A Little More Ljubljana

Trip Start Jun 08, 2010
Trip End Aug 26, 2010

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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

I started the morning with a trip to the airport to pick up a rental car. On the advice of guidebooks, I rented a car to see the Slovenia countryside. While searching the internet for a deal, I found a special offer for one-way rental from Ljubljana to Split, Croatia, so I'll have the car for most of Croatia, too.

Getting to the airport turned out to be no problem. A bus ran to the airport once an hour from the main bus station, just outside of the main train station. Buying a ticket was no problem because the driver spoke English. The ride was around $35 cheaper than a cab, and it was a charter-type bus, rather than a city bus, because the airport is around 10 miles outside of town.

There's really nothing near the airport. A lot of fields and tiny villages. It made me wonder why they built it so far out. Did they have trouble finding enough land for it? I think it only has one runway, but maybe eminent domain doesn't exist in Slovenia. Or were they maybe planning for an explosive Ljubljana growth-spurt that would push the bounds of the city miles (or rather kilometers) to the north?

In order to save a little money, I planned to stay in the city center just two nights, then move to a hotel for half the price outside of town when I had a car, so I had to check out of the hotel. When I did this, the clerk offered to let me leave my bags at the desk for the rest of the morning. If you recall, the train (and bus) station was around a 20 minute walk from my hotel. It had been raining on and off for the morning, and I wasn't really interested in my bags getting wet should another storm break-out, and I was thinking of coming back to that area of town anyway to go to a museum, so I took her up on the offer.

That turned out to be a bad decision. While getting the car went according to plan, returning to the hotel to retrieve my luggage turned out to be more of a chore than just dragging it with me to the train station would have been in the first place. Driving in Ljubljana was fine, with just the normal level of aggressive city driving. There was only a little honking, because it took me a while to find the horn on my rental car. (Wacka, wacka, wacka...)

Parking in the area of the old city was a major problem. I probably spent half an hour looking for a space, and didn't end up all that close to my hotel when I found one. To add insult to injury, it didn't even rain on my way to the train station. The rain only started again (albeit lightly) when I was walking with my bags to my rental car.

After placing my bags in the rental car, just seconds before serious rain started to fall, I decided to head to the Ljubljana City Museum (Mestni Muzej Ljubljana). The tourist guide "Ljubljana in your pocket" led me to believe there would be a Plečnik exhibit at the museum. The guide may have confused the museum's permanent and temporary exhibitions, or there may have been one Plečnik-related thing stuffed back in some corner somewhere, but the City Museum was dissappointingly Plečnik-free.

However, the museum was not a total loss. The signs were in English, so I had an idea of what I was looking at. It had a very interesting temporary exhibition on Emona, the Roman city founded at the location of current-day Ljubljana. The exhibit displayed various articles from excavations of the area, which lay adjacent to the western bounds of Ljubljana's medieval city. The quality of the Roman glassware and pottery, even in a remote outpost, was akin to that of modern day products. It was especially striking when compared to similar objects excavated from the medieval section of town, which looked like things I made during pottery summer camp in junior high.

Apart from the Emona exhibit, there were a few other interesting tidbits scattered throughout the museum. Did you know that Yugoslavia had hippies? The protests of the Ljubljana hippies seemed to have centered around conditions at the university. A few of them even started a short-lived commune. This struck me as somewhat ironic in a communist country, but it seems to have been a "free love and poetry" commune, and I'm sure Lenin wouldn't have approved.

There was also a smattering of depressing Slovenian WWII history. Slovenia was invaded by Italy in 1941 and went to Germany after Italy capitulated near the end of the war. The Italians ended-up encircling Ljubljana with barbed-wire and a mine field in order to cut partisans off from access to the city. On display were posters where Italian and German authorities proclaimed the execution of Slovenians in response to partisan activities. There were also apparently a sizable number of children of partisans cut-off from their families and hidden throughout the city in order to keep the occupiers from capturing them to use against their partisan parents.

In total, the museum was an interesting way to spend a rainy afternoon for someone who is really into history (e.g. me), but I wouldn't recommend it if you aren't fascinated by lists of things old people had when they died. (Although I would recommend the Emona exhibit without reservation, but that will go away at some point.)  I also wouldn't recommend the museum without a little bit of background history concerning Slovenia, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, or Ljubljana. The permanent exhibits seemed a little disjointed and were missing information that would have provided a context for the displays to otherwise uniformed tourists and helped to bridge from one section to another.

So, now I'm settled down in a hotel out in the countryside. The rental car is brand new, with only 40km on it when I got it. The downside to that is any damage that occurs will be definitely attributable to me. I don't have a GPS unit because they won't let me take one when driving one-way to another country, but I do have a lot of maps and a compass. Unfortunately, Slovenian country roads don't seem to be well labeled, but the Ljubljana tourist brochure assures me that anywhere in the country is only a few hours drive from the capital, so if I get to Austria, I'll know I've gone too far.
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