Ljubljana, Slovenia – April 2001

When does Ljubljana wake up from her winter sleep?

Different people will provide different definitions. Some will say, when trees on the surrounding hills – Golovec, Smarna Gora and Roznik, all popular weekend spots for the people of Ljubljana – start budding to finally explode in white blossoms and green leaves. Some will say, when the first rays of sun lose their shyness and warm up the pale cheeks of masses treading on her streets. Some will say, never. Others will doubt about Ljubljana ever sleeping.

Each of them is right in their own way. To me, however, Ljubljana opens her eyes when tables are laid on terraces of bars and restaurants, offering sun along with your coffee or meal. There is something festive in riding a bus to work in the morning and seeing waiters placing tables outside. Spotting this, I start believing that the spring has come, and what’s even better, that it will be replaced by summer. And from that moment I’m lost in travel plans, fantasies of where the wind (or better, train) will take me this year, and anticipation of laughing and dancing the warm nights away with my mates. My poor boss, if only he knew…

So what’s really happening in Ljubljana this April, apart from it being blessed with loads of sunshine and temperatures of about 15 degrees (and rising)? Quite a few things! If you pass a cinema and encounter a mass of people looking as if they had just had a good laugh, they’re quite likely to have watched The Ode to Preseren, a new Slovenian film which really makes you roar.

Well, there’s usually not much to laugh about in Slovenian films (apart from amateur stories and pathetic production), but this satire about our greatest poet (his statue stands on the central square of the same name and is the most common meeting point of the people of Ljubljana), bluffing artists and the rigidity of Slovenian cultural institutions is a whole different matter. Judging by his debut, the young director Martin Srebotnjak (also the author of an excellent web page of Comrade Tito – www.titoville.com) could well be called the Woody Allen of Slovenia.

Spring is at its most apparent in Tivoli, the central park of Ljubljana, where joggers abound (improving their figures for the beach, I imagine) and young mums and dads with prams gather from the whole city. If you don’t fancy jogging nor you have any babies, sit down by the pond and have a cup of coffee and a piece of cake in the renovated Boathouse (which unfortunately doesn’t serve the purpose anymore).

This will give you strength to explore the city. Why not head for the Central Market and buy a flower? Or some spices for your daily pasta? Strawberries are still very expensive, but if you feel you’re really worth that special treat…

Even if you don’t have any money or inclinations to shop, the Central Market, designed by our greatest architect Plecnik (the guy on the 500 SIT banknote), is a real sight, especially in the sunshine. And everything is just a step from there – the Cathedral of St Nicholas (I like the door), the house facing it from the other side of the road (I don’t know what sort of monument it is, but it’s my favourite in Ljubljana), the Old Town as such, and last but not least, the Castle which surely hosts some exhibition again, if the view alone is not enough for you. Which reminds me: don’t go there on Saturdays because the high wedding season is coming and you’re likely to get lost among all the guests milling about. Not to mention that you can get hitched accidentally…

And where to go after the sunset? Choice is big and growing! Check it all out on my website. And if you happen to be around, don’t forget to contact the author of this text – she’s a well sociable creature!

See you in May with the update on how musicians are warming up for the annual ethno festival Druga Godba, how the Summer theatre is preparing to welcome Nick Cave, one of my favourite singers (who once said that Ljubljana is his favourite place), and a lot more!

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