Numismatourist Howard Berlin forwarded this report on his latest travels. Thanks!
I feel a bit like Willie Nelson’s song, On the Road Again. My first numismatic venue on this trip is the National Museum of Slovenia (not Slovakia!) in the capital city of Ljubljana. At a population of about 250,000, this capital city of this former Yugoslav republic is one of the smallest capital cities in Europe. I don’t speak Slovenian, but the language is similar to Slovak, my wife’s native language, and many words are similar to Russian, which I actively stopped speaking more than 50 years ago. Not as many people on the street speak English as you would expect, but still I managed to get around, sometimes speaking German, English slowly, and what little Italian I learned from my barber.
National Museum of Slovenia
The National Museum of Slovenia is a brisk walk from my hotel in the staro mestno, or Old Town. Actually, the museum building houses two museums. One half houses the National Museum of Slovenia where the numismatic cabinet is. The other half is the Slovenian Museum of Natural History. Unlike most of the museums I visit that have numismatic collections, there is no permanent or temporary exhibition of its collection. In fact, there is no public numismatic exhibition in all of Slovenia. Nonetheless, I wanted to touch base with these people and shamelessly promote my forthcoming book while I was there.
I was met at the museum by Dr. Alenka Miškec, the head of the museum’s coin cabinet, and Prof. Dr. Peter Kos, also of the coin cabinet. They have approximately 100,000 specimens housed in pull out trays located in an uncontrolled environment. This is unlike vaults of the Smithsonian or Berlin’s Bode Museum which are temperature and humidity controlled. Besides having an ample collection of ancient Greek, Roman, and Byzantine coinage, there also small groups of more modern era coins from around the world. As for the U.S., their collection includes several trays of gold coins, ranging from quarter to double eagles. Besides the coins, the museum has a numismatic library, consisting of about 4,000 volumes.
Both Drs. Miškec and Kos escorted me on a tour of the building’s two museums. Although there is no permanent numismatic exhibit, I did notice a few coins that were integrated among some of the historical specimens. Visitors wishing to view the coin cabinet’s collection or research the library should make their request in advance along with the purpose of their visit.
From Ljubljana, my next intended numismatic venue was to travel to Sofia, Bulgaria to visit the Bulgarian National Bank’s (BNB) museum. It is located in the center of town and a block away from the Bulgarian president’s office, where one can see the periodic changing of the guard, and there was a small group of protesters with the local police looking on.
Bulgarian National Bank
Unlike my visit in Ljubljana, my visit to the BNB museum was disappointing. I needed to go through a metal detector and my shoulder bag was scanned, which is typical for many bank museums. However the security personnel spoke only a very little English and it was difficult to make the purpose of my visit clear. Finally one gentleman signed me in and escorted me to the second floor where he unlocked the door to the museum.
As I am little bit handicapped and walk with a cane, I rely on using my camera to photograph the text material of the displays instead of having to take notes, which could take hours when there are many display cases. Since photography was not permitted (I knew this beforehand), I also was not permitted to dictate into my iPhone. I then determined that it would be impossible to remember virtually anything specific from the more than 14 cases in the museum. The English pamphlet given me was only of a general nature and I needed specifics about the coins and banknotes for an intended magazine article.
After three minutes in the museum, I then told my escort (using the Google English-Bulgarian translation app of my iPhone) that I apologized that this visit was a waste of time since I am unable to take any notes with my camera or cell phone. Other than this low point, I did enjoy visiting Sofia, taking in many of its cultural landmarks.
My next trip to museums will be to Zurich and Basel in February with a day trip across the border to Lörrach, Germany to visit the staff of MünzenWoche/CoinsWeekly.
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