17:00 Meet under the chandelier on Gornji trg, they said. Right!
So there it was, suspended across the intersection of Gornji trg and one of the cobble-stoned paths (with Plecnik patterning) leading up to Ljubljana castle. Barely able to catch my breath, I found myself rehearsing a password, following some very convincing and highly non-negotiable orders, backing up against a cold, damp stone wall, edging stealthily on tiptoes along a shadowed covered way, past a sleeping guard, over barbed wire (lucky I didn’t turn up in pantyhose and high heels), and being drafted into the Resistance. Assigned a uniform (knockout styling), badge (red star – how did they know it’s my favourite colour) and kitchen duties, I groped my way along a series of darkened tunnels, still as they were in WWII – sirens and blackouts included, to my station while others attended to their designated duties. My orientation to Ljubljana under occupation (1942). The first story.
Back outside and into the late afternoon sunlight. A wooded area at the top of Gornji trg. The Baroque Period (1600-18-00)
Ljubljana, capital of the Illyrian Provinces (1791 – 1813)
Earthquake and hard times (1895). Seamstresses by day; working the streets by night.
“The Water Man” performed at the fountain. “In the river Ljubljanica, in the town of Ljubljana once lived a spirit, whom they called Povodni mož/ River man. At night he sometimes showed himself to fishermen and boatmen, in the daytime to other people, so that everyone had something to tell how he came marching out of the water and showed himself in human form. In the year 1547, on the first Sunday in June, the whole neighbourhood gathered together according to their practice to Stari trg (Old Square) to have a merry time. In the shade of the old linden tree the old and the young had a great old time talking and eating God’s gifts. The sounds of music invited to dance; the youth above all lifted their heels to the merry tunes.
Sometime after a handsome, and well-dressed young man appeared in the midst of the merry company, and it seemed as though he wished to join in the wheel dance. Politely he greeted the company and offering the hand, which was soft and icy cold to each and every one; quite a few trembled with dread upon touching his hand. Then he asked one of the townswomen for the dance; this was Urška Šefarca, a pretty young woman, with the reputation for recklessness and bold manners.
The strange youth led her in proper style to the dancing ground, where she demonstrated her skill as a dancer. She was a match to him in clever conversation and responded easily to his humorous observations.
They danced for a time with propriety, then ever wilder and wilder, in great turns they started to spin outside the dance-ring: from the linden tree they raced to the Stična manor and Ljubljanica. Here the stranger leapt with Urška into the river and vanished.
A number of boat-men standing at the time on the river banks witnessed it. The linden tree was standing till 1638, then they cut it down because of its great age.”
The site of the fountain is the former Square (12-16th Centuries) where trading took place under that Linden tree. On Sundays people gathered to dance. And so did we…to the sounds of a lively accordion.
These story performances and more are the brainchild of a recently formed street theatre group who REALLY bring Ljubljanske Zgodbe alive. As the action progressed further and further down Gornji trg, and which also included a segment of street begging (which I didn’t photograph because I was too busy being a hunchback with a wooden leg – I did score 1 euro) the scene resembled something out of the Pied Piper of Hamelin. More and more people, bystanders and strollers, were drawn into the experience. Such fun!