Ljubljana, Slovenia

Trip Start Feb 08, 2008
Trip End Sep 11, 2009

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Saturday, August 8, 2009

Ljubljana, Slovenia, finally back in the western culture. With that and the physical environment similar to my own (roughly same latitude) I am feeling very comfortable. Except it is still quite warm and a bit humid. But, culturally I am back in my own western milieu. And it feels good. This immediately raises contemplations upon the contrasts between the eastern cultures (as represented in my experience by Turkey--unique in its own right)--and the culture of western civilization, with similar values even in its varied national characteristics. I'm not sure at this moment I can set down that which so rapidly and intermitantly races through my mind. My host here in Ljubljana happens to have a fairly contemporary treatise on the subject: Samuel P. Huntington's "The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order." It is sure to be one of my earliest reads upon returning home and settling in.

For the short term summary, as I said above, being in the western milieu feels good. That is not only because it is my own familiar cultural heritage that it feels good, but  it is because we in the west do things to make ourselves feel good; to make improvements in our personal and public lives so that life is more of an easy and pleasurable experience. Or can be. And I don't mean that in a sybaritic way. I mean in--if you will--a socialistic way. Especially so in Europe, even more so than in the U.S. So it appears to me, at least.

Whatever the case, I have been enjoying my time in Ljubljana. Looking back, my time in Turkey was largely a grind. I quite often "worked" at what I was doing--making long hikes and such, especially in the latter weeks and months. And, finally, Turkey itself can wear you down. It does so to its own people as well. So in a sense here in Ljubljana I have been joking to myself in my own mind that I have been "taking a vacation from my vacation." Rather than racing around to the tourist sights and or hiking and such as has been my pattern, (Or, for that matter, just looking at the practically non-variant of Turkish towns and cities), I have been indulging in the comforts that this city offers. Namely, a beautiful central cityscape, with lots of outdoor cafes, some ice cream that I can really appreciate, and more time socializing with my hosts Mill and Sue. I have been casually walking around a lot. Shopping, actually. But also sitting in some of the comfortable outdoor cafes for food and coffee, and reading my book on the Balkan history since the Byzantine times.

Mill and Sue are a young couple. Sue is a student of agronomy, and Mill is a philosophy student (while still serving in the Croatian military, which, he explains, is rather more like a national guard than an army). They are quite young, but seem to have a compatibility that few couples achieve in a lifetime. Mill can be intense, but not in a demanding way. In conversation he is vigorous. For me it has been a  pleasure to speak with him as we can discuss topics and ideas that most friends just never bother to engage about. Sue is quiet and with a sweet, humorous disposition.

Ljubljana is a city that was a mystery to me. I did know that Slovenia was the first of the former Yugoslavian territories to gain independence, and had kept pretty much out of the recent wars down south. But that's about it (if I am correct thus far). Right now Slovenia is probably faring better than any of the other former territories. It is in the European Union and the Euro is the currency of commerce. (I hope I'm not "talking through my hat" here).

But at least I can report with confidence that Ljubljana, Slovenia is a beautiful city, and well worth a visit. And many are visiting. The streets are filled--but not overly crowded--with european tourists. And some American, too. But, it is not an obnoxious presence. Street and river side cafes abound, are very comfortable with a variety of offerings. I am not too culturally smart in that I still don't know what to order to get a big cup of coffee, rather than some little thing that you get for seemingly just to sippy-sip or dip your tongue into.

I have walked around some, visiting two notable  structures, the castle and the National University Library, the latter for its architectural features. In the castle there was an art show with one piece, a painted rock, that I would have loved to acquire. But there was no indication that it was for sale or further information about the artist. Additionally, I noted a couple of architectural details that caught my eye, a stair method of  construction that was new to me; and a metal door (two or three layers of steel, I think), with an interesting method for the  handles, the metal just being bent outward.

Of the library, it was designed by a sort of Frank Lloyd Wright of Slovenia. And somewhere in my past--recent past--I  had seen a picture of its distinguished front door handles, which I thought quite handsome.

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