The antithesis between Sarajevo and Ljubljana was frightening. Brimming with artistic ambition, the capital of Slovenia was an eight hour journey from the heart of Bosnia, which included a chilling change at Zagreb. The medical students we drank with on the train were brimming with life and jokes and fun. It’s easy to strike up a conversation with people across the continent, it seems. The people make the places. Our late-night arrival was marred with a soaking deluge of rain. It penetrated every pore on my face, every strand of hair.
Hostel Celica is unmistakably unique in its appearance and story. It was built by the Austro-Hungarian soldiers in 1882 and used as a military prison until 1991. The architectural transformation was conceived by a group of artists, architects and scientists of the Sestava (Culture and Art Association), whose essence is said to be the pursuit of creativity, architecture, philosophy, art and poetry. Hostel Celica is a truly daring intellectual feat. Like the rolling stone walls throughout the city, each bedroom is a work of art.
The collagic dream that is Ljubljana Castle overlooks the old town and provides all-round views of the city from the tower, which we furtively climbed. We were then treated to a cleverly constructed 3D film about Ljubljana, taking us through the historical myriad. From there, we traipsed down the slopes and back into the small streets, in search of sustenance. After a while of umming and ahhing over the prices of every bistro and restaurant, Cafe Antico was discovered.
What seemed like a little old bar turned out to be the most archaic miniature palace in the land. The walls and ceiling had been superfluously adorned with God-like paintings of the most perfect intricacy. An angelic mural of a biblical nature shone over our heads. The potato goulash was also stunning to my taste, although we were a little apprehensive in foresight as our waiter left to collect our food from across the street!
We toured the gallery quarter of Ljubljana in the gaze of the quiet afternoon sun. The National Gallery of Slovenia presented a wonderful array of religious artifacts, local paintings, sensual sculptures and thoughtful photographs in sepia tones. Each object fed the mind, touched the soul in some way. The touch of art can be dazzling.
That night we returned in shirts to that same lunchtime cafe as a jazz night was advertised on the table. English melodies were poignantly sang by the lady with the saxophone at the forefront. “Walking hand in hand/ To the promised land…” The skill of the bassist was a sight for the eyes and ears. My friend and I were quietly influenced. Soothing sounds created a catharsis to enjoy. As I sat in the quaint wooden chair amongst the crowd of night time travellers, taking in the breath of the songs, I was taught. In certain special moments, when the beat hits hard in your heart or the pitch reaches a particular strained level, with all aesthetic charms out the window, jazz can cure the mind, heal the deepest wound. The soaking art of Ljubljana is therapy. Every pore, every strand…