Continuing our walk around Ljubljana we visited the walls of the old Roman city and another church, the Cerkov Sv Janeza Krstnika before we turned and returned to the city centre passing through the impressive French Revolution Square where there is a monument to one of the great men of Europe. Well, he might have been a bully and a tyrant and not many places have monuments to Napoleon these days but here in Ljubljana they have cause to remember him fondly because for a short period from 1809 to 1813 he brought a brief moment of enlightenment to a perpetually repressed nation.
From the twelfth century onwards Slovenia suffered six hundred years of Austro-Hungarian domination but under Napoleon Bonaparte’s European adventure Slovenia enjoyed a few short years of national pride and independent identity. Napoleon humiliated Austria in 1806 at the battle of Austerlitz and again in 1809 at the battle of Wagram following which the Austrian Empire was obliged to cede up to a fifth of its empire, including Slovenia, which became the Province of Illyria which in turn allowed the Slovene language and culture to flourish.
Back in the city we attempted to visit the Cerkov Sv Jakob but it was closed so we walked back along the right bank of the river until we found a convenient bar with a river terrace where we stopped for refreshment. As we had been walking the weather had been slowly changing and the crisp blue skies had become cloudy and overcast and the weather increasingly more humid and oppressive and as we enjoyed our break the clouds became increasingly menacing culminating in a turbulent thunderstorm that sent everyone scurrying for shelter. The storm was all around us, the thunder was ear shattering and the lightening bolts were dramatic but we were fine, we were stuck in a bar enjoying a light show spectacular, so it could have been a whole lot worse.
I was beginning to understand why Ljubljana is the wettest capital in Europe and why everyone carries an umbrella but finally the storm cleared and we were able to leave the sanctuary of the bar and walk back to the hotel. On the way we called in at a supermarket, the Mercator, which I have discovered is Slovenia’s biggest and most successful company with 41.3% share of the retail market, which is quite a lot (In the United Kingdom the biggest retailer is Tesco with about 31% of market share) and we bought some screw cap Slovenian wine and some snacks to take back with us.
The wine didn’t turn out to be all that good but we drank it all the same and ate the snacks and after a quick change went back out for evening meal. It was a fine night so we thought that it was appropriate to dine al fresco and we came across a promising restaurant, the Julija, with pavement tables and a good menu so we stayed there and enjoyed a simple and delicious meal with portions much more manageable than the Gostilna Sokol.
We walked back through charming streets of the city that regrettably were all disfigured by graffiti. This is a real problem in Ljubljana where every building provides a canvas and an opportunity for the so-called artists. Every year there is a city spring clean organised by the Ljubljana City Authorities as part of the annual activity “Za lepso Ljubljano” (For a Prettier Ljubljana). The operation cleans up three hundred and eighty square metres of river walls and also tidies city streets, passageways and parks as well as cleaning two kilometres of riverbed by divers. This year photographs of reflections of the city replaced the graffiti on the riverbanks, which was a big improvement over the mindless spray paint damage.