Museum of Contemporary History, Slovenian Railway Museum

Toward the end of lunch today, some light clouds rolled in. They weren’t yet particularly threatening, but the forecast called for more rain later this afternoon. Rather than wandering aimlessly all afternoon (one of my favourite activities in cities) and risk getting drenched, I thought another indoor activity was in order.

Hence, I decided to hit another museum. Little did I know that the authorities, as well as mental heath practitioners, here look askance at people hitting museums. So I chose to just visit it instead.

In fact, I ended up visiting two museums: The Museum of Contemporary History of Slovenia and the Slovenian Railway Museum. And I did experience some light showers on the way to both.

Museum of Contemporary History of Slovenia

World War I uniform and signal horn at the Museum of Contemporary History of Slovenia
World War I uniform and signal horn at the Museum of Contemporary History of Slovenia

“Contemporary history” sounds like an oxymoron to me. History is old stuff that happened. Contemporary is what’s happening now. Well, I suppose anything that just happened, as opposed to is happening now or will happen in the future, can, technically, be considered history. So, I’ll let it slide, but the museum better be careful in the future.

The history in question is the history of Slovenia from the start of World War I all the way to somewhat recent times.

I’ll accept a broad definition of “contemporary” as anything that happened within the lifetime of all but the very oldest people alive today. So most of “up to today” is contemporary.

But the first signage in the Museum of Contemporary History of Slovenia talked about the assassination of Franz Ferdinand and his wife in 1914, which putatively led to the start of the First World War. It’s 2023 as I write this, so someone would have to be 109 years old now to have been alive then.

Lovely hats
Lovely hats at the Museum of Contemporary History

That fails my “contemporary” definition. The museum is on shaky ground, I tell ya.

The exhibits include both text and objects. They are heavy on war, with both world wars and the war that ended Yugoslavia covered. But it’s not exclusively about war, particularly in the most recent period, which is peaceful.

It also addresses the relatively peaceful in terms of a lack of war, but somewhat brutal nonetheless Stalinist Tito years and his post-Stalinism period.

Military objects on display include medals, weapons, and uniforms. And, no doubt, many other things I forget.

Non-military objects included a small, but lovely collection of men’s and women’s hats, old appliances, and again, no doubt many things I’ve forgotten.

Contemporary appliances
Contemporary appliances

In addition to its permanent collection, the Museum of Contemporary History of Slovenia mounted a temporary exhibition of paintings by the Slovenian artist Tone Kralj (1900 – 1975). But the exhibition included only works he painted between 1941 and 1945, inclusive. The vast majority relate directly or indirectly to World War II.

The exhibition also displayed some reproductions of murals he painted during that period.

Another part of the exhibition presented text and images on how his works have been investigated, looking under and behind them, and how they’ve been restored.

Fleeing Mother, 1942, Tone Kralj, oil on canvass
Fleeing Mother, 1942, Tone Kralj, oil on canvass

Slovenian Railway Museum

The Slovenian Railway Museum is not terribly far from the Museum of Contemporary History of Slovenia or my hotel. But it is nonetheless a little out of the way and somewhat hard to find even with Google Maps.

At one point, I had to cross a pair of railway tracks with no marked crossing for as far as my eye could see from where Google told me to cross. True, I don’t have the world’s best eyes, but, still, nowhere close.

No fences or other barriers blocked either side of the tracks. Nevertheless, I wasn’t convinced I was legally supposed to cross there.

One of the old locomotives at the Railway Museum
One of the old locomotives at the Railway Museum

But I did. Of course, I cautiously and nervously stared in both directions along the track and prayed to the local Train God before doing so.

That kept me on the prescribed route and close to the museum.

When I reached the road into the museum, building projects on either side of it made the road look like an active construction zone. In fact, an operator of a machine that I think goes by the name of a front-end loader had his beast on the road moving some material that looked like gravel but reddish brown from a pile on one side of the road.

I looked around. No other road led to the museum. So I walked gingerly down the road. No barriers separated pedestrians from the operating device. Nor was there a signal person.

I guess the prayer I said to the local Construction God worked. I made it safely to the museum.

The Museum

Mechanical signalling equipment
Mechanical signalling equipment

The museum is the polar opposite of slick. It’s raw and unpolished, but I enjoyed it.

The biggest of the two exhibition buildings is a former railway roundhouse. In it are some old locomotives just sitting there in all their glory. It’s awesome to stand beside them and see what huge, imposing, all-business beasts they were.

I didn’t count them, but I think there are about ten locomotives there. On a stand beside the front of each locomotive sits a stand with a ringed binder holding laminated pages. Each page is in a different language and provides information about the locomotive such as when the specific one on display was made, the period during which that model was made, weight, maximum speed, etc.

Old railway pedal-cars
Old railway pedal-cars

The roundhouse also has a small-scale model railway on a table. But the controls have a do not touch sign on them and there was no staff around. Damn.

The other, smaller building contains old mechanical signalling and switching equipment, along with old communications devices and old railway clocks. It also houses a small collection of old railway handcars and pedal-cars used to inspect and go out to repair the tracks.

There are also a few locomotives and railcars sitting outside that are busy rusting.

It was all very interesting. I’m glad I went.

And with that, I headed back to my hotel. I now have only one full day left in this trip. But, …

Programming Note

This will probably be my last post on Ljubljana. I don’t leave the city and head back home until the day after tomorrow. But I booked a full day trip out of Ljubljana for tomorrow. So, barring the trip being scrubbed for some reason, my posts tomorrow will be about that. Stay tuned.


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