Green Slovenia

Slovenia ranked 15th worldwide on the 2008 Environmental Performance Index, a list of countries rated on environmental indicators and policy by a team from Yale and Columbia universities.

Switzerland topped the list of 149 countries; Niger’s ranking was the worst. Slovenia ranked lower than its neighbor Austria (6th), but higher than the rest of the countries that border it: Italy (24th), Hungary (23th), and Croatia (20th). The United States ranked 39th.

The index “ranked 149 countries on 25 indicators tracked across six established policy categories: environmental health, air pollution, water resources, biodiversity and habitat, productive natural resources, and climate change,” the study said.

The Complete List

How Slovenia’s Score Breaks Down

 

 

Ljubljana’s Toško Čelo Hill

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View from the balcony at the Pri Bitenc restaurant on 1,820-foot Toško Čelo.

ricet-1.jpgThe view, plus the hearty lunch (at right, ričet, a stew of barley, vegetables, and sausages), homemade grape juice and flancat (Slovenia’s answer to elephant ears) makes Pri Bitenc worth the hike.

 

 

Slovenia Without Borders

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THE guard booth at an Italian border crossing sat empty yesterday. Slovenia is now almost without border checks: Last month it joined the Schengen Zone, a 24-country free-travel area. Land border posts with Austria, Italy, and Hungary are now unmanned; air passengers from member countries can travel passport-free beginning March 30. Passports (or for locals, ID cards) are still needed for travel between Slovenia and Croatia.

Ljubljana Sales

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MANIKINS in the display window at the Nama department store flaunt Ljubljana’s post-holiday discounts, which officially began yesterday. The government here dictates the length of the sales and the maximum discounts; this year shops can slash prices by as much as half, but only for two weeks. Busloads of shoppers from neighboring countries are expected at retail mecca BTC City.

 

Renovation Planned for Ljubljana’s Urbanc Store (Centromerkur)

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AFTER decades of neglect, an art nouveau landmark in Ljubljana is poised for a renovation.

The owners of the 104-year-old Urbanc store, known in most travel guidebooks as “Centromerkur,” hope to restore the building at Trubarjeva 1, at the edge of Prešeren Square, the heart of Ljubljana.

statue.jpgThe building impresses with its statue of Mercury on top, a statue of Commerce inside (right), an ornate staircase, and a hundred little flourishes. Still, it suffered from incongruous additions and inadequate upkeep during the Communist era, and it will take a lot of work–and money–to return it to its original glory.

At the turn of the last century, local businessman Feliks Urbanc commissioned Graz architect Friedrich Sigismundt to design the building that would become home to the city’s first department store. When it was completed in 1903, Urbanc’s name appeared on the building’s side.

img_3964.jpgThe Yugoslav government took possession of the store in 1948, painted over the Urbanc name, and called it “Centromerkur,” the name which now appears above the entrance (right). After denationalization, Urbanc’s grandsons, Ljubljana businessmen Hubert and Jorg Kosler, took possession of it in 2002.

Because the building is a historic landmark, the Institute for the Protection of Cultural Heritage of Slovenia is giving advice to the Koslers, who want to restore the 4,000-square-meter (43,055 square-foot) building and expand and modernize its department store. (Its current dark and cluttered retail atmosphere seems anachronistic in bustling Ljubljana Center.) The Institute’s Restoration Centre prepared a detailed plan for the building, says project manager Boris Deanovič.

The plan calls for a €600,000 ($881,000) renovation that would return the building, last renovated in the 1980s, as close as possible to its original appearance.

This would include a €270,000 ($397,000) restoration of the façade and its decorations. In preparing the plan for the exterior, restoration specialists took samples of multiple layers of varicolored paint to find its original color: cream with gilded flourishes.

img_3933.jpgA €215,000 ($316,000) restoration of the interior would include removing the linoleum that covers the original oak floors (right) on the upper levels and tearing down the walls that were added in the 1960s to fill the building’s inner courtyard.

The plan also involves a €30,000 ($44,000) cleaning of metal elements such as the front door decoration, and the €75,000 ($110,000) replacement of several etched windows.

img_3907.jpgAs originally designed, the building’s ground and first floors housed a department store which sold mostly textiles, since clothes were then homemade or tailor-made. (The original wooden shelves, seen at right, are still in use, and the plan calls for their preservation.) The 2nd, 3rd and 4th floors were private apartments, several of which have spectacular views of Prešeren Square. The new plan would make all five floors part of the new store, allowing the public to enjoy the views.

light.jpgThe plan would restore the original globe lights (right) and allow natural light to enter from the windows. (Fluorescent tubes now illuminate the interior.)

On the ground floor, light once came through 12 etched windows with a flower-and-vine design. Only one of the 2m X 2.7m (6.6′ X 8.9′) window panels still exists, but craftsman Aleš Lomberger, who reintroduced the etched glass technique in Slovenia after independence, will likely reconstruct 11 others.

img_3952.jpgBut not all of the fixes need to be expensive or elaborate. Restoration can also mean something simple, like moving the ATM (at right) from its position beside the building’s central staircase to a less conspicuous spot.

With luck, this will be the last overhaul needed for a long time. “It is always easier to keep a building in good shape on an everyday basis than to restore it after it has been neglected,” Deanovič says.