On the road for the university…Ljubljana!

SLOVENIA…Let’s just say we found the LOVE in this country. Vern and I have listened to tales of Slovenia from friends and former coworkers never thinking we might actually travel there. So how did this all come about, you ask…

The University of Minnesota Duluth offers Education majors an opportunity to practice teaching in international settings, and a school in Ljubljana has been welcoming UMD student teachers for several years. One of the expectations is the students will be observed by a UMD supervisor early in their 8 week placement. In January 2014 I had the honor of observing 5 students in the Danila Kumar International Baccalaureate School in the heart of Ljubljana. Vern was able to join me, and while I worked he spent time familiarizing himself with the city and the bus system (and snapping photos). If first impressions do, indeed, last, then both of us were won over the moment our plane broke through the clouds over the snow-covered Alps shortly before landing.

This lovely capital city, with a population of 300,000, is nestled in the Ljubljana Basin and is divided by the Ljubljanica River. There is a dance of Italian, Slavic, and Germanic influences in the history, the architecture, and the food. This mélange is due in part to the Central European location as well as the lasting impact of the many “invaders”. The Romans arrived 2000 years ago and named the city Emona. Vestiges of Roman ruins were found in many sites in and around the city, and the Natural History Museum has a stunning collection of artifacts. But evidence of earlier inhabitants dates back to 2000 BC . After the Romans, the Huns, the Slavs, the Franks, and the Turks all had a hand in shaping the destiny of Slovenia, which proudly declared independence and split from the Communist Yugoslavia in 1991.

We are grateful for the time our guides devoted to showcasing their beautiful city and surrounding countryside. Irena Steblaj, headmistress of the school, and Katarina Cepic, Irena’s assistant, may well be Ljubljana’s two best ambassadors. And, as if any other testimonial is necessary, the 5 UMD students were equally enchanted! Here are highlights of the city itself…

These photos were taken at Ljubljana Castle, perched high above the city. The original fortress was built in the 12th century, but rebuilt in the 15th century. Prisoners of War, primarily Italians, were kept here during WWI, but according to reports life “behind bars” was quite pleasant…good food, music, theater, wood working, and painting.

We spent our last afternoon in the beautiful region known as Lake Bled. The Alps, the church on the island, the castle at the top of the hill…it was like standing in the middle of a postcard.

And, finally, a few examples of the Ljubljana Dragons symbolizing power, courage, and greatness.

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