Dragon city Ljubljana
Dragon city Ljubljana
Slovenia’s “Dragon City” a Green City that Welcomes you as a Local
Ljubljana is the kind of city that can excite the imagination of young boys. Also known as “The Dragon City,” Slovenia’s capital is associated with ancient myths and legends. The most common story involved Jason and the Argonauts stealing the Golden Fleece and slaying a dragon where the city now stands. Hence it’s nick-name. In addition to the country’s many castles, crusader past and stunning natural beauty, Slovenia inspires the most vivid of Dark Age fantasies.
Actually before I came to Ljubljana I realized I knew nothing about the city. Other than having a good friend here refer to Ljubljana as the “Dragon City”, I never really thought much about the country. As I had planned to visit Germany and Italy on my maiden voyage to Europe I figured I would finally take my friends up on their “you can sleep on my couch” offer and experience the city I knew so little about.
What I found when I got here was something amazing. Slovenia’s capital – with a tiny population of 280,000 people – feels like a journey to the past. It is a city with old churches, cobblestone walk ways and a castle on the hill. Every Saturday there is a large open air market offering local and organic produce all from local farmers. As an amusing testament to the city’s small town atmosphere I had only been in Ljubljana for four days and saw old and new mayor doing their shopping in the city centre, a sight you would never see in Toronto!
What impressed me most about the city though were its aspirations to be a green city. Starting in the 1960s the government restricted the amount of cars in the centre up until last year (2012) when cars were banned from the centre completely. According to a guide I spoke with, the government will extend these sanctions to making the city’s main street completely car free (with the exception of public buses) because they feel there is no justification for the amount of cars on the road with only one driver! A fair trade since affordable taxies and automated bike rentals are made accessible to all.
Ljubljana’s biggest asset is that it is a “young” city. Over 60% of the city’s inhabitants are students. Like any city with such a young population it is filled with an energy usually seen in bigger metropolises. Waterfront cafes, live music and an active night life define the city. Artisanal beer and second hand clothing stores help fuel the elements that make the city so unique.
Unlike nearby Venice, Ljubljana has never been a tourist hot spot. Much of the city has been recently renovated. This was never to entice tourism but to improve the standard of life for its citizens. Not to say that the city does not have a variety of museums and art galleries for tourists, but can you think of a capital that doesn’t?
What makes Ljubljana so great is that you don’t feel like a tourist because the city is not focussing all of its energy on tourism. You can visit the centre, cafes and pubs just like everyone else. The good local and tourist restaurants all exist in the same place and the city’s only skyscraper is a hot spot for more the citizens than anyone else. It is one of those unique places that have not sacrificed its essence for tourism dollars. Whether you see it as the dragon city, a green city, or a student city, Ljubljana is great and though I have only been here a week I already feel like a local!
by Michael Soncina published in Travel Culture on may 6, 2013