McCurry in Ljubljana, Thru June 17

There won’t be too many of you who won’t recognize this iconic photo taken by Steve McCurry, whose work will be on exhibit at Ljubljana Castle through June 17.

McCurry popped into town today for tonight’s official opening, hosted by Slovenian President Danilo Turk. A facebook friend was kind enough to send me an invitation, but a late hour work-related boondoggle came up and kept me away. Call me Cinderfella. At least I’ve got the next month-and-a-half to make it up castle hill to check it out. If you’re in Ljubljana between now and mid-June, you should too.

More on the exhibit on the castle website. Admission 10 €.

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PS – I don’t a photographer has ever been the subject of a LJ Pic of the Day.
Ljubljana 0372

LJ Pic of the Day

This is another shot of one of my favorite sculptures in Ljubljana, a memorial at Žale Cemetery for civilians killed during the German occupation of Ljubljana during the second World War.

I posted another of the same sculpture about a year-and-a-half ago and another four years before that, during the first week of the LJ Pic a Day chore, back in January 2007. It’s a very sobering monument, one I never tire of looking at.

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Rain, Drunks and an Underpass With a View (LJ Pic of the Day)

This was taken this afternoon from a pedestrian underpass facing Kongresni Trg (Congress Square) and castle hill. Local drunks like to spend a large part of their days here where they’re both shielded from the elements and have a captive audience from which to beg. And it’s got a decent view.

A few minutes later the skies opened to unleash a pleasant shower of hail. I was putting my camera away as a man approached, sporting a toothless smile. His approach was modest but firm. “Can you spare two euros?

“What do you need it for?”

“I could lie to you but I won’t,” he said. “I’d like to get a bottle of wine.”

I appreciated his honesty and dropped a couple euro coins in the grimy palm of his dirty outstretched hand. It is the weekend after all.

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Let’s Clean Slovenia 2012 – LJ Pics of the Day

If you were anywhere in Slovenia today, it’s likely that you saw lots of bags very much like these.

trans: Let's Clean Slovenia 2012

It was part of the Let’s Clean Slovenia 2012 campaign, a follow up to the nation-wide effort two years ago which turned out to be the largest volunteer project in the country’s history. According to organizers, 270,000 volunteers pitched in in 2010, about 13% of the country’s population, and removed 60,000 cubic meters, or 12,000 tons of waste from about 7,000 illegal landfills.

Tires remain a huge problem

Lots of piles in Ljubljana today

The goals this year were similar: to bring together 250,000 volunteers and collect at least 10,000 tons of waste. Finding that much won’t be a problem. Many people are, and remain, pigs. From the Statistical Office of the Republic of Slovenia (SORS):

According to the latest data from the Register of Illegal Landfills, there are around 10,700 illegal landfills in Slovenia, 25% of which in Osrednjeslovenska, 13% in Podravska and 11% in Savinjska statistical regions. These landfills mostly contain construction and demolition waste, waste electrical and electronic equipment, used tires and other hazardous and non-hazardous waste.

More than two million tons of construction and demolition waste was generated in Slovenia in 2010, which is around 30% of all waste generated in the country. Around 18,000 tons of construction and demolition waste was hazardous construction and demolition waste, 90% of it containing asbestos (mostly asbestos roofing). The amount of asbestos-containing construction and demolition waste has been increasing since 2003, when the use of asbestos was totally banned in Slovenia.

The problem of construction and demolition waste is not so much in its amount as in its management. A large part of construction and demolition waste could be recovered. Recovered construction and demolition waste represents potential secondary construction material, which reduces the need for exploiting natural sources of raw material and harmful impacts on the environment. In 2010 more than 90% of construction and demolition waste was recovered; around 49% of construction and demolition waste was recycled and the rest was used for backfilling.

In the EU around 900 million tons of construction and demolition waste is generated per year, which is 25─30% of all waste. The rate of reuse and recycling of construction and demolition waste varies among EU Member States between 10% and 85%; the highest rate is recorded in the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg.

More from SORS here.

Clean up at a communal garden

The campaign in Slovenia is part of a global effort, World Cleanup 2012, which began today with actions in Slovenia, Portugal and Tunisia. I’ll post a quick update tomorrow or Monday when figures on turnout become available.

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A Dozen Pics from the Ljubljana Moors, Europe’s Southermost Wetlands

It was an absolutely gorgeous day today, one I took advantage of for my first longer bike ride of 2012. About 60km in all; not long for some, but plenty for someone like me. :) The majority of that was in the eastern third of the Ljubljansko Barje, or Ljubljana Moors (or Marsh), which happens to be the southernmost wetlands in Europe. I was buzzed by birds I’ve never seen before.

Urbanization and intensive farming have destroyed about 70 percent of Europe’s wetlands, underscoring the rarity of this area, some of which is just a casual half hour bike ride from Ljubljana’s city center. Yet the villages, primarily farming settlements that dot the landscape, seem half a world away.

The furthest south I went was Iški Vintgar, or gorge, to visit it in the winter for the first time (top pic below). Conditions were anything but winter-like, but there were still a handful of patches of snow and ice in the gorge. That, and only three other people.

It’s late, I’m a bit sleepy and sore, so more details next time. For now a few photos. The barje website, in English, is here.

a fairly typical irrigation canal

Roadside chapel in village of Iška Vas

Still a bit of snow and ice in Iški Vintgar Gorge

A little Yugonostalgia in village of Ig

The Moors are a regional park and protected area

Village of Iška

A sandbox, off-season at Iški Vintgar

Herons hanging out. There were more than a dozen here.

Village of Iška Vas

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Vršič Pass Quickie

No, this isn’t quite as sexy as it sounds – just one minute in seven shots of the Vršič Pass in Slovenia’s Julian Alps. It’s one of my favorite corners in this country with no shortage of beautiful corners.

These 60 seconds don’t come close to giving the area justice, but you’ll get the general idea. At 1611m, it’s the highest mountain pass in Slovenia and the highest in the Eastern Julian Alps, and largely sits within Triglav National Park. Much of the winding road — there are 50 hairpin turns in all– that rises from Kranjska Gora in the north, over the pass, and back down to the Trenta Valley and eventually the Soča (Isonzo) River, was built by Russian POWs during World War I to move arms to the Isonzo front. In short, more evidence of the insane lengths man has gone in order to inflict pain on his fellow man.

It’s a popular starting point for hikes to nearby peaks; the road can get fairly busy on summer weekends. Lots of cyclists use it as well so please, drive with care. Thanks.

And if you wind up near Kobarid, be sure to stop at the local museum dedicated to chronicling the battles of the Isonzo Front which were later immortalized by Hemingway in A Farewell to Arms.

A few more recent shots:

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Slovenia Comes of Age – Government Sites Targeted by Anonymous

When Slovenia signed on to Acta last week, did they actually think nobody would notice? Or maybe just hoping that most of Anonymous’s hackers simply wouldn’t know where (or what) Slovenia was?

From the video:

We encourage anyone out there, for the freedom of yourself or for the freedom of your brothers and sisters in Slovenia to join our operation. We encourage you to spread the word of ANTI-ACTA far and wide. The top priority is to steal and leak any classified government informations, including e-mails and documentations. If the decision of Slovenian Parliament and the representatives in European Parliament will not be a clear NO, we will disrupt and attack Slovenian government websites, leaking documentations and e-mails. We will show the government of Slovenia that they can not censor the people. To Slovenian government, this is your last chance… reject ACTA or face consequences from the people. OPERATION ANTI-ACTA has begun!

Last week Kader Arif, the EU rapporteur, or investigator, for ACTA resigned from his job in disgust after submitting his report. From his resignation:

I want to denounce in the strongest possible manner the entire process that led to the signature of this agreement: no inclusion of civil society organisations, a lack of transparency from the start of the negotiations, repeated postponing of the signature of the text without an explanation being ever given, exclusion of the EU Parliament’s demands that were expressed on several occasions in our assembly.

As rapporteur of this text, I have faced never-before-seen manoeuvres from the right wing of this Parliament to impose a rushed calendar before public opinion could be alerted, thus depriving the Parliament of its right to expression and of the tools at its disposal to convey citizens’ legitimate demands.”

Everyone knows the ACTA agreement is problematic, whether it is its impact on civil liberties, the way it makes Internet access providers liable, its consequences on generic drugs manufacturing, or how little protection it gives to our geographical indications.

This agreement might have major consequences on citizens’ lives, and still, everything is being done to prevent the European Parliament from having its say in this matter. That is why today, as I release this report for which I was in charge, I want to send a strong signal and alert the public opinion about this unacceptable situation. I will not take part in this masquerade.

The ACTA still has to be ratified by the European Parliament this summer before taking effect, so time remains for this to actually be discussed openly and honestly.

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Ljubljana Graffiti Tour

I’ve been collecting shots of graffiti and murals around town since late April and quite honestly, I’ve had enough – it’s time to move on. It’s also cluttering my hard drive so it was time for a quick purge (with a good beat).

Some of it’s good, some of it’s awful, some of it’s simply juvenile and sophomoric tagging and some of it’s little more than vandalism. But some is pretty amazing, too. Most of the better murals here are from the sprawling Metelkovo complex, a former Yugoslav army barracks which for much of the past two decades has been home to several studios, music venues and the Celica hostel. Later this month the Museum of Contemporary Art, also at Metelkovo, will open its doors.

Everywhere I visit, I’m always drawn to graffiti. I’m generally a fan. But do I sound like a grumpy old man if I say there’s too much here now and that it’s getting a bit out of hand? You decide.

Ljubljana, Slovenia, spring/summer/fall 2011.

Music: no meaning no remastered (eminent fury rmx) by Monty Arnold
Creative Commons Noncommercial Sampling Plus license

Five Minutes to Midnight

This is a detail from Slovenia’s offering to the United Buddy Bears exhibit that was on display on the Ku’damm in Berlin from 26 June through 3 October.

Said Berlin-based Slovenian artist Marjan Kekec-Ogradni who painted the bear:

Our unique globe is composed by the four elements air, water, fire and earth. The increasing exploitation of our nature and the growing number of wars is an immense threat for our planet. If we want the earth to continue to be worth living on, we have to act quickly, as it’s already five to twelve. Representing this apocalypse is Death on the front of my bear.

Man can work against this apocalypse using his heart and his courage. The first commandment should be practising tolerance in dealing with our environment and our fellow human beings. A global human line under the flag of tolerance could be a first and important step towards the common preservation of our planet.

A few more pics of Ogradni and his bear are here. Ogradni’s website is here.

LJ Pic of the Day

This was taken about two weeks ago in the central Prešeren Square. They were playing the Theme from the Godfather on two of my favorite instruments.

I had an accordion forced upon me at an early age – I wanted to play the guitar and saxophone when I was seven but my parents insisted I be a good little Slovenia boy and bought me an old squeeze box instead. The passion was never really there so I reached my accordion peak in the fourth grade. I’m holding out hope that my sax peak has yet to be reached.