The Free Anarchist State of Metelkova

Ljubljana might just be the busiest city we’ve visited on this trip so far. My first impression of Slovenia is that it fits in far better with Austria and Hungary and Czech Republic than it does with Bosnia and Croatia. There are certainly remnants of communism in the architecture and urban design. Culturally, there are similarities with the other Balkan states, but the city mostly feels like the rest of Western Europe.

View from Ljubljana Castle
View from Ljubljana Castle

We don’t have much time here, so we tried to hit the ground running, so to speak. We have an AirBnb in Trubarjeva Cesta, which seems like sort of an artist enclave… Lots of cool little hole-in-the-wall restaurants and cute cafes, record stores, weird art projects, tons of really amazing graffiti. Nearby is a place that has come to be known as Metelkova. It was formerly the Yugoslavian Army barracks, but has been taken over by anarchist squatters who have transformed the place into something out of a Tim Burton movie. We hung out there for a little bit as it was getting dark and it seemed reasonably chill. From what I read, the local government has chosen not to enforce multiple ongoing legal violations (code problems, unlicensed liquor for sale, etc.) because Metelkova has come to be recognized as a local center for music and artistic culture. I’m not sure how long it will exist in the current state, but to me it was far more interesting than the downtown areas where all the tourists are congregating.

Metelkova in Ljubljana
Metelkova in Ljubljana
Metelkova in Ljubljana
Metelkova in Ljubljana

We arrived on a Friday afternoon, so we were lucky in our short time to get to see the weekly “open kitchen” that they do in the city center. It’s an extremely packed square with food stalls of all sorts. I was surprised to see that most of the food on offer was non-Slovenian international food. It seems to be somewhat fitting, as many of the locally esteemed restaurants are really offering what I would consider to be fusion cuisine. The Slovenian food we were able to sample seemed a bit like Bosnian food, with home-style stuffed peppers and potatoes and that sort of thing. Around town though, most of what we were able to find was either high-end gourmet type stuff or different international or fast food.

"Open Kitchen" in Ljubljana
“Open Kitchen” in Ljubljana
"Open Kitchen" in Ljubljana
“Open Kitchen” in Ljubljana

We considered using our last full day with the rental car to take a day trip down to Lake Bled, but, plain and simple, we just opted to be lazy and hang around downtown and in the parks in Ljubljana. This isn’t a city that you need a long time to tour. However, it’s a nice break because we didn’t feel like we were cutting things too short. We were able to park up very close to Ljubljana Castle, tour the place, and take the funicular railway back and forth. We turn in our rental car and take a very short flight to our next and final stop: Belgrade, Serbia