The danger that the ambitions of a "Greater Serbia" promoted by Slobodan Miloševic presented to its neighbours in the Balkans became vividly obvious when Belgrade brutally repressed the 90% Albanian majority of Kosovo in 1989 and abruptly ended its autonomy in 1990.
In the spring of 1990 Slovenians held free elections that ended communist rule and in December 88% voted in favour of independence. A few months later, the Slovenian government declared independence at the same time as Croatia on June 25th 1991.
Slovenia was lucky to have only a very small and well dispersed Serb minority, a determined, well armed militia and the support of the EC who negotiated a truce with Serbia when fighting broke out over the control of border posts. A year later Slovenia was admitted in the UN and well on the way to joining the EC. They had gotten out just in time before the fratricidal madness of the religious wars that soon ravaged Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina.
|Atlapedia CIA Country Reports Lonely Planet Traveldocs|
After a quick tour of San Marino I bought a ticket for Ljubljana with a change of trains in Venice. I got to Venice around midnight but I missed the connection to Ljubljana so I jumped onto a train that was going to Trieste where I arrived around three the morning. It was a bit rough because the station was closed and I had to find a secluded spot were I could sleep until it opened at 7:30. Hot coffee and doughnuts in the train station restaurant were welcome but it had been cold night and I had caught a throat infection for which I had to take antibiotics for a week. My usual good luck was leaving me.
Finally, I got on the nine o'clock train and arrived here around noon. After a quick exploration of the city center, I changed some money, bought some medicine for my throat, got on the telephone to find a room and took a city bus that brought me here. The Gostilna Zilbert was a bit far from the city center but I had a comfortable room with bathroom and television for only 9$ and the bar downstairs was full of friendly people. I had been travelling nonstop for three days and two nights since Malta so I went early to bed and slept 16 hours.
My luck had indeed left me, after months of nice weather it was raining and cold. I went to town anyway, with my umbrella of course. It's a pity the weather was so poor for Ljubljana is a lovely town with many photogenic spots like this view of the Dragon Bridge over the Ljubjanica River.
The Franciscan church on Prešernov trg (Prešeren's square), marks the city center. Three bridges next to each other connect Prešernov trg to the old town.
This view looking south from Prešernov trg, shows the old town with Ljubljana Castle towering over it. The rain had stopped but it was cold so I bought warm underwear and decided to climb up the hill to visit the Castle.
It is difficult to take good pictures in this kind of weather but the Lovers Lane going up to the Castle was so romantic that had to try.
The view from the top of Ljubljana tower would have been great with a bit of sun. The park on the right is the Congress Square at the end of which stands the Ursuline church.
The city center is ancient but Ljubljana also has modern office buildings and residential complexes like the one seen in this picture. Slovenia is the most developed and affluent of the ex-Yugoslav countries.
The majority of Slovenes are Catholic like the neighbouring Italians, Austrians, Hungarians and Croats. Religion is important but not as acutely as for the Croats for whom it is the symbol of their identity opposing them to Muslim Bosnians and to equally Christian but Orthodox Serbs.
The Ljubljana Castle's chapel shown here with the tower behind is a fashionable place to hold a wedding. In spite of the bad weather, one was just finishing when I came down from the tower. Everyone was leaving in the cars they had arrived in. There were no taxis and no bus service so I had to walk down the hill for nobody offered me a ride
The park just south of the Castle must be a lovely place to go for walk when it's warm and sunny but it started to rain again as I was walking down the long winding road to get to town. Then, I saw a well-worn footpath leading directly towards the city center. I took it, hoping to find shelter sooner that way. It was a bad mistake for after a while the easy slope led to a very steep place where I slipped on wet leaves and fell head-over-heels down the hill. I was lucky not to break anything but I did sprain my left ankle badly. My visiting was over, I bought an elastic band and some pain relievers and took a taxi home.
The previous day had been unlucky for me. I should have stayed home to take care of my sore throat and watch TV instead of going out in the rain... The following day was nice and I took some photos like this one of the National Museum but I had difficulty getting around because of my ankle. Once again I was not very smart and I forged ahead walking on it instead of spending a week in the comfortable room I had to let it get better. I limped for more than two months because of that stupid impatience.
The huge, modern Ljubljana Orthodox Cathedral is certainly very impressive considering that less than two percent of the population follow the Orthodox religion.
Actually it stands out like a sore thumb in the Catholic Slovene landscape. Such a big show is definitely out of place. To me it looked like the scar a branding iron leaves in the hide of a steer to claim ownership of the animal for the benefit of one specific rancher. The money must have come from elsewhere... The local people are not fooled for they call it the Serb church. It seems that the Orthodox church has a propensity for this type of territorial expansion.
I have seen the same thing in Latvia where the Russians built the huge Orthodox Cathedral in the 19th century long before organised russian immigration boosted their numbers up to 30 % during the recent communist occupation. The same holds true for Estonia where the Alexander Nievsky Cathedral in Tallinn preceded massive russian immigration.
Wild animals and dogs pee on shrubs to assert their territorial claims. Religious empires build cathedrals...