Make Love. Create. Dance. Advocate. Smoke. Collaborate. Drink. Skate. Laugh. Paint.
See. Connect. Be.
Imagine a place where all of the above is possible at any time, on any given day. What does it look like? Feel like? What kind of people might you find here?
We discovered this place in Ljublijana, Slovenia. And it’s here where I witnessed the definition of progressiveness and timelessness.
Back in Florence, we celebrated Colton’s arrival with too many beers and new friends at a downtown pub. The three of us would start down a united path of travel with no clear direction, but we were intoxicated with inspiration.
The next morning, we put Western Europe to rest and headed east, where even capital cities serve up dishes for a quarter of the price Paris does.
During our 8-hour bus ride to Slovenia, I got to thinking about time. I’d been traveling for a month, and while for my family it felt everlasting, I felt hardly any time had passed. It moved differently – this manmade concept.
We typically live in a dimension where last year felt like yesterday, a year from now feels like an eternity, Monday come too soon, and the present moment leaves us restless. It was across the Atlantic where I found a life not bound by linear measurement.
After settling into the city, Colton and I strolled the streets looking for trouble. An abandoned building with rusty fire escapes, shattered windows and walls decked in graffiti appeared in the distance. We considered this to be an invitation.
Circling around looking for a way in, we intuitively followed behind two girls that led us to the entrance. We stood back for a moment as they walked through the doors. We were unsure of our environment. But shortly after, we followed suit.
Greeted by a dimly lit warehouse with paper mache arms and legs hanging from the ceiling, a dirty mattress in the corner, and the sound of water droplets, I wanted to call it quits. But Colton’s persistence kept us moving.
We made our way up a stairwell covered in graffiti, posters and murals. Sculptures made up of rusted metals and junk-yard findings filled the corners. We heard voices from behind the doors on the second floor, but continued onward considering we had no idea where we were, or if we were trespassing.
Third floor doors – locked. Fourth floor doors – open.
We walked into a hallway where stacks of VHS tapes, old spray paint bottles, rusted bicycle wheels and old artwork littered the space. A series of locked doors stretched alongside the hallway. The building was suffering from old age, so we peeked through holes in the walls and saw what looked like studio apartment spaces. Did people live here?
As we proceeded to the end of the hall, we came face-to-face with a girl who was leaving one of the rooms. But before she was able to lock up…
“Can we go in there?” Colton asked.
“Did you have an appointment with Flow?” She responded.
“Yes,” he said.
Meanwhile, my body froze considering we obviously made no such appointment and I had no idea who Flow was.
“Okay, well just make sure you lock the door once you leave,” she said.
When we entered, no one was to be found. So, we explored the room that otherwise would’ve been off limits had we not timed it perfectly.
Skate ramp. Old clothes. Worn down couches. Books. Empty beer cans. Cigarettes. Spray paint. A sculpture of a skate bowl.
Suddenly, it clicked. This is an art studio, and something else. To this day, I still don’t know if “Flow” is a person, or a state of mind.
We returned the following day with Gabby, eager to discover more secrets the space was willing to share. The doors locked yesterday were open today, and vice versa. We walked up to the third floor and heard scrambled, Slovenian chatter. With a bit more confidence, we entered a room full of nomadic artists.
Psychedelic meditation music lingered in the background, and herbal tea found its way into my hands in exchange for a small donation of euro. The creative folk were selling their craft – copper-coiled jewelry, hand-made hemp bags, wooden necklaces with symbols, mandala paintings and hand-made puzzles. Puzzles that only a human with the highest of vibrations could design and construct.They came in the shapes of butterflies, flowers and sacred geometry. Some were neon pink, orange, yellow and blue, while others were black and navy with sparkles – like the universe.
Come to find out, this building used to be a bike factory before it went under in the mid 1900s. The youth of Ljubljana banked on the opportunity to turn it into a communal squat. The only rules are to have respect and love for one another. Other than that, simply be who you want to be. The space does not judge.
After we left, we stumbled across a scene outside of ROG that shifted something inside of my me. Skaters, everywhere. They were flooding the streets skating along the bridge, crushing tricks. There were beers and cameras and girls.
We learned from a local that it was the 25th anniversary of Ljubljana's first skate shop, Obsessn. Opening it up and keeping it open required a lot of grit from the skate community because of politics, per usual. Before that, skaters had to travel outside of Slovenia to buy gear. In honor of the day, people gathered in the streets to skate and celebrate, and thankfully, we were able to witness it.
How quickly do you think this would get shut down in America? I actually saw a guy halt traffic so his buddy could cruise by first. Not only did I feel immense gratitude for this community's progressiveness, but this moment reminded me of my passion and care for this industry. Action sports is what inspired me to pursue journalism in the first place, but since graduation, I have yet to do work here.
While the environment, humanitarian issues and social injustices require my attention, this landscape told me to rekindle this relationship, somehow. There is a story to be told here, and I'll find a way to tell it. I'll see you soon, Ljubljana.