I’m dropped off near the centre of Ljubljana, Slovenia’s small but elegant capital, and make my way to Ela’s house. Actually it’s Ela’s parent’s flat, but they live in Brussels most of the time now and Ela is staying here for the winter. It’s nice to have a place to relax for a few days, especially with such lovely people as Ela and Casey. Casey is Ela’s boyfriend. After recognising him from a London Climate Camp, I first met him properly in Copenhagen at The Floating City, but have since spent time with him in Scotland and Belgium. His is one of those faces that pops up time and again. One of my favourite things about Casey – apart from the fact that he’s lovely – is that he always holds things in a very precise manner – a teacup will be held midway to his mouth, elbow bent; a plate grasped by both hands around chest height. This may not sound particularly peculiar, but it is, adorably so. Ela is probably the nicest person I have ever met. Actually she’s probably the nicest person anyone could ever hope to meet. She has an amazing warmth and childlike (but not at all child-ish) trust and compassion that rekindles my faith in humanity.
It’s early Tuesday morning and having spent the whole night getting here, David is already asleep on the sofa when I arrive at the flat. The Ukranian trucker that gave him a lift dropped him at the edge of the city and he had to walk in after jumping out on the highway and accidentally breaking the guy’s door-handle. It’s been that kind of a night, for both of us. I have a bite to eat and catch up with Casey and Ela before conking out myself for a couple of hours.
Fotunately, we’ve arrived on the day of the weekly People’s Kitchen in the Infoshop, which turns out to be a delicious three-course vegan meal for a €2 donation: Soup, a Chinese mushroom and tofu dish and cake for dessert. Mmmm…
The Infoshop is in Metelkova – a huge “Autonomous Cultural Zone,” comparative to Christiania in Copenhagen. Now legally occupied, Metelkova was once military barracks – the Slovene headquarters of the Yugoslav National Army. It’ was squatted in 1993 and is now home to art studios, gigs, workshops and theatre events as well as the more political Infoshop, Reading Room and Free Shop. There’s a detailed history of the Metelkova buildings here.
If you were unaware that Metelkova is home to a lot of artist workshops, a quick glance at the buildings will immediately set you straight – only you won’t be able to have a quick glance, because every building is so amazing you can’t help but stare.
It’s Wednesday. A suspisciously furtive-looking man in a hooded grey coat accompanies David and I to the daily market to look for edible unsold food. Actually, it’s Casey in disguise. Ela’s father is very well known and she’s worried that if her boyfriend is seen dumpster-diving, the gossip will quickly get around and it will reflect badly on the family. Casey’s most recogniseable attribute – his enormous mass of wild hair – is safely concealed under the grey hood. The disguise seems to work and we find bags full of lettuce, coriander, broccoli, parsnips, carrots, chestnuts, potatoes and the odd cherry tomato.
We also spot three crusty looking hippies, their dog and utterly adorble puppy. I bet they’re dumpstering too. I go over and ask. “Hey, are you dumpstering?” They are. One of the three girls is from Brighton and another from Scotland, making a quite bizarre coincidence. We spend some time chatting. They are staying at Rog, an enormous squatted ex-bicycle factory, which I also have yet to see. They invite us for tea, which we reluctantly decline as I’ve already offered to cook at home. We will see them tomorrow.
Sadly events conspire against us and we never get to have tea with the hippies. On Friday a recharged David and I set off for Italy – on purpose this time.