This’ll make me sound like a pretty ignorant person… but I’m going to say it anyway because it’s the truth. I don’t really take a huge interest in any place until I’m actually there. It’s difficult for me to become engaged before I’m in a particular location. For instance, I didn’t think much about Slovenia until I was actually in Ljubljana, and knew I was going to be staying there for six days straight.
Ljubljana isn’t a huge city. But it’s beautiful and safe and delightful. Everyone should go. I think I say this every time I write anything about Ljubljana. But more than this, I believe this applies to all of Slovenia. Because, once I was there, I read everything I could about it, including the nifty little pamphlets about local festivals and attractions in the country. Just go and it’ll be awesome. Done.
Anyway. Most people we spoke to who actually live there found our planned six-day stay to be a little much. Most people don’t stay more than 3 days, or so it would seem. After all, the city isn’t very big. BUT our leisurely pace in Ljubljana allowed us to really explore the city. It’s super-walkable! And I love walking! I studied the tourist map provided to us by the hotel. I noticed there was a National Museum of Contemporary History.
“Andrew!” I declared, “We should go!”
“We can totally walk there!”
The museum is on the edge of Tivoli City Park, in Cekin Mansion, which is in fact is part of the Park.
Also, it is pink.
To me, it had a very Wes Anderson-type feel to it. The twee colour of the mansion is a contrast to the the interior, where you’ll find articles from several wars. In addition to the interwar period and post-war Yugoslavia.
I’m going to tell you right now, that I still haven’t studied the entire history of Slovenia. Until I visited, all I really knew was just snippets of international news coverage of the Yugoslav Wars in 1991 when I was a kid and I heard peripherally about the conflicts in Croatia, Bosnia, and Kosovo. Our first day in Ljubljana, we took a walking tour with a local guide, and she showed us around town and at the end, we sat in a park and she told us about the Ten-Day War. This was when I connected Slovenia in my head to the wars I’d heard about in the 90’s.
She told us about how Yugoslavia was gearing up to break apart, and, well, the Yugoslav People’s Army (JNA) did not want this to happen. However, Slovenia was especially intent on gaining independence. After a massive voter turnout (almost 95% showed up and 88% voted in favour of independence) they were all celebrating in the streets. Our guide told us that she was in university at this time and apparently the parties were incredible.
BUT. They knew the next day would be… intense. And they were prepared. The next day, the tanks rolled in. The JNA invaded, Slovenia was ready, and the Ten-Day War ensued.
This is me, watching footage of tanks firing on the streets we’d just been strolling along.
If you want to know more about this, I think these videos convey some of this pretty well…
Here is the ceiling in the mansion the museum is housed in:
This was maybe one of my favourite museums I’ve ever visited.
One of the displays consisted of photographs of people who had fought in the various wars that had plagued Europe, and their backstories of these individual people. Some were people who had fought in the World Wars. Some were only a few years older than me, and had fought in the wars in the 90’s. This was especially disconcerting to me.
I only wish we had spent more time there. I could have spent hours absorbing the information and stories.
When you think about it, it’s pretty daring to establish a museum of contemporary history. Is it Napoleon who said this?
“History is the version of past events that people have decided to agree upon.”
I feel like the best way to put forth a version of past events is once everyone who actually participated in those events is effectively dead. But here is a museum documenting events that actually happened not so very long ago (at least, to people like me who are pushing 40, anyway). So I have huge respect for this museum existing, talking about what happened 25 years ago.
So… though this may be a pink baroque mansion on the edge of a stunning city park situated on the side of a mountain (see? Slovenia is FANTASTIC) — the contents of Ljubljana’s National Museum of Contemporary History are thoughtful and startling and reminiscent and… quirky.
You should go.