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Ljubljana Alternative Travel: street art & culture! Metelkova murals, Dragon Bridge, Slovenia castle.

ljubljana dragon bridge slovenia

Call me Khaleesi, Mother of Dragons!

I’m excited to share my alternative guide to Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia. With Medieval red rooftops and dramatic canals, it could pass for one of the great cities in Game of Thrones.

And I hope you enjoy our latest Slovenia travel video! Follow me through this European city, as I discover a surprising world-class food, art, nature and culture scene. There’s footage of the magical Lake Bled, coastal beaches, and lots of delicious cuisine. (Video produced by Borderless Media.)

Click to watch our Slovenia travel TV episode now!

artistic pattern undercut hair

Pronounced “lube-lee-anna”, the Slovenian capital is the definition of charming. The city center is small but filled with beautiful sights, and doesn’t have a touristy-commercial feeling. It’s the perfect European destination for a laid-back, all-day stroll. 

But don’t write off Ljubljana as quaint and quiet. There’s a punk-political alternative scene here, which encompasses LGBT-inclusive squats and art factories.  

metelkova cultural center

I’ll show you all the fascinating sides of Ljubljana’s culture, in my artistic city guide.

(If you’re digging the cute top I’m wearing, you might want to check out these cat shirts by Animal Hearted! They’re an indie apparel company for animal lovers, with a great selection of witty, adorable styles featuring cats, dogs and other animal companions).

slovenia bridges, canals

My film team and I wanted to start by getting an overall sense of Ljubljana. A boat tour was the perfect way to get the lay of the land.

We went on the 45-minute River Ljubljanica boat ride, which took us down the canals and under the famous bridges. We loved observing locals enjoying summertime activities, from this unique point of view.

ljubljana boat ride

With a glass of champagne in our hands, we passed under Ljubljana’s unique arches, including the three-way Triple Bridge, glass bridge, and Cobblers’ Bridge (because it once housed the booths of shoemakers).

River Ljubljanica boat tour

The colorful, historic European architecture is a feast for the eyes. Love these classic buildings overlooking the water.

dragon statue slovenia

My favorite bridge is “Zmajski most”, with roaring green dragons perched at both ends. This bridge was erected in the early 20th century, and looks like a scene from Game of Thrones.

dragon bridge Ljubljana

According to local legend, Jason (of Argonauts fame) was the founder of Ljubljana, and killed several dragons during his conquest.  Some say that when a virgin crosses the bridge, these dragons will wag their tails.

metelkova mesto street art

I found lots of heavy metal attitude at Metelkova, an  autonomous social and cultural center in the centre of Ljubljana, Slovenia. These former military barracks became occupied by squatters in the early 90s. Over time, they covered every available space with colorful street art.  

metelkova graffiti, murals

Metelkova Mesto feels like a giant acid trip. There are multiple buildings, decorated in everything from graffiti tags to moving installations.

alternative hipster ljubljana

This web of Gollum alien clones will haunt your nightmares. Metelkova encapsulates the eccentric, alternative side of Slovenia — perfect for alternative travellers like ourselves.

metelkova squat, punk

Metel Kova is a hive of creativity. There are artist studios here, as well as dive bars, design workshops, concert spaces. The young community works hard to organise social and cultural activities for anyone to join.

goth ljubljana, gothic

Can we talk about how talented these artists are? The murals are masterfully executed. And these images are only a fraction of what we saw here.

slovenia hip cool travel

Slovenian artists used found objects to build playful sculptures throughout Metelkova. One had a motion detector: when you stepped up close, the parts moved and pounded on a drum.

lgbt gay ljubljana slovenia

In Metelkova, inclusiveness is everything. The residents host community organisations that support women, the disabled, and LGBT. These clubs run campaigns against racism and exclusive policies — above, this rainbow structure was the first gay club in Slovenia. 

girl mural metel kova

Metelkova is within walking distance of the city center, but not in the main streets — therefore many travellers miss out on it. As you can tell from the photos, this commune is something you must see with your own eyes. I hope you’ll get the chance to discover this alternative, eclectic side of Ljubljana. 

rog squat autonomous factory

We walked past the entrance of Rog, another autonomous factory or squat. These abandoned buildings were occupied in 2006, and have morphed into gallery collectives and two skate parks. 

ljubljana castle lunch restaurant

Time to escape heat, and enjoy lunch with a view. Thankfully, everything is within easy walking distance. We took the short glass funicular (cable car) up to Ljubljana Castle, the icon of the city.

I felt like Cersei Lannister, looking out at the rooftops from my tower window. “Ljubljanski grad” was originally a Medieval fortress, and remains one of the best look-out points in Europe.

slovenian food, gostilnica

We sat near the Medieval curved stone windows, and thoroughly enjoyed the lunch tasting at Gostilna Na Gradu restaurant. By now, I’m sure I’ve convinced you that Slovenian food is magnificent.

We sampled organic spreads with fresh baked bread (the Istrian cod was my favorite), with cold glasses of homemade pear juice. The bottom left image shows the best sea bass I’ve had in my life: it’s paired with broccoli cream, and the fish comes from Fonda fish farm (remember I visited them?)

slovenia castle tower view

After the meal, we explored the art and antiquities displays around Ljubljana castle. We walked up the winding staircase to the viewing tower, and were rewarded with this panorama. (You can see my Snapchats from the castle here.)

red rooftops ljubljana scenery

I looked out at the canals, bridges, steeples and squares, framed by  blue mountains in the back. “Neverjeten,” or “amazing” in Slovenian.

slovenian fashion clothing

After a quick rest at our hotel, I was ready to do some shopping. As I mentioned before, there thankfully isn’t a commercial, big-box vibe in Ljubljana. Instead, you’ll find lots of local, handmade fashion and accessories — sold in little boutiques that line the cobblestone streets.

handmade artisan crafts ljubljana

I also enjoyed roaming around the produce markets, and watched Slovenians relax at outdoor cafes near the waters. 

skelet gothic bar slovenia

While you won’t find a Goth scene here, I did run into the Skelet bar that my friend Zoetica Ebb recommended. There are, however, plenty of stores with hipster and twee designs.

slovenia top chef jb

We saved the best for last, and had a memorable farewell dinner at the family-owned Restaurant JB. Chef Janez Bratovž was named one of the best 100 chefs in the world, and if Slovenia had Michelin stars, he would without doubt have several.

We stepped into a 1920s building that was decorated in his handpicked art. The space was luxurious, yet comfortable and without pretension.

JB is the friendliest and most attentive chef you’ll meet. He came by our table with each new plate, chatting us up with a smile, and then presenting his dishes with passion.

restaurant jb, best ljubljana fine dining

His menu is inspired by the balance between the four elements, which represent the tastes of sweet, salty, sour and bitter. Each is artfully presented, and a delight to the palate.

JB makes handmade pastas that melt in your mouth, and infuses international flavors (such as Asian sauces) into his preparations. Filmmaker Melissa’s reaction to the tuna dish: “If I were in prison and had to choose my last meal, I would pick this!”

JB Restavracija changes its menu with the seasons, and I’m eager to come back for more of his culinary magic.

cat graffiti europe

Cute, charming but with a gritty alt scene: this picture sums up why I adore Ljubljana. (Fun fact: Slovenia is the only country with “love” in its name!)

weird slovenia art

Hvala (thank you) to Slovenian Tourist Board (IFeelSlovenia) for the perfect travel itinerary, and to Ljubljana Tourism for organizing a tour of the alternative side of the city. (All photos by Borderless Media.)

bridge heart shaped locks

I leave you with one of the many unique city bridges — this one is decorated with locks. It’s a promise that I will come back to Ljubljana soon.

(If you missed my previous blogs about Lake Bled and Portoroz, you can find all my Slovenia travel guides here.)

ljubljana castle view

Please take a moment to watch our Slovenia travel video! Thanks for watching and subscribing.

PS: Head’s up, there’s a big 3-day sale at Shopbop until Monday! All you need to do is enter promo code EVENT17 to receive 20% off orders under $500, or 25% off when you get $500 or more. I’m tempted to stock up on harness and cut-out fitness fashion, like my favorites above… Enjoy the weekend everyone!

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My Alternative Street Art tour of Athens, Greece! Urban Adventures: Bohemian Tales walking tours, murals.

fashion blogger athens greece

When you think of Athens, Greece… does “ancient” come to mind?

Then let me blow away your expectations, and reveal the unexpectedly creative, modern side of the Greek capital!

I got an insider view of the city, thanks to Athens Urban Adventures. They took me on their Bohemian Tales of the City walking tour, which avoids tourists sites and focuses on hidden, indie neighborhoods.

top female travel influencers

Athens Urban Adventures customizes excursions according to your interests. I wanted to see local street art, alternative shops and cafes — and take photos with intriguing backgrounds — and that’s exactly what they delivered.

● Outfit Details ● I’m wearing an Iron Fist Bone faux fur coat, and Wishbone Halo Skirt (click the links to get these exact designs). My Ouija top is from Long Clothing, and the fishnet stockings are similar to these.

athens greece big murals

There’s a new, young generation of Greek creatives that are launching startups, and expressing themselves through progressive art.

I got to see this for myself as we strolled through Athens’ hippest districts: Exarchia, Plaka, Anafiotika, Monastiraki and Syntagma. As you’ll see, the city has a colorful, playful, punk spirit that you’ll glimpse in the most unexpected corners.

urban adventures street art tour

Our fabulous Urban Adventures guide, Nikoleta, met us at our Pi Athens hotel (I’ll write about our stay soon). We immediately clicked: she’s a photographer, and shares my passion for youth / underground culture.

It was a joy to see Nikoleta’s favorite spots in the city — she answered all our questions with a smile, and took us to hidden places that we would have never found on our own.

athens street art, graffiti walls

Urban Adventures works with guides who are true local insiders, which makes the tour feel more like a hangout session with friends. Nikoleta was excited to show us her favorite streets filled with graffiti. (Photography by Joey Wong).

bohemian tales walking tour athens

Look up: art is everywhere. Residents of the neighborhood contributed lamps, birdcages and other interesting objects, which were strung up above this narrow pathway. All throughout Athens, districts that were once run-down and gritty have been rejuvenated.

long clothing ouija shirt top

We saw tons of old, “ugly” facades transformed through street art — which formed the perfect photo backgrounds.

I’m wearing this Iron Fist skeleton bones jacket and Wishbone silver iridescent skirt, which pop in front of these painted shutters. My Ouija board shirt is by Long Clothing, and I have fishnets similar to these. (Click below for more items:)

hipster athens hip neighborhoods

The indie posters tell a story of a city that’s brimming with artistic events. Concerts for Blonde Redhead, Greek experimental theater productions, subculture club nights, you get the picture.

iron fist clothing bones jacket

In a city as ancient as Athens (dating back about 5000 years), the layers of history are visible wherever you go. But the modern incarnation stands out: you can feel the energy in the street murals.

instagram walls greece

There’s a cheeky, ironic playfulness to many of the works. I love how the drab grey side of a building gets turned into a fantastical scene. On the left, the rainbow walls are accompanied by text: “This is a great hipster Instagram opportunity.”

secret underground alternative tour athens

Nikoleta from Urban Adventures took us to a variety of artistic venues. I’m in front of the secret Embros Theater, which is housed in what used to be a newspaper factory. Local groups manage the space, and put on free productions.

Unlike some cities in Europe, Athens fully embraces urban expression. Citizens encourage street art, and some small businesses commission pieces for their walls, or donate space for events.

metamatic art space athens

We popped into the alternative multi-purpose art space, metamatic : taf. The inner courtyard looks like a stable — but these were actually interrogation holding cells! Today, TAF is an active social space that is accessible to anyone, encouraging dialogue and collaboration.

weird athens galleries

We were fans of the slightly bizarre installation art inside Metamatic Taf. The lips on the right have a Rocky Horror Picture Show meets Rolling Stones vibe.

iron fist silver skeleton skirt

One of the most prominent Greek street artists is Sonke. His distinctive swirls and melancholic girls are found all over Athens. I think my style goes rather well with his aesthetic, don’t you?

greek handwriting fonts writing

Even the fonts on cafe boards caught our eye. The Greek written language is itself a work of art.

gazi technopolis eye mural

Nikoleta brought us to Gazi, the gay district and home of Technopolis (a large cultural venue and industrial museum). Look close, and you’ll see binary code inside this eye-popping mural. 

madonna street art

From Madonna to Nintendo figures, Greece’s urban art draws upon every possible type of inspiration.

asian pink hair, gothic fashion

There’s so much talent to be glimpsed through a walk — and this is a side of Athens that not many travellers know about.  

My jacket is this Bone faux fur, and my skirt is the Wishbone Halo: both are by Iron Fist. More from this alt Goth brand below; click for more info:

loukoumades shop athens

The Bohemian Tales of the City tour includes a few tastings (and Athens Urban Adventures also offers food tours, and other themed activities).

We stopped at Lukumades for a sweet treat. As you can see in this Instagram video, loukoumades are Greek donuts that we got in the traditional style (dripping with honey and cinnamon). There are other toppings available, such as nuts or ice cream.

ouija board tshirt long clothing

After a long winter, I was thrilled to relax outside under the sun. Athens is all about taking it easy, and having a leisurely coffee or snack outdoors with friends.

punks graffiti tag

Quite a few of these stylish cafes also have DJ dance nights and live music…

six dogs coffee shop athens

… such as Six Dogs, a local favorite. I couldn’t resist the swing in the outer courtyard!

My friends and I took part in the Athenian coffee ritual: savoring a cappuccino frappe or freddo, made with thick Greek coffee.

athens hipsters, cafes

The Monastiraki and Psirri neighborhoods are filled with cool restaurants and music venues. There’s an air of passion and optimism in these parts of the city.

athens dragon statue

A snap of the Little Kook cake and tea shop, which has a fantasy Alice in Wonderland theme. I’ll have to return and visit it soon.

athens cool creative young subculture

We were having so much fun that we extended the tour (it usually is 3.5 hours). So much to see in Athens, from flea markets to vintage shops.

ziggy stardust street art

Ziggy Stardust and cats — these twee designs were up my alley. My sunglasses are Moat House.

hidden athens, edgar allen poe art

Since I love Gothic / horror, Nikoleta brought me to this illustrated pillar of Edgar Allan Poe. She also told us the tale of this haunted balcony… one day, this dangling telephone cord appeared without any reason. It remains hanging mysteriously today!

modern greek graffiti

Athens, a city that blends the ancient and hip, is truly a joy to explore on foot.

iron fist faux fur coat

No need to adjust your glasses: that’s indeed a mummified figure, looking out from the balcony!

iron fist metallic iridescent skirt

Wearing this Iron Fist coat, and this silver miniskirt. Sunglasses are by Moat House Eyewear.

funny graffiti door

The new face of Athens is an exhilarating one. I hope this story gives you a different view of the city.

dog mural Loukanikos athens

I leave you in front of an “All dogs go to heaven” tribute to Loukanikos, the stray dog that barked at police officers during the anti-austerity riots, and became a symbol of the people.

Thanks so much to Nikoleta of Athens Urban Adventures for the Bohemian Tales of the City tour! You can glimpse more of their insider, local-run experiences on Instagram.

urban adventures greece insider tour

What’s next? We’ll visit the Acropolis, dine like Greek gods, and bask in the Mediterranean sunset… Stay tuned.

iron fist clothing model outfit

Are you surprised to see this contemporary, creative scene in Athens?

For more about Greece, check out the Discover Greece portal, which has tons of insider travel tips. And please support my stories with a Share / Tweet / Like (you can click the buttons below) – I am very grateful.

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Tokyo Goth clubs & absinthe bars! Gothic party Midnight Mess, Decabar Z, Japanese tribal tattoos.

hibiya shrine tokyo

Greetings from the red torii gate of Hibiya Shrine! Ready for more alternative travel tips from Japan?

I haven’t posted any updates recently to my Tokyo Goth clubbing guide, so keep reading for the latest party / nightclub information, as well as a peek inside an absinthe bar.

I’ll also take you to two Godzilla statues, and an exhibit of Japanese modern primitive tattoos with Keroppy Maeda (who did the infamous bagelheads for our TV shows).

japanese goth girl eyes contacts

I receive far too many emails from travelers, asking for information about Japanese Goth and Alternative parties / clubs. It’s impossible for me to look up specific information for everyone, so here’s what I encourage you to do:

1 – Consult my Tokyo Goth clubbing guide, which highlights parties and events from over the years.

2 – If you’re reading this post in 2017, I suggest you check out the Facebook pages of Midnight Mess, Decabar Z and Department H. Upcoming parties will be announced there, usually about a month in advance. There are also smaller and less frequent alternative / Goth parties, but it’s impossible for me look up everything for each person, as I’m sure you can understand.

So again, please check out this club guide and research the party names I mention there, to see if they have any upcoming events. I hope you have a great time!

fox spirit shinto shrne

We’ll delve deeper into the nightlife further down in this post. But let’s start with a visit to Hibiya Jinja in Minato-ku, by Park Hotel Tokyo (where we stayed).

Outfit details: My sunglasses are these exact ones. I paired fishnet tights with my leopard print dress, which is Gladnews Japan (it’s available for sale on my Depop).

shinto water purification scoops

Although it’s now surrounded by busy streets, this peaceful Shinto shrine dates back 400 years. I smiled at the statues of fox spirits, and washed my hands in the running water of this purification fountain.

ringing bell shinto shrine

Ring my bell-el-el. I’m tugging a rope that leads to a “suzu” or Japanese Shinto bell that contains pellets. The ringing sound calls the kami, or spirits, which brings in good fortune and positive energy.

japanese fox altar temple

Kitsune (foxes) are prominent in Shinto folklore. They’re messenger spirits to Inari, as you’ll recall from my visit to the famous shrine of Fushimi Inari in Kyoto.

godzilla statue ginza

There’s another creature who has a big impact on the Japanese imagination… ‘Gojira’!

I walked to the Godzilla Statue in Ginza, which is located next to Toho Cinemas (as they release all the Godzilla films). (Address: 1 Chome-2-2 Yurakucho, Tokyo)

japanese shin godzilla poster

Shin-Godzilla or Godzilla Resurgence was still playing in the theater when we visited.

The nearby mall even had a Godzilla-themed cafe with food that was shaped like the monster’s paw! (For more about Tokyo theme restaurants, check out my book.)

ginza hibiya godzilla statue

I’m wearing these exact Vysen lavender sunglasses and this Shashi Tiffany choker necklace

This little Godzilla statue is based on one of the older movie designs, and doesn’t seem so frightening. But inside the mall…

shin godzilla movie statue

… there’s a much bigger and scarier Godzilla! This is the latest look for the “dai kaiju”, as seen in the new movie.

tokyo shin godzilla statue

We saw a lot of fans come to take photos with the towering Godzilla statue (he’s so popular here). This was only a temporary pop-up so I don’t think this statue is here any more.

His little eyes and pointy teeth are a bit goofy when seen from up close….

godzilla head tokyo japan

If you’re a fan of the Japanese monster, you’ve got to stay at the Godzilla head hotel in Shinjuku like we did. Don’t miss these photos of our stay in the Godzilla Gracery Hotel.

tav gallery tokyo japan

One evening, I supported my friends John and Keroppy at their panel discussion on Japanese tribal tattooing at TAV Gallery in Asagaya. This small but progressive space showcases artists who are involved in alternative culture. (Gallery address: 阿佐谷北1-31-2 Suginami-ku, Tokyo, Japan)

jomon tattoo keroppy maeda

John Skutlin, a cultural anthropologist who specialises in the study of Japanese tattooing and body modifications, speaks about the experience:

“On display at the TAV Gallery that night were photos from the Jōmon Tattoo Project, a collaboration between journalist and photographer Keroppy Maeda and black-work tattooist Taku Ōshima that attempts to recreate the tattoos of Japan’s Jōmon period (approx. 14,000~300 BCE) on modern human bodies.”

japan ancient tattoos jomon

“Although there is no physical evidence of tattooed bodies from the Jōmon era, the people of that period left behind clay figurines called dogū, which depict human forms engraved with various swirling and spiraling designs that archaeologists theorize to represent scarification and tattooing. Chinese accounts from the second and third centuries CE record extensive tattooing among the people of the Japanese archipelago, making it even more likely that the Jōmon people had a rich tradition of tattooing,” says John.

tattoo event conference tokyo

The discussion held that evening included Maeda and Ōshima, as well as the Miho Kawasaki (chief editor of Tattoo Burst magazine from 1999-2012), Professor of New Materials and Technologies Werner Lorke (HfG Offenbach, Germany), and cultural anthropologist John M. Skutlin (The Chinese University of Hong Kong).

Subjects included the inspiration behind the project and speculation as to what kind of role tattooing played among the Jōmon people. Maeda believes that the urge to alter one’s body is universal, saying that, in the course of our evolution, “the first step to becoming a human being is the choice to change our own bodies artificially.” 

taku oshima keroppy maeda tattoo exhibit

John continues: “According to the project’s manifesto, the Jōmon tattoos are “inscribed upon real human bodies as modern tattoo designs to show how the primitive spirit of humankind will become a new identity to survive the postmodern life of the 21st century.” Ōshima, who spent time studying tattooing in Goa, India before traveling the world to ply his trade, is a master of bold black-work designs, many of which cover entire arms, legs, and bodies.”

tokyo handpoke tattooing

Nearly all of the volunteers for the project had never been tattooed before, and the striking designs indicate natural phenomena that would have been important to the tribal peoples of ancient Japan. Waves, snake coils, and tree branches are all motifs that can be seen in the designs of dogū and now recreated on the bodies of the project participants. “You could say that Jōmon tattooing is the true traditional tattooing of Japan, and the designs everyone knows from the Edo period [1603-1868] were Japan’s modern tattooing,” said Ōshima.

primitive japanese tribal tattoos

For more about John Skutlin’s research, you can read his interview with The Diplomat and watch his presentation at the University of Pittsburgh about ink and body modifications in Japan.

If you’re in Frankfurt, Germany between June 3-18, you can see the Jomon Tribe exhibition at Robert Mayer Zeigt Galerie. I’m excited to see how the modern primitive movement in Japan will continue to develop, and question the country’s taboos about tattooing.

japan goth party

While in Tokyo, John and I were also guests at Midnight Mess, the longest-running Goth club — and our hangout for a decade now! How time flies…

If you’re coming to Japan, I highly recommend that you check out their Facebook group page for upcoming events. DJ Maya always creates a welcoming space (and she and many of the guests speak English).

tokyo japan disco discotheque

We gathered at Bar Shifty in Shibuya for the all-night party. Under the disco ball, Goths in black clothing danced to EBM, dark techno / electro, industrial, aggrotech and noise. 

tokyo clubbing shibuya

Posing with Athena, who often plays with Mistress Maya in shibari (rope-bondage) performances.

shibuya nightclub, clubbing

It was great to reunite with Maya and DJ Statik, the resident deejay who I’ve known for years.

tokyo japan club parties

As always, the party ran all night long (trains stop running in Japan after about midnight or 1am — so you have to keep on dancing til dawn!)

industrial gothic dj japan

Midnight Mess always brings in underground performers and guests from around the world. That evening, DJ Maschinenpriester from Germany pounded out a special set.

mistress maya dj japan

I also invite you to visit Mistress Maya at her Gothic/Fetish Bar, which takes place every Monday & Tuesday at Grenier (a small snack bar in the gay district of Shinjuku). She’ll play alternative music, and make sure you are well fed with homestyle cooking and drinks. Address: 東京都新宿区新宿2-18-10 新千鳥街二階 (2-18-10 Ni-Choome, Shinjuku, Tokyo), phone 0363801199.

otaku dj anime

DJ Sin performed with a hooded head. (All of these club photos are by fake-fantasy).

Thanks to Midnight Mess for having us as the guests of honor!

guinea pig bar shinjuku

My friends and I also stopped by one of our favorite Goth bars — Guinea Pig in Kabukicho, Shinjuku. I previously wrote about this bizarre horror bar here. The bondage baby and spine immediately set the dark (yet fun) mood of this tiny bar.

Address: 2-41-2 Leo Kotobuki Building 3-A, Kabukicho, Shinjuku, Tokyo. 1000 yen cover. Opening hours are generally 8pm to early morning. Phone: 03-3209-3455

japanese smoking in bars

There’s always an eccentric crowd of regulars sitting around the long, black bar. Yes, that’s a blood-splattered pole in the middle — and torture instruments in the back.

kabukicho weird strange bars

We love coming here to sit under the rotting flesh cross, and watch splatter-gore movies play on the big screen.

horror bar tokyo japan

Obviously, Guinea Pig is not a bar for everyone. But if you love strange, obscure, weird Japan — this spot is for you.

haunted bars japan weird

Chains and zombie hands and live snakes — yes please.

tokyo fetish crazy bars

Even though I am in Tokyo all the time, the city and subculture never grow old to me.

craziest theme bars tokyo

Guinea Pig caters to horror / experimental / slasher movie fans. When we visited, they were showing trailers from Herschell Gordon Lewis films (such as Two Thousand Maniacs and Blood Feast), as he had died that week.

shinjuku kabuki-cho nightlife clubs

Cheers to Guinea Pig, which remains one of our regular drinking holes! If you’re interested in Tokyo Visual Kei and Jrock bars, a Suspiria themed bar, and other oddities, check out my Tokyo nightlife guide.

long spiked fangs ring

Close-up on Atsushi’s spiked fang ring and studded bracelets. Now, to the next party…

shinjuku buidings lights

There’s something about Shinjuku at night — lit up and buzzing — that fills me with joy, every single time I’m here.

pentagram men's shirt disturbia

Every time we’re in Tokyo, we stop to see our friends at Decabar Z (5F Shinko Building, 1-2-13 Kabukicho, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo, Japan. Here’s a link to the map.)

John’s pentagram top is by Disturbia Clothing, makers of occult and Satanic fashion.

pokemon nail art, pokeball nails

Tokyo’s alternative DJs, performers and personalities grace the colorful mural at the entrance of Deca Bar Z. Here’s Maya as a cat, offering a cup of sake in a pink kimono.

ouija board devil tshirt

Devil horns to match this Satanic ouija board unisex shirt, by Disturbia

deca bar z tokyo decadance

Say hello to Preta Porco, who you’ll find behind the (Deca) bar! He’s easy to spot with his bright yellow foundation, contrasted with rosy red lips and cheeks.

halloween tokyo decadence party

Adrien le Danois, owner of Deca Bar Z, also runs the Tokyo Decadance parties. If you’re not in town during one of the decadence events, don’t fret — Decabar Z is open every evening, and there are always interesting theme nights such as “Addams Family.”

decabar z cosplay bar

Grab a glass of absinthe, and chill out on the comfortable couches. (Here are more photos of Deca Bar Shinjuku, from my last visit.)

gothic lolita dj music

We loved the music at the “I Am Electro” night, run by Migon. The DJs play Depeche Mode, Visage, Europe and other favorites — as well as obscure synthwave and 1980s Goth.

shinjuku absinthe bar alternative

As an absinthe aficionado, I’m always looking for the green fairy wherever I go.

Maya took me to Caribbean, an absinthe and rock bar in Kabukicho. (Address: Kabukicho 1-3-10 2F, Shinjuku Tokyo)

absinthe bars tokyo japan

I drank Mansinthe (Marilyn Manson’s absinthe) and we chatted with the owner. He let DJ Maya control the song selection, resulting in the perfect Goth playlist.

absinthe alternative bar kabukicho

The same owners also run the nearby Absinthe Bar Alternative (Address: 1-6-12-B1F, Kabukicho 歌舞伎町, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo 160-0021). It’s a small basement bar, with several shelves of absinth from around the world — heavenly.

tokyo japanese absinthe

If you’re looking for more absinthe in Tokyo, check out Bar Tram in Ebisu.

Modern primitive tattoos, spatter-gore bars, Gothic club nights… isn’t Tokyo’s underground the best? For more coverage of Japanese alternative nightlife, come peruse my Tokyo Goth club guideHave fun!

Hipster Tallinn, Estonia! Contemporary art galleries, Telliskivi Creative City, Estonian design stores.

tallinn estonia cat mural

After the holidays and a much-needed catch up break, I’m thrilled to be on the road again!

I’m heading back to Europe this month, so I thought I’d do a final flash-back to my travels in Estonia.

Last summer,  I explored the hipster side of Tallinn — art factories, local fashion and design collectives. (Remember when I visited the Estonian Depeche Mode bar?)

goth punk miffy bunny statue

Next week, I’ll be back in the EU… this time, in the land of Miffy!

iAmsterdam is flying me to Amsterdam, where I’ll be covering the cool culture of the city. You may recall that I previously went to the Miffy / Nijntje museum in Utrecht, a kawaii dream come true. If you’re a fan of the Dutch bunny, check out these goodies below with a click:

I’m also heading to Athens, thanks to Marketing Greece! Get ready for the Acropolis, LGBT clubs and Greek island-hopping… Be sure to follow along on my Snapchat and Instagram (@lacarmina) for previews.

hipster tallinn estonia art

Now, let’s talk about Tallinn. As you can see from these photos alone, this is one hip city. My team and I encountered a burgeoning creative culture in Estonia, which is located south of Finland, north of Latvia, and west of Russia.

steampunk cybergoth building

Estonia was a “Soviet socialist republic” from 1940-1991 (gaining independence when the USSR collapsed). This era resulted in some intriguing cyberpunk relics such as this apocalyptic steam plant, which has been converted into a creative art hub. (More about this later in the post).

Telliskivi creative city

If you’re interested in Tallinn’s art scene, you’ve got to visit Telliskivi Creative City. This abandoned factory area has been reclaimed as an urban space, and is now home to the biggest artistic hub in the country.

dinosaur mural painting

Telliskivi spans 25,000 square meters, and contains over 200 independent businesses and non-profits. The crumbling structures have been converted into an artistic, alternative, public space. For example, the run-down walls by the railroad tracks are now covered in colorful murals.

Jaanus Juss Telliskivi artists

We met Jaanus Juss, the young founder and CEO of Telliskivi Loomelinnak. He talked about his vision of bringing together a wide variety of creatives, in an inspiring co-op space.

pop up shops restaurants tallinn

The “creative city” currently includes organic cafes, a printing shop, furniture makers, an antique book store, yoga studio, and childcare center. The residents also run regular dance evenings and flea markets.

hip cool tallinn estonia

The entire space is a canvas. As we walked around, we saw giant art installations and beautifully executed murals like the one above.

estonian model girl

Telliskivi has revolving pop-up stores, which give local designers a chance to showcase their handmade arts, crafts and fashion.

concrete planters, cactus pots

Love these geometric concrete cacti planters.

cute hip street art estonia

In Telliskivi, the possibilities for artistic expression are endless. We passed by ateliers, workshops, a theater, galleries…

Telliskivi factory studios

… and an architect’s studio (above). We also tasted the world’s best dark grain bread — no exaggeration — at Muhu Bakery (Muhu Pagarid). The brown rye loaves are baked fresh, with sunflower, hemp and flax seeds. Straight out of the oven, this hearty Estonian bread is a revelation!

abandoned buildings tallinn

Jaanus took us into one of the buildings that has yet to be restored. As we walked up the stairs, we glimpsed the scrawls of angels and demons. 

Telliskivi rooftop

We made it to the rooftop, where he pointed out the first graffiti in Estonia. (Street art was previously frowned upon in Tallinn.)

viewpoint tallinn estonia rooftops

We had a brilliant view of the entire collective, including the bordering train tracks and Old Town.

bicycles tallinn estonia

Back on the ground, we took a peek inside a bike shop. The skull art caught my eye.

weird cool art baltics

Telliskivi was established in 2009, but the Baltic Railway buildings date back to 1869. I’m eager to see how this vibrant, creative city will keep on evolving over time.

tallinn power plant chimney

The Baltics (Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia) currently have a thriving artistic scene — perhaps because these countries are now free from the USSR, and spreading their wings creatively. Cities like Tallinn are liberal, yet have a low cost of living: the perfect breeding ground for young artists.

tallinn creative hub

This is certainly the case at Tallinn Creative Hub, a center for cultural events in the heart of the city. Behind these big red doors, there are workshops, festivals, exhibits, seminars and other creative enterprises.

Tallinn City Central Power plant

This building was once the Tallinn City Central Power Station, which operated between 1913 and 1979. The current incarnation preserves the boiler room, gas reservoir and brick chimney — giving the venue a Steampunk meets Gothic vibe.

tallinn steam boiler cauldron hall

In 1977, director Andrei Tarkovsky used the power plant as the set for his cult film, “Stalker.” My jaw dropped when I walked into “Cauldron Hall” — a high-ceilinged room that looks straight out of Mad Max or Blade Runner! 

cyberpunk mad max building

These precarious, rusted ladders and balconies look like a post-apocalyptic set. It can be rented out for events — I’d have an epic “end of the world” party here.

art music studios estonia

Tallinn Creative Hub’s cavernous spaces include a Maker Lab (workshop with various machines), recording studio, and food lab (for experimenting with recipes). There’s also a community garden and cafe, free for locals to enjoy.

tallinn linnahall olympics stairs

Outside, I walked up the “stairway to nowhere” — Linnahall. It’s a large, grey, concrete staircase that doesn’t really lead to anything (how surreal and Soviet)! Linna Hall was a sports venue built for the 1980 Olympics, situated on the harbour, but it’s fallen into disuse today.

tali tallinn design shop

Back to Old Town, where we popped into the design store Tali. Everything here is made by local designers — jewelry, leather goods, clothing, and furniture.

baltic art boutique

I’m a fan of modern Estonian designs, which tend to have minimal, geometric forms (as characteristic of Northern Europe). The works are stylish, yet with a sense of humor.

wood wooden bow ties

The cute animal sleep masks and wooden bow ties were among my favorites, and are great souvenirs.

estonian design house

We also paid a visit to Estonian Design House, home to several studios and the headquarters of the Estonian Association of Designers.

hip clothing store tallinn

There’s an impressive selection of upcycled fashion, quirky lighting, hipster backpacks, sleek jewelry and posters.

Stella Soomlais studio leather fashion

Upstairs, I got a tour of Stella Soomlais studio. She makes custom leather accessories for men and women, such as the sleek black wallet I’m holding.

octopus head weird art

I love how Estonian art isn’t afraid to “keep it weird.” The octopus and rooster-headed photographs made me laugh.

crazy strange baltic art

Last stop: the Contemporary Art Museum of Estonia (EKKM). This non-profit initiative has a DIY feeling, with a cafe in the entrance hall, and an adorable flower garden in the back.

estonian painter Alice Kask

We saw the self-titled solo exhibition of Alice Kask, an Estonian painter. Her works use materials such as old wooden boards, which stand out against the stark, industrial walls.

estonian artists

Alice Kask’s works have elements of surrealism, which I love. They touch upon themes such as the body, media images, and symbolism vs reality.

tallin modern art museum

The Contemporary Art Museum of Tallinn brings in works both from Estonia and worldwide. Their rotating exhibitions always have a strong voice.

contemporary art Museum of Tallinn

Her painting style is striking and a bit unnerving. Alice depicts human bodies with realistic strokes, but then gives them a bizarre twist and surrounds them in abstract space.

estonia modern painters

Isn’t the art scene in Estonia intriguing? Thanks to Visit Tallinn for inviting us, and showing us around.

(All photos by Borderless Media.)

visit tallinn travel bloggers

For more, check out my post about Estonian cuisine and the Depeche Mode bar here.

And now, I’m off to Europe again… dancing with joy. Can’t wait to share travel stories from Amsterdam and Athens with you soon!