The meeting point was on a cold February morning at 11 ‘in front of the pink church’ in Prešeren Square, where a group of about 20 people was gathered to join a tour by our guide Tina.

Franciscan Church of the Annunciation

Prešeren Square is named after Slovenia’s national poet, France Prešeren. There’s a statue of him in the square, with a muse sitting up above him. The muse caused quite a stir at the time because she was topless, which was considered offensive considering she was right in front of the bishop’s church. However, the pressure to remove it was resisted by the civil authorities, so the bishop thought of hiding the line of sight from the church by planting trees in front of her.

France Prešeren & muse

The trick may have worked by the time the trees had grown large enough, but only in summer. In winter, the cover provided was just as transparent as the muse’s top. And, maybe, some sort of pullover wouldn’t have been such a bad idea on that shivery morning.

Tina explained that Prešeren was the author of the Slovenian national anthem: a toast to all peoples on earth, an ode to peace.

France Prešeren: A Toast

God’s blessing on all nations,
Who long and work for that bright day,
When o’er earth’s habitations
No war, no strife shall hold its sway;
Who long to see
That all men free
No more shall foes, but neighbours be.

So beautiful. Such a contrast from the usual glorification of war and bloodshed.

Prešeren’s real life muse, Julija Primic, used to live across the square from where his statue is situated. She was his inspiration in his writings but his love for her was unrequited, unfulfilled. Now, his loving gaze rests forever on Julija’s statue looking out of a window frame fixed to the house where she used to live.

We moved on to the market area, and a celebration by our guide Tina of Slovenia’s most influential architect, Jože Plečnik. Plečnik was a visionary, who foresaw nationhood for Slovenia and an important role for Ljubljana. In his works, he emphasized the balance between Austrian and Italian/Mediterranean influences in Slovenia’s character. His architecture reflected this desire of his to preserve the Mediterranean dimension of his country.

The Three Bridges

The triple bridge in front of the pink church was originally a single bridge that eventually became too conjested with traffic and dangerous for pedestrians. To preserve its Venetian style, instead of pulling down the existing narrow bridge  Plečnik decided to add one bridge on each side with the same design as the one in the middle. The original wider bridge in the middle would serve motor traffic while the narrower side bridges would serve pedestrians. Eventually, in 2008, the whole of central Ljubljana, including therefore the Three Bridges, became a pedestrian zone.

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The Three Bridges’ design is vaguely reminiscent of a Venetian bridge
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Brightening up a cold winter day in Ljubljana

The walking tour ended in Congress Square, a large open space with a garden on one side, an underground car park where our car was waiting to lift the weight off my tired legs, and several fine buildings lining up the perimeter. It was the site where the country’s most momentous events took place, including joining Yugoslavia and the 1991 declaration of independence of Slovenia.

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Too bad we visited Ljubljana at a time when it was far from its best – a bleak and cold February day, with my own legs crying out for a rest due to injury and the rest of my family sporting sore muscles from two full previous days of skiing. So please, dear random reader, if you happen to hit on this page don’t base your decision on whether to go visit on my own experience. Check instead on a proper travel site…