The City Squares of Maribor

A look at the different squares in Maribor and the sculptures and notable buildings you'll find in each one

Unearthing a Slovene Controversy - Trg Generalna Maistra

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by fizzytom on October 6, 2012

Being rectangular, Trg Generalna Maistra is one of Maribor’s more conventional squares, though thanks to the effect of changes to Maribor’s traffic system, it’s often mistaken for an extension of nearby Trg Svobode . It’s easy to find, just behind the castle and Partizanska Cesta. Cross Trg Svobode, and climb the short flight of stairs just beside Vinag Wine Cellars; then cross the road, making sure not to step in front of one of the many tourist coaches that drop off their passengers on the southern side of Trg Generalna Maistra
Lined with handsome neo-renaissance buildings and with lawns, a fountain and sculptures in the centre this is a rather grand square. It’s a popular place for people to eat lunch on sunny days, or just to have a rest and watch the world go by. It’s also popular with students from the nearby university buildings but Slovenian teens tend to be better behaved than their British counterparts and the generations co-exist peacefully.

The square got its current name in 1987 when, with the installation of a statue of General Rudolf Maister, it was re-named. Born in 1874, Maister was a Slovene military officer and poet but it was as a political activist that he is most celebrated. He was a soldier by profession and reached the rank of Major in 1917. In 1918, near the end of the First World War when it looked like the Austro-Hungarian Empire was close to being beaten, Maribor’s city council declared the town annexed with Austria. Maister mustered some 4,000 Slovene volunteer soldiers and 200 officers and seized control of Maribor and the Lower Styria region. The Slovene National Council for Lower Styria made him a general for his efforts. While he might be seen as a hero for this deed, controversy followed in 1919 when, it is alleged, he ordered Slovene troops to fire on members of the Austrian minority who were awaiting the arrival of the American peace delegation. Nine Austrians were killed and twice that number was injured. It has never been established for certain whether Maister gave the order to shoot though there were Austrian witnesses who said the order with given with no provocation, while Slovene witnesses to the event maintained that some Austrians from a paramilitary organisation attacked Slovene soldiers guarding the town hall.

A statue of Maister wearing his military great-coat stands on the lawn in the middle of the square. (Another statue of General Maister, this time on his horse, can be seen opposite the main train station in Ljubljana)Beside the statue there is a linden tree which was planted to commemorate Slovenia’s declaration of independence in 1991. Buried in the ground next to this is a bottle containing a document which explains this. The linden is the national tree of Slovenia and it is said that when Slovenians living outside the country see a linden, it makes them think of home.

Also on the square is a monument to Anton Tomsic, a journalist. It’s a simple stone obelisk, a design that is not uncommon in Slovenia (and around the countries of the former Yugoslavia). He was born in 1842 and died in 1871. He is celebrated as the first professional Slovene journalist and chief editor of the first Slovene newspaper ‘Slovenian Nation’. The paper was first published in 1868 in Maribor. The enterprise was beset with financial problems and Tomsic did much of the work himself at first. Later he was able to take on an assistant and close to the monument to Tomsic there is a statue of Josip Jurcic (1844 - 1881) who took over as editor when Tomsic died.

The First Grammar School is the most striking of those buildings around the square; it’s a three storey neo-renaissance building with an imposing entrance comprising three identical arches. It was built by Wilhelm Bucher in 1871-1873. Another handsome building is the municipality building on Ulica Heroja Staneta which is of neo-Baroque design and was built in 1911.

If you are sightseeing in Maribor you’ll come upon Trg Generalna Maister without having to go out of your way. To get from Partizansa Cesta, the main thoroughfare, to Mestni Park, the town park, most pedestrians pass through this square.

Trg Svobode - The Sadly Under-Used Heart of Maribor

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by fizzytom on April 25, 2009

With there being several squares in the centre of Maribor it's easy to think, on first visiting the town, that you've hit the heart of the town, only to find another bigger and more impressive square. I would say that Trg Svobode - literally Freedom Square - should be referred to as the heart of the town, if indeed one needs to attach that name to any part.

The square is at the town end of Partizanska cesta (the other end being the bus station) and it is beside the castle (which fronts on to Grajski Trg). As soon as you see the square you will know that this is the perfect place for a market yet the food market is now at a recently (purpose) built site in Lent. However, each day a small number of market stalls - well, tables set up by traders - do appear on the square selling mainly fruit, vegetables and flowers. Alas, the number is disappointing. Any tourists visiting the town will not know that the main market is further away and will believe the market here is pretty poor. This is a particular shame since the Tourist Information Office is just over the road and most visitors will pass by the square.

Occasionally a flea market is held on the square but these are irregular at best and only ever have a handful of stalls. It would be nice if these were better promoted and perhaps some of the stall holders who turn up at the excellent flea market in the capital week after week might drop by one time.

In winter a chestnut seller stands with his brazier at the edge of the square and the smell of the roasting nuts drifts over the square and makes it quite atmospheric.

Standing in the square is a curiously shaped monument - like a sphere with a stripey blanket over it. It is a monument to the dead of the National Liberation War and was designed by Slavko Tihec and installed here in 1975. The locals often refer to it as "kodzak" - or "Kojak" and thinking about the seventies TV show you can kind of see why.

Another "monument" in the square is more obvious - it's a large wooden wine barrel that stands outside Vinag - the wine company. You can take a guided tour of the cellars which includes a wine tasting afterwards. You do need to be part of a group and tours are in English or German - if you are travelling independently, ask if there are any groups in your language (so long as that's English or German) and ask if you can tag along. You could even give a mobile number and they could call you if a tour is arranged after your enquiry. It's funny to think when you are standing on Trg Svobode that there are 20,000 square metres of wine cellars under your feet!

On the corner, just next to the Vinag entrance is the Consulate of Croatia, housed in a smart white building. Looking up past the next square - Trg General Maistra - from here you get a great view of Piramida, one of the striking hills to the north of the town centre which is covered in rows and rows of vines.

We have been visiting/living in Maribor since 2007 and only very recently has a cafe been set up in the square - and this was only for a limited time. Hopefully it will be back this summer - it's a lovely spot and a great place to people watch. From time to time concerts are held in the square such as on New Years Eve and its only then that you feel the square is being well-used.

Trg Borisa Kidrica - Just What Is that Monument?

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by fizzytom on April 26, 2009

If you arrive by train the sombre and striking monument in Trg Borisa Kidrica may be the first sight you see in the city as this square is directly opposite the train station which, in fact, forms one side of the square. It’s an attractive square with plenty of grassy areas, well kept flowerbeds and plenty of seats so you can sit down and watch the world go by for a while.

There are a couple of bars and a fantastic bakery on one side of the square (on the right as you face the train station) or you could buy some fruit from the excellent stall that stands in front of the square as you look with the station behind you. There’s also a bread kiosk where you could by snacks for a picnic lunch on the square or for supplies for a train journey.

Whichever you choose you should step across and have a look at the monument first. It was erected in 1962 and designed by Stojan Batica. It takes the form of a group of slightly abstract figures holding up poles on which is threaded a huge piece of stone into which the face of Kidric is sculpted. It’s a dark and intensely serious piece but clearly fitting for the subject and the time.

Who was Boris Kidric I hear you ask? He was a Slovenian communist (he became leader of the Slovenian Communist Party in 1937) who helped to organise the Partisan struggle in the years between 1941 and 1945. He did pretty well for himself in Tito’s government, becoming Finance Minister in 1946, a post he held until his death in 1953. After he died, the eastern Slovenian town of Strnisce (missing vital carons on the second S and C) was renamed Kidricevo (missing the caron on the C) in his honour. There is a more traditional monument - a statue of him – in Ljubljana.

The train station was designed by Slovene architect Milan Cernigoj and you may see a more of his work around the city.He was born in Tolmin and died in Maribor in 1978. I love the simple clock tower on this low rise building which is constructed from white stone but sadly people often don’t notice it because their attention is drawn to the locomotive on display outside the station instead. Lots of train stations in Slovenia have an old locomotive on display outside and this one was built in 1903 and used until the mid 1970s.

You probably wouldn’t make a beeline for this square but if you are nearby it’s a nice place for a rest and if you arrive by train at least you now know what that curious monument is!

Rotovski trg - A Handsome Short Cut

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by fizzytom on September 5, 2010

In Slovene "trg" means "square" or "place", the equivalent of a Spanish "plaza" or an Italian "piazza"; it’s pronounced "turg".

Rotovški trg (in Slovene the second word of a name is not capitalised) is basically the "town hall square" although the "front" of the old town hall is actually on the more impressive Glavni trg ("Main square" – except that, really, Trg Svobode, or "Liberty Square" is the biggest and most central of Maribor’s many squares). The name derives from the old German name Rathaushof, literally the courtyard of the town hall and this eventually morphed into the Slovene Rotovški. The first town hall was built in 1515 and before this time this area was the site of a market, sometimes referred to as the "Mehlplatz", the "flour market". The courtyard of the town hall, now known as Rotovški trg was used from time to time in the eighteenth century as a place for bull-fighting!

In the geography of Maribor, Rotovški trg links Glavni trg with Slomsek trg, which is where you’ll find Maribor’s cathedral and the impressive main post office. It’s pedestrian only except for access and unless you’re taking a short cut you’d be pretty unlikely to need to be in Rotovški trg at all. However, because it links two squares that tourists do visit, and especially because of the enticing vaulted passageway that links Glavni trg with Rotovski trg, many visitors do stray into the square to have a look.

At the Glavni trg end of the square, the rear of the town hall, the architecture is quite interesting with a two floors of arcaded walkway. At the other end of the square is the handsome Neobaroque building of the "Pioneer’s Library" with its twin balconies.
In the cellar of the town hall is the restaurant "Toti rotovž thanks to a less than glowing mention in Lonely Planet we’ve never eaten here. Apparently the restaurant boasts an eclectic international menu which doesn’t work too well. If you are looking for somewhere good to eat in this part of town I can make a couple of suggestions. For special occasions try Rožmarin which serves modern Mediterranean food; it’s one of Maribor’s most stylish restaurants and its food is excellent. Alternatively, for cheap eats head to Cevapcicarna Hadzija which is in the street that runs parallel to Rotovški trg and runs off Glavni trg north towards Slomsek trg; this place is a cosy little place serving authentic Bosnian cevapcici (spicy little sausages made of minced veal served in a special bread bun). It’s not all bad news, though, because Toti rotovž does have an outdoor summer terrace in the square and you can just have a drink there if you want, and not feel obliged to eat.

In guidebooks much is made of Maribor’s Puppet Theatre but this is another place I have yet to visit; I am sorry to say that in the three years I have been part-time resident in Maribor, I have never been able to coincide a stay with a performance. However, I do know that it’s very highly regarded and stages mostly entertainment for children; it is known for adapting classic and modern stories from all over the world to make them work as puppet shows. An international festival is held over July, August and September every year and many of the festival performances take place in the open air in the square.

So far I’ve not been able to give any compelling reasons to persuade anyone to make a point of seeing Rotovški trg; the truth is there aren’t any. Maybe you’re looking for somewhere to access the internet and think of using the library? Yes, that’s possible. You could try that but there aren’t many terminals and you’d probably be directed to the internet café on Glavni trg; if that happens, head instead for the one in the Narodni dom (standing on Glavni trg with the town hall behind you, turn left, walk past Elektro Maribor and the line of bus stops and turn left at the next corner. The building across the road is the Narodni dom, an art space that also has an internet café, the cheapest in Maribor).

The "Top Five Things about Rotovški trg":

1. Sometimes you get people playing didgeridoos in the archway between Glavni trg and Rotovški trg. That’s pretty cool.

2. As you get to the northern end of Rotovški trg you can catch the delicious aromas emanating from the (primarily) seafood restaurant Novi Svet Pri Stolnici on Slomsek trg.
3. If it’s raining or snowing you can get some temporary shelter by walking under the arcade rather than getting wet going by any other route.

4. If you’re around on a Saturday you might be able to see some wedding groups posing for photographs.

5. It’s quite nice to look at (but there are many more interesting things to see in Maribor)

A Heads Up on Glavni trg

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by fizzytom on February 16, 2011

Glavni trg (pronounced "glowny turg" – the "ow" pronounced as in "how") is something of a misnomer; the name is derived from "glav" meaning ‘head’ and translates more or less as the "Main Square" but, with the changing shape of Maribor, it no longer feels like the heart of the city. The sixteenth century town hall with its striking clock tower and the magnificent plague column always look fantastic in photographs but the truth is that Glavni trg is a shadow of its former self, and is almost pushed to the edge of the city centre. Many of the shop units on Glavni trg are empty although with 2012 – when Maribor assumes the mantle of European Capital of Culture – fast approaching, a few have been taken up recently. The problem with Glavni trg is that one of the town centre’s main roads cuts through the square making it much less suitable for pavement cafes than other town centre squares.

The first mention of the square can be found back in 1315. It was the site of the town's main market in those days and often referred to simply as "Markt", and later "Hauptplatz" (this part of central Europe of course being under German or Austro-Hungarian rule for several centuries.) In 1918 when Maribor became part of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia the square took the name Glavni trg, and so it remained except for a brief spell during the Second World War when, under Nazi occupation, it was known as "Adolf Hitler Platz".

Glavni trg stands at the northern end of the "Stari most" – the Old Bridge and the eastern end of Koroska cesta, the old road out of the city towards the Koroska region of Slovenia. It was the construction of this bridge in 1913 that changed the shape of the square, so that it looks today more like a buffer between the buildings on the north side and Korosk cesta. When you come to the end of the bridge the main part of Glavni trg is to your left and the smaller part is to your right.

The centerpiece of the square is the Plague Column. The original column was erected in 1681 by survivors of the Plague, as a mark of their gratitude for having been spared. This replacement was designed by Jožef Štraub and erected in 1743 ; such monuments exist throughout central Europe but when I visited the Austrian city in Linz in 2010 I thought theirs looked very familiar and some investigation revealed that it too was designed by Jožef Štraub. Statues of six saints encircle the Virgin Mary, they are said to be intercessors against the plague.

A few steps from the Plague Column is the "rotovž" (the name is derived from the German "Rathaus"), the old town hall, still used today for weddings and formal events but no longer really for the administrative purposes of former times. The town hall dates originally from 1515 but it has had many changes made to it. Only fifty-odd years after it was first built it got a Venetian makeover which included the addition of the little loggia or balcony. The little clock tower with its bulb shaped top is a Baroque addition and local folklore says that the builder charged with erecting it did not consider himself suitably paid and so omitted the middle section of the tower. Although I haven't seen it, some Maribor friends have told me that the cold council chamber, where weddings take place, is beautifully painted.

On the edge of this part of Glavni trg is the Velika Kavarna, a coffee shop which sells unfeasibly gooey cream cakes, including some Slovenian specialities such as potica and rezina. The original Velika Kavarna was an important cultural institution and was housed just over the road in the magnificent Theresienhof, or in Slovene "Terezijin dvor", at the end of the Stari Most, later the home of the Maribor Casino. It was built in 1913. In summer they bring chairs and tables out onto the square and at weekends at least, when there is little traffic, it's a good place to see and be seen. (Incidentally, the casino is no more; it apparently went bankrupt in 2009. It no doubt suffered in the wake of the newer places near the border with Austria, and a super-casino in Nova Gorica on the border with Italy).

Passing the vaulted passageway which leads onto Trg Rotovž, you then come to a couple of beautifully painted properties that date from the second half of the nineteenth century. One of them is the old pharmacy, which is reflected in the plasterwork frieze on the facade.

One of my favourite Maribor buildings, situated at the entrance to Postna Ulica, is the Ludwigshof, or "Ludvikov dvor" in Slovene which was orginally purely a residential building occupied by a family of wealthy Maribor merchants who owned a mill in Melje, a district of Maribor.

Across the road behind some ornate iron railings is the former Jesuit Aloysius church. The building was designed by Johannes Fuchs and the interior was designed by Jozef Holzinger who was well known for his ornate carvings which were featured in many church altars in central Europe. Unfortunately the church can only be viewed by appointment but the staff at the tourist information office can help by making phone calls.

The building next to it was once a Jesuit college and is now home to the city archive where all of the city's old historic records and documents are kept. On the wall outside is a plaque bearing the image of Franc Kovacic (1867 - 1939) who was a Catholic priest and philosopher and writer. He had many strings to his bow and participated in the the 1919 Paris Peasce Conference, as an expert in ethnic matters when the borders of the new Yugoslavia were drawn. On the other side of the church is a building which is almost the twin of the Jesuit college, but this one houses the "Planet Bar", a place that is really nice when its quiet but can get very noisy in mid evening when the music gets turned up stupidly high, even when there's just one member of staff and an old man with a dog in there.

Moving along towards the Stari Most you'll come to the Stari Gril - the Old Grill. No matter what delicious, mouthwatering aromas emanate from the Stari Gril, it should be avoided at all costs because there are much better places not so far away in which to dine on Balkan specialities such as cevapcici and pljeskavica. You'd do much better to walk two minutes along Koroska cesta and eating at the Zlati Lev (the Gold Lion) instead.

At the Stari most we'll cross over, remembering not to stand on the cycle path while we wait for the cars to stop (we have lots of cycle paths all over the city) and go to the other half of Glavni trg., the smaller eastern side. Staying on the southern side of the square, notable shops include a wonderful little shop that sells intricate homemade mouthwatering chocolates, and "Kult" a boutique that sells eye watering (certainly the footwear) goth clothing. A small gallery is housed in a handsome building that adjoins the the former main pharmacy, recently closed down which ias a shame as the building is quite lovely. The gallery does not exhibit a great deal of pieces but is worth a brief visit if you're on the square. Across the road on the northern side is a monstrous building dating from the 1980s; it contains a small number of shops including a realy good shop selling fair trade gifts and homewares.
So we come to the end of our tour of Glavni trg. Usually the square is quiet but it is used as one of the focal points for festivals throughout the year. In September it is one of the sites for the Old Vine Festival; a circular bar is set up and you everyone rolls up to drink locally made wines and watch local bands performing on a stage in front of the rotovž. On Saturday mornings there are a handful of stalls where you can buy locally grown organic produce, and there are street performances from international musicians and dancers on the square in late may/Early June when the Lent festival takes places.

There are plans afoot to alter the square which should take the traffic away from it and restore Glavni trg to something more befitting a "main square". However, it had been hoped that this would have been carried out in readiness for 2012 and as no work has started, it does seem unlikely that this will happen.

Whatever happens, Glavni trg will still be one of the most handsome parts of Maribor. After four years of living there (part-time at least) I never tire of crossing the Stari most and seeing Glavni trg laid out before me.

Glavni trg (Main Square)
Glavni Trg
Maribor, Slovenia

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