Most people have never heard of Slovenia. Fewer still have heard of its capital, Ljubljana. This quaint town inhabited fewer than 50,000 people only a century ago; now it boasts a population of nearly 300,000. As the largest city in this Central European nation state, Ljubljana isn’t that imposing, but full of character, life, and history. Though unassuming, the cities symbol is the dragon, emphasizing power, courage, and greatness. It is no wonder that it was the seat of the House of Habsburg for over 500 years; hidden, as if obscure, and yet one of the most important royal houses in all of Europe, if not the world.
The architecture recognizes form as function, like much of the rest of older Europe – its purpose is not utility, understanding that beauty is purpose in itself.
Even in the busy areas, the city seems quiet. Cafes, restaurants, and bars line the narrow waterway of the Danube; cobble stone paths lead to bridges and wind through alleys, opening up into squares and the courtyards of churches, cathedrals, and administrative buildings, many dating back centuries to nearly half a millennium.
Park culture is big here, though you don’t ever feel a need to escape the city. The parks are mere extensions. Everywhere you look is art, expression, and the touch of the personalities that make the city romantic, vibrant, and alive.
Ljubljana has a lot to see, but it is the city itself that is the attraction, not monuments or historic buildings preserved against development and contemporary life. The city could easily remain isolated, but is very aware of that the world around it can impact its own future. Rather than play no part in it, it chooses to lead by example, and as such, is very environmentally conscious and socially awake.
It is very aware of the external beliefs, ideas, and influences that could easily change the city. Like many countries in the area, Slovenia has seen conquest and imposition by externals wars and ideologies – in more modern times, World War I and II, as well as Communism have threatened the lives and livelihoods of its citizens. The people are not ignorant of what is happening in the world, even if much of the world is ignorant of them.
Ljubljana is an artist’s city. It is a place of discovery, inspiration, and fairy tales. When you go to Ljubljana, you must give yourself time, allow yourself to explore slowly, and if lucky get lost. If you have to, force yourself to relax into this city – it can transport you to another time; a time when things didn’t move so fast. A time when dragons lived.