Sunday, August 9, 2009

A Cell of One's Own

If you are claustrophobic or a former prison inmate, you might reconsider a visit to Hostel Celica. With rooms converted from prison cells built with IKEA-style lofts and the original cage-style doors, it's best if you are less than four feet tall and don't mind being locked in like a hamster. The bed in the room I saw was so close to the ceiling, I pictured waking in the night, banging my head and then stumbling down the ladder only to find the cage-door broken and stuck in the locked position (the front cage door is similar to those found in the rooms).

That said, it may be the most beautiful contemporary building in Ljubljana.

One of the original architects gave us a tour, pointing out the ways the design team brought light and life into the prison.

Standing just inside the entrance at mid-day, sunlight comes from all directions. To the right, a portal lets light in through a gallery and performance space where we held a reading:

Here is the gallery space inside:

To the left is the sunlit café:

The hallway was designed like an old-fashioned street with a curved floor and street signs all along.

"Architecture is the art of compromise," our tour guide explained, showing us how wishes were bent to fit the reality. The entrance itself integrates glass to add light:

And the angled slant on the front door mimics the shape of the building as a whole:

Inside, we saw another door with original bullet holes that led down to a dungeon that has been kept in its original state. We peeked down the crumbling stone stairs and saw a black space through a ragged hole in the wall. Even if they offer a discount, don't opt for this room.

The banister leading upstairs is carved from a single branch and kept in its original shape apart from sanding and polishing:

The street-sign style motif is kept throughout:

With bright colors outside and in, you would never guess this was once a prison:

After the tour, we had a reading in the gallery space. Iztok and the architect sat in the front row. I read a short-short, "Take Me Home in Your Pocket, Peter Lin," which will appear in the Southeast Review Vol. 28.1 next spring, 2010 (shameless plug). Here is a link to their current issue:

Southeast Review

Dinner was turkey pasta and vegetable risotto (there was a choice between the two--I had both). Some lumpy reconstituted bread concoction served as dessert. We ate in the glass enclosed extension of the café:

With our bellies full, we headed back to the train station, bypassed the casino...

...and hopped in the cars to head back to Skocjan.

I did my co-pilot duty, even though I couldn't read most of the road signs. This one seems worrisome--falling rocks and sledgehammers?

On the ride home, we listened to the Dandy Warhols. At night on the highway, we could have been anywhere in the world. For a dramatic reenactment, click on the link below, close your eyes, and picture a yellow-dotted line passing under a wash of headlights from the white van.

You Were The Last High - Dandy Warhols

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