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Squat

The thin, long-haired young man stopped his skateboard and spoke with Julie while I photographed a red mural that was painted on an abandoned building by the river.  "You should go to Metelkova," he said.  He handed us a glossy postcard of the Slovenian Ethnographic Museum.  "It's only 15 minute walk. "  Then he looked at me, "There is lots of graffiti there." That got my attention.  I love street art if it is intelligent.  Graffiti and murals tell stories.  They can say more about a culture - and its less promoted counterculture - than any museum or tour.  Plus ... I love photographing those colors and the contrast of bright paint scrawled on pompous or boringly functional buildings. The next morning, our geeky tourist maps in hand, we set off north along the maze of streets and eventually found what Ljubljana locals describe as a "City within a City", rows of art-covered walls and sculpture and graffiti sprawling across several blocks and unmistakably our destination. Metelkova is one of the largest squats in Europe.  It is a sprawl of old army barracks and a former prison that were taken over as housing after Slovenian Independence in 1991 when artists moved in to the vacant buildings and started their own community.  The city did not - and still does not - like them.  They are tolerated however - perhaps because people here seem to hold the area as a special place which may be a product of the decades of socialism under Tito and the spirit of a brand new democracy. They have turned their entire community into a creative haven for alternative artists.   Today, over twenty years after moving into those abandoned buildings, they still squat and live there live there rent and tax free.  Metelkova has become accepted enough now by the

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