Showers of May

We know, we know … as we were obsessed with Ljubljana Marshes, it would seem that we are now fixated on Planina polje. But we can’t help it – the polje is so intriguing, and ever changing, and beautiful …

So as we were driving down to Dolenja vas for the party, the 10th anniversary of Emberborn smithy, a glimpse of Planina polje we caught from the highway brought a surprise: the showers of May made river Unica overflow again, and the fast plain was yet again almost a lake.

There was no way we could let this opportunity pass.

Actually it was Janez who was returning from the party that decided to stop at the usual kite launching place, and when the rest of us arrived, the Old Blue rokkaku was already braving the strange winds above Planina, carrying the Insta360 over the flooded meadows.

The wind was gusty and turbulent, and the venerable rokkaku was doing its best to cover as much of the polje as it could, swaying wildly, dropping down and rising fast.

The end of May was unusually (or maybe, in the view of the changing climate, usually) wet, but this alone can’t really explain why Unica flooded Planina polje yet again. Unica is short and stout, barely 10 km long, and the rather small mountainous area behind its springs can drink up only so much water. But there is a catch – and it’s all about the quirks of the karstic nature of southern Slovenia.

Unica is actually not a standalone river, but a part of a wondrous and rather unique flow of water from the border of Croatia to Sava. This huge river that repeatedly springs out and sinks back into the underground, has at least seven names – or, to be more exact its surface apparitions do. Trbuhovica, Obrh, Stržen and Rak form the southeastern branch, and Pivka, which disappears into the famous Postojna cave, forms the southwestern branch. Both branches join inside Planina cave – one of the largest subterranean river confluences in the world! – and appear for the sixth time as Unica, queen of Planina polje.

After meandering through Planina polje, Unica reaches the limestone and sinks for the sixth time, to emerge from the underworld for the last time as Ljubljanica in the southern Ljubljana Marshes. Here the fantastic adventure is finally over, Ljubljanica gently carries the shaken and stirred waters into the Sava and on to the Danube and into the Black sea.

So, Unica may appear a small and barely significant river, but in reality its catchment area is huge – so huge we don’t know how huge it exactly is, but is well over 700 square kilometers. And when the rains cover this vast area, and all the water comes rushing into the sinkholes at the end of Planina polje, the sinkholes can’t cope, and Unica oversteps its boundaries. The lush green meadows of Planina polje turn into a lake.

Usually this happens twice a year, in early Spring when the snow melts, and in late Autumn when the rains come. But sometimes even the gentle showers covering a vast area can overwhelm the outflow – and polje becomes a lake.

It’s beautiful, sure, but it’s also terribly inconvenient for any brave farmer who wants to use the seemingly fertile soil of Planina polje. Growing stuff here? Forget it, everything will be washed away. Grazing? Well, yes, but the animals really dislike standing in the water every other month. Hay? Sure, if you are a fast cutter, but the semi-marshy flora is barely palatable, and there are liver flukes (Fasciola hepatica) lurking. Planina polje is far from being nice to farmers … (or to the Romans, but that’s another story).

But for a kite and its eye in the sky Planina polje is a magical place. Even letting the kite up from the same spot and pointing the camera into the same direction, the images are never the same.

And that means we will be back … soon! 😉

Kite aerial photos shot with Insta360 on The Old Blue rokkaku by Dr.Agon kites.

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