‘Make a pilgrimage to a sacred or violated site to connect your small place in time with a history and a broader meaning.’ The day I started the walk I read those words on a blog I follow. Coincidence? I don’t think so.
Pot Spomina in Tovaristva. This 33km path, once the site of a tightly-guarded barbed-wire fence enclosing Ljubljana from 1942-45 for 1170 days, winds its way through suburbs, along streams, across agricultural areas and forested hills, around industrial, business and commercial areas, and even through a cemetery. I checked that out! Tombstones pre-dating the fence can be seen on both sides of the path. Unless some have been moved. In area, this path makes a Green Ring around the city and residents have easy access to it from any direction.
- What does a fence do? Keep people in? Or keep people out?
- Whose rights are violated by a fence?
- Whose rights are protected?
- Who decides/signs off on where a fence will be?
- Does a fence lead to hope? Or despair?
- Can a fence build character?
- Is it important to know that, outside, people care?
As I walk it, I try to place myself back in time. How has the landscape changed? How has the urbanscape changed? Did this family, in this house, live here then? How did it change people? What was it like looking across or through the fence to the “outside”? Did children play by the stream – in some places outside, in some inside? What was it like if the stream wasn’t on your side? If your farm was inside the fence, how did you work your land on the outside? How did friends and family stay connected? Were there any tragedies?
Where not part of urban streets and lanes, the path is well kept, well-marked and very pleasant. Compact gravel, boarded on each side, and avenues of leafy trees mark the way. With the easily recognisable POT signs and attractive seating placed along the way it enjoys heavy usage: family groups, childcare groups, the aged, the disabled, walkers, joggers, cyclists, and school groups.
The fence no longer exists. It only took the citizens of Ljubljana a few months to dismantle it, fill in the bunkers and demolish the fortifications. By 1985 the path was completed and 102 octagonal-shaped stone markers, engraved symbolically with barbed wire, have been placed at strategic points along the way. I remind myself that in places known and places unknown fences do still separate people from one another, both physically and metaphorically.
Vič > Turnovo (SW-S)
Glorious sunshine. Lots of people. Following a stream. Musical. I think this stretch might be the closest the fence came to the city centre.
Siška > Koseze (NW-W)
Navigating through the suburbs. If you miss something critical, like a marker, the way back can be either a frustration or full of added delights – depending on how you look at it! I walked an extra kilometre in this section. Because I took an un-planned route J
Koseze > Vič (W-SW)
Saturated with nature. Sunny. Pond with swans. Fields of maize. The odd kozolec. At one. Stone chips in my shoes. Realised that going with the flow works well up to a point, though turns and curving paths that branch are deadly for a grid-liner (aka mwa)
Siška > Brinje (N)
Light industry, commercial, residential, vegetable plots and garden sheds. School out. Shift workers out. Peak hour. Lots of roads to cross. Tricky bits near railway tracks.
Brinje > Fužine (N – E)
Fog lifting to cool sunshine. Business and residential, sports park, open fields and vegetable plots, Zale Cemetery, high density residential, army base, across the motorway, through a village, past the church with bell tolling time of day, over railway tracks and Zaloska cesta to Ljubljanica River and Labirint umetnosti.
Galjevica > Golovec >Fužine (S-E)
At 400 plus metres, Golovec Hill is a considerably large green naturally-forested area (I couldn’t find the size) that penetrates into the urban area from a south-easterly direction. Just a waterway, railway track and two roads separate it from the Ljubljana Castle Hill. Doing this stretch meant a steep climb no matter which direction my approach! Many paths intersect over Golovec, and there were not always POT markers at pathway intersections. But the boarded edges were a give-away sign so navigation was relatively easy. Light rain. Fog at the peak. The path connects with the Jerusalem Way, one of the many paths across Europe that lead pilgrims to Santiago in Spain. (This section is the Zagreb to Trieste part). Descended to fields, villages and farmland. A church bell tolled somewhere in the misty distance, and I saw one solitary red poppy – how appropriate – in a field of wild flowers. On the approach to Fužine the path crosses the Ljubljanica River and passes Fužine Castle, now the Architecture Museum. For me the path ended at the labyrinth, and I walked it in the rain. Under my umbrella.
‘The labyrinth is truly a tool for our times. It can help us find our way through the bewildering multiplicity, to the unity of source. The labyrinth is an evocative experience. The labyrinth provides the sacred space where the inner and outer worlds can commune, where the thinking mind and imaginative heart can flow together. It can provide the sacred space to listen to our inner voice of wisdom and come to grips with our role humankind’s next evolutionary step.’ ~ Lauren Artress