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.