En­joy a night be­hind bars in Slove­nia

The Myanmar Times - - The Pulse -

FANCY spend­ing the night in a for­mer mil­i­tary prison that is now a youth hos­tel with an artis­tic twist? In Slove­nia you can, and with a clear con­science about your eco­log­i­cal foot­print.

The tech­ni­colour build­ing in Ljubljana was orig­i­nally a jail built by the oc­cu­py­ing Aus­tro-Hun­gar­ian army in 1882 and re­mained in use un­til Yu­goslavia fell apart in the early 1990s.

When Slove­nia be­came independent in 1991, a group of artists and squat­ters pre­vented the build­ing’s de­mo­li­tion, open­ing the way for a meta­mor­pho­sis into Hos­tel Cel­ica, which means “cell” in Slovene, in 2003.

“The main con­cept of Cel­ica is: through art and architecture heal a place so to give in a new en­ergy, turn­ing some­thing neg­a­tive into its com­plete op­po­site, into some­thing pos­i­tive and open,” project man­ager Tanja Lipovec told AFP.

And not only that: Each of its 20 cells, com­plete with bars on the door and win­dows, has been turned by more than 80 lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional artists into spa­ces that are all unique.

To add to the prison feel­ing, guests are as­signed their cells by the man­age­ment in the same way that pris­on­ers could not choose their cells back in the day. And all free of charge, its web­site jokes.

That though doesn’t stop what is a com­mon sight at the hos­tel: guests peer­ing through the bars into other cells to see which one they would like next time.

While the cells are dou­bles and triples, there are also two 12-bed and six five-bed dor­mi­to­ries.

And with the hos­tel not be­ing “av­er­age”, as Lipovec puts it, the clien­tele are not just the 18-25 crowd that typ­i­cally stay in hos­tels.

They in­clude older peo­ple, in­clud­ing fam­i­lies or elderly trav­ellers stay­ing in Ljubljana, this year’s Euro­pean Union “Green” cap­i­tal.

“Peo­ple that come to Cel­ica are not al­ways bud­get trav­ellers. They are peo­ple will­ing to pay more be­cause they are aware of the added value they are get­ting back,” Lipovec said.

“Just know­ing that it was a prison be­fore and how they turned it into a hos­tel, the his­tory it­self is amaz­ing. Just spend­ing the night here, that’s great,” said vis­i­tor Rus­sel Pineda, 28, from Cal­i­for­nia.

With prices rang­ing be­tween 18 and 33 eu­ros (US$20-37) per bed per night, Hos­tel Cel­ica is rea­son­ably priced – al­though guests have to share bath­rooms.

But it also pro­vides the sat­is­fac­tion of stay­ing in the world’s first eco-friendly hos­tel to be awarded with the Gold Trav­elife cer­tifi­cate for sus­tain­abil­ity in tourism.

Along with re­cy­cling, re-us­ing ma­te­ri­als, mon­i­tor­ing the cost of en­ergy and us­ing green en­ergy, the Trav­elife cri­te­ria also cover is­sues like hu­man rights, child pro­tec­tion and em­ployee wel­fare.

“It’s the aware­ness of how you can ben­e­fit back to the lo­cal com­mu­nity where you are lo­cated and that you are aware of the pre­cious­ness, the im­por­tance of the lo­cal en­vi­ron­ment,” Lipovec said.

Those want­ing an ex­tra-spe­cial ex­pe­ri­ence can ven­ture down to the base­ment, home to a for­mer soli­tary con­fine­ment cell in the base­ment.

Left as it was in the past, cold and with­out win­dows and with orig­i­nal graf­fiti and scratches on the walls, it’s far from five-star. –

Photos: AFP

Each room of the Cel­ica prison-cum-hos­tel is in­de­pen­dently de­signed by artists and ar­chi­tects.

To stay in one of the cells costs US$20-37 per night.

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