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Šmarna gora in autumn

From Hrust to reflections on social conditions in the country.

Šmarna gora in autumn

From Hrust to reflections on social conditions in the country.

To start with – as predicted in the previous blog – this is the story:-)!

“There was once a giant called Hrust, who struck fear and trembling into all the local people. He was helped in his pillaging and intimidation by a dog with a head like a dragon. The courageous Janez the Kajžar decided to put a stop to it. One night he put a rabbit into a sack, tied it closed, got an iron stick and went after the giant. When he reached the cave where the giant was asleep, he untied the sack and let the rabbit go. The dog guarding the giant went after the rabbit. The giant woke up as well. At first he sneezed so hard that Janez was blown across the River Sava to the other side. Then the giant started throwing stones over the Sava. He kept on throwing them all day and then crossed the river and piled the rocks into a big heap. His work done, he climbed onto the heap, looked around the world a little and then dug himself into the middle of the mountain. This explains the appearance of today's saddle, Grmada and Gora”. (Source: http://www.smarnagora.com/index.php?page=ogori&pg=nastanek)

View from Šmarna gora

How is it possible that there are so many people here at this time on this day? Garfield's famous 'I hate Mondays' isn't true anymore..."

Sometimes when I get stuck in the overcrowded car park beneath Šmarna gora in Tacen, I amuse myself by asking when, out of frustration at the labour of Sisyphus they are in, a modern-day Hrust is going to start throwing rocks around and so make a new mountain above the Sava. However – in general, this should happen on a sunny weekend, not during the week! When I drove to Tacen on a Monday morning at the start of November in the middle of an Indian summer, I could hardly believe my eyes: the car park looked like a well stocked used car fair. At this time? In terms of crowdedness, Šmarna gora's really been able to compete successfully with Ljubljana's most popular shopping centres for years now, but not at a time when the working day is just drifting into its second half for the majority of the active population...  

How is it possible that there are so many people here at this time on this day? Garfield's famous 'I hate Mondays' isn't true anymore...

I go off by myself with a well-used trick: I drive from Tacen to Šmartno, where more often than not I find a place to park outside the local church, and go up to the top along Partizanska pot. Although it's a bit shorter than most of the others, the second part is steep enough, and then I carry on my exercise on the slopes of neighbouring Grmada, coming down along Mazijeva, which then joins Pot čez korenine, where there is then a short uphill towards the top of Šmarna gora, and then beneath the saddle I set off back towards Šmartno. Despite the warm sunshine, the forest foretells the approach of winter; the trees are increasingly leafless, and the crunch of fallen leaves beneath your feet is like thin glass...

But back to the fact that Šmarna gora is crowded at the start of the working week – in the middle of the day.  If I look at the profile of visitors at the top and on the paths, it dawns upon me that Šmarna gora is actually like a bellwether of social conditions. For example, there are many pensioners, which confirms the trend of rising numbers of active and vital older people. Then there are lots of young people. I'd guess that they are either students who don't feel like going to lectures or young people who cannot find work in the current economic climate and are among the large numbers of unemployed. Then there are people on Šmarna gora from age groups that “should” be at work. So they are either unemployed or freelancers (by their own choice or enforced)? The most optimistic presumption would be that they have proclaimed the wisdom of Carpe Diem ('Seize the day'), which in the film Dead Poets' Society was the constant refrain of the late Robin Williams, and has truly entered into our lives in the sense that we take a day off when something unusual happens such as an Indian Summer at a time when we should be left with melancholia under grey skies.  In all this, it's not possible to overlook the still-current social trend which has given rise to promotion of healthy lifestyles for years now; the 'consequences' are obvious everywhere, in the best case in the form of ever increasing numbers of walkers, runners, hikers, climbers, cyclists and so on... (and all those sweating in the fitness gyms). I believe that recreational athletes from major cities abroad (such as, let's say, London, where the number of urban cyclists and runners is growing steadily year on year, in the midst of the cacophony of noise and exhaust pipes), who visit Ljubljana, do a double take at least for a moment at first sight of the abundance of greenery in and just outside the city.

If Šmarna gora is really an indicator (of part) of social dynamics and its crowdedness is sometimes revealing of darker facets, it seems at the same time there could be something positive in it: that people are not stuck behind closed curtains in front of the TV but are getting out in their free time to take a breath of the natural world. I've recently discovered, for a good morning, short films by National Geographic, which among their opening images of nature say “Your health is improving while you are watching these images. Observing nature has an impact on your psychophysical health. It reduces stress, improves your mood and reduces blood pressure...” How very healthy therefore is our experience of nature :-)!

Therefore, to all: To (mental and physical) health!

Photography: Autumn impressions from Šmarna gora

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