Francesca Rolandi – The dragon on the castle standing over the city is the symbol of Ljubljana. According to a legend, the Greek hero Jason and his Argonauts stole the Golden Fleece. Their ship called Argo attempted to escape and arrived to the mouth of the Danube River. They continued to sail the Danube and Sava rivers all the way to the Ljubljanica eventually stopping in the marsh around the present-day Ljubljana.
There Jason fought and slew a dragon.
The dragon symbol is present throughout the city, especially on the Dragon Bridge. The Bridge was built in 1901 in an early Secession style in Ljubljana, designed by Jozef Melan and made by the Dalmatian architect Jurij Zaninović.
There is another ancient legend about dragons. According to it, the brotherhood of Kazamate discovered a centennial secret of wisdom that gives peace, happiness and wealth to the people but, in order to protect the secret, they turned it into a Dragon Code. This legend inspired a tourist offer created by a local tourist administration whose aim is to lead visitors through the magical secrets of the city.
Ljubljana was erected at the Roman settlement of Emona and was mentioned for the first time as Laibach in 1144. In 1335 it fell under the Habsburg rule until the end of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Austrian influence is visible in the city’s urban style and architecture; the capital of Slovenia has a strong mid-European element at the same time leaning on Slovene culture as well. Preservation of Roman and medieval remnants enables Ljubljana to present its most important historical moments to visitors. On the other hand, facades of the buildings show variety of styles: the Renaissance, Neo-Classicist and Secession styles. In the period between the two World Wars Jože Plečnik designed and constructed several building in the city.
The marketplace stretching alongside Ljubljanica is the core of the city and appears magical during the winter, covered in snow. A small St. Nicholas’ Christmas market is very popular in December. The city abounds in culture, theatrical performances, music events and 14 international festivals, including museums, the university, modern congress centers etc.
The capital is interesting in the cultural and historic sense but has a lot more to offer. Ljubljana is not a big city with its 250 000 inhabitants. The student population is large and responsible for the development of the ‘underground’ scene dating back to the 1980s. Bands like Laibach (German: Ljubljana) and Borghesie hit the European scene with their experimental expression, giving contribution to alternative music style of the time. Their provocative shows caused them problems with censorship that was active during the Yugoslavian regime.
Currently, there are more and more initiatives supporting one another. Local radio station Radio Student contributes to the development of local initiatives. Metelkova is one of legendary places of Slovenian alternative scene. It used to be Yugoslav Army barracks. The Army left and the barracks were taken over by numerous members of various associations and art groups. Today concerts and other cultural events are taking place in Metelkova and it is sometimes compared to Danish Christiana in the sense of an ‘alternative city’ created in the urban center of Ljubljana. What used to be a military prison is now transformed into a hostel but it is important to make reservations earlier especially during summertime. Unfortunately, after a long legal dispute, a part of this facility was ruined in 2006 upon the order from local authorities; in spite of these obstacles, Metelkova is still open and home to different projects.
We arrive to Metelkova on a summer Sunday evening. They tell us that Sunday is the day when the city is quiet and empty. We go to see a performance by a well known gypsy musician Master Aco who plays famous Italian songs (Adriano Celentano, Toto’ Modugno) and popular Balkan folk songs on his accordion. So it’s not only dub, noise and electronic music in Metelkova. And there’s more than dragons in romantic Ljubljana.