City #20, October 2014. A provincial city, as noted in the city column. A bit like most models: beautiful but boring. Type of Youropeans? They were the best pupil in the Yugoslavian class, but are having trouble getting used to their new status in Europe, where they don’t count for much. Having their nominee for the European Commission rejected by the European Parliament on grounds of total incompetence has not exactly boosted their confidence.

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City Column

Best kid in class?


Real cities have a metro system. In the Netherlands, only Amsterdam and Rotterdam have one. Second-tier Dutch cities, like Utrecht and The Hague, have trams. The train stops in Ljubljana, and a few buses ply the streets. The only capital M you’ll see in the city belongs to McDonalds (three branches). The historic centre of Ljubljana, at the foot of the castle, consists of some three streets, a couple of squares, a small park in front of the parliament building, a small river and a few bridges, all within a range of approximately 400 metres.

This made my work extremely easy: Stevo’s hair salon was in the same street as Max’s immigrant restaurant, which was in turn just around the corner from the police station, and a stone’s throw from my hotel. And the streets, squares and bridges in question are all very photogenic: medieval, but well maintained, and the castle is well lighted and easy to reach via the funicular. Clean, fresh air straight from the Julian Alps. Poor Ljubljana. She’s a bit like a twenty year-old fashion model: beautiful, but terribly boring.

Slovenia was always the star pupil in Yugoslavia’s class (In almost all cases, the northern parts of countries or unions are richer. Why is that?) But perhaps looks deceive. Two streets beyond the city centre, graffiti creeps up the walls and you come across the occasional drunkard stumbling along the street. And behind closed doors, graver crimes are committed. Corruption is a serious problem in Slovenia. It is number 43 in Transparency.org’s ranking whereas the Netherlands ranks number 8. Politicians are the biggest offenders. Ljubljana’s mayor, Zoran Jankovic, has been arrested several times for financial misdemeanours. This has had little effect on his popularity, however, and he was recently re-elected by a wide margin to a third term in office. But the most striking example of corruption is the case of former prime minister Ivan Jansa. He was elected to parliament while serving a two-year prison sentence, and now he exchanges his prison cot for a cushy seat in parliament during part of every day.

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