Metelkova: The alternative face of Ljubljana
January 1, 1970
by Dunja Rakic
If you want to visit something like the famous Christiania in Copenhagen, Metelkova is an ideal place for you. The refreshing energy of this magical place is completely different from Ljubljana itself. Metelkova is ideal at night, where you will be able to meet people from all over the world who came to experience the true nightlife and spirit in this urban squat.
THE THORNY PATH OF THE BIRTH OF METELKOVA
Metelkova is a former military barracks that was used until 1991 when the Yugoslavian army finally left Slovenia. That space was used up until the war for the independence of Slovenia finished. Slovenia became a separate country from the former Yugoslav state, which it had been part of since 1945. After military left barracks around 200 artists and activists from Ljubljana founded the „Network for Metelkova“ organization and tried to occupy the area. In the middle of the negotiation, the City of Ljubljana decided to demolish the old, unmaintained building of Metelkova.Three days after that, the youth skipped the fence and took up the barracks. After three months, the city authorities shut down the water and electricity, so many people left the barracks, which was largely ruined. For several months, it was uncertain whether the squat will be held in life, since less and less events were organized and the enthusiasm of people has dropped significantly. But the people who remained at the beginning of the squat have raised energy and showed others that it is possible to maintain a place in life. Metelkova officially became a fully-fledged place for living in 1995.
Today, everything that is required to pay for the cost of Metelkova, like water and electricity, is paid by the inhabitants of the squat. They don’t use any state assistance. Through numerous exhibitions, workshops, music performances and money from the bars and clubs, there is enough money accumulated to cover all costs.
Metelkova occupies a space of 12,500 m² and consists of seven buildings including: Alkatraz Gallery, Gromka Club, Trg brez zgodovinskega spomina, Radical Infoteka Škratova Reading Room, Monokel Club, Tiffany Club and art studios and workshops.
PLACE FOR EVERYONE
Metelkova is conceived as a place where all those who can not find work or a place to live will be able to spend some time. Metelkova is a place for all artists who will interconnect, paint, write, create music and live together. Each of them has the right to organize, in cooperation with other artists, his own exhibitions, workshops, music concerts, performances, literary evenings and all other possibilities from which money can come. All the money collected on this occasion is used for the community and invests in this squat. While you can contribute to the community, you are welcome to come back. Metelkova is one of the rare places where the innovation in art and thinking is really appreciated. And, the best thing is: Everyone is always welcome to stop by.
HOW TO FIND METELKOVA
Metelkova City, an autonomous cultural center, is located in the center of Ljubljana. Metelkova is only 700 meters away from the Dragon Bridge. If you came to Ljubljana by train Metelkova is 7 minutes away from the train station where you arrived. If you came by bus to Ljubljana then you are somewhere closer, you are 4-5 minutes away from this urban paradise. At first glance, it seems that there is nothing in that part, but soon there will be huge gates behind which is the whole neighborhood. After all, you can follow people who look mainstream and underground, be sure that you’re going to the same destination.
WHEN TO VISIT METELKOVA
The local guide who issues accommodation in Metelkova thinks that it is best to come from May to August. In these months, you can expect the ideal summer temperature in Ljubljana, so you can also visit some marine destinations like Piran. Piran and Metelkova make a full experience, although they are on completely different edges of the spectrum, one is a living cultural center and the other is a peaceful seaside, this local guide considers it ideal to visit one after the other. He recommends avoiding Bled and similar classic tourist destination. It would be best to take the accommodation in Metelkova, visit Ljubljana during the day, and then come to gigs at some of the clubs in the evening. If you finish the tour earlier, there are a number of workshops and events during the afternoon in Metelkova.
WHERE TO STAY- HOSTEL CELICA
The best place to stay in Metelkova is Hostel called Celica. „Celica“ means the cell in Slovene and this hostel is actually a former Yugoslav prison. Rooms are actual cells, which are adapted so that you don’t feel like you are alone in this world, but on the other hand, rooms have a „creepy“ vibe. The hostel consists of 20 cells aka rooms and each room tells it’s own story. All rooms were designed by local artists. This hostel also includes a restaurant so you don’t have to worry about food. Accommodation per person per night is only 10 euros. Also, this hostel is well known, so if you want to stay here, you must book months in advance! I booked a room in November for April, and even then there were only two rooms for certain days.
WHERE TO GO OUT
In Gala Halla you can hear the biggest names of underground music artist who always love to stop by on their tour in Metelkova. This club also has a summer scene where most of the events organized in Metelkova are held.
Channel Zero, like Gala Halla, also is the place for the underground music artist. In this club, you can find very often art performance and poetry reading as part of quiet and peaceful evenings.
Tiffany is the gay club which is part of 7 main buildings in Metelkova. In this club, you can find usual nightclub parties, but on the other hand, many art events like exhibitions, literary readings or film debate nights.
Monokel is the lesbian club which is there from the birth of Metelkova. This club, like Tiffany, promotes LGBT culture, but have mostly crazy party nights.
Jalla jalla is a bar located at the entrance to Metelkova. Here you can find the cheapest beer in the whole city and hang out with people in front of the bar. For wine you will pay 1e, beer is 1.5e and shots are up to 2 euros.
WHILE YOU’RE IN METELKOVA
In addition to clubs, nearby or in Metelkova itself, there are two galleries and three museums. In one of Metelkova’s buildings, there is the Alkatraz Gallery featuring various settings throughout the year. Here you can see the works of the inhabitants of Metelkova who often represent installations that are exhibited in Alkatraz and later become part of Metelkova buildings such as people with heads or statues that you can see in the pictures. The second gallery, which is also located in Metelkova’s buildings, is the Mizzart Gallery, which hosts the largest number of different workshops run by Metelkova residents and where everything you made is mostly your own, and the workshop contribution is voluntary. Also, you can see exhibitions in three great museums, The Slovene Ethnographic Museum, The Museum of Contemporary Art Metelkova and Metelkova National Museum of Slovenia, which are all located close by Metelkova.
If you wonder where you should go out or you can’t find some of the museums, you can always ask for help from anyone in Metelkova. They will be happy to leave whatever they are doing and help you find and experience the spirit of each place. You will probably find out the stories of their first experience of how they came in and why they stayed in this magical place.
If you want to know more about Metelkova and plan your trip, you can find the official site of Metalkova City on this link.