Tag Archives: street performers

Can’t Get Enough of that Ljubljana Stuff

ana desetnica
News Editor

What has been going on in the funky little Slovenian town of Ljubljana? That’s pronounced LYOOB-li-A-na and it’s a question that many people ask. The answer is: Plenty. Take, for example, the welcome news from author/professor/entrepreneur Bill Hennessey, of The Swampscott Reporter, who is bicycling through Europe this summer. He implies that Slovenia is, for monolinguist, the perfect tourist destination and the anti-France. (No offense to France, but some returning visitors do say the natives treat non-French speakers brusquely.) Hennessey says:

I had more trouble finding English speakers in London. English is taught from kindergarten and Slovenians’ proficiency in the language is impressive; furthermore, they enjoy speaking English and are eager to practice.

He praises the roads, the drivers, the buses and trains. He speaks of a wondrous hostel called Celica, administered by a student arts group. He admires the architecture (largely the work of one Joze Plecnik), which resembles the architecture of Vienna. There’s a statue of Slovenia’s cherished poet, France Preseren, in the town square. Not a sword-wielding warrior, but a poet! The memorial to this poet is also mentioned by Mike Yardley, a visiting New Zealander, who also appreciates the town hall (which is a marvel) and, of course, the castle. This Yardley bloke has been to 70 countries, and works as a travel consultant, and even guides tours himself.

There’s a classic old hotel called the Bellevue, near Tivoli Park, that’s scheduled for renovation. And a couple of 1930s movie theaters in the city center, lovingly described by Jost Derlink at Spotted By Locals, and here’s the beauty part: they still show films, a mixture of popular and art house fare. Derlink is a guitarist who belongs to a couchsurfing network, so if you aim to visit Slovenia, you might want to look him up ahead of time. He says, “For me, Ljubljana is the best city on the globe. It might not be as big as other European capitals but I think it’s perfect.” An unorthodox local performance artist called Annie Abrahams offers an online work called “The Big Kiss in Ljubljana.” My computer won’t play it, but it looks… interesting.

June was a bit hectic, with the international clown festival, and Brazilian megastar Gilberto Gil singing at the open air theater, and some uncouth incidents marring the harmony of Pride Week when all the LGBT folk gathered. And then, the 50th Annual Ljubljana Jazz Festival hit town.

In July, there was the traditional Ana Desetnica International Festival of Street Theatre. This convention of outdoor talent been going on for more than ten years now, and the city takes it quite seriously. Typically, about 2,500 performers show up. That’s just the people who come to be seen, you understand. The number who come to see them is very much larger.  Aljoša Markočič (CalypsoFolie), the photographer whose picture of street performers is on this page, says the name of the festival originates in “an old Slovenian folk fairy-tale that if the tenth child is a daughter, she must leave home when she turns 7 and must not return for 7 years.” Whether Ana Desetnica means “seven years” or whether that was the name of a particular exiled girl is not clear. Nor is the connection with street theatre. Maybe little Ana became a busker. Maybe that’s her in the picture.

Madonna had planned a concert in Ljubljana, but it was canceled. Rumor has it that only 7,000 of the venue’s 23,000 seats were sold. Just last week, a little Belgian girl was brought by her parents to visit, and they were greeted by the Mayor. That toddler was so celebrated because her name is Ljubljana.

According to the archeology wizards, a city has been on this spot for 3,000 years, and it was supposedly founded by Jason’s posse, the Argonauts. They went on adventures, and there was something about a sheepskin… The muses do okay in Ljubljana. Plans are underway for the 24th Vilenica Literary Festival, the 2nd to 6th of September. The 28th annual Biennial of Graphic Arts is coming up in September and October, at the International Centre of Graphic Arts. The theme this time is “The Matrix: An Unstable Reality,” so hold onto your hats.

Examiner Molly McCahan is another of those people who call Slovenia the best-kept secret of Eastern Europe. Shhhh! Keep telling everybody, and it won’t be a secret for long, will it? McCahan describes it as a soft adventure traveler’s playground, what with the skiing and the wine and all. In this article, she concentrates mainly on outdoorsy activities, and gives us perhaps the most helpful hint of all: If you see a sign on a house that says zimmer, there’s a room for rent inside!

photo courtesy of Aljoša Markočič – whose entire PhotoStream is here.

The Travel Writer Scavenger Hunt

News Editor

In the Contra Costa Times, Ann Tatko-Peterson, who writes for several publications in the San Francisco Bay area, set forth the rules for the Great Road Trip Scavenger Hunt, which incidentally it’s not too late to join. The concept is while you’re on a vacation trip, find each of 20 items on a list, and take a picture of it with at least one member of your scavenger hunt team included in the photo. The beauty part is that this search isn’t even limited to the continental United States. Here’s how the foreign travel exception works:

From past experience, we’ve learned that some items on our list are very difficult to find when traveling overseas. For all those venturing outside of the United States, you can substitute up to three items on the main list with items from the special list for overseas travelers.

So, if your trip is inside the USA, some of the mandatory items are a town square clock, a double-decker bus, a real old-time outhouse, an outdoor pay phone, an artwork made entirely of edible food, and a member of your team assisting a street performer, which we’ll talk about a little later in this post. If your travels take you outside the country, the possible substitutions include a castle tower and a building that started out as something else and was converted into a hotel.

While reading The Third Tower Up From the Road, we took notes and, working backwards, invented the imaginary Travel Writer Scavenger Hunt, a competition which Kevin Dolgin would have won handily if these items were on its list, because he’s seen them all and told us about them in his book:

a 27-hole golf course
a village with a population of one
the door to Hell
sacred deer
the world’s best tobacco
a fortune-telling rabbit
fried kites
a nargile
a smugglers’ cave
Buddha’s nostril
a frisbee decorated with a cannabis leaf
a 400-year-old spice market
an equine poop chute
a clove of garlic grown in the year 500 BC
salty licorice, chestnut beer, octopus balls, smoked tea, boiled duck embryos

and best of all…a human statue

statueFinlandActually, the world is well-supplied, some would say over-populated, with living statues. Kevin describes the area near the Pompidou Center in Paris as a hotbed of human statue non-activity, and discusses the ethics of wearing a mask. But it’s the Las Ramblas sector of Barcelona, which seems to be Human Statue World Headquarters, that really brings out his descriptive ardor. There he saw people dressed up like Julius Caesar, Satan, Mickey Mouse, and Che Guevara, and several attired as Egyptian mummies, all holding very still. His enthusiasm for a certain golden angel is extreme. His favorite, however, is

[…]a skinny guy with a little Leninesque beard and glasses, all painted gun-metal gray and sitting on the rail of a subway station. He’s very metallic. He also doesn’t move, whereas the less artistic human statues tend to ham it up for picture-snapping tourists.

Which is where the notion of interacting with one of these outdoor artists comes into play, as we promised a few paragraphs ago. To fulfill the requirements of the Great Road Trip Scavenger Hunt, it might not be necessary to let a mime make a fool of you, or to hold some street performer’s chain saw or flaming torch. It might be enough simply to entice a living statue to pretend to whisper in your ear.

Vienna statues photo courtesy of Allspice1 , used under this Creative Commons license; Finland statue photo courtesy of hans_s , used under this Creative Commons license

The Many Moods of Barcelona


News Editor

Not long ago, we noted the top ten party destinations in Europe this summer, so named by Student Universe , and one of them is Barcelona, Spain. Taking a closer look, we find that it’s not all fun and games. It’s not the Barcelona of novelist Ruiz Zafón, anyway. In The Irish Times, prolific writer Arminta Wallace gives us “Creating a fiction that’s real,” which incorporates material from an interview with Zafón and also discusses his work, especially the novel The Shadow of the Wind. The city becomes a character, and Zafón says he treats it like any character, with costumes and make-up. According to Wallace:

His is not the sunny Barcelona of the tourist posters, but a city of dark alleys and medieval buildings, rain-sodden, fog-shrouded, sometimes carpeted by a sprinkling of snow.

Zafón must be doing something right, because his books sell in the millions. He has a great website, which includes music composed by the author, as kind of a soundtrack to the book, and some lovely video clips full of atmosphere.

There’s a Barcelona anecdote in The Third Tower Up From the Road, an incident that illustrates the Dolgin Theory of Cross-Cultural Communication, which has to do with useful foreign phrases. There’s also a whole essay called “The Street Performers of Barcelona, Spain.” Kevin went to a part of town known as the Barri Gotic, where the buskers ply their trade. He heard and saw a street musician playing a kalimba, an instrument very few people have even heard of, let alone played. He says Barcelona is “a magnet for singers and lovers and dreamers and poets and sculptors.”

If salsa dancing is what you go to Barcelona for, Cindy McCain knows how to find the right clubs once you get there. But it’s too late to catch Oprah Winfrey, whose 55th birthday cruise visited the city last month. Sorry!

photo courtesy of gramz , used under this Creative Commons license