ROHILAS IN EUROPE-XIV
September 27-October 14, 2007
“If suddenly you have a strong urge to do something, sit down, relax and it will pass,” is the Croatian motto, someone told us. So after spending the morning wandering around in Zagreb, we returned to our hotel, and spent the afternoon relaxing. And lo, and behold it took care of all the urges we had to visit any other place in Zagreb!
Next morning we left for Vienna, Austria. To get there, we had to go through Slovenia.
As we crossed the Croatia-Slovenia border, our driver, a Slovene, was greeted by his wife.
Many trucks were lined up besides the road awaiting clearance by the Croatian Customs.
A large part of Slovenia is covered with forests, fields and pastures. Therefore it is aptly called, “A Green Piece of Europe.”
On the way we stopped for a sightseeing break at Maribor, Slovenia.
Located near the Austrian border, Maribor was the biggest industrial city in former Yugoslavia. After Slovenia’s secession from Yugoslavia in 991, it lost its usual market and Maribor suffered substantial economic strain. One of the results was unemployment of almost 25%. Following entry of Slovenia in NATO & EU and adoption of Euro, things have gotten better, but unemployment is still 11.5%.
Drava River runs through the city. The picturesque waterfront, called the Lent, hosts Festival Lent in June.
Bridges over the river connect the newer settlement with the Old Town.
Proceeding north on the bridge we came to the Main (Glavni) Square. The Plague Column is the centerpiece of this Square. The column was erected in 1681 in grateful appreciation of the cessation of the plague epidemic, which the previous year had decimated a third of the town’s inhabitants. Atop the column was an image of Virgin Mary.
In 1743 it was replaced by the present memorial, sculpted by Jozef Straub. He added figures of St. Francis of Assissi, Bostjan, Jacob the Eider, Anton Padovanski, Rok, and St. Francis Xavier, the saints invoked against the plague, around the pedestal of the column.
On the north side of the square is the Town Hall, which was built in the 16th century. A Venetian Renaissance balcony is the most prominent feature of its facade. Since 1967 the building has housed an exhibition hall and has functioned as the centre of several cultural institutions, including weddings.
The Main Square is lined with buildings with interesting facades and architectural ornamentations.
Also there are some cafes and vendors.
A couple of streets from the Main Square lead to the Castle (Grad) Square. In its northeastern corner is the Castle, which was built by Emperor Friedrich III, in 1478. It has gone major changes since then. It was last renovated in 1938. Since then it has housed the Regional Museum.
In front of the Castle is a column topped with the statue of Josip Jurcic (1844-1881), a Slovene novelist, and editor of the political paper “Slovene Nation.”
In the southwestern corner of the Castle Square is the McDonald’s. Apparently most visitors go there to use restrooms. An employee told us that we needed to buy something to get the code to unlock the restroom door. Fortunately, a young customer, who overheard our conversation with the employee, took pity on us and punched the code to open the restroom door for us.
To the north of the Castle is the General Maister Square. Built on filled-in gravel pits outside the town wall, it was named after the Slovene general and poet Rudolf Maister (1874 1934). During the World War I, Maister organized local Slovenian volunteers and defeated German designs by taking control of the city of Maribor. The monument was designed by the sculptor Vlasta Zorko and unveiled on October 10, 1987.
To the west of the General Maister Square, and across the stone fountain, is the Secondary Humanistic School as well as the Elementary School of the Polancic Brothers.
To the East of the Castle is the Liberty (Svobode) Square, which was built on the protective ditch that once surrounded the Castle. The National Liberation Monument dominates the square. Sculpted by Slavko Tihec in 1975, this bronze monument bears the facial images of the Maribor heroes. On its base is an engraved announcement of the shooting of the 667 hostages and partisans by the German occupation forces during World War II. Also it bears the farewell letter of Joze Fluks, who was condemned to death. The locals call the monument ''Kodžak'', since it reminds them of the bald-headed detective Kojak, of the once popular US television show.
The Liberty Square is used for outdoor meetings, cultural events, and memorials, when it is not being used as an open-air market.
Also it is a popular place for tourists and children to hang out.
To the east of the Liberty Square is the 12th-century Gothic cathedral.
On the conclusion of our visit, we boarded our bus and left for Vienna, Austria.