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Ljubljana, Slovenia

By Sonja Merljak

"Figs, try some figs." An older man at the open-air market in Ljubljana, Slovenia, is calling at the the passers-by. "Sweet figs, ripe figs, try them out, buy them and let us all go home." His voice is coarse; it is one o'clock in the afternoon and he has been standing there since early in the morning.

He came to Ljubljana from the Litoral, the Mediterranean part of Slovenia, where some farmers grow figs, and the rest of the fields are full of olive groves and vineyards. The other vegetable men and fruit sellers came from other parts. Their stands are colourful: blue with blueberries, red with strawberries, yellow with apples, green with grapes. Those from Vipavska Valley on the West sell peaches, and those from Stajersko on the East sell carrots and potatoes, tomatoes and pumpkins … They all came to Ljubljana this Saturday, because Saturday morning trips to the open air market in the heart of the Slovenian capital are something that Ljubljanians look forward to for the whole week. On those days Ljubljana has the charm of Paris and Vienna mixed together in an area small enough to fit in a palm of a giant's hand. The foreigners easily fall into the steps of Ljubljanians and they claim that the market is Ljubljana's most interesting part. It is a place to unobtrusively observe the Slovenian national character. The market is the agora of Ljubljana where the famous are equal to their fans; the place to meet and talk, to gossip and to praise.

Having bought the figs and other things, the Ljubljanians go past flower and fish markets and across the Three Bridges over Ljubljanica, the river that cuts through the town; this landmark was created by the famous Slovenian architect Joze Plecnik. They walk on Quay d' Cankar where they either indulge in the stalls with books and handicrafts on one side of the street or sit down for a chat with friends in one of the coffee places on the other. Meanwhile the tourists stroll along the Ljubljanica river admiring the enchanting houses that remind them of lifesize doll houses. The old buildings are being restored and new layers of colour are put on their fronts. Those who turn left (instead of right across the Shoemaker's Bridge) continue their walk on the Stari or Novi Sqaure where they can see the back side of the old artisan houses. They have three windows on each floor. That is because in the Middle Ages the owners were taxed according to the number of windows they had.

It is three o'clock in the afternoon. The Ljubljanians don't notice such details. They only pay attention when they are trying to show the beauties of their hometown to the visitors. Instead, they are trodding home, their hands full with bags and baskets. Many are carrying a bunch of sunflowers. The summer has almost ended. Next weekend they will be buying lillies.