Dear loved ones
It was once a memory. Hearing about this hostel where you can stay in a prison cell in one of the many top/unique/amazing/must see before you die hostel articles I read. What I didn’t take much notice of was where it was. As it turns out there is this hip, unique, former prison hostel in Ljubljana, Slovenia where I bus into after Budapest. Ever so slightly nervous, this chicken shit proceeds.
And now here I am, stuck on the inside. With nothing but an original barred small window of the outside world.
My bed is comfortable. (May or may not be one of the comfiest going round but minor details in my story from the inside). I’m doing hard time. Hard time meaning friendly staff, cocktail bar, and hookah cafe. I hear out in the yard as we kick rocks around they even host weekly concerts, jam sessions, and art displays. Culture rates highly here. Dreaming of freedom and an outside world churns creativity I suppose.
I’m locked up in Hostel Celica, translated to ‘cell’ in Slovenian. So what if I have the key to let myself in and out as I please. I’m currently planning my jail tattoo and fastening a shiv out of my toothbrush. It’s been so long since this hobo traveller bought a new one this is probably a good thing.
I dream of the outside. I imagine the street art on the walls of Metalkova. I hear the revellers in the hipster bars. I feel the art being created around me in the many ateliers. I think back to the squatters, the protestors and the bohemians who took on this once military area and made it their own.
I think back to the Austro-Hungarian and Yugoslavians eras where these barracks housed those who went against. Military prisoners who endured malnutrition, solitary confinement and sunlight without skylines for mental torture.
I reflect that my worst torture is whether to sleep on the top or bottom bunk. “Enjoying” my solitary confinement my mind drifts to ghostly thoughts.
I contemplate entering the Point of Peace room for prayer, meditation and contemplation to shake it (please baby jebus/allah/buddha don’t let the mean prison ghosts get me). It has six areas of major global religions and one empty spot for all other religions and has been blessed by each’s highest representatives in Slovenia.
My blasphemous nature stops me. Maybe this is why I’m being punished with clean sheets, warm showers (where I’m careful not to drop the soap) and free buffet breakfast with a side of art, history and hipness.
Walking along the first floor, shackled only with the chains of my mind, I am presented with a straight, long, characterless corridor with evenly spaced doors either side. My mind plays tricks. Hear that shuffling? That’s the warden manning the hall.
Others are locked up around me in the 19 other rooms in their individualised artists rendition of how a cell could be. These damn creatives, around 80 of them in total, have literally made us sleep in art. Like I said, it’s tough.
The more well behaved sleep above us in regular dorm rooms. They’ve done their time. They are still faced with artistic flourishes and a daily cell tour.
I dream of the free city walking tour on the outside. I wish I too could discover the ins and outs, the eats and treats and the past and present of Ljubljana. I dream of cycling around the city on my trendy bike and getting lost and in the way of locals.
With nothing but time on my hands I drag my cup along the bars, and daydream about the brilliants who decided to renovate this once military prison into an artistic hostel where guests like me can press their tongue firmly into their cheek and pretend that life on this inside even resembles hard.
It took 10 years to make Hostel Celica what it is today and after this amount of time you’d want to have something pretty special on your hands. Like a number one hippest hostel listing from Lonely Planet or a spot in Rough Guide’s “25 Ultimate Experiences – Places to Stay” in the WORLD perhaps.
Do yourself a favour and lock yourself in.