Special, one-off, first of its kind…let’s go on a unique walk through Ljubljana

by Peter Kamien

You’ll find many walks through Ljubljana in various guidebooks – but mine is a very special one. I’m taking you to see some ‘uniquenesses’. Strictly-speaking, that might not be a word, but it’s the best way to describe this collection of fascinating objects and sights.

After all, the Cambridge dictionary defines ‘unique’ as ‘being the only existing one of its type or, more generally, unusual, or special in some way’. During this walk, I’ll show you five uniquenesses that give me a thrill every time I see them. And then (because this is wonderful, surprising Ljubljana), I’m sure you’ll go on to find many more.

The only monument to Napoleon outside of France

The only monument to Napoleon outside of France

If you cross Ljubljana’s enchanting Old Town, you’ll come to the Križanke Summer Theatre. And right in front of it, you’ll see a monument to Napoleon – of which there are exactly zero others, outside France. This was not a nice fellow – so why do the Slovenians love him?

Well, in 1809, Napoleon founded the province of Illyria, which extended from Slovenia to the Dalmatian coast, thus saving the western part of Slovenia from the Habsburgs. He also used Slovenian governors there and made Slovenian the official language. And this freedom of language was preserved even when the Austrians took over the territory again.

Many monuments have been raised to many people for much less!

The only flatiron building outside New York

The only flatiron building outside New York

The famous Slovenian architect Plečnik shaped Ljubljana’s cityscape like nobody else – but he wasn’t above borrowing a good idea.

Close to the city centre, you will find the Poljanska Street. And there you’ll see a bizarrely-shaped building right in front of your nose. It was built in 1932 to replace a building damaged by an earthquake. Having to keep to the narrow existing floor plan was a real challenge for Plečnik until he came up with this (almost) unique design, which has earned the place its name: The Flatiron House.

Our own Egyptian pyramid on the city wall

Our own Egyptian pyramid on the city wall

Yes! That’s the next stop on our walk.

Ljubljana was built on the remains of a Roman military settlement, and even today, you can see evidence of this Roman past, including the remains of their city wall.

This was restored by Plečnik, in his typical intriguing style. He loved to coordinate ancient and modern elements, never shying away from extraordinary stylistic juxtapositions. And so, in the middle of the restored Roman wall…he put an Egyptian pyramid on.

Trnovo Bridge – the only tree-lined bridge in the world

Trnovo Bridge – the only tree-lined bridge in the world

Again, we have the brilliant, innovatory mind of Plečnik to thank for this unique bridge, whose outlines are deliberately hidden by a double row of birch trees planted along the bridge itself. It’s an excellent example of ‘green planting’, used to compensate for the use of concrete and to preserve the beauty of the bridge’s surroundings.

You’ll find the Trnovo Bridge very close to the architect’s own house, which now houses the Plečnik Museum. While you’re in the area, it’s well worth paying a visit to the home of these wonderful ideas.

But now, after all this uniqueness, we’ve earned a drink. My suggestion is a delightful bar which also represents another of Ljubljana’s uniquenesses:

Drink in the views from the Balkan region's first ‘skyscraper’

Drink in the views from the Balkan region's first ‘skyscraper’

Built-in 1933, Nebotičnik (the Slovenian word for ‘skyscraper) is a fine example of interwar architecture. On its elegant terrace, Café Nebotičnik offers one of the best views of Ljubljana in the city.

The skyscraper was built after the American models of the time and is over 70 metres high, making it the tallest building in the Balkan region. It was designed with a shopping mall on the ground floor – again, a glimpse of the future well ahead of its time.

Take a seat on the terrace and look around you. Perhaps raise a glass to this little taste of Ljubljana’s uniqueness. There’s a lot more to discover, too. Have fun!

Peter Kamien

Peter Kamien is a doctor of psychology and was East European director of an international advertising agency.

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