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2 Days In: Ljubljana, Slovenia

Ljubljana, a view from Ljubljana Castle. Source: taken from IndiaWest, via Flickr, via WikiCommons

Ljubljana, a view from Ljubljana Castle. Source: taken from IndiaWest, via Flickr, via WikiCommons

Ahh, gentrification. Artists move in and suddenly a previously undesirable area is filled with cafes, bars, and hipsters who themselves are soon threatened to be displaced and replaced by even more fashionable newcomers. Such has been the case in cities around the world and Slovenia’s tiny capital, Ljubljana, has not been spared. Shortly after Slovenia gained its independence in 1991, waves of squatters adjusted to life in Metelkova, the former barracks of the now-dissolved Yugoslav People’s Army. For years, artists, musicians, and other cultural vanguards struggled with the government over rights to the space.
Today, Metelkova persists as a space for emerging artists to develop and display their works but the graffitied walls are complemented by hipsters and tourists engaging with social experimentation. Even the complex’s former prison has been re-configured to combine elements of old and new; each of the prison’s cells are individually-designed by a Slovenian artist and function as rooms for the city’s hippest hostel-art gallery, Celica.

Despite its small size of 300,000, Ljubljana is rich with culture; more than a few trendsetters have claimed it as the “next Prague.” The best way to see the city is grabbing a free map from the train station near Metelkova and setting out on foot. Hop from museum to museum and fill yourself up on food and souvenirs at the Ljubljana Open Market before trekking up to the top of Medieval Ljubljana Castle to take its spectacular view over the city and surrounding countryside. Grab a glass of mulled wine in the Square of the Republic, where independence was declared in 1991 and head back to Metelkova to party the night away until sometime after dawn.
Access: Ljubljana is but a train a bus ride away from many of Central Europe’s bigger and better known tourist cities. Both stations are conveniently located in the center of the city. Zagreb, Croatia is 2 hours by train while Venice and Frankfurt are 4 and 6 hours, respectively. Flights are also available to nearly every destination throughout Europe.

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