance with the Dutch capital, Amsterdam, has to be sought in the continuous fluvial transit of recreational and merchandise vessels.

The best way to get into the streets of Ljubljana is to look for the footprint of one of its famous figures: the architect Joze Plecnik (1872-1957), a magician of the combination of styles that imported the best of Vienna from the Habsburgs. Thanks to Plecnik and his sense of country, order prevails in this young capital, a point of reference for the whole country.

Ljubljana - Prešernov trg/plaza Prešeren

Ljubljana - Prešernov trg/plaza Prešeren

We begin our visit by the Prešeren square or Prešernov trg. This square owes its name to the greatest Slovenian poet, France Prešeren (1800-1849). His poetry is the symbol of the desires of love and freedom, which is why one of his poems "Zdravljica / Brindis" became the national anthem. The monument to Prešeren was unveiled to the public in the autumn of 1905, and is the work of the architect Maks Fabián and the sculptor Dane Zajc. The square, based on the Italian model, is dominated by the ornate façade of the Franciscan Church or Franciškanska cerkev, built between 1646 and 1660. Its large altar is the work of the sculptor Francesco Robba, in the mid-eighteenth century. The vaults were painted by Matevž Langus in the middle of the 19th century and restored in the 30s by Matej Sternen. The façades of Art Noveau, "Ura" and "Centromerkur" are also representative of the Prešeren square.

The three bridges or Tromostovje, peculiar feature within the architecture of Ljubljana, has been built from an old stone bridge of 1842 and two sides added by the architect in 1931: Together they constitute an elegant entrance to the old town.

Ljubljana - Franciškanska cerkev/Franciscan Church

Ljubljana - Franciškanska cerkev/Franciscan Church

We are already in the old town and specifically in the central market or Trznica, one of the most important works of Plecnik. More than a place dedicated to the food trade, the building looks like a noble palace built expressly to host sumptuous parties. Under its elongated neo-classic colonnade, all kinds of products from the Slovenian countryside, country wine, preserves, take-away food, costume jewelery and, of course, handicrafts made of wood and elaborate bobbin lace are offered. Another very popular catering place in the Vodnikov square, next to the Ljubljana river, where vegetables and fresh fruits are exhibited, often harvested in private orchards. This square was created after the earthquake of 1895, when the Secondary School for young ladies and the school library were demolished, in order to make space for the market. It owes its name to the monument of Valenton Vodnik (Slovenian poet), work of the sculptor Alojz Ganga. In front of the monument there is a path that leads to the castle hill.

Do not miss the visit to Ljubljana Cathedral or Stolnica, the reform is also the work of Plecnik. The Cathedral of St. Nicholas (every day 6: 00-12: 00 and 15:00 to 18:00), dedicated to the patron saint of sailors, was built during the 13th century. The contemporary church, built according to the plans of the Roman architect Andrea Pozzo and decorated with the illusionist frescoes by Giulio Quaglio, began to be built in 1701. The dome was added in 1841 by the Slovenian architect Gregor Macek and painted by Matevž Langus between the years 1843 and 1844. Among the vestiges of the previous church we find a gothic voussoir with the head of Christ, to the right of the main entrance, and a Gothic piety of mediums of the XV century, located in the niche of the south façade. The contemporary Slovenian sculptor Mirsad Begic carved the history of the diocese of Ljubljana on the bronze side door of the cathedral in honor of the Pope's visit to Ljubljana in 1996. The main door made of bronze represents the 1,250 years of Christianity in the country.

Ljubljana - Stolnica / Cathedral of St. Nicholas

Ljubljana - Stolnica / Cathedral of St. Nicholas

The bishop's palace (Škofijski dvorec), originally from the Renaissance, was renovated in an early baroque building and has the most beautiful cloister that is preserved in Ljubljana. The construction of the palace began in 1512, and was extended with one more floor in the mid-seventeenth century. At the end of the 18th century it acquired its current façade with ornaments in the shape of a garland and was joined to the cathedral by a corridor. A little later the Emperor Napoleon would sleep in this building.

The Semenišce (Seminary) located behind the cathedral, was built between 1708 and 1714 and progressively completed until 1772. Its portal was the work of the sculptor Luka Mislej. The two colossi of the facade were sculpted by Angelo Tutti. The seminary library of this building was the first library in Ljubljana and preserves valuable manuscripts and printed works. It is also known for its beauty or furniture and for the frescoes of the vault painted by Giulio Quaglio.

Despite the similarity that Ljubljana has with other cities, Slovenia is not part of Central Europe, nor can it be located in the Europe of the Balkans. This small country has a character of its own, whose strength is magnificently represented by the four dragons that guard the corners of the bridge of dragons or Zmajski Most. The relation of the mythological monster with the Slovenian capital has its origin in an ancient history: the Greek hero Jason. The Zmajski bridge was built in 1901 in place of the former wooden "bridge of butchers" to commemorate the fortieth anniversary of the coronation of Franz Josef as the Austro-Hungarian emperor. The bridge is a construction of concrete and iron, and was one of the first bridges of this type in Europe. It is considered one of the most characteristic monuments of the city.

Ljubljana - Zmajski Most/Dragon bridge

Ljubljana - Zmajski Most/Dragon bridge

Under the Zmajski we rediscovered the work of Joze Plecnik, since he designed the banks of the Ljubljanica River after the great interwar reform. The tourist boats that sail from Prasernov Square, in the old town, offer a different perspective of the city: its river face, with the palaces and churches reflected in the waters. The ships sail towards the districts of Krakovo and Trnovo, separated by the Gradascia channel. The charm of Karnovo lies in the medieval air of its streets and houses; in Trnovo the Roman wall of the 1st century BC and the streets are a varied architectural style.

The main point of interest in Ljubljana is the hill of th castle or Ljubljanski grad. The excavations show that the hill was fortified for the first time in the time of the Celts and Illyrians and that the Romans had a military post there. The origins of the medieval castle date back to the 9th century, although it was not mentioned until 1144. At that time it was the seat of the provincial governor Spanheim, who also minted his currency here. It acquired its current image after the earthquake of 1511 and subsequent restorations in the early seventeenth century. Until the first decades of the XVII century it was inhabited by the provincial governors, although later it would become a garrison and provincial prison. The restoration of the castle is now almost completed, so that the two wedding halls, the tower, the chapel and the cafeteria are open to visitors, while the rest of the restored areas are used for numerous occasional performances, exhibitions and functions social. Near the castle is the monument of the rebellion of Slovenian peasants (Stojan Batic, 1974).

Ljubljana - Ljubljanski grad / Castle

Ljubljana - Ljubljanski grad / Castle

The current castle is later than that which was the seat of the feudal dominance of the Spanheim Carinthian Dukes. They founded the city between 1220 and 1246 at the foot of the hill where the Castle was located. In 1335 the castle, which was the center of the province of Carniola for many years, became the hereditary property of the Habsburgs. The current castle, larger than the previous ones, was built by order of the Duke and later of the Emperor Frederick III. It had its origin in a deliberate plan during the second half of the fifteenth century to build a fortress with a spacious courtyard inside a fort with a circular walled perimeter, which included the towers of the corners and the two towers of the entrance. In addition to the Gothic chapel of the castle, that was consecrated in 1489, the entire interior of the current buildings of the castle had its origin in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, when the main structures and the characteristic silhouette of the castle were formed. That was the golden age of the Ljubljana Castle. Until 1848 the viewpoint did not appear, a characteristic element of the castle complex, as can be seen in the illustrations by the historian Valvasor.

Until 1814 the castle was in such disrepair that it was used as a prison for some time. In 1905 the authorities of the city of Ljubljana bought it from the State since there were serious intentions to restore it. The architect Jože Plecnik considered it the crown of the city and the Slovenian cultural acropolis, but his ambitious plans were never realized.

The town hall or Rotovž. The first building erected here in 1484 was rebuilt in 1718 according to the plans of the architect Gregor Macek. It has preserved several memorials of Ljubljana's past, including the fountain of Hercules and Narcissus (the work of Robba's workshop) and the Gothic auditorium, where in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries residents of Lubliana attended theatrical performances performed by traveling comedians. Today it is the seat of Ljubljana City Hall. Opposite the building is one of the most representative monuments of Ljubljana, the fountain with allegorical sculptures of the three rivers of Carniola: the river Sava, the Krka and the Ljubljanac. It was created in 1751 by Francesco Robba, the most important sculptor of Ljubljana in the eighteenth century.

Ljubljana -  - Rotovž/City hall

Ljubljana - Rotovž/City hall

The municipal square, the old square and the upper square or Mestni Trg, Stara Trg and Gornji Trg are three squares, which represent the old town, surround the slopes of the castle hill. Almost all the houses are Baroque: only some with the axes in a straight line to the street have retained their medieval layout. Just as the cathedral dominates Mestni trg, the church of St. Florian (1672) dominates Gornji trg. From here, a path that takes to the castle (and all their surroundings), was drawn up by the architect Jože Plecnik.

Levstikov Square or Levstikov trg. The church of St. George was rebuilt by the Jesuits between 1613 and 1615 in addition to its monastery, which was also the home of the first higher education school in Ljubljana (theology, philosophy and medicine) and the first music school. The altar of the church was sculpted in 1732 by F.Robba, who also lived in this square, and the altar of the chapel of Saint Francis Xavier (1667-1670) was the work of Jacopo Contieri, Paolo Groppelli and Angelo Tutti. After the earthquake of 1895, the two bell towers were demolished and replaced by a single one, which is now the highest bell tower in Ljubljana. Then they would also add the sacristy. The sanctuary of Mary, located in the square, was built in the seventeenth century as a sign of gratitude after the passage of the Turks through the country without causing the havoc that affected overwhelmingly other countries. Jože Plecnik redesigned the square in 1927, giving it its current look. To the north of the square is the Gruber Palace, of the late Baroque, built by Gabriel Gruñeren in 1770. This palace conceals an oval stucco staircase with a pillary on the first floor and a dome above. The chapel, whose paintings show scenes of the life of Mary, was decorated by J. Kremser Schmidt. The frescoes in the dome were painted by Andrej Herrlein.

We crossed the Shoemakers' Bridge or Cevljarski most, which before the intervention of Jože Plecnik competed with the Ponte Vecchio in Florence, because it was covered and it was also full of workshops of artisans to whom it owes its name. The main gate of the city used to be on the side of the old town. Before 1484, the seat of the municipal authorities was in a gallery built on top of the street that leads from the castle to the bridge. The skeletons that, according to popular tradition, were found when the old walls were demolished, suggest that the municipal courts were also in this building.

Ljubljana - Liublianaca river

Ljubljana - Liublianaca river

The French Revolution square or Trg Francoske Revolucije. The entire southwest part of the Ljubljana wall belonged to the Teutonic Order: the Knights of the Cross (Križniki): and the entire complex from the French Revolution Square, Gosposka, Zoisova and Emonska streets today is still called Križanke. The Knights of the Cross lived here at the beginning of the 13th century, when there was a monastery here. The church of Mary is mentioned for the first time in 1268. In the same place the current church was built according to the plans of the Venetian Domenico Rossi. In the eighteenth century the monastery was enlarged and rebuilt. Today, the entire monastic ensemble that was rebuilt by Plecnik in the 1950s serves mainly as a stage for the Ljubljana festivals. It consists of a large outdoor auditorium (the Summer Theater) with 1400 seats and an atrium with 400 seats. The column in memory of the Napoleonic Illyrian of Plecnik, with the head of the emperor in relief adorned with garlands and Vodnik's verses of his "Ode to the resurrected Illyrian" is near Križanke and the French Revolution Square. Inside the column are the ashes of the grave of a French soldier who fell in 1813 in a battle against the Austrians. Other elements of this square that also deserve attention are the sculpture in memory of the poet Simon Gregorcic (by the sculptor Zdenko Kalin) and the palace of the Counts of Auersperg, now the seat of the Municipal Museum.

The congress square or Kongresni Trg. Basically created in the Baroque style, it was drawn in its entirety for the Congress of the Holy Alliance of 1821. The southern end of the square is dominated by the building of the University of Ljubljana or Univerza. More than 50,000 students and 41 institutes generate a powerful scientific potential in the city. The building itself was erected as a ducal palace between 1898 and 1902. Next to the University is the Slovenian Philharmonic Hall or Philharmonia, erected in 1891 on the foundations of the Provincial Theater that was destroyed by fire. The Slovenian Philharmonic is among the oldest music societies in the world, since its predecessor, the Philharmonicorum Academy, had been established in 1701. Great names such as Haydn, Beethoven, Paganini and Brahms were honorary members. Schubert applied for the position of director of the Municipal Orchestra here and Gustav Mahler was director in the season 1881-82. Adjacent to the Philharmonic is a Biedermeier house, now the seat of the oldest Slovenian publisher, Slovenska Matica, founded in 1894. North of the square is dominated by Kazina, a beautiful example of classical architecture. In the park, called Zvezda (Star), among the remains of the walls of the old Emona there is a copy of the golden statue of the Citizen of Emona, which was actually found here in 1836, and which was initially confused with the statue of the Emperor Constantine.

Ljubljana - View from the Castle

Ljubljana - View from the Castle

The Ursuline Church of the Holy Trinity or Uršulinska Cerkev. It is considered one of the most beautiful works of Baroque art in the city. Although the name of the architect who conceived this masterpiece is unknown, it is not difficult to recognize characteristic elements of the Andrea Palladlo school in northern Italy from the late Baroque period. Inside the church, which is unpainted, there is a large altar, the greatest work of Francesco Robba. The paintings on the side altars are the work of Valentín Metzinger. Some of these paintings, including three by the painter Jacopo Palma Jr.'s, were moved here from the old Capuchin church. Opposite the church is the famous column of the Holy Trinity, made of wood in 1693 in gratitude for the city being freed from a plague. In 1721 it was carved in stone and later renovated twice. Today rests on the column only a copy of the sculpture, since the original is preserved in the Museum of the City.

The Republic Square or Trg Republike. This is the central square of Ljubljana, and was conceived by the architect Edo Ravnikar. Here is a monument to the resistance, work of the sculptor Drago Tršar. On the north side of the square is the Parliament of the Slovenian Republic (architect V. Glanz, 1954-1959) with its monumental portals, the work of the sculptor Z. Kalin and K. Putrih. Adjacent to Parliament, in the park, is the sepulcher of the national heroes, the work of Edo Mihevc and the sculptor Boris Kalin. Towards the east and towards the south, the square connects with a commercial center, the headquarters of the bank Nova Ijubljanska banka, with the headquarters of other companies and the Cultural and Congress Center Cankarjev Dom.

Nearby are the Tivoli Gardens, an ideal place for a break during the summer. The mansion of Tivoli or Tivolski Grad, located in the heart of this park, was built at the beginning of the 17th century by the Jesuits. After the dissolution of his order it was the summer residence of the Bishop of Ljubljana, and in the mid-nineteenth century it became the property of the Austrian Marshal Radetsky, who gave it its current appearance. The mansion has been recently restored and now accommodates the International Center for Graphic Arts.

(in 68 Km.) Pivka: We will sleep at a farm located 1 km from this town, just before entering Trnje.