Love* on the Butchers’ Bridge over Ljubljanica River | Ljubljana, Slovenia

Having officially opened in July, the Butchers’ Bridge is Ljubljana’s newest bridge over the Ljubljanica River. Although the bridge looks very modern, it’s design is in fact an interpretation of a plan from nearly a century ago by the iconic Slovene architect Joze Plečnik, who transformed the city in the 1920s and 1930s. Some law prevented the exact design to be used after Plečnik’s death, but – as far as I’m concerned, the result isn’t at all shabby.

The footbridge’s surface is divided into three parts: a light gray granite runs along its middle, while two glass sections stretch along the railings on both sides, on which one can stand and look at the river flowing below (a little eerie).

On the bridge, there are several large standing statues of figures from Ancient Greek and Christian mythology, including Adam and Eve, banished from Paradise; Satyr, startled by the Serpent; and Prometheus, running and disemboweled, in punishment for having given the knowledge of fire to mankind.

Lined atop the bridge’s wide railing, there are also some smaller bronze sculptures, slightly grotesque but at the same time nice to look at, of animal skulls, shellfish and frogs. Here and there, padlocks are latched onto the beams connecting the sculptures. Initially, I was perplexed that they didn’t come up with a more subtle way of ensuring the sculptures weren’t stolen, but when I took a closer look at one of them, I noticed it was engraved: “Vesna + Tomaž,”** it read, and in fact, it was simply latched on and not actually keeping anything in place.

Then, I realized that love padlocks were clamped not only to the smaller sculptures but they also hung from the steel wires of the bridge’s railing.

This practice of latching padlocks engraved with the names of couples in love isn’t unique to the Butchers’ Bridge in Ljubljana. It’s already been done in the Hungarian town of Pécs, where lovers have been clamping padlocks to a fence in a street that links the mosque in the main square with the city’s medieval cathedral since the 1980s as a sign of commitment; in Florence, where love padlocks were latched on the railing at the center of the Ponte Vecchio; in China’s Mount Huang, where love-struck couples “lock their souls” together and throw the key over the edge of the cliff; and in downtown Moscow, where newlyweds latched padlocks onto the Luzhkov Bridge until authorities installed iron bars to prevent them. Most famously, perhaps, this is practiced in Paris, where almost 2,000 cadenas d’amour adorn the railings of the Pont des Arts Bridge and the Passerelle Léopold-Senghor over the Seine. Better than tattooing messages of undying love on your arm, I suppose.

Despite the cheesiness potential, I thought the padlocks on the Butcher’s Bridge were rather charming. Since they haven’t yet had time to get rusty, I found their shimmering brass blended quite well with the bronze sculptures, and created a cool combination of intentional art with a more incidental, and unpredictable, participation by the public. And since Ljubljana is no Paris, these declarations of love didn’t seem overwhelmingly tacky.

Plus, I rather like the contrast between the implied brutality of the bridge’s name and the romantic notion of the padlocks. Another instance, in which the word ‘butcher’ for me is divorced from its original meaning and stands for something light-hearted instead.

* In another case of the same word having a different meaning in two Slavic languages (is there a term for that?): ljubezen in Slovene means ‘love’ (noun); in Bulgarian, it means ‘polite’, ‘courteous’, ‘amiable’ (adjective).

**Thanks to Tomaž for the impromptu tour of Ljubljana and for only half-heartedly denying he is the one from the padlock inscription.

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Nature: In the woods is perpetual youth | Trška Gora, Slovenia

As a self-confessed urban addict, I usually never feel the need to get out of the city and spend time in nature. But I have to admit that – to my surprise, I’ve enjoyed the last two-odd weeks of greenery overload in the hills around Krško.

My eyes got so used to seeing green hills, trees and grass everywhere, all the time, that when I went to Ljubljana for the afternoon before I flew back to Sofia, it felt strange to be surrounded by buildings and to walk on concrete.

I always thought that spending time in nature would leave me bored and with nothing to do, but the documentary filmmaking workshop I attended in Trška Gora was nothing if not busy and exciting. And, somehow, it managed to combine all the benefits of summer camp (being in nature, tasty meals three times a day, sleeping in tents, a constant supply of people to hang out with) with all the advantages of adulthood (freedom to do whatever I pleased with my time).

I especially enjoyed eating tomatoes off the stem; reading in the grass, filming in the grass, sleeping in the grass; having breakfast, lunch and dinner outside; observing horses roaming around; watching films in the open air; napping in the hammock; hearing the late-night sound of crickets and seeing the early-morning fog in the surrounding hills. Just so you don’t think I became a total hippie, I’ll have you know that I kept my walking barefoot to a minimum*, only sat in a circle while somebody played the guitar twice and tried to take a shower at least once every few days.

When we left the camp, the only thing testifying for the past two weeks were the dozens of squares in the grass – discolored and dry, where the tents had stood.

Anyways, presently, in addition to withdrawal symptoms from not being able to constantly hang out with Tina, Nina and a few others, which were somewhat expected, I am also experiencing anxiety from my separation with nature, which comes as a surprise. So, I’m now re-training my eyes to get used to the urbanscape visible from my house and my feet to walk on concrete again.

*And yes, maybe I did bring too many pairs of shoes on this trip.

Tina Nina Ekaterina | Mali Vrh, Slovenia

Since I am an only child, the idea of having siblings is already quite strange to me. Although I understand that, in theory, brothers and sisters are a very natural thing, in practice I can’t quite imagine what it must be like to have somebody close to my age and as closely related to me as my parents. I find twins even more mind-blowing. Identical twins, especially, are a source of endless fascination – you not only have somebody who is so closely related to you, but was born at the same time as you and shares your exact DNA. I can’t even begin to fathom all the possible implications.

I met Tina and Nina a week ago, at the start of a documentary filmmaking workshop at Trška Gora in Slovenia. When all the participants were thinking of possible topics for a documentary, the first thing that of course sprang to my mind was that of twins.

Since then, the three of us have spent a large part of our waking hours together, partly under the pretense of trying to come up with a more specific idea about this project, and partly because we somehow got swept up into shooting a film on another topic as part of a bigger crew.

Though Nina now has short hair and Tina – longer, which makes telling them apart more automatic, and a few days have been enough to see that shared DNA doesn’t mean shared personality, I still spent much of my time around the twins in astonishment. The two have been graciously patient with my infiltration efforts, constant pestering, idiotic questions and frequent urges to prod them. By now, they’ve gotten used to the jaw dropping, I think.

During that time, things that would be perfect to include in a documentary about twins have come out: to my question “Which one is this?” about a childhood photo of one of them, they both answered, simultaneously: “That’s me.”; the first thing an old family friend inquired when running into Tina (minus Nina) was, “Which one are you?”; situations effortlessly yielded themselves into good twin/evil twin jokes; when one stalled in trying to explain or do something, the other would pick up from there and continue…

Unfortunately, this particular documentary will have to stay in my head, at least for the time being. Today, the three of us shot some footage that is more fiction than documentary. Here is the final result:

At any rate, it’s been double double fun fun.

Incidentally (ok, not really), I learned that Slovenian is the only Slavic language that retains full grammatical use of the dual, including special dual forms for nouns and verbs.

Camping in the hills above Krško | Trška Gora, Slovenia

At night, when I’m falling asleep in the tent and everything goes quiet, all I can hear are the noises made by the nuclear power plant in the valley below. They sound almost like the waves crashing against the shore when I’m falling asleep in my tent on the beach on the Black Sea.