I’m delighted to be back in Ljubljana for the EarZoom Festival! Arriving a few days early to acclimatise and orient myself into the local cultural scene, I stay at Hostel Print, a fifteen minute walk from the centre of town through the lovely Tivoli Park. The hostel is spacious, clean and quiet, offering a well set-up kitchen for self-catering, a selection of cooked breakfast and helpful friendly staff. A nice choice if you prefer not to be in the middle of partying backpackers!
Cake and Shopping
I start by exploring the gorgeous old town with a stroll along the river, where you will find antique bookstores, quirky gift shops and indisputably the best cake shop in Ljubljana. I had an absolutely sublime pear creation at Kavarna Zvezda,14 Wolfova ulica – look for the red star.
Slovenian designer fashion comes in some the wildest and most inventive forms I have ever seen.
Across the road from the cake shop, one of these imaginative designers allows you to wear their creations upside down and backwards – ask for instructions. I fall tragically in love with a beautiful fitted metallic pink coat at the gorgeous Slovenian designer clothes emporium Cliché. Next time I’ll have to come back with a shopping budget!
If clothes aren’t your thing, try Behemot Å½idovska steza 3, an excellent book lover’s English-language art and philosophy bookshop around the corner. I find a copy of contemporary Slovenian philosopher Mladen Doler’s ‘A Voice and Nothing More’.
Ljubljana’s Antique Flea Market offers antiques, art pieces and all kinds of bric-a-brac of collectible or simply nostalgic value. One of my favourite local flavours is the Nonstop Mlekomat BTC Tržnici, in the market square, an automated dispenser of raw milk which has people queuing up at all hours of the night, and plays a cute theme song while the milk pours.
The first evening I attend a concert by old friend Luka PrinÄiÄ, performing in audio-visual experimental series ‘Sound Explicit’ at the Galerija JakopiÄ on Slovenska Cesta.
I arrive during the set-up and he sends me to have a drink at the cool retro cafe next door, with big windows ‘so you can watch the traffic go by’, and enjoy the excellent thick pudding-like hot chocolate. His set of abstract glitch is mesmerising! The ‘Blind Date’ Artist book fair is hosted in the same space, and nearby Ljudmila Digital Media Lab supports creative use of new technologies, with artists, programmers and educators in a space that also provides exploration of festivals, film, video, books and music.
Alternative and underground concerts and DJ’s play more dance-oriented music in clubs like K4 run by the student association (a national body responsible for large number of venues) and check the impressive line-up at Kino Å iška, Centre for Urban Culture which offers film, dance and music including Blixa Bargeld & Alvo Noto, Melodorom, Universalove and Medeski Martin & Wood.
Tivoli Park and Contemporary Art
The following morning I am directed to relax at the cafe by the lake, and so find myself strolling through the Tivoli Park on a beautiful sunny day, charmed by the public lounge chairs set into the grass and beside the water.
Walking through the tunnel beneath the railway takes you up into the city itself. Starting from here you pass the Moderna Galerija, the Slovene national institution for modern and contemporary art including a fabulous bookshop and the cafe that also becomes part of the art projects.
Mestna Galerija Ljubljana, the City Art Museum, looks at the Slovenian idiom ‘to have butter on your head’ (which means shady or dishonest) through visual, literal and spatial interpretations. The gallery space is on two floors, with a library and cafe/bar on street level. Image and design lovers don’t miss the Museum of Architecture and Design.
Pri Å kofu restaurant on ReÄna Cesta 8 is a lovely outdoor setting with a rustic village feel in Krakovo, the oldest Ljubljana suburb, just along the river from the centre. The seasonal menu is changed daily with ingredients fresh from the central markets, and you will be informed of the dishes by friendly staff (the lunch special is excellent value with soup, salad and dessert). Å kof’s famous homemade Njoki (gnocchi) comes lavished in sauces of mushrooms (z jurÄki), zucchini (z buÄkami), arugula (z rukolo) or gorgonzola (z gorgonzolo).
A chic place to mix refreshment and culture is the Slovene Ethnographic Museum Cafe (SEM), which stays open late and is a popular meeting place for the local intellectual, art and design crowd. Next door is a chance to study more contemporary ethnography at Metelkova, the legendary ex-Yugoslav army base now an autonomous cultural centre with a plethora of alternative bars, galleries (recommended: Alkatraz), clubs, artist studios and Celica Hostel, where you sleep behind bars. KUD Mreža, one of the cultural associations in the centre, supports artistic expression that challenges common nonsense, interweaving creative strings of artists and artisans with events from improvised music workshop to urban art projects, video production, studio asylum and cd releases.
Underground, Romance and the Green Rabbit
Housed in a former chapel building, Kapelica Gallery is a place of ‘virtual interactions between artist, audience and idea’. Head downstairs for a wonderful collection of antique computers, including a working game of Tetris and Slovenian made machines. The organisation offers a range of electronics, programming and open source workshops, supports production of new media art works and hosts a range of alternative film screenings including local amateur features, horror, sci-fi and fan films like the Hunt for Gollum.
Originating in Ljubljana’s radical student movement of 1968, Å kuc, Stari Trg 21, is one of the key supporters and promoters of alternative culture since late 1970s and in the 1980s. Today the organisation aims to support young and promising artists by including them in the cultural sphere and offers creative spare-time activities for young people. Gallery, performance venue and library with a program including visual arts, film, music, publishing, civil rights, information, counselling, theatre and festivals.
If you’d like to finish on a high note, head straight to the top of the NebotiÄnik Skyscraper Bar and take in the views along with a cocktail. When built it was the tallest building in the Balkans (in 1933) and while the 12th floor is not so spectacular in modern times, the Art Deco style and atmosphere remain gorgeous. Expect to be surrounded by glamorous and well-dressed young Slovenians on a night out. I (still) feel Slovenia!
- Jodi Rose