The taxi drove speedily through the streets of Ljubljana. It raced down narrow roads, and past stores and office buildings. I sat in the taxi, chatting with my three traveling companions as we rode to our hostel. We were finishing off two weeks in Kosovo. Now we were on our way to spend the night in one of the hostels in Ljubljana, before heading back home to Washington, DC. The two weeks had been exhausting, but we were all in high spirits and excited to see what the country of Slovenia had to offer.
Finding unique hostels in Ljubljana
Before our trip, I came across one of the most interesting hostels in Ljubljana, while I was researching accommodations for our group. It was a hostel that had formerly been a prison. I was instantly intrigued by the idea of staying at such unique accommodations. Hostel Celica, located in the Metelkova neighborhood of Ljubljana, was once used as a prison for the Austro-Hungarian army from 1882 until well into the 1980’s.
In the early 1990’s the building was abandoned. It eventually became a haven for artists, who lived on the premises illegally. Then, in the early 2000’s, the city of Ljubljana and the Student Organization of the University of Ljubljana transformed the building into a youth hostel. They invited 80 local and international artists to design and remodel the rooms.
Staying at the Hostel Celica
Today, Hostel Celica is a work of art. It truly is one of the most artistic of the hostels in Ljubljana. Many cells and rooms have been transformed into 20 single/double cells, 6 multi-bed rooms, and 2 dormitory style rooms. Each artist was given 2,600 euros to remodel a cell, and the result is multi-cultural mix of artistic expression.
Even the outside of the hostel is a colorful reflection of urban art, with some of the exterior walls painted with graffiti art. I convinced my traveling companions to go in on one of the 4-bed rooms. Our room had a mix of bunk beds and platform beds, and a mosaic style walkway that greeted us at the entrance of the room.
Though I was a bit disappointed by how plain our room was (the more unique designs went into the 1 or 2 person cells), I was still impressed by how bright and pleasant the space felt. Much different, I imagined, from the oppressive and caged aura of its previous incarnation as a prison.
Exploring the city of Ljubljana
Since we only had one night to stay in Ljubljana, we decided to make the most of it and explore the city. While staying at hostels in Ljubljana is fun, it’s more enjoyable to explore the city! We walked along the Triple Bridge, a group of three bridges that cross the Ljubljana River. These bridges connect the historical part of the city with the more modern part.
We also visited the famous Dragon Bridge. Legend states that the dragons represent the dragon slain by Jason and the Argonauts. In the historic part of Ljubljana, we hung out at Preseren Square, where we stumbled upon a model of the city in the middle of the square. Walking through the city of Ljubljana, I couldn’t help but notice how oddly fluid the historic and modern aspects of the city blended together. We came across graffiti art spray-painted on the sides of old buildings. Medieval buildings were retro-fitted transformed into modern shops and restaurants.
This mix of old and new, the interplay between history and modernity, is common throughout Europe. And as an American who has spent the better part of her life in a fairly new country, this concept is still so new and foreign to me.
The old, transformed into something new
When we got back to Hostel Celica, a party was going on in the main floor. My travel companions and I were too tired to partake, so we headed back to our room to get ready for bed. The next day we would fly back to DC, so we wanted to get a good night’s rest before our trans-Atlantic flight.
Looking back now, I realize that Hostel Celica was a great example of the old transformed into something new. We as people are always reinventing ourselves. We forget that places, such as cities, countries, and even buildings, can also undergo transformation. In some cases, the end result can be disastrous. But in other cases, such as Hostel Celica, and Ljubljana in general, the result is a beautiful work of art.
Don’t miss out on my latest tool, the Overseas Family Vacation Checklist. Click here to receive your free copy and subscribe to my newsletter.