Enter River

After the turbulent, secluded and still much unknown karstic life the River of Seven Names finally springs into Ljubljana Marshes as Ljubljanica. For 30 kilometers it gently flows over the flat Marshes, and then it majestically enters the capital of Slovenia – Ljubljana.

Entrance of Ljubljanica into the city. Here the mostly natural river changes its character into tamed, urban river. You can see Špica – “The Cusp” – a ‘culmination of urban tension’, where Ljubljanica river branches into Ljubljanica proper and Gruber Canal (dug in 1772-1780 to alleviate the persistent floods).

Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia, is intimately connected to the river Ljubljanica flowing through it – even the name “Ljubljana” is (probably) derived from the name of the river (via a Slavic guy called Ljubovid – contracted to *Ljubid’ –, that gave the river name *Ljubid’ja – modified to Ljubija –, and when the settlement was built on the right bank between Castle hill and the river the inhabitants were called*Ljubljani – and the settlement Ljubljana).

Confluence of Ljubljanica and Mali Graben, a (partially artificial) relief channel of Gradascica river, the largest affluent of Ljubljanica..

Before Ljubljanica reaches the city centre proper, it still has a natural look, with clay banks lined with trees and scrub. But here the great project of reducing the floods in the city (and turning Ljubljana Marshes into an agricultural paradise) catched the untamed river into a deep concrete channel, the relieving Gruber Canal was dug, and Ljubljanica got an urban makeover.

A tourist boat “Žaba” – “The Frog” – plows the waters of Ljubljanica. The boat is aptly named: the inhabitants of Ljubljana are called “Frogs” by envoius peasants, due to proximity of the Ljubljana Marshes, and because frog legs were and still are a delicacy, served in many reputable restaurants in Ljubljana.

The famous Slovene architect Joze Plecnik was deeply involved in this project, starting at Trnovski pristan – site of Ljubljana port – and going downriver with Cobbler bridge, Triple bridge, Ljubljana Market and the river locks in Vodmat district. However, today Ljubljanica is flowing low, confined to the concrete channel, a bit detached from the city life – except at Špica and Trnovski pristan – as if Ljubljana is still afraid of its once destructive powers.

The river is a popular recreational and sports venue – see the gates for canoe slalom.

Up until the 1957 there was a municipal bathing area at Špica, but rapid industrialization and population growth in the catchment area of Ljubljanica caused increasing pollution of the river, rendering it unsuitable for swimming (except for the odd English tourist jumping in while … well, under influence).

In the distance Ljubljanica splits into Ljubljanica proper and the artificial Gruber Canal. The big dark building on the right bank hosts the Biotechnical Educational Center and the Music and Ballet Conservatory.

Recent decades have seen a revival of river traffic on Ljubljanica; boats plow its waters and canoeists and SUP enthusiasts paddle their way along the river. As the polluting industry collapsed (or was forced to install water treatment plants) and the sewage system expanded, Ljubljanica is getting cleaner by the day – and Ljubljana will soon be getting a proper municipal bathing area and beach in the centre of the city.

A stitched kite aerial panorama.

There is plenty of fish in Ljubljanica – Ljubljana is a premium fishing tourism destination! – swans and ducks swim in it, and nutrias (coypu, Myocastor coypus) that escaped from a farm decades ago made the banks of the river their home.

Kite aerial photos shot with Canon A810 on the venerable Rokkaku kite.

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