Mestna obcina Ljubljana
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Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia, is a dynamic European city lying at an altitude of 298 meters above sea level in a broad basin between the Alps and the Adriatic Sea. Ljubljana's geographical position has governed its colourful past, since it is situated on a natural passage from Central Europe to the Mediterranean and toward the East called the "Ljubljana Gate." It is therefore not simply by pure coincidence that trade routes and waves of migration have passed through it since ancient times. From the times of the first settlers right down to the present day, the transit character of this area has stimulated the constant growth of economic and cultural ties with other cities and nations.
Today, Ljubljana stands at the intersection of the national expressway system currently under construction. Slovenia's "expressway cross" is oriented in two general directions: Vienna - Graz - Maribor - Ljubljana - Nova Gorica - Trieste - Venice and Munich - Salzburg - Jesenice - Ljubljana - Zagreb - Belgrade - Athens - Istanbul. Ljubljana's ring road and major streets offer convenient access to the expressway.
Ljubljana is also the junction of rail routes to Austria, Italy, and ports along the Adriatic Sea as well as eastwards.
Ljubljana's International Airport at Brnik, twenty five kilometers from the city, has contributed to the development of modern passenger and cargo air transport linking Ljubljana with many centers in Europe and other continents on the basis of daily flights. Adria Airways, Slovenia's national airline, has its headquarters in Ljubljana.
If one is to believe the legend, Ljubljana was founded by the Greek prince Jason who is said to have wintered here with the Argonauts during his flight with the stolen Golden Fleece from the Black Sea along the Danube, Sava, and Ljubljanica rivers on the Argo.
What is known for certain is that the first settlements of pile-dwellers sprang up in this region more than five thousand years ago, followed later by the Illyrians and the Celts. Somewhat greater proof of their stay in the area was left by the Romans who first settled here around 50 B.C. and founded the city of Emona, which in its most flourishing times numbered between five and six thousand inhabitants. Most made their living as merchants or tradesmen, while others were officials and retired soldiers. Emona suffered several barbarian invasions and was pillaged and severely damaged by the Huns under Attila in 452 A.D.
Our Slavic ancestors came into this region at the end of the 6th century and built a settlement against the safe flank of Castle Hill that gradually grew into a medieval town that spread across the banks of the Ljubljanica River.
The first written mention of Ljubljana dates back to 1144 when the city was referred to under the German name of Laibach. A phonetic transcription of the Slovene name for the city (Luwigana) appears in a later manuscript. Those to whom the city has endeared itself support the theory that the name can only stem from the word "ljubljena," which means "beloved."
Ljubljana's historical rise began in the 13th century when it became the capital of the Province of Carniola and received the privileges of a city. In 1335, it came under Hapsburg rule and, with the exception of the period of Napoleon's occupation, remained so until World War I. The year 1461 marked the foundation of the Ljubljana diocese. Ljubljana's famous thousand-year-old castle appeared on the municipal seal in the 15th century as well. A dragon was added at the beginning of the 17th century, and both survive today as symbols on the city's coat of arms.
From the end of the Middle Ages onwards, Ljubljana gradually assumed the role of the Slovene cultural capital. Slovene Protestantism, the most powerful social movement of the 16th century, was a major influence in this. This period was particularly marked by Primoz Trubar, who published the first Slovene book in 1550, and by Jurij Dalmatin, who rendered the first translation of the Bible into Slovene. At that time, the city was also an important center of trade and crafts, and after a major earthquake in 1511, it began to take on a decidedly Renaissance appearance.
From its very beginnings, Ljubljana's culture and lifestyle has been attuned to contemporary currents in Europe, while the temperament of its residents has been influenced by both the Central European and the Mediterranean spirit. The city expressed its alignment with Italian culture in the 17th century with the founding of the Academia Operosorum (1693), an association of local scholars-theologians, physicians, lawyers and philosophers-who, among other things, provided the incentive for establishing the first public library and invited numerous foreign masters to enrich the artistic and architectural image of Ljubljana. In the process, the Baroque spirit soon began to envelop the city's former Renaissance appearance.
Ljubljana prides itself on having one of the oldest Philharmonic Academies in Europe, established in 1701. Among the honorary members of the Philharmonic Society that developed from the previous orchestra toward the end of the 18th century, we can cite such illustrious names as Haydn, Beethoven, Brahms, and Paganini, while Mahler was its conductor for one season.
When the French under the command of Napoleon Bonaparte occupied Carniola, Ljubljana became the capital of the Illyrian Provinces for four years (1809-1813). During this time, the city also acquired its first post-secondary school.
The most important event in the first years following Napoleon's downfall during which Austria strengthened her renewed hold on the province was the Ljubljana Congress of the Holy Alliance in 1821. New buildings and squares welcomed Europe's rulers (including the Czar of Russia, the Austrian Emperor, and the King of the Two Sicilies), high-ranking statesmen from many countries, and their retinues who spent several months in Ljubljana.
In this period, Ljubljana greatly developed its commerce, most of which was conducted with Trieste. The completion of the Vienna - Trieste railroad in 1857 provided the basis for the city's further growth and industrialization and brought it even closer to Europe. Due to the railroad, the role of the Ljubljanica River as a trade and traffic route began to decline.
The 19th century was marked by numerous major achievements, among which we should mention the establishment of the first savings bank in 1820, the publication of the first Slovene-language newspaper in 1843, the introduction of public gas lighting in 1861, the foundation of the Slovenska matica publishing house in 1864, the opening of a tobacco factory employing a thousand workers in 1873, the election of the first Slovene mayor in 1882, the first electric street lights in 1883, and the municipal waterworks in 1890.
In 1895, a second major earthquake hit Ljubljana and damaged many buildings beyond repair. The rebuilding was largely supervised by Austrian architects who brought Vienna's Secessionist style to the city. The new style blended well with the old Baroque buildings, and the harmony underlines the fact that in architecture as much as in other fields, Ljubljana reflects the dialogue between northern and southern Europe.
The Slovene architect Joze Plecnik (1872-1957) played a decisive role in shaping the modern appearance of Ljubljana in the period between the two World Wars. With great love and immeasurable talent, Plecnik captured the very spirit of the city and left an indelible mark on its architectural image. In fact, his personal influence was so strong that the city is sometimes referred to as "Plecnik's Ljubljana."
With the disintegration of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, Slovenia and its capital became part of a new state, the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes, later renamed the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. Ljubljana, with its 45,000 inhabitants, now formally became the administrative and political center of Slovenia, and, as a result, a number of vitally important cultural institutions were founded: the National Gallery (1918), the University of Ljubljana (1919), and the Academy of Arts and Sciences (1937). For centuries, the Slovenes had compensated for their lack of political power through cultural activities. Bound together by culture and language, the Slovenes persevered for centuries, contributing much to European science and art in the process.
World War II was a harsh ordeal for Ljubljana and its population. In 1941, the city was occupied by the Italians, who surrounded it with barbed wire, and then by the Germans until it was liberated in May of 1945. Ljubljana then became the capital of one of the six federal republics of the new Yugoslavia. The city then experienced even more intensive economic, social, and cultural development, which was accompanied by a considerable increase in its population (from 153,000 in 1946 to approximately 270,000 in 1990).
When Slovenia won its independence in June of 1991, Ljubljana became the capital of a new European state.
The Modern Pulse of the City
Today, Ljubljana is a pleasant city in which to live, since it combines the facilities and efficiency of a metropolis with the relaxed ambience of smaller towns. It is the political and cultural heart of the Slovene people; an important European center for trade, business, congresses, and commercial fairs; and the transportation, scientific, and educational center of Slovenia. The inhabitants themselves and numerous visitors agree that it is truly a city of human dimensions that is also renowned for its vibrant ambience since culture is not regarded here as the concern of an elite minority but as a way of living and thinking.
For the size of its population, Ljubljana has, on the European scale, an above-average number of museums (22), galleries (53), theatres (10), and artistic and cultural events. The driving force behind many of these activities is the Cankarjev dom Cultural and Congress Center, a multipurpose building opened in 1980. In its ten large auditoriums with a total seating of approximately 5000, Cankarjev dom annually hosts around 1000 cultural events along with some 250 national and international congresses and convention-related events.
Ljubljana residents are passionate about the performing arts, and the International Summer Festival featuring music, theatre, and dance performances held in various venues throughout the city is the major event in Ljubljana's summer cultural calendar. A series of other events such as the International Jazz Festival (among the oldest in Europe) and the "Summer in the Old Town" program round out the lively cultural tempo of the summer season, when Ljubljana could hardly be called lethargic.
Throughout the year, Ljubljana's four orchestras (the Slovene Philharmonic alone gives thirty-six subscription concerts in a season, not to mention the numerous guest orchestras and soloists who perform here), ballet company, and drama theatres satisfy the craving for cultural entertainment of citizens and visitors alike. In addition, the 27,000 students at the University of Ljubljana fuel an active alternative art and entertainment scene that ranges from street theatre and postmodernist art galleries to music clubs featuring fusion jazz, vintage punk, and techno. Especially in spring and summer, café tables don't just line but rather fill the narrow streets of the Old Town, and street musicians entertain passers-by along the pedestrian-only streets and squares. Then, Ljubljana becomes a Prague without the crowds or a Latin Quarter minus the Parisian attitude . . .
Ljubljana's identity is also linked to the fine arts. In addition to its two central institutions, the National Gallery, which exhibits the works of Slovene and foreign artists from the Gothic period to Impressionism, and the Museum of Modern Art that displays works by Slovene artists of the 20th century, numerous other galleries exhibit primarily works by contemporary artists. The Ljubljana School of Graphics and the International Biennial of Graphic Art established in 1955 have placed Ljubljana on the world map as an important art center. As contemporary alternative rock music was marked by the band Laibach, the IRWIN group made a significant impact on the Ljubljana art scene from the 1980s onwards and became one of the most provocative and fascinating groups to exhibit in several prestigious galleries in Europe and the United States.
It is therefore not mere chance that Ljubljana became the venue for the European Month of Culture between May and July in 1997. During this period, more than two thousand artists from all over Europe and Slovenia presented 250 performances featuring theatre and street theatre, opera and operetta, concerts, exhibitions, video arts, and film along with various symposia and seminars.
Everyone from Ljubljana's cultural institutions and independent organizations covering all fields of art were involved in this important event.
Since Slovenes are among the few nations who have a "Culture Day" as a national holiday, we should stress that our "temple" of the written word, the National and University Library, stores around two million titles and is complemented by four other major libraries, 115 specialist libraries, and six general education libraries scattered across the city.
The outstanding scientific potential generated by the Ljubljana University and fourteen scientific institutes (the Jozef Stefan Physics Institute, the UNESCO Center of Chemical Studies, the University Clinical Center, etc.), the active participation of our scientists and other experts in international associations, the inclusion of Slovenia and its representatives in international, intergovernmental, and professional organizations, the opening of our economy to the world, and the stable political, economic, and social situation of the country represent strong assets when outlining the advantages of Ljubljana as a venue for meetings and conferences of all types.
Besides the excellent facilities and professional know-how, the feeling of well-being, the sense of safety, the relaxed efficiency, and the genuine hospitality are often quoted as the lasting impressions that conference delegates and business executives carry from Ljubljana, which for more than twenty years has been on the map of international meeting sites.
Ljubljana's economy has always been quite heterogeneous, enabling it to adapt rapidly to the ever-changing environment of the world economy. Ljubljana produces about 25% of Slovenia's Gross Domestic Product and has maintained a constant orientation toward long-term international business cooperation. This process has been complemented on one side by well-developed commercial activities and on the other by an increasingly comprehensive, high-quality tourist and catering sector.
At present, the level of active working population is 64% and out of the total employed, 50% are women; 64% work in the economic sector and 36% in the public sector. Industry is still the most important employer in the city (pharmaceuticals, petrochemicals, food-processing), and Ljubljana's industrial companies are among the major Slovene exporters. Industry is followed by retailing, financial and other business services, transport and communication, construction, skilled trades and services, and tourism and catering. In the public sector, employment is found in the fields of education and culture, followed by health care and social security, social organizations, and local administration.
The Ljubljana Fair, established in 1921, was among the founders of UFI (Union des Foires Internationales), the International Fairs Association. Today, Ljubljana's major trade exhibitions include the Wine Fair, Modern Electronics, Medilab, and Lesma, all quoted in the UFI calendar.
Since 1990, Ljubljana has been the site of a World Trade Center, enabling even more efficient business networking.
The citizens of Ljubljana have always been concerned about the harmonious development of their city, its pleasing appearance, the efficient performance of city services, and the construction and maintenance of urban infrastructure. Urban planning was introduced in Ljubljana after the 1895 earthquake, and two eminent urban planners of the time, Camillo Sitte and Max Fabiani, were engaged. Later, numerous new residential districts were built with special consideration for ecological constraints. Ljubljana maintains a widespread network of public utilities and a relatively extensive public transportation system, has overhauled its primary street network, and has built a new ring road around the city.
Ljubljana has recently undertaken and completed numerous major projects to further modernize the city: the reconstruction of the central railway station (the new central bus terminal is still in the planning stages), the renovation of Ljubljana Castle, the rebuilding and expansion of the central heating plant, and several others. All new projects are strictly adapted to ecological criteria. Many restored period buildings and urban spaces in the old city core enrich Ljubljana's appearance as the result of a continuing project called Ljubljana, My City.
Ljubljana's natural surroundings offer excellent opportunities for the development of various sports and recreational activities, while the Tivoli Sports Hall and other major sports facilities in the city have already played host to numerous international championships in ice hockey, basketball, table tennis, gymnastics, weightlifting, figure skating, kayak and canoe racing, and athletics.
Ljubljana is certainly a city with a high quality of life. It is a city of greenery, its very center occupied by parks and forests, but it also represents an ideal departure point for the discovery of all the variety Slovenia has to offer. The unique karst region, the Adriatic coast, the mountains, the hilly winegrowing regions, and many historic towns are all within a two-hour drive.
And returning to Ljubljana in the evening, is there a better suggestion than to verify for yourself that what the astrologers profess is true, that Ljubljana residents are born under the sign of the gastronome Jupiter? In addition, you should know that Ljubljana proudly wears the title City of Wines and Vines awarded to it by the International Board for Wines and Vines in Paris in recognition of its centuries-long wine trade, its position at the center of Slovene winegrowing regions, and its annual Wine Fair. So it's certain that exquisite meals will be served in good company . . .
Ljubljana's appearance and flair has charmed many visitors. The traveller will find here a unique combination of a tranquil capital city bubbling with the spiritual energy of the nation.
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