Monthly Archives: April 2016

Healing in Bled

Following Noel Edmonds’ claims that a magnetic pad can cure cancer, Jane Alexander explores whether Zdenko Domančić’s bio-energy healing weekend in Bled Slovenia makes for miracle cure or esoteric bullshit.

A small boy races across the room, his trainers flashing neon green. He’s just like any other six-year old except that he’s running on crutches. Around 50 people sit around the edges of the stuffy conference room, a fair few in wheelchairs. A man comes in, pulling an oxygen tank alongside him. I slide into a seat at the back and watch.

Most visitors to Bled in Slovenia spend their time enjoying the scenery and the sights. It’s almost Disneyesque with its wildflower-peppered meadows and its fairytale castle perched on a crag over the lake. The lake itself winks beguilingly, begging you to hike its perimeter (an easygoing two hour walk), swim in its silky water or take a gondola-style boat out to the little island with its church (ring the bell and apparently your wishes will come true).

Yet everyone here is holed up indoors, patiently waiting their turn for a dose of ‘bio-energy healing’.  It’s a package run by the Hotel Lovec (part of the Best Western Premier chain) and it’s hugely popular:  many people come back time and time again to attend the twice daily healing sessions by Zdenko Domančić and his team. A lecture by Domančić and a sightseeing tour are thrown into the package and, on the face of it, it’s a pretty good deal. The hotel isn’t drop-dead stylish but it’s comfortable, friendly, and has a great restaurant and a rather nice spa (with a slightly incongruous Thai theme).

Zdenko Domančić, originally from Croatia, is a burly 65-year old with rock star billing – his face stares broodingly from monolithic posters and people hang on his every word. Aside from the children, everyone is sitting yogi-style, palms upturned in their laps. I look quizzically at the woman next to me and she gives an encouraging smile. ‘Turn your hands up,’ she whispers. ‘It opens you to the energy in the room.’ She gestures over at Domančić who is standing over an elderly man, making sweeping movements as if he were brushing away something nasty. ‘He is the best man in the world,’ she adds, nodding firmly. ‘The very best.’  I smile politely and obediently present my palms to the energy of the room.

Domančić speaks with a deep rumble of a voice. ‘Everything is energy,’ he says.  ‘And we treat everything the same – from diarrhoea to cancer, from AIDS to autism.’ Bio-energy healing, he says, simply puts the body ‘back in order’, restoring balance. ‘Every cell holds information about the entire system. If you restore the original environment, you will fix the energy field. Your body will heal itself.’

Domančić catches my sceptical frown. ‘We are not weirdos,’ he says, wagging a stern finger. ‘It’s quantum physics. We’re conducting agents for energy. When there’s not enough energy, we are sick. When there is no more energy, we die. All information is energy. We can heal anything – trees, animals…we upgrade the system, if you like.’

Domančić has a team of healers working at four stations around the room. They usually work in pairs but, every so often, a whole bunch of them swoops in to ramp up the healing factor.

I watch as Domančić stands behind a young woman and makes ‘come to me’ moves with his hands.  She starts arching into an extreme back bend before losing her balance. He smiles, moves in front of her and gestures again. This time she bows down towards Domančić, seemingly completely under his control. It smacks of stage hypnosis, of manipulation and it makes me distinctly uneasy.  Domančić wanders over to me, leaving the woman immobile, bowed down in the centre of the room. ‘It breaks down scepticism in people,’ he says with a sardonic smile. ‘Their mental concrete can start to crack when they see energy in action.’ Even so, once released the woman is visibly shaken and

It’s my turn. Domančić beckons me forwards and asks me to walk up and down. He asks if I have cold feet (yes, sometimes), any ovary problems (hmm, yes, according to a recent scan), bladder issues (thankfully no, but now I’m worried), occasional heart palpitations (yes), heavy legs (not really). He reckons I’m badly dehydrated (that’s highly likely). So far, so perceptive but he hasn’t picked up on my major problem – a bad shoulder impingement that’s keeping me awake at night. He places his hands on my shoulder and I feel a tingling in my hands and a warmth spreading around the shoulder.  I stand up, I sit down. I stand up again. Domančić and a helper perform a series of movements over me and my shoulder feels a little easier. I go back to my seat wondering if it’s for real or just my wishful thinking.

Across the room I spot a couple cradling a young child. Marco and Barbara Foxon tell me that they come to Bled every couple of months from Dartford in Kent with their son Luca. Aged 3, Luca has cerebral palsy. ‘I was hugely sceptical at first,’ says Marco, ‘but Zdenko spun me round; I could feel the energy working.’ But has the healing helped Luca? ‘Oh yes,’ says Barbara. ‘He has made a huge improvement – it’s like it opened up something. His sitting is better, he is stronger and his speech has improved – he’s generally much more aware of things. Our physiotherapist is amazed.’

Nighttime Economy Can Learn From Berlin

Clubber and scribe David Hillier investigates London’s moribund late night scene and asks what the city can learn from the clubbing capital of Europe, Berlin.

“A creative city with a powerful clubbing scene must have three things: affordable space, tolerance, and minimal regulation. These enable self-expression and innovation.” So says Lutz Leichsenring, press officer for Club Commission, a Berlin-based union set up in 2001 to represent the needs of its nighttime economy.

Last year London formed its own industry group, the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA), and it’s desperately needed. The oft-quoted statistic that 50% of UK clubs have closed in the last decade is sadly correct, with totems such as Dance Tunnel, Cable and Passing Clouds all forced to shut. This mass cull reached its apex last month when Farringdon’s Fabric – the spiritual doyen of UK club culture – had its licence revoked following the drug-related deaths of two teenagers on its premises.

“The spiritual doyen of UK club culture”: Fabric remains closed after the latest Islington Council ruling
Creative Commons / Ben Hartley

According to Alan Miller, co-founder of the NTIA, “What people, and the authorities, need to realise is that nightclubs are a part of our ecosystem. They are an intrinsic part of a whole host of things, from fashion and design to advertising and retail. Everywhere, from Hackney to Peckham, from Tottenham to Hounslow, whole areas are being shaped by what’s happening with the nighttime economy.”

Across the country, £66 billion is spent in nighttime venues every year. The industry accounts for 8% of UK employment, with 1.3 million people pulling pints, manning doors or serving tables. And it’s increasingly a reason tourists come to the capital. “People aren’t just flying in for Madame Tussauds or Buckingham Palace any more, they’re coming for XOYO or Oval Space. Clubs are part of London’s repertoire,” remarks Miller.

Feeding this narrative – that clubs are ultimately about so much more than clubbing – is a major part of Miller’s role. He’s hoping this will be made easier when London Mayor Sadiq Khan, who has come out in support of Fabric’s plight, appoints a ‘Night Czar’. The Czar will act as go-between for all the related parties and, most importantly, work in the best interests of late night culture in London.

In many senses Miller takes his lead from Leichsenring, who has championed this approach since joining Club Commission in 2004. Berlin is a long-time incubator of creativity, and Leichsenring also places heavy emphasis not just on the financial value that nightclubs bring to the city – although 35% of visitors to the city come for the nightlife – but on their ability to inspire the next generation of free thinkers and maverick artists. And he sees gentrification, a longtime bugbear of London’s creatives, as the mortal enemy of this.

“Lots of clubs in Berlin are in temporary spaces, and some owners decided that maybe they would like to turn them into a shopping mall, or a hotel, “ Leichsenring says. ”But around 15 years ago people started rethinking: maybe we don’t need another shopping mall. Because if you are young and creative, and have ideas about changing the world and you want to be free, then highly gentrified areas are not places you will go.”

Selling Shangri la at a premium

Is the world’s most expensive visa fee a way for tourists to pay for Bhutan’s road to riches? Or is Bhutan truly the last Shangri-la? Kara Fox investigates.

At first glance, Bhutan is just that – a magical landscape seemingly immune to the pull of the ever-tightening grip of modernity. Situated at a dizzying 2235 meters above sea level, most journeys begin with a steep descent into Bhutan’s sole international airport. The adventurous flight in can feel as reason enough to want to visit – a mix of altitude, excitement and vibrant green rice paddies growing in the shadow of imposing Himalayan snow-capped peaks will create a pungent cocktail of sensory overload for even the most experienced traveller. The Bhutanese word namasame literally translates as ‘between the heavens and the Earth’ – and landing in Paro town can feel that’s exactly where you’ve arrived.

Like all foreigners, my experience in Bhutan began by being greeted at the airport and whisked away to Paro town, a world of white washed houses, quaint roadside vegetable vendors and tidy, winding roads.

A few months earlier I had been offered a job working at a luxury resort in Paro town. Securing a working visa allowed me to avoid paying the mandatory $250 per day visa costs, which clips most travellers’ trips to about a week or two maximum. The luxury of this ‘free time’ allowed me to form more lasting friendships, to learn Dzongkha, the national language, and to adapt my taste buds to the national dish, ema datse – a diet of never ending chillies and cheese. But most importantly, it allowed me to gain a more coloured perspective into the friendly debate between tourism’s model Buddhist pleasantries and the Bhutanese internalization of those ideas.

When I arrived I rapidly began to notice the discrepancy between what I had thought existed as a land untouched by modernity in this ‘Shangri-La’ versus its reality. Tour guides sporting Oakley sunglasses walked around the town in traditional ghos (a large man-skirt of sorts), complimented by knee high socks. Old women spinning prayer wheels in one hand could be seen typing on their iPads in the other. Monks on mobiles, DJs at discos spinning top 40 tracks, everyone under 30 obsessed with social media. Was this so foreign after all?