ArticleA Pun-Loving Capital
Most wonders are located in/associated with a particular country, and the concept of "country" as such is - while not necessarily a wonder - quite noteworthy. If the map of the world throughout the last 40+ centuries were a book in need of a title, Ovid's “Metamorphoses” would be a perfect fit. Precious few countries managed to preserve their territory and the nature of their society as it had been at the dawn of human civilization - in fact, the list might be limited to such Asian giants as China, India and Japan. Every other country on Earth had at some point undergone a profound transformation that left it completely unrecognizable. For instance, ancient city-states Ur, Uruk and Sumer rose to prominence quickly - and as quickly, by standards, of history, faded away. A powerful Creto-Mycenaean civilization was dominant for about 700 years, then succumbed to the emerging Roman Empire that, in its turn, was toppled by Germanic tribes several centuries later. Both the conquerors and the conquered ended up as fragmented societies split into many relatively small entities (city-states, provinces, principalities…). All over Europe, it took ethnically related people more than a millennium and quite some bloodshed to reunite within their respective national states. Eventually, a kind of post-Renaissance European G-5 emerged - Spain, France, Germany, Italy and England. The Habsburg Empire, centred in Austria but omnipresent through treaties and marriages had been in the mix all along - and it was the collapse of that Empire (known in history as the 1848 Springtime of Nations) that started the opposite process resulting in statehood of less populous ethnical groups. The map of Europe was completely redrawn - and then again, towards the end of the cataclysmic 20th century, with its World Wars and yet another collapse of an Empire. Smaller nations, born as a result of all those cataclysms, had one conspicuous common trait: all of them have throughout their so far relatively short period of independence been utterly, passionately, sometimes even violently patriotic. All but one
The above picture epitomizes the country in question: friendly, welcoming, cute and…somewhat tongue-in-cheek. The latter might be an unintended effect of a very deliberate choice, and it's quite a story in its own right.
To start with, the country's name - it's completely misleading when heard by an English speaker. The first letter does matter, and the actual root of the word is related to “Language” or “Word” ("Slovo" in the language of the country). It's quite likely that the name was chosen for the country because its people prided themselves on their literary skills. The middle four letters (L O V E) could be seen as nothing but an amusing coincidence but for another name - that of the country's capital. "Ljubljana" derives from the world “ljubov” ("love" - and wouldn't you know it!) and literally means something like “beloved”. Suddenly, the whole set of names starts looking as something that is much more than a coincidence!
All that still wouldn't matter much for an ultra-patriotic/chauvinistic society that doesn't care how it's seen by the rest of the world. Slovenians? The direct opposite, as their very lifestyle implies. Many of them take quite some time to commute to school or work and back - about 2-3 hours every day. The difference is that their school or office is in another country - mostly, Austria or Italy! Willy-nilly, they learn foreign languages, come in touch with foreign cultures, occasionally intermarry (let alone the fact that geographical proximity enables them to watch TV channels from all over Europe (more or less).
Considering the above, it's hardly surprising that the unintentional pun hidden in the names of the country and its capital, does matter - and is quite welcome and taken advantage of. It's not unusual to see the country's name written like this" sLOVEnia - and it's completely fitting that the main highlight of any city tour in Ljubljana is Love Bridge
As you can see, there are many padlocks but not a single key. That's because Slovenian lovers come to the bridge to padlock their feelings - and immediately throw the keys right into the river underneath, so that LOVE would never escape from their hearts, just like it would never escape from the country's name, or the country itself!