The Constant Gardeners

One of the peculiar things about Slovenes (apart from wearing copate) is the urge to have their own speck of land. Most of us would like to have a speck of land somewhere in Croatia, prefferably close to sea, but during the off-season Slovenes (and Ljubljanchans are no exception) tend to have their own garden – prefferably in the middle of an urban area.

Be it just a reflex (the fact is that most Ljubljanchans have peasant/farmer ancestry), a need to be somewhat self-sufficient, or just trying to make ends meet… the habit has grown waaaay out of proportion in the last decade or so. Those, who will join me for the hike around Ljubljana on Liberation day, will have the unique opportunity to see just how many of these small gardens (vrtički) are there around Ljubljana. In fact there are so many, that people who own them, are commonly called vrtičkarji, or The Gardeners… (Sounds like The Klingons 😀 )

The Mayor has recently decided to put a stop to it (for which I applaud him loudly). Being as gentle as a T-34 tank on a bad day, he issued “a request” that The Gardeners tear down all the shacks they illegally errected during the years. Now these shacks are a curious thing… They usually start as nothing more than a storage facility for tools and some fertilizer, but pretty soon – seemingly out of nowhere – they start sporting electricity, tap water, an occasional refridgerator, a porch and a grill. They become a home away from home… And as a rule they look ugly… Really ugly.

Thus Zoki “requested” (meaning: ordered) that owners tear them down – otherwise he’ll do it for them and send them the bill. Some have heeded his calls without further a-do, others have done so reluctantly, whereas still others flipped him the bird.

And when I say “tore down”, I don’t mean “disassemble and take the material to the junk yard”… No, sir. For this is Slovenia! Nay, this is Ljubljana! Who the fuck is this mayor character to tell us what to do?!? OK, we’ll do it, but we’ll send a message! Like Vinetou we’ll send smoke signals to Zoki saying that he can go stick his head in the lavatory for this….

Ljubljana burning

We send message to big white warrior: you burn our huts, we burn your hut

Those of you who are somewhat familiar with medevial Slovene history know of peasant rebellions… And of course you know of last week’s City Hall Brawl… The problem is that the last time around the protesters were armed with walking canes, whereas The Gardeners, when they stage a protest, will be armed with stick and shovels.

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Agent provocateur and an occasional scribe.

13 thoughts on “The Constant Gardeners”

  1. And pitchforks (or “garden forks”, which, as anyone who has read The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time knows, can be used as murder weapons).

    I’m torn on this one–I really like the Slovene attachment to the land, including those little patches of dirt that the British would call allotments . As a peasant myself, my loyalties lie more with the gardeners than with the authorities. On the other hand, as a law-abiding citizen and conservationist/environmentalist, I disapprove of crnogradnja. So put me firmly in the camp of the fence-sitters.

  2. 😀

    Actually, I haven’t told the whole story… Zoki plans to dedicate some city-owned land especially to gardening. But he also plans to define the dimensions and appearance of huts allowed on these allotments. Even more: the same will apply to privately owned patches of land.

    The point is that he apparently will not banish The Gardeners from Ljubljana as a whole, but only from those parts where they really shouldn’t be gardening. One such place is definitely the immediate vicinity of Žale cemetary (where I took the pics). I too find it extremely tasteless to have huts of all shapes and sizes next to a place of contemplation which happens to be one of Europe’s most beautiful cemetaries.

  3. How does one acquire these little plots of land? Is it just a matter of getting there first and popping a hut on a patch, or is there some kind of system? I personally would rather enjoy kicking it in my garden plot, beer fridge at the handy, little stove to warm the fingers. Maybe not at Zale, point taken.

  4. Yes, it was a little like Wild West, especially on city-owned land, where these plots were/are more or less illegal. A few a privately owned, but the huts on them are still illegal.

    I imagine the city administration will eventually publish a tender where you will be able to rent a patch of land for a small fee. My bet is that 2/3 of The Gardeners will rather choose to abandon gardening than pay even a symbolic amount, so ypi shouldn’t be up against too much competition 😉

  5. I am all for “regulated gardening” in Ljubljana – as much of it as possible. Such areas of a city can look really beautiful, if appropriate care is taken. I lived nere the place where the above photo was taken and I always thought it looked terrible.
    Now, in Murska Sobota and surroundings, you will find those things, too. But obviously, where the whole place is rather rural or where you have farms as soon as you poke your nose out of the town, it is actually OK not to overregulate.
    So, Ljubljanchans, hold your tools and ready, steady, go, as soon as the legal frame of gardening in the capital has been put in order. 🙂

  6. Lisa, feel free to come dig in my weedy neglected garden any time. I have more land than I can adequately care for. I’ll supply the tools, the land, AND the beer. But it won’t be free–you have to supply the labor. And we’ll all share in the harvest. 😉

  7. Hey, I might take you up on that! I farm back home, so I’m missing the glorious pain of looking at a field full of weeds and knowing that the only thing that will affect it is my own backbreaking labour. Yeah, it’s a farmer thing.

  8. gardens on the city’s land are not illegal. owners signed contract with MOL, but of course the authorities were too lazy to charge for the use of the land. on the other hand all huts are illegal and they really disfigure appearance of our city.

  9. Oh, thanks for clearing that up… so basically the Municipality of Ljubljana (MOL) can evict The Gardeners either way if it wants to…

    Gardens = legal, huts = illegal

    Sorry for the confusion, everybody!

  10. I’m in the U.S.A.; cleveland, ohio and I garden every year too. Not just the last 10 years. It must come from Ljubljana?

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