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Archive for the ‘Thoughts’ Category

I am currently working on securing partners for the first ever photo tour that will take me all along the XYZone coast including Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Montenegro. Times and detail will be posted later but I want to do it before the winter and landscapes are barren but after the tourists are away. I was on Island Rab and Labin earlier this year and there were to many tourists that a nature landscape shot is not possible as there are people and boats everywhere. September would be ideal climate-wise and get the dramatic skies and colors needed for this project.

adriatic tour map

This is tentatively the route going south from Koper (Slovenia) to Ulcinj (Montenegro) and coming back a similar way to get different times of day at the same locations where needed. viamichelin estimates this trip as 16 hours full driving each way but i want break it down to 7-10 days round trip to maxims the time in locations, dawns, sunsets and high noons that will provide something special and lasting imagery of some of the most pristine coastline in the world.

Those interested in sponsoring part of the expenses, accommodation, fuel etc we can work out some advertisement agreement. for those interested in meeting up for photo walks etc, are also encouraged to leave a comment below and we can meet up if our calenders agree.

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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.

www.budapesthungaryblog.com/budapest-parks/millenar-park-budapest-millenaris-park.html

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?

http://www.scvz.hr/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=225&Itemid=122

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.

http://www.recovis-restaurierung.de/seiten/referenzen_eisernes_haus_graz.htm

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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Today I let me freinds persuade me to go for a walk with them, they said “you can take pictures”, so I went. What they did not tell me was that they were planing to walk a good part of the way (one hour each way) up to the top of Ucka called Voljak.

I’d seen it in pictures and always wanted to go see the stone fort-like tower on the top but did not realize my day had come. It was a great climb, mixed of small paths and trails in the wonderful spring time that was great dispite being a little tired. I got up their first and had plenty of time to soak up the breathtaking views from all angles. From the Istra plans on one side and the sea and islands on the other, it is really one of the wonders to see here.

The restaurant marks the place to start walking, there are also possibilities for mountain biking, and a road for cars most of the way up

Along the forest walk

two-wheelers making their way up

View of the plans below on the western side

A view of the gorge below that makes up Vela Draga, a popular place for free-climbers and nature lovers. It is also where the highway tunnel comes out into Istra

The tower and military facility in the background

A sea view east with Rijeka and the island of Krk in the distance

doing what I do, it was a great day and long walk, but well worth the time.

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opatija-3-ri07hr-jw.jpgOpatija, truly a gem in the jewel-studded Adriatic coast. With the city of Rijeka being the main port of Croatia (and previously a main port and shipping artery in the former Yugoslavia once Triest was handed over to the Italians after WWII) Opatija became the place where the rich and industrialists went for peace and quite, just 12 kilometers from Rijeka it has long provied this service among locals and tourists alike as a nice get-away town for weekends or just a walk by the sea and coffee at a seaside café. In some ways it reminded me of what Trogir is to the other main port town of Croatia, Split, thought they are very different apart from that they both serve their larger cities needs for peace and fine dining in their unique way and historical treasures and architecture.

opatija-4-ri07hr-jw.jpgA friend and I decided we could no longer just look out at the sea but we wanted to see and feel it and walked along the coast just to smell the sea air and hear the waves crashing would have been enough to make our 5 km walk worth it but we also found quant harbors and old villas and alleys starting in Volosko and on into Opatija along the seaside that really made it a wonderful Sunday afternoon walk just wonderful. We did not make it to the heart of town, though I’ve been there before and will defiantly visit there again this was just a nice seaside walk and yes, (as I’d have it) exploring old abandoned villas like ‘Villa Irena’ that tragically looks like it burned down quite some decades ago (no signs that I could tell that it was ever electrically wired as a modern home) and all three wooden floors collapsed inside of itself. Surly it must still be worth millions with the grounds and location and the owners or city are presumably just waiting for a good offer for it and it will be restored to its former glory or better and serving as a hotel or private estate like it once was complete with seaside access and roman yard sculptures.

opatija-9-ri07hr-jw.jpgThis part of the coast is doted with hotels and these villas dating and named after the various ones who happened to be occupying it at the time built, you see names suggesting Italian, Germanic (Austro-Hungarian) and even Russian (though they never occupied), we even found an Albert Einstein street, and much of the architecture follows a similar pattern thought it also includes the much less glorious socialist era and strictly convenience styles that are just ugly boxes and built with poor materials but thankfully this town was spared the worst of it and is balanced out with many, many artistically created structures of the early 1900’s like much of this area.

I’ll end this with pictures from today of this beautiful place.

opatija-1-ri07hr-jw.jpg

The main road through town.

opatija-5-ri07hr-jw.jpg
Villa Irena

opatija-6-ri07hr-jw.jpg
Another seaside villa

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A castle of a place, currently a hotel.

opatija-8-ri07hr-jw.jpg

Shoring up success, a new villa to be.

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Jogging memories

This morning I woke up before 7:00 and went for a jog with another volunteer friend around the small allays and hill roads around where we stay near Rijeka. It adds a new level of difficulty ascending hills but it is good exercise and works different muscles then opatija-from-hill-ri07hr-jw.jpgI’m used to when I used to regularly run flat areas of Čakovec but just part of the experience of this part of the country. There really is something special about seeing the sun rise and to have the sun and the sea and wide open sky is really just magical and I almost feel bad that I’ve missed this beauty the whole month I’ve been here so far, I’m sure it will not be the last and that I’ll make this jogging thing happen every few days or so and maybe take my camera once to show here, I really feel lucky to be here.

After a shower I went up to the kitchen and our Croatian friend made boiled eggs and sausage (a typical breakfast here). It reminded me of the year I spent much of my time visiting the Croatian islands and staying in small private guest houses (Pentions) or government hotels that would serve that in the morning too though usually with a spot of mustered as well. I have a lot of memories, and I hope many more to come, I wish everyone could be here and experience some of these simple pleasures of life in Croatia too.

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