City Museum of Ljubljana, Jože Plečnik House

A steady light rain, interrupted only by occasional drizzle, fell on Ljubljana this morning. Consequently, I looked for some indoor sights to visit and occupy the a.m. period. I settled on the Ljubljana City Museum and the Jože Plečnik House.

Unfortunately, despite the rain, they couldn’t bring those buildings to my hotel—don’t ask me why not—so my morning wasn’t devoid of walking in the rain. But no wind blew, so my umbrella and rain jacket performed their roles successfully.

And I can now report that old Ljubljana is just as charming in a light rain as on a dry, but overcast day. Which is to say, very charming. I suspect I wouldn’t feel the same on a blustery rainy day. I hope I won’t get the chance to find out.

City Museum of Ljubljana

Ancient wheel and axle. Not a pizza.
Ancient wheel and axle. Not a pizza.

The Ljubljana City Museum (website link here) tells the story of the history of commercial and recreational knitting in Peru throughout history.

Obviously, not. the exhibits at the City Museum are about Ljubljana and its predecessor settlements. Seriously, people. I shouldn’t have to tell you these things. Please try to keep up.

The museum has three floors of exhibits, in a cellar and on the two floors above the ground floor.

The top floor holds most of the museum’s permanent exhibits. They chronologically trace the prehistory and history of what is now Ljubljana, from the first people to inhabit the area, up to the first decade of the 21st century.

The City Museum presents its information through a lot of text, some illustrations, headsets at various points that play an audio commentary in the choice of Slovenian or English, and some artifacts from the era under discussion in that section of the exhibits.

The museum strives to make itself kid-friendly. So, in addition to the somewhat adult-reading-level text that predominates, it also displays text directed at younger children, along with some simple games for them to play. The museum wasn’t crowded today. All of the other visitors I saw were adults. So I don’t know how successful the museum’s displays are with the kids who do come.

Another artifact at the City Museum of Ljubljana
Another artifact at the City Museum of Ljubljana

Because it is prehistory, the information at the start of the exhibits was more scant than later on. However, I took a picture of the first sign so I could report the information correctly.

Nomad hunter-gatherers first frequented the general area in the glacial period. And the first permanent settlement came to the area in the 5th millennium—millennium, not century—BCE. The more narrow area that’s now Ljubljana got its first permanent settlements in the 14th and 13th centuries BCE.

Celts arrived in the third century BCE. And Romans came in the 1st century BCE.

I took a picture of only one other sign in the City Museum. So if I tried to provide information on the people of Ljubljana and their histories it would necessarily be vague and possibly inaccurate. So, why bother?

The other sign I captured a picture of is associated with one of the artifacts on display.

Newer artifacts at the City Museum of Ljubljana
Newer artifacts at the City Museum of Ljubljana

When I first saw the artifact from a bit of a distance, I thought, why are they displaying the leftovers from an extra-large pizza? And what is that thin log for?

When I got closer, it became obvious that it wasn’t half of a pizza. It was a fragment of a wooden wheel. The log was the wheel’s axle.

You might look at the first picture in this section and think it doesn’t look at all like a pizza. In my defence, I was farther away when I first saw it. Plus, the wheel rests horizontally. So, I first saw it at an angle, but I raised my phone above the display case so you wouldn’t see it at such an angle. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Paintings by women
Paintings by women

The sign says the wheel is “as many as 5,200 years old.” The wheel is composed of two ash wood plates joined by four oak pins. The axle comes from a single piece of oak.

Skipping over some millennia (only because I forget the artifacts in the intervening years), artifacts from recent centuries include furniture, clothing, paintings and other stuff that I likewise forget. From the period largely within my lifetime, or close thereto, exhibits include an old car, television set, radio, and other knickknacks.

Sculptures by women
Sculptures by women

On the first level above the ground level (the first floor in Euro-speak), the museum mounted a temporary exhibit of art by women artists, both painters and sculptors.

The cellar hosts a permanent archaeological exhibit. When they renovated the building to create the city museum, they excavated to create the cellar. They found stuff.

In addition to some relics on display down there, the cellar also exposes some in-situ walls from, if memory serves, the Roman period.

All in all, it was an interesting, if not entirely exciting, way to spend some time.

In situ old wall in the museum's cellar
In situ old wall in the museum’s cellar

Jože Plečnik House

Plečnik's workroom (and bedroom; the bed is behind the shot)
Plečnik’s workroom (and bedroom; the bed is behind the shot)

After the City Museum of Ljubljana, I walked to the Jože Plečnik House. Jože Plečnik (1872 – 1957) was a very significant architect in Ljubljana. In fact, I get the impression that, in one way, Jože Plečnik is to Ljubljana as Hermann Bollé is to Zagreb. (I mentioned Hermann Bollé in a post about a walking tour I took in Zagreb.) They both seemed to have designed the large majority of the major structures built during their working lives in their respective cities.

One difference between the two is that Plečnik was born in Ljubljana. Bollé, on the other hand, wasn’t born in Zagreb.

However, Plečnik didn’t spend his entire life in Ljubljana. He graduated from university at the top of his class. That won him a scholarship to spend a year in Italy studying architecture. I’ll say a bit more about that below.

After that, he lived for a while and took on architecture commissions in Vienna. And then hew worked for another period in Prague before returning to Ljubljana at age 50, where he got many commissions, became a professor, and lived out the rest of his life.

The Jože Plečnik House is the house where he lived in the latter part of his life, and where he died. He architected an addition to it and designed much of the furniture in it. Upon his death, a nephew inherited it. The nephew turned it into a private museum, keeping all of the original furniture in place.

A few days after Jože Plečnik’s death, the nephew took pictures of all of the rooms in the house. As a result, whenever renovations had to be done, such as to upgrade the electrical wiring, they could return the room to the way it was when Plečnik died, including the position of furniture.

The nephew eventually sold the house to the city of Ljubljana to continue the museum. And he included all of the furniture with the sale. And the photographs.

The house includes a small museum that visitors, such as me, can wander through on their own. But to go to the living quarters you must go on a small-group tour. I did. (They limit it to seven people and run it once an hour. Fortunately, the house wasn’t busy today. So I got on the next tour.)

Plečnik's winter room
Plečnik’s winter room

Back to something I alluded to above. The tour guide said that Plečnik loved the architecture of Italy and took inspiration from it. Not so much Vienna. The guide claimed that he said (in Slovenian, I imagine), that the architecture of Italy is old and beautiful, but the architecture of Vienna is new and ugly. Plečnik refused to design any modern architecture.

(I forget the guide’s name. And she didn’t wear a name tag, so I’d almost certainly misspell it anyway. Consequently, I’ll just call her “the guide.” Sorry.)

The first room we went into was an entry room. According to the guide, Plečnik was very much a loner and didn’t like people. He allowed only his family, close friends, important clients, and his housekeeper beyond that room. Everyone else who wanted to meet with him had to do so in that room.

The room is small. It has six concrete or stone (I’m not sure which) plain, cylindrical pillars that go up almost to the wood ceiling beams, but not quite. They are only for show. Ivy climbs up one of the pillars.

The room has a very simple wood bench designed by Plečnik. That’s where visitors sat. The bench has a hardwood surface that is too deep for anyone to lean comfortably on the back of the bench. And the seat tilts slightly so anyone sitting on it would eventually slip forward.

Currently, the ceiling of the room has glass in a large rectangular opening in it. But in Plečnik’s time, the glass wasn’t there. It was open to the elements. So the room was cold in the winter, hot in the summer, and wet in the rain. Plečnik designed the room specifically so people who weren’t family, close friends, or his housekeeper wouldn’t want to stay long.

The bench wasn’t the only uncomfortable seating he designed. There is a chair in the kitchen that has a side table built into it. He used to have his morning coffee there. He’d use the side table to work at while drinking his coffee, but he intentionally built it to be uncomfortable so he wouldn’t linger there before getting down to work in his studio.

In his bedroom, he had a single bed that was intentionally too short for him. Apparently, he was tall. He designed the bed that way so he would get to work rather than linger in bed. The bedroom was also his studio. It sounds like he was a workaholic of epic proportions, I’d say.

Plečnik's garden
Plečnik’s garden

But he didn’t didn’t limit his philosophy to himself. He designed the library of the nearby Ljubljana University. He intentionally designed the chairs there to be uncomfortable because, he’s purported to have said, “Students should study, not sleep.”

Plečnik did have a guest room in his house. But it contained seating and a table, but not a bed. He didn’t want his guests to even think about staying overnight.

I found the whole house to be quite austere. It is small and contains a lot of raw, unstained wood that’s not at all adorned. In fact, there were few adornments anywhere in the house. But there is a beautiful garden out back. According to the guide, he loved nature. And he did have a very nice winter garden in his house.

Oh, that single bed I mentioned above? He remained unmarried and childless his whole life. My life considered, I can neither mock nor criticize that.

According to the guide, Plečnik was largely forgotten on his death because it was the era of modern architecture and he refused to build anything modern. But then postmodernism came along and he became a Ljubljana favourite son again.

Lunch

When I left the Plečnik House the rain still fell, so I looked for a nearby restaurant with a good rating on TripAdvisor. I found one quite close.

The restaurant had only a fixed menu with three courses. I normally have only one course at lunch, but, as it turned out, the portions were small. (The price was commensurate with the small portions, so all good.)

The meal started with a small amuse-bouche that wasn’t on the menu.

The restaurant followed that with a beetroot-based appetizer. I normally dislike, and often hate, all things beet. This restaurant didn’t change that, but the dish came with other stuff, like whipped feta, smoked plum syrup, and a couple of other components. It was almost enjoyable.

The next course was a cold, cream-based pumpkin soup with ginger, some other ingredients, and my choice of either smoked salmon or dried duck breast. I chose the salmon. It was very good.

The main course was my choice of smoked trout, pork confit pie, or roasted celery. I went with the trout. Again, very good.

And, of course, I had a glass of wine and finished off with an espresso. Apart from the beetroot, it was a very enjoyable lunch. Yet another one on this trip.


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