The D&O Diary’s Eastern European sojourn continued last week with a stop in Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia. Ljubljana may not be familiar to many readers, so here’s what you need to know about the place: Ljubljana is an absolute gem – compact and beautiful. Ljubljana has a great vibe, great wine, and interesting architecture. Ljubljana, my friends, is a seriously cool place.
Slovenia is a small country, tucked into the center of Europe. It is bordered by Austria, Croatia, Hungary, and Italy. The country is not landlocked; it has a 28.5 mile seacoast on the Adriatic between Italy and Croatia. It is about the size of New Jersey, but with less than one fourth of the population. (Slovenia’s population is about 2 million.) It was part of the Habsburg Empire for over 600 years. After World War I, Slovenia became part of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (which later became Yugoslavia). In 1991, Slovenia became an independent country, when it was the first country to break away from Yugoslavia. It later joined the EU, and in 2004 it adopted the Euro. Today, despite some stumbles during the global financial crisis, Slovenia is a comfortable, prosperous country.
Ljubljana is just a 45-minute plane flight from flight from Vienna; flying in from the north there are great views of Slovenia’s alpine mountains. During the Habsburg era, the Austrians called the city Laibach. As seems to be the case with so many Eastern European capital cities, Ljubljana’s historic old town sits at the base of the a castle hill. The city’s current population is about 250,000, but Ljublana feels smaller – it is a city that can be covered almost entirely on foot. It is in fact an extraordinarily pleasant city in which to walk around. The tree-lined river with promenades on either side winds through the old town. Casual strollers walk along the river, while others sit at sidewalk cafes and restaurants taking in the pleasant ambiance.
The castle occupies a prominent place above the city, but after renovations in the 1940s and 1970s, the castle building is almost featureless, other than the mismatching 1848 clock tower. However, from the top of castle hill, you can see over the old city’s red tiled rooftops to the mountains beyond. And as we learned on this trip, there is an excellent restaurant in the castle, as well.
Much of the city was destroyed by an earthquake in 1895, and many of the buildings in the New Town were rebuilt in an attractive Vienna Secession style. A generation later, the local architect Jože Plečnik, whose distinct style is virtually ubiquitous in Ljubljana, added a host of buildings, landmarks, and public works. It might be a stretch, but it could be argued that Plečnik is to Ljubljana as Gaudí is to Barcelona. One of his best known works, and perhaps the city’s most famous landmark, is the distinctive Triple Bridge, a clever design that allowed an older historical bridge to be preserved while adding traffic capacity. The Triple Bridge can be seen in center of the picture at the top of the post. The city’s central district has a number of other distinctive bridges, including most notably the Dragon Bridge, apparently designed in reference to a legendary local marsh dragon that apparently plays a role in the tale of Jason and the Argonauts. The dragon has become a symbol for Ljubljana, appearing, for instance, on the city’s flag.
On the opposite side of the city’s central district is Tivoli Park; Rožnik, an almost 1,300 foot wooded hill with hiking trails slopes upward behind the formal park. The woods on the hillside have a convincingly rustic feel, providing a little bit of a taste of Slovenia outside of the capital city’s confines. While walking in the woods, I was delighted to hear the call of a cuckoo for the first time. Even though I had never heard it before, the cuckoo’s call is unmistakable. A brilliantly painted church sits on a ridge top on the hill, and just below, there is a small restaurant, with views over and of the mountains beyond.
As great as it was becoming acquainted with Ljubljana’s many charms, my primary reason for visiting Ljubljana was to participate in a series of meetings with local attorneys and agents. One of the highlights of my visit to the city was a very interesting and informative meeting with the professionals at Advisio, one of the prominent local insurance agencies and the preeminent financial lines broker in Slovenia.
I would like to thank Peter Schlamberger and Vanja Nadali of Polaris Underwriting for arranging the meetings and for being such good hosts while I was in Ljubljana. They made sure all of the meetings were successful and that the Ljubljana visit was rewarding. They were also excellent hosts for a particularly memorable meal at the restaurant in the castle. My thanks to them for inviting me to Ljubljana and for arranging the meetings.
More Pictures of Ljubljana: