Slovenia is a relatively young nation. Less than 25 years of independence speak for a country marked by constant wars and territorial disputes that have brought the territory to live under Celtic, Roman, German, Frank or Austro-Hungarian domination before joining Serbs and Croats to form a kingdom that was later known as Yugoslavia.
As the legend goes, Ljubljana was created by the mythological Greek hero Jason who, commanding his army of Argonauts, discovered the land where a monster was said to live and haunt the surrounding region. Jason found the creature in the Ljubljanica River, a dragon he slayed and that rests today at the top of the Ljubljana Castle and of the Dragon Bridge that crosses the same river it was hunted from.
A land originally populated by pile dwellers living in wood settlements, the spread of civilisations in human history has ever since brought exotic handicrafts to be found accross the country. Objects from all sort of tribes and epochs have been discovered in Slovenia as a consequence of world migration, making this area to be home today to some of the most ancient ethnic treasures of humanity.
The oldest wheel ever excavated, for instance, the Ljubljana Marshes Wheel, belongs to Slovenia and is believed to be more than 5000 years old. In 1995, archaeologists dug up a flute found at Divje Babe that was made of bone. 55,000 of antiquity say a lot about how groovy early Slovenians were back in the day.
In Roman times the city known today as Ljubljana got its first name, Emona. With a population of 5000 to 6000 people, it was secured by strong city walls which ruins are well preserved and can be seen still today.
In the 14th century, following the expansion of the Habsburg dynasty, the city was renamed Laibach and became the capital of the province of Carniola. It remained under Austrian rule until the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1918.
In the 16th century, Ljubljana became the center of the protestant culture. In 1550, Primoz Trubar, prominent protestant reformer and “father” of the Slovenian written language, published the first two books ever written in Slovene, Katekizem and Abecednik (Catechism and Alphabet).
In the 17th century, the Baroque came to add a new gust of wind to the Renaissance. During this period most of the churches, monasteries and houses of Ljubljana were renovated in the Baroque style.
Under the French occupation and the leadership of Napoleon in the 19th century, Ljubljana became the capital of the Illyrian provinces. This time was also the most creative period of the greatest Slovenian romantic poet France Preseren, whose statue stands tall in the very city center of Ljubljana. Part of his extensive heritage to local literature includes the Zdravljica ("Toast", don't ask me why), which would later become the proud Slovenian national anthem.
Foreign rule ended in 1918 when, following the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Slovenia integrated the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes.
An interesting fact of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs still today is that, in politics and in life, they are passionate people. Stjepan Radic, the leader of the Croatian People’s Party was assassinated in the middle of a heated debate at the country’s parliament in 1928. Increasing tensions over the following years would eventually end up causing the Yugoslav Wars between 1991-2001, one of the bloodiest chapters of human history.
Before that, however, the period between the two wars saw Ljubljana’s appearance being transformed and achieving a beautiful harmony between Roman, Baroque and German Art Nouveau architectural styles. The impact of Joze Plecnik, the most prominent Slovenian architect at the time, was so important that the city was soon labelled as his Ljubljana.
It is essential to know that, due to the numerous earthquakes that have stroke Slovenia - which, I recall, is on the verge of the Eurasian and African tectonic plates - there is no building older than 600 years in all Ljubljana.
After World War II, Ljubljana became the capital of Slovenia, one of the six federal states of Yugoslavia. The city was soon considered a center of alternative art and culture movements, especially during the 1980s, when it became the center of the Yugoslav punk movement.
In 1991, Slovenia finally obtained its independence as a country following a ten-days-long war that claimed 76 lives, the first since WWII.
The country joined the European Union in 2004 and has ever since flourished as a renovated metropolis. Named European Green Capital of 2016, modern and environmentally-friendly rebuilding projects have been consistently witnessed across a city that has closed its center to traffic, living room to a clean, pedestrians-only zone where cafés, bars, museums and history gather to create a lively mixture of culture and leisure.