Hot Town, Summer in the City

Long ago, a boy was born who was so fair and pleasing to the eye that he was named Love-to-seeLjubo-vid in the language of the land.

Lovely Ljubovid lived beside a beautiful green river; in the story of Narcissus the boy was mesmerized by his own reflection in the water, fell into it, and died – in our story the river fell in love with Ljubovid and took his name to become Ljubovida. With years passing the name of the river contracted to Ljubid’a, and later still the ‘d’ softened into ‘j’ to become Ljubija.

A large birch on the edge of Tivoli park

Many moons after this strange marriage of a beautiful boy and a green river that took his name a town rose on the banks of Ljubija. The people named it after the river, Ljubijane; a few tricks of the tongue later (a cross-syllabic assimilation, an epenthesis, a syncope) it became …

… Ljubljana.

The town grew fast, and as it so often happens, the newcomers forgot about the deep ties between Ljubovid the Beautiful, his green river bride Ljubija, and Ljubljana. They attempted to tame the river, the river fought back; the floods regularly destroyed the mills and washed away the cottages on the river banks. People started to fear the river, and to cover their fear they gave it a new name, a diminutive of Ljubljana – Ljubljanica.

Front, from left: the Orthodox church, the Modern Art gallery, the Embassy quarter, and the National Museum behind it

Today Ljubljana is a modern city, the capital of Slovenia, the third smallest capital city in the European Union. It is pleasant and cozy and safe – benign is a quite concise description – and Ljubljanica flowing through it is trapped in a concrete cage, tamed and broken.

The castle, the tall “Iskra” office building, Foreign ministry of Slovenia in the foreground, Ljubljana Marshes landscape park in the distance

As Ljubljana is so safe and pleasant and small, it became a tourist hotspot. When the asphalt is almost melting and the roofs are too hot even for cats, the steps you hear echoing through its streets are are almost certainly not those of someone from Ljubljana. The residents hide, they leave, they wait till the heat is gone.

View to the northeast

One other thing hides when the summer heat overwhelms Ljubljana: the wind. Even in the most ideal weather Ljubljana is not a kite-friendly city, but during the summer it is openly hostile to kiters. Most of the time there is zero wind. In the rare instances when the air does move, it moves in bizarre, turbulent, unpredictable ways. Thermals and turbulences, that’s all Ljubljana offers to a kite, stifling heat to a kite flyer.

Therefore every kite aerial photography session in Ljubljana is a difficult one. It is as if Ljubljana is shy and it doesn’t want to have her pictures taken; it is always a fight to get the camera into the air, and the fight is more likely to be lost than won.

This KAP session was no different. There was wind above, sure, but near the ground the air was a hellish mix of thermals and turbulences, updrafts and downdrafts and insidious air pockets that strove to keep the kite on the ground – or, if it persisted flying, on to a nearby kite-eating tree.

Perhaps the only kite that can penetrate such an aerial hardcore rock layer is a rokkaku – but this venerable kite has a problem (or, rather, we have a problem): it is quite large (200 by 160 cm), and an extremely capable flyer. So when it reaches the fast-flowing river of air above the turbulences, it wants to pull your hand off!

We fought the turbulences, we fought the immense pull of the kite some 50 m higher, we fought the second layer of turbulence (courtesy of the hill behind the place we flew the kite from), we fought strong winds again even higher up – and we had had enough.

Ljubljana looks good from above. A difficult and at times nerve-wrecking KAP session brought us a couple of nice photos of the hot town, of the summer in the city.

But autumn and its calm, constant winds are something we can hardly wait for.

Kite aerial photos shot with Nikon P330 on The Original Blue Rokkaku by Dr.Agon kites.

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