Two random nights in Venice and Ljubljana

While CouchSurfing we have the chance to stay with a wide variety of people; starting with students and the unemployed (even bums sometimes) and finishing with highly paid professionals. Very often we get invited by our hosts for a night out, to a bar, a concert or a house-party, and as you can probably imagine, these nights can be sometimes quite random, given the cultural and personality diversity of the people we stay with. Let me give you two examples of nights out which happened over the last two weeks.

Mestre / Venice, Italy

We were staying with a young architect Dario in his comfortable flat in Mestre, which is the mainland twin-town of Venice. On our second night he invited us to a local music festival held in a nineteenth century fortress, Forte Marghera, which used to serve as barracks for the Italian Army and nowadays hosts the majority of cultural events in the area.

Grand Canal, Venice, Italy

Once we arrived and got ourselves some drinks (spritz and grappa were the drinks of choice for the region), we headed for the Balkan music stage. Since my knowledge of Balkan music is limited to Goran Bregović, I didn’t really know what to expect, but I soon found myself to be a great fan of the lively fast rhythms to which I could shake my body without any limitations or shame. The night was rainy, so the attendance wasn’t as high as it would have been if the weather was better, but the atmosphere was great and the reception from the audience was very warm.

Towards the end of the concert there was even a belly dancer performing together with the musicians and showing off her beautiful body. When the band announced the last song, after which they started to slowly leave the stage, Jon predicted there would be an encore. He was right; after a warm applause and cheering from the audience, the musicians were back with yet another bouncy tune. When they finished and wanted to leave the stage for good, they were surrounded by the people who wouldn’t let them pass without playing another song. The band were tired and wanted to have a drink, I guess, so they started walking towards the bar, but as everybody was cheering and dancing around them, they had no choice but to walk while playing; otherwise they wouldn’t be allowed to pass. So this vivacious cavalcade of musicians followed by a large group of people shaking around them slowly moved to the bar; and it didn’t finish even when the musicians ordered their drinks and food, and sat at a table. Everybody around them jumped on tables too and started dancing and cheering in this little bistro place.
That was the beginning of the night. Later on, I remember talking in Spanish to some Chilean traveller who somehow found himself in this festival as well; and as the night continued we even managed to find a drum and bass stage. All in all, it was a very fun but random night. One of those you don’t expect much of, but reminisce about with a smile on your face.

Venice by night, Italy

Metelkova, Ljubljana, Slovenia

A week or so later, we were staying in Slovenia with a lovely couple: Tanja (an architecture student) and Borut (a physiotherapist) in their beautiful house with a garden in the capital of the country. Since their place wasn’t in the city centre, they let us use their bikes to move around town and one night we also cycled to Metelkova City, a popular counter-culture centre, located in another former military barracks and housing some art galleries, music and gay clubs. It also used to be a squat 20 years ago and nowadays it’s a place where you can find all sorts of weird types and underground activities.

Metelkova by night, Ljubljana, Slovenia

We spent the first part of the night drinking beer and sitting on one of the metal structures which resembled an old school jungle gym which brought back childhood memories. At some point, we decided to change location and had a little walk, during which Borut spotted a nice caravan. Since they’d bought a camper van not that long ago themselves, he was interested in the one parked in Metelkova, so he dived underneath to check the chassis or something. As he was examining the car and we were standing by, the owners of the van appeared. I was apprehensive they might get a bit pissy about us sniffing round their car but instead they invited us in and were very happy to answer all our questions. They were two men, German & Dutch, and they explained to us that they make money by buying old cars and camper vans to refurbish and sell back in the Netherlands, using a loophole in the law. Like this they’d recently made half a grand which allowed them to travel and buy more cars. This caravan we were now sitting in was supposed to stay in Slovenia as they were fed up with it moving to slowly, so they decided to dump it here.

Many hours passed and we were progressively getting more and more wasted on cheap Slovenian beer and Dutch smoke; eating cherries and talking shit. The door of the caravan was open so every so often some new faces would appear, sit with us for a while; then go to be replaced by other types and nationalities. It was the open communal atmosphere of Metelkova that made everybody feel comfortable in each other’s company.

When we felt we’d had enough, we got on our bikes and miraculously managed to get home, without a single scratch.

written by: Ania

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Follow our 2 month hitch-hiking trip across the north of Italy and the Balkan Peninsula:‘The Balkan Peninsula by Thumb 2013′. It’s happening now!

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About Hitch-Hikers Handbook

hitch-hiking, backpacking, budget travelling, travel writing, travel photography
Gallery | This entry was posted in *Photos*, Italy, Slovenia, The Balkan Peninsula by Thumb 2013 and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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