Slovenia’s capital a little charmer
The expression “small is beautiful” must surely have been coined for Slovenia and its riverside capital, Ljubljana. Look at a map of Europe (not an old one – Slovenia only became an independent country in 1991) and you’ll find this neat little country tucked between Croatia, Hungary, Austria and Italy. Its area is about half that of Canterbury.
Driving from coastal Croatia, much of it dry and stony, I find it a refreshing change to be in the rolling green countryside of Slovenia. More than half the whole country is forested. Little gabled houses are clustered together in a clearing from time to time, a church spire pokes up above the roofs, and farm animals graze in surrounding paddocks.
Ljubljana (the “j” is pronounced as a “y”) almost means beloved (ljubljena). This would be totally appropriate for this charmer of a city (only 270,000 inhabitants) which spreads out along both banks of the Ljubljanica River.
We make first of all for Ljubljana’s hilltop castle. It was built in the ninth century, rebuilt in the 15th and then upgraded in the 16th and 17th centuries. Afterwards it served as a military outpost and even as the province’s prison before another restoration was carried out in the 1960s. The result is a bit of an architectural mish-mash.
But it has an absolutely splendid tower. After a near-perpendicular ride in the funicular, we slog up to the top of the tower via a double wrought-iron staircase. Someone in our group counts 95 steps as we go round and round. I’m too puffed to count.
From the top, we take in the stunning panorama. We can see the hazy Julian Mountains in the distance (where the skifields lie) – and nearer, dense forested slopes. Closer still is the leafy playground of Park Tivoli. Below us, we look over the winding river, the leafy squares and streets and the terracotta roofs of the buildings.
Many of the buildings are art nouveau in architectural style and decoration, a legacy from the city’s earthquake history. Like other regions of the former Yugoslavia, Slovenia is earthquake-prone. The first recorded quake in the city was in 1511 when much of mediaeval Ljubljana was destroyed. Rebuilding in the 17th and 18th centuries resulted in pale-coloured baroque churches and mansions.
In 1895 a powerful earthquake struck again and the city had to rebuild once more. Art nouveau was all the rage in Europe at the time and many of these wonderful buildings were erected then in that style.
Ljubljana has been through torrid times in other ways. In Roman days it was called Emona, and remnants of Romanesque walls, dwellings and early churches still remain. In the 5th century Emona was sacked by the Huns. Tribes of early Slavs settled in the area in the following centuries.
The Poe House to open March 5 in Hendersonville
Grand opening April 16
By GARY GLANCY
In the opening verse of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven,” a distraught lover awakes to hear the sound of a “gentle rapping” before proclaiming: “’Tis some visitor … tapping at my chamber door — Only this, and nothing more.”
In the famous 1845 poem, the visitor was a bird. Next month, Kimberlee Young and her fiancé, Derek Schuler, will eagerly await the arrival of wine and craft-beer enthusiasts to their new downtown Hendersonville business, The Poe House.
The Hendersonville couple have been working with their friend, carpenter Paul Posthummus, to transform the space underneath West First restaurant — which formerly served as the Henderson County Democratic Party headquarters — into a Charleston-style, Poe-themed retail store that will sell a wide range of wines and craft beer as well as homebrewing supplies and equipment.
Young and Schuler also have obtained their license to sell a host of hand-picked wines and microbrews by the glass for consumption in the shop’s rusticlooking tavern and Charlestonstyle courtyard. A soft opening is planned for March 5, with a grand opening scheduled for April 16.
“I think it’s a wonderful addition and a pretty cool service to have right here in downtown Hendersonville,” said Bob Williford, president of the Henderson County Chamber of Commerce.
A fan of craft beer, Williford said the closings of specialty beer/wine shops Rabbit & Co. and Adventures in Wine and Beer left a void in Hendersonville, underscored by the excitement generated by Sierra Nevada’s arrival in Mills River and the explosion of craft beer in general in Western North Carolina. Young and Schuler agree.
”There’s really nobody here (in Hendersonville) that’s doing anything as far as the beer scene goes,” Young said. “And, unfortunately, with the way the economy went, we lost a lot of our wine shops as well, so we felt there was a real need to have something like this.”
Young, a certified sommelier who has sat on national wine-tasting panels, is equally passionate about wine and craft beer. So is Schuler. The couple own and operate Travels in Wine, which this spring enters its fifth season providing private WNC winery tours out of Hendersonville and Asheville.
They have hired a new marketing director and tour guide, Hendersonville resident Dana Hensley, and also have expanded to Charlotte and Greensboro for tours in the booming Yadkin Valley wine region. Now, Young and Schuler — both Hendersonville natives — plan to begin offering weekly brewery tours in WNC as well beginning in May.
Adding a retail component had been part of the business plan to grow the company, though not right away. However, two things happened that accelerated the process. First, Young and Schuler returned from an outing in Greenville, S.C., inspired after visiting The Trappe Door restaurant, which offers Belgian cuisine and beer in a fittingly dark, Medieval-style basement setting.
Then, back in Hendersonville, Young and Shuler walked into the space under West First, which they planned to renovate into a new corporate office.
“Derek is a visionary, so he walked down here and saw something,” Young said. “I mean, we had a dream to do it at some point, but it was kind of a couple years down the road. But then when he got down here and started looking around, he said, ‘Hey, if we did this and we did that, then we could go ahead and start a couple years early.’” Armed with a vision that includes a love of Poe and the Romantic Gothic period theme, Young, Shuler and Posthummus — whom the couple called a “godsend” — went to work to realize what they’ve called the building’s “Poe-tential.”
First, they rewired the entire place and installed ceiling track lighting and Charleston-style lanterns to set the desired mood. They sandblasted the green walls to reveal the natural brick, built rustic-sophisticated wine shelving into them, and painted the ceiling to enhance the dark look even further.
“It’s made a huge difference,” Schuler said. “You’ve got to create the right environment.” Young and Schuler have purchased furniture from Michigan that — like The Poe House bar — is made from recycled wood, including a table in the tavern’s banquette seating area that will feature the image of a raven burned into it as a tribute to Poe’s poem.
Meanwhile, Young’s brother, David Roark, an artist from Mills River, is busy working on murals that include a portrait of the poet as well as a depiction of Poe’s short story, “Cask of Amontillado.”
Outside in the courtyard Young and Schuler envision a décor of wrought iron and a fountain where customer can enjoy a glass or flight of wine and beer.
A teacher at heart Young’s motto is “educate entice, enlighten and entertain.” The couple assure The Poe House will include it all, with regular beer and wine classes and tastings to complement their winery and new brewery tours.
”With beer, I have the same philosophy that I did with wine: Our goal is to make it fun,” Young said “We want people to be able to understand the craft-beer scene and not be intimidated by it.”
On the home brewing side, Young and Schuler have obtained a brew-on premises license and plan to have educational brew-in sessions in the store. They also hope to collaborate with Blue Ridge Community College to offer similar opportunities for the new beer and brewing-related courses at BRCC.
In that regard, the couple believes solid partnerships lead to healthy, prosperous communities, and they see their venture doing just that in the place they call home.
No Orcs Allowed: Hobbit House Brings Middle-Earth To Pa.
by PETER CRIMMINS
In rural Chester County, Pa., about 50 miles northwest of Philadelphia, thick fog swirls around the trunks of knotty trees. This piece of 18th-century farmland could, by all outward appearances, be one of the misty forests of Middle Earth, the setting of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings fantasy novels.
The Hobbit, a prequel book with a new film adaptation, follows the adventures of hobbit Bilbo Baggins, who lives in an underground home with round doors and windows.
Here in Chester County, at the request of lifelong Tolkien fan Vince Donovan, architect Peter Archer has designed just such a structure — a tiny stone cottage of Hobbit proportions.
“I hadn’t even read the book,” says Archer. “But … as we were doing this, [we] went through a lot of the illustrations that Tolkien had prepared, just for inspiration.”
The result is a building of only 600 square feet, set into a hill behind an old stone wall. The roof is shaped in whimsical curves and covered with clay tile. The showpiece is a distinctive, round, hobbit-sized door that pivots on a single, wrought-iron hinge.
Of course, this little dwelling is not completely up to hobbit code. “It’s not an underground structure by any stretch of the imagination, but it is built into the grade,” Archer says. “We’ll do a round door, but other than that, I didn’t want to be cartoonish in any way. I wanted to make something that’s very handmade, a combination of stone, timber; [to] try to find the craftsmen and let the craftsmen use their skills.”
Archer also made sure to include a man door in his construction, as required by code — man code, that is.
to be continued
A new chapter for Nairobi’s Westlands as new buildings sprout
By JOHN NJIRU
Described as Kenya’s social and entertainment centre for expatriates and the wealthy, Nairobi’s Westlands day time activities fade compared to its nightlife.
By midnight, the area located 3.1 kilometres northwest of Nairobi central business district, starts to dress long queues of traffic jams as partygoers make their way to their favourite restaurants, bars and nightclubs.
The morning sun finds little, other than litter in evidence of the night merry. This trait is, however, fast giving way to a fast day life as commercial banks, telecommunication, and other corporates move their headquarters to the zone.
“The high appetite is driven by penetration of donor communities and NGOs in the country who need good working offices that are less crowded and highly well maintained. Westlands is such a good address,” says Mr Kariithi Muriithi, a risk analyst who has been involved in advising investors in property development.
Known landmarks such as the Sarit Centre, The Mall and Unga House, and a cluster of shops, restaurants, bars and nightclubs are slowly being replaced by skyscrapers as investors move to meet the growing demand for rental spaces.
And in this, a new skyline is taking shape at Westlands, as new buildings come up. Looming as one approaches the roundabout is Twin towers, a combination of a great deal of concrete and glass rendering the left side of the residential-cum-commercial centre a sophisticated touch of architectural finesse, the latest from the Seyani Brothers.
The Delta Towers, as the structure has been named, will rise 18 floors above the Westlands grounds. It is being built for Jaydev Mody, the Delta Corp Indian honcho, an entrepreneur with interests in real estate and gaming industry.
“The Kenyan real estate market is rapidly growing, and is getting to a point where there is a rising demand for what can only be described as a wholly higher level of design and delivery,” said Mark Properties managing director Ravi Vasta.
As the project gets its final touches, the Delta Towers will have some imposing neighbours.
On the other side of the road, Symbion Architects are putting up a 10-storey Villa Rosa Kempinski, a Mediterranean-styled work complete with fountains, porches, corbels and wrought iron details that preserve the views of entire Chiromo surroundings.
Across Ring road, facing the Westlands matatu stage terminal, Park Plaza limited is building a 10-storey office structure named Sky Park, an arc of an edifice. Take a little walk further and get acquainted with more of these budding high-rise structures.
The 9 West, an 11-floor structure of sleek glass at the junction of Ring road Parklands and Lower Kabete road, just around Maasai Market and opposite Sarit Centre has reshaped the skyline in the western side of Westlands.
Fedha Group of Companies owns the 11-floor Fedha Plaza on the Parklands—Mpaka Road junction, opposite the Holiday Inn, while Pacis Insurance has built Pacis Centre around the same locality.
On the other side of Safaricom House is the just-completed West End Tower, which has taken four years after Dreamcatchers Limited and Camelot Estate sold it.
Previously known as Camelot House, the 8-floor 150,000 square feet worth of edifice located on 1.5 acre plot is a creation of Shamla Fernandes and actualised by Laxmanbhai Constructors.
At a time when speculation of real-estate glut is rife after a decade of property boom in the Kenyan market, Westlands is experiencing a confident cadre of developers pressing on with the ambitious structures designed to impress and bring in income.
“The investment environment in the construction market is favourable at the moment; both in terms of financiers and length of approval processes by the authority,” says the City Council of Nairobi’s (CCN) director of city planning Rose Muema.
Real estate developer Mark Properties unveiled Le ‘Mac, a 22-storey high-rise apartment and commercial tower on Waiyaki Way on October this year. The building, expected to be complete in 2015, is set to be among the tallest in the area.
The governor’s home opens up for the holidays
By WENDI WINTERS
The open house is not only an opportunity to shake hands and chat with Gov. Martin O’Malley and his family, but to admire the public rooms of this 142-year-old mansion.
Visitors also will be entertained by youth choirs and string quartets, and nibble one of the more than 8,000 cookies baked for the occasion. Each visitor will receive a commemorative pewter ornament. As for the beautiful, understated décor, the butler did it — with some help.
Each year, Barb Harward-Troska, the Government House butler, and her assistant Christy Sweeney plan, prepare and put up the decorations throughout the public rooms on the main floor.
The effort requires hanging ornaments on the 15-foot Fraser fir in the Entrance Hall and winding dozens of yards of artificial pine garlands through the spindles in the banister of the main staircase.
“We’re staying with a very traditional look, again, this year,” Harward-Troska said. “We used things we had in the house.”
The tree in the Entrance Hall is laden with angels garbed in patterned ribbons strumming instruments, and gilded glass ornaments, sparkling silk blossoms and clusters of golden grapes.
The Empire Room houses the “Peace on Earth” tree. Among the classic glass ornaments and glass icicles are hydrangea blooms harvested from the Government House garden.
The rest of the public rooms are dotted with displays of flowers, mixed evergreens and pine cones, and dangling ropes of magnolia leaves twined with gilt-edged ribbons.
In the kitchen, meanwhile, the cook staff was busy baking homemade cookies. Vickie Fowley, the first lady’s assistant, pulled out a list of the 19 varieties of cookies that will be served during the open house. Besides classics like double chocolate chip and sugar cookies, there will be cookie flavors of coconut pecan, white chocolate macadamia and snickerdoodles with M&Ms.