Even, today, in the days of astronauts, Ljubljana is still closely associated with the legend of the Argonauts and the golden fleece. Once it was seriously believed that Ljubljana had been founded by Jason, the leader of the Argonauts, who on his trip across the Black Sea and along the rivers Danube and Sava had to sail up the river Ljubljanica to take his miraculous ship – built according to the plane of wise Athena – over Postojna Gate to the Adriatic Sea. It is not necessary to think deeply about the meaning of this story to understand the origin of this town, which grew up at a junction of important roads connecting the Danubian Plains and Central Europe with, the Mediterranean. If at the time the legend of the golden fleece came into being, it had been known that the Ljubljanica is a river which between its sources and Ljubljana disappears underground several times making its way through Karst rocks and caves, of which Postojna is the best known and famous, this story would have been still much more interesting and the overland route for transferring ships much shorter.
There may be no more than a very little grain of truth in the legend about the golden fleece, but it is certainly true that in Roman times the Ljubljanica was navigable down to Vrhnika, which was then called Nauportus. Nor could the waterfalls at Fužine hinder this fast route since at that place a system of locks was built for transferring ships. Thus right at the beginning Ljubljana was an important commercial and strategic centre, This Is why it was first an I illyrian settlement and then a Roman colony, Emona, whose traces can still today be seen in the outlay of some of Ljubljana’s streets. Emona disappeared in the darkness of the 6th century and the only reminder of it today are a couple of restaurants named after it and the remains of its ancient walls at Mirje and in Vegova ulica (street). Medieval Ljubljana developed on the other side of the Ljubljanica, below a fortified castle, but soon began to spread over the river – to the site of former Emona. Having become the political, economic and cultural centre of Slovenia, Ljubljana has recently developed into a modern metropolis.
The old part of the city is strongly Baroque, which can best be seen on the 15th century Magistrate’s Building, reconstructed in the 18th century in Baroque style, In its beautiful courtyard there is a Narcissus’s fountain designed by Francesco Robba, who married a local girl and later on became a Ljubljana citizen. He also designed (1751) the Fountain of the Krain Rivers (Vodnjak kranjskih rek), which reminds us of Bernini’s fountain at Piazza Navona in Rome. Although Baroque predominates, the architecture of the old part of the city reveals some traces of earlier periods, The Monastery of the Knightly Order (Samostan Križanke), built on the site of an earlier monastery of the same order (13th century) was re-adapted between the two wars for the Ljubljana Festival.
The Bishop’s Palace – a fine specimen of Baroque architecture – dates back to the 16th century; the memorial plaque in it is a reminder of Napoleon’s stay here. During Napoleon’s rule, 1809-1813, Ljubljana was the capital of the Illyrian Provinces (Ies Provinces Illyriennes). Another reminder of that time is the Illyrian Column on French Revolution Square (Trg francoske revolucije). The Old Town, rising on a high bluff, played an important strategic role even at the times of the Illyrians and Romans. First recorded in the 12th century, it got its present appearance at the beginning of the 16th century. With its unique position, which offers a superb view of the snow-covered peaks of the Karawanken and the Julian and Carnic Alps, this is one of most attractive viewpoints of the Slovenian capital. The name of the Baroque sculptor, F. Robbe, must be mentioned again in connection with his works in the Cathedral of SI. Nicholas (Sveti Miklavi), the Franciscan Church, the Church of 51. John (Sveti Janez),and the Church of St. Ursula (Sveta Uršula) (impressivefacade). What the name of F. Robbe was for the Baroque architecture of Ljubljana, the name of the architect J. Plečnik, whose works can also be found in Vienna and Prague, is for the modern part of the city. Among his main works we should mention the restoration and conservation of the remaining walls of ancient Emona, Samostan Križanke. the Tivoli Park, Tromostovje, the banks of the river Gradaščica, the University Library and the Market-Hall.
There are five museums in Ljubljana: The National Museum, the Ethnographic Museum, the Natural Sciences Museum (accommodated in the same building at Prešernova ulica 20), the Municipal Museum (Gospodska ulica 15) and the Museum of the National Liberation (Celovska ulica 23). There are two art galleries – National and Modern.
In addition to parks and gardens for recreation, as for example ŠIŠENSKI HRIB (428 m) and ROŽNIK (393 m), Ljubljana’s special attraction are the numerous excursion places in its immediate surroundings. The good lines of communication which served Ljubljana at the time 01 the golden fleece have proved themselves precious in the era of modern tourism. Ljubljana is an excellent starting point for excursions in all directions, both for those who wish to go skiing in the Alps or swim in the Adriatic. In addition to the tours mentioned in our routes (see map), we must mention the very interesting road to Maribor and Celje.
Published on: 04.04.2011