Archive for the ‘Slovenia (SLO)’ Category

I got to say that the web really has not hit this part of the world yet, at least not much more then in theory. If you live around here you know what I mean, like getting a visit card from someone with a @vip.hr at the end of their name. similarly you go to a website and it is just a stagnant page or just one provided by T-com and amounts to nothing but a place to post their address and phone number.

Web searching is where it gets nerve wrecking! I’ve been at it for hours and finding virtually nothing important. Slovenia is notably net savvy, yet still very few things are posted other then Tourist or government news sites in English, Croatia is all just tourism.

The problem is twofold, firstly, people here use the net to email, Google movie trailers and hang out in chatrooms or online gaming rather then as an instant library that I and many others use the web for. Secondly there is a giant language gap when it comes to academic material and since those that can read the local languages know where to find it  in dusty libraries don’t bother to put it on the web and those that can’t read it never get a chance as no one uploads or translates it. A humongous intellectual link is missing and then we wonder why no one knows more about this area? They simply can’t find it and give up and study Roman or Austrian events that are well documented in many languages. That was one of the main reasons I wanted to start this blog and post pictures of this region, to provide a view other then just tourist shots, I have not had much time either, so the tangle continues.

It will be another generation at least, the older generation don’t care and the young are still to busy playing online games, perhaps one day…


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I ran into an odd thing, off my planed walk-around, in that I had never investigated the monstrous ROG factory building that looks like a jail on the river side and a hardcore soviet type factory on the other. I took some pictures from the outside but my curiosity was too much, I wanted some facts and a closer look, there was a guard so I figured the worst thing he’d do was say no. I asked in English, “do you speak English”, a simple “yes” was all I got, my next question was “can I look around?” got a yes again, he clearly could not be bothered, it looked abandoned yet there was a guard. As abandoned as this thing was I figure they post a guard just to keep unwanted vandals out, yet he did not look very imposing or like he would do much to stop anyone.

What I found was a giant carcass of a thing that once was one of the largest bicycle producing factories in eastern Europe, perhaps Europe yet it just belly flopped it’s way to none existence more then ten years ago, though the damage and abuse makes it look much longer then that. It is home to a few small “offices”, and had a few cars in there but most looked like a few abstract artists in a bohemian like lifestyle making “art” from old city expo signs, recyclable garbage material and household items.

It got me thinking, why don’t they put the popsicle stick New Kolizej here, I don’t think to many people would mind taking this factory away, it’s not an art piece, maybe some communist party people might reminisce about the good old days. It’s a great river front location and would bring interest and people to a part of town that is a bit less frequented. I suppose you could make some unique urban condos too and make it a trendy young people complex with a lot of investment. I thought one would use an old space for a bike museum, guess me having roots in the State of Ohio and the famous bicycle shop making Wright brothers, I think the lesson here is there is only a museum in their shop not because they made bikes, but left the tow wheelers and brought us flight. Rog never got wings; good bikes just are not enough for the competition of Asian manufactures.

Someone trying to add a bit of art to the old building, it does bring out the red brick a bit

Chimes, they are a changin’. Some old kitchen items turned wind chime/art

The view from the riverside, looks like a school or jail with no entry from this side, just a long wall

A view int o one of the buildings, would make a nice urban loft condo to me, sky light and all. And just a few steps from downtown Ljubljana. Any investors want to “pimp my factory” out there?

Front shows all it’s factory face and name all but a memory

Note: I did more research on this and the once company boasts a 75 year old history. They have been bought and sold and in a financial/management mess for a long time, have sold this big factory land to a bank to pay off debts and are attempting a comeback. This company once had 1,400 workers working here and made 75,000 bikes a year now has five in its employ, housed in some other office space. We will see what happens in the future.

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Collision Kolizej

Glancing Back Forward

Previously I addressed this subject in my article Save Kolizej. I wrote passionately after one of my first visits to the Kolizej site that reflects one questioning visitors thoughts on this matter, But I’ll address it a little more in depth here once more.

I consider myself very fortunate to have had the opportunity to visit this wonderful city several times over the last several years, but I could not notice the apparent calamity of this building and the state of disrepair it has been allowed to fall into. It looks like a chipped tooth in an otherwise elegant smile of the city. The argument might be true in part that it is “just like so many others” in the time-period sense, I’ll let others more learned in the matters of history and architecture cover that angle in this book in their convincing arguments exactly how this space is of historical importance.

What I have to offer this project is this; I’ve traveled many world cities and cultures on half of our continents. I have developed a deep love for history and mortuary remembrances of times past, particularly in relation in our present lives. I see them as a commentary on contemporary life and recount our experiences in conjunction with our social behaviors and interaction in relation to them. The Kolizej stands out to me not solely for what it represents as a historical monument of the past, nor even it’s epic struggle for survival and adapt it’s functionality to benefit us in our present times, but also a deep-rooted signpost and reminder of historical respect. Sure Ljubljana might not suffer from one less historic building, but if this landmark building is simply allowed to be unilaterally erased what will be immune in future decades and centuries from other city development aspirations?

Ljubljana is not alone in this complex dilemma, yet it has a got a better running chance at setting a guidepost with this project then other cities have had in addressing this quandary due to the relatively small problem ratio to the city. It also helps to have so many other buildings of the historical city center being revived and remodeled in their old likeness. There is also a great pool of great minds and experts that have been making the case extensively on both sides of this issue that brings forth a healthy debate and opportunity for fresh ideas and inevitable lasting solutions at the highest level.

We all have heard the examples in the United States encountered in old cities like Boston and other New England cities that were blowing city block after city block away of neglected aging stone buildings in the 1960s before coming to the realization that contemporary history of this nature was worth something more then mere prime development real-estate, and instead opted to remodel many of the remainder into luxury housing and shops that both benefited the city through housing and tourism landmarks like the now famed houses of Boston’s Back Bay. San Francisco has also successfully renovated old warehouses into tech-savvy corporate office space for internet startups since the 1990’s, or choose simply protect and restore historical landmarks like the 1905 built Geneva Office Building and Powerhouse, that is simply a uniquely designed but terribly antiquated two story train junction center, historically it matters.

http://www.genevaofficebuilding.org/ .

Now, to use some examples a little closer to home. I remember in 1998 staying with friends in Budakeszi, Hungary (a small town situated 10 km to the west of Budapest, on the Pest side of the river Danube), there was this large socialist era factory compound wasteland called GANZ, behind the newly built Mammot 2 mall. It clearly was just a sprawling graveyard to times past and an intriguing yet desperate site that anyone would have excused to level and add modern and more functional housing or office facilities.

On a brief trip there again in 2004 my friends wanted to go for an “outing” with their small kids to a new park, I went along. What I saw as we walked the familiar streets was Millenáris Park, a rejuvenated and wonderful building and park area replacing the industrial cold feelings with that of warmth and sunshine on that summer morning. I never believed it could still be possible while maintaining its original warehouse look that was genuine as the brick walls and iron stairs before me while inside one of the warehouse-turned-pavilions on the park. For they had left everything in tact structurally, just brought it to the public and the new century with some ingenious remodeling, ground level lake and rolling grass lawns.


Similarly this city of Ljubljana gave new life to a warehouse complex that is now the BTC complex, though it has a much more commonplace feel and no art value to the city except that of a pop culture multiplex cinema.

The two projects are very different in size and scope however it is my hope that like the Millenaris Park, Kolizej can symbolically raise from the ashes like the mythological Phoenix and advert destruction with some foresight, initiative and vision to be a torchbearer for architectural heritage and preservation while still serving a public service. It was originally intended to house protectors of the city and how fitting it would be for it to once again protect and preserve the history of the town by its own continued existence. It should be a beacon landmark of hope and endurance that the city can show off in its entire original splendor to the many visitors of the city right along side its other attractions.

To use a military barracks example truer to the project at hand is the old military base located behind the train station in Croatia’s northern city of Varaždin. It was used for many years to house displaced people during Croatia’s war for independence (1991-1995) and then later those needing temporary asylum from the Kosovo conflict of 1998. It was not until the city bought it from the state and renovated the building and grounds in 2006 that it became a state of the art student dormitory facility. Not only providing the city an opportunity to clean up the cultural and social eyesore that the base had become but a service and a source of revenue base to accommodate students at a prime location in town for boarding, and a source of pride for the city and educational faculties that the city is so renowned for.

I had the opportunity to visit the grounds prier to this transformation while supplying humanitarian aid to the government led agency running operations for those living there in 1999 and again in 2001. I must say it was cave-like in its design and scope. Low entry stairs, narrow dingy halls with shadowy life forms peering out from dank rooms divided by musty blankets that made up the temporary dividers between beds. Cardboard or rags poorly sealed up the widows broken glass as well as the holes and cracks in the plastered walls. A grim sight for a building to be in, and a tragic state of humanity’s forgotten people, though unfortunately not too different then conditions afforded the low-rent tenants of the Kolizej these days and the weather beating the building itself is suffering through neglect.

Gone are all those feelings and so are the foreboding outer walls and barbed wire, renovated and refitted to the times whilst still looking all of its dignified age and original charm behind a bright new coat of paint. Included are swipe card security door access systems providing an up to date security system and a modern looking central entry metal canopy adding a bit of flare. Don’t they say life only begins at retirement?


Examples would be incomplete without another and perhaps only other living example (surly Kolizej is the largest and most intact of the two) of the rather obscure Austrian innovator and architect that designed Kolizej, that of Graz’s own son, Jozef Benedikt Withalm (some historical writings call him Johann) and the famous city landmark Eisernes Haus (Iron house) that he designed, built (1847-1948) and owned to house a large café house that became known as Café Meran until he sold the building. While the size and use is different, there are visible comparisons and architectural similarities. Eisernes Haus is newly renovated and annexed to a large and modernistic “Kunsthaus”, a space-like art exhibition hall completed in 2003. Eisernes Haus had been drastically renovated and changed over the last century but still resembles outwardly Mr. Withalm’s vision and reinstated is the rooftop terrace that he had originally built, clearly a reminder of history and his contribution to the city while at the same time providing it with a current and functional service relevant to the people and visitors of the city today.


It is my hope that the people of this city and the world will understand and appreciate contemporary history within their city at least as much as a passing visitor and somehow come to a consensus with this location in relation to proposed projects, and that Kolizej – in the form we know it now – will live on, at least though this century renovated and cherished as a sample of valor and overcoming adversity, as the Slovenian people have shown throughout their history. They may have been downtrodden by others, abandoned and obscured, but were never out, and neither should be the buildings of historical importance on Slovenian soil.

Birds taking the opportunity to rest on the open windows

Red light, green light, which way will it go?

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Well, I am still here and I am releasing a little free e-book of some of the pictures I’ve taken on the Slovenia and Croatia coast, this blog is hard to post big pictures so this is one way you get to see more. Feel free to download but do not print it out as the quality is not good enough.

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On the eve of my departure from this wonderful experience which has been Slovenia I find myself asking just one question. Does this really have to end?

The answer unfortunately is yes; all good things do come to an end. But that is the only way they can start again or start another chapter, and that is where things stand for me now. I will make every effort to come here for visits again as often as is possible.

In looking back on my time here, three months turned into nearly six, my SIT turned into Euros, hikes turned into history lessons, people I meet become friends, and an old house become a home. If that were not enough this unusual winter I even experienced the unique beauty of seeing snow-less Alps and a seaside blizzard .

I’ve been able to meet and exchange views with many wonderful people of all walks of life, from the a homeless man on the side of the road to a deputy economic minister, architects, historians, artists, inventors, exchange students, business leaders and even a TV network. I’ve enjoyed such recreational activities as playing basketball with local teens and hiking hillsides with pensioners. I’ve visited old Roman ruins and seen new constructions being built, walked historical landmarks (POT, Žiri, Krn, Memorial) and visited new attractions, I’ve pleaded for the hopeless causes of the past and partaken of all the conveniences of modern living in this fast developing nation. I’ve visited the four corners of Slovenia (Kranska Gora, Ptuj, Novo Mesto, and Portorož) and many other towns and cities in between.

I was even able to visit places historically intertwined with Slovenian history like southern Austria (Carnithia) and (the once Slovene but now Italian port city) Trieste.

I’ve written nearly 50 essays, blog entries and book reviews on Slovenia during my time here and experienced countless more things then I’d never be able to put down in words as I lived life in Slovenia.


As I start packing, there is not much this blogger has collected in the way of souvenirs and trinkets to remember this visit by, but what I am packing away for safe keeping (aside from the nearly 1,600 photos I’ve taken) are the memories of friendships, acts of kindness and consideration that I have felt from everyone I’ve met. From the gracious folks I’ve lived with these many months to the many people I met by chance that showed kindness, a kind word, companionship, a meal, a drink, a chat or just a cheery “Čivio”. That is the Slovenian experience I don’t want to forget, ever.

I realize I got nothing I had expected from my time here (a two week visit and then off to Novi Sad was the original plan), but everything I could have ever hoped for.

Thank you all,

I have been truly blessed.

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Those who follow my blog know I’ve ranted at times trying to champion the causes and find solutions for historical or social problems I’ve seen here in Slovenia be they old buildings, the youths disinterest in anything more then temporal materialism, or intolerance for Muslims and gypsies. Those are all important but not among the main memories I’m leaving with.

The other day I got on the bus heading to town and was preoccupied with one of these “euphoric crusades” on my mind. Another man got on the bus a few stops later, obviously homeless and at least a hundred cents short of the 1.20 Euro bus fare. The driver had to do his job and not let the man ride without the full fare, most of us felt sorry for him but only one lady stood up and said, “here, have this” and proceeded give him a spare bus token from her purse to give to the driver. We all could have done that, yet she was the one who did. Then I thought to myself, Slovenia will be alright without my latest crusade as long as there is still people like her in this world.

The next time I was out walking I had an opportunity to follow her sample. I saw a very old man across the street from me trying to get off the curb and cross the street before the light went red again. I did not have to think twice how to respond this time, I went over and took his frail arm in both hands and helped him down the curb and onto the side I’d just come from.


These are the things that make the world better, in our lives, in our families or just for a perfect stranger in need. We often get so busy looking for the big things and ‘saving the world’ that we miss the most important and often little things right there in front of us. As long as we can keep that chain of kindness going everything else will be alright and start to sort themselves out.

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The other day I was in town and had heard that the castle lift had been completed so I went to take a look at it.

To be honest I was both disappointed and not surprised at what I saw. I’ve been visiting this beautiful city for months now and have expressed at different times my thoughts, raves, disappointments and fears of this city and it’s historical preservation, and this is just the next unfortunate architectural misstep to be completed. This carefully laid out and well built structure has the looks of a dumbwaiter, you know those lifts that carry food up to another floor in an industrial restaurant or kitchen.

castle-lift-lj07-jw.jpgThat’s what we got here now to bring paying visitors up to a medieval castle. While it does work as a quick disabled access to the castle and will help ageing tourists get up without incident like I witnessed before, I will never take this as long as I’m able to walk or even crawl. I will be climbing the hill trail or steps every time out of protest of this sad project. Is this what experiencing the old town is about? Being hurled in the air like food in a glass cookie jar?

What is frustrating to me is that his city has wonderful opportunities to improve the city and yet squanders them in unoriginal and uninspiring ways. I was glad to see a local magazine I picked up in a hotel lobby address this same issue and compares this ‘wonderful mess’ to a number of other much more interesting and beautifully built similar lifts of other European cities like in Bern, Salzburg, Budapest, Dresden, Zagreb, and Graz and others, unfortunately no one seems to have done this kind of research beforehand or even get creatively drawn ideas from school children to have a beter idea of presentation. This most basic and ugly single-car funicular structure  trades counter-weight with an iron slab instead of the usual second car. There could have been more then enough room on the hill for two pretty cars, though under these circumstances we just have to be glad there isn’t two of them.

What was really sad was not only did they not care to make the lift blend in more to the historical setting of the castle and old town but they carved out the whole area below the hill next to centuries old buildings with stainless steal railings and paving that shows no interest to match what is already there. My guess is that they are planning to knock that down too and just add another modern and culturally insensitive building in it’s place while developers wait to block the castle view altogether with a new Kolizej building one day.

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