Start of a KAP Season – and a 1000 Year Old Prize Fight

Hello all! The first real KAP session of this year came a little late (we’ve been busy in January, and the winter wind conditions in Slovenia are usually less than favourable), but then we had enough – we just had to fly.

Mali graben creek flowing by the launch site – and one of the hungry trees waiting for their kite meal

Even though the wind was not perfect and the day was cloudy and grim, we set out to find a new launch site in Ljubljana – we have already covered most of the sites that are suitable for when the wind blows from the west. And we found one that looked promising, south from Ljubljana city centre, on a small “peninsula” between Ljubljanica river and Mali graben creek.

Launch site marked with a red X

The ‘peninsula – Ljubljanica river and Mali graben creek flowing into it from right

The idea was to lift the kite to the east across the river and point the camera north-northwest to catch the city centre and the Castle hill. But, as you can see, the site is *not* really suitable for kite flying. The whole area is perhaps 10 meters wide with large hungry trees lining it, and any kind of water is notoriously unfriendly to kites and especially cameras. Even if the wind direction is completely aligned with the meadow and the wind is perfect, there are troubles waiting for the intrepid KAPer.

The wind was not perfect.

Ljubljanica river and the old boatmen suburb

After a rather uneventful launch the kite flew into the turbulences and swung wildly – there was at least 20 degrees between the extremes the line was pointed at – and one could hear the hungry trees clapping for an easy kite meal. By feeding the kite line fast we avoided the crash (by half a metre at most), and got the kite into a more steady wind at about 50 m … but the wind up there was a bit too strong for our venerable blue Rokkaku.

Prule district and Castle hill Another thing was that reeling the kite much higher (to reduce the pain in the hand holding the line) was out of the question, because we were flying near the air corridor of medevac helicopters – we couldn’t go higher than the Castle hill some 70-80 meters above the site. So it was all pretty straightforward – kite up, hold the line and suffer, pull the kite down (a welcome pandemic workout), avoid the trees, land.

Southern part of Trnovo district and Rožnik hill in the distance

The photos came out fine – the city centre is a bit far, and the camera was pointed before we discovered the true wind direction (no RC, no videofeed – we take photos like real cavemen!) – and we can enjoy a new aerial view of Ljubljana.

Velika čolnarska ulica (Big boatmen street) running parallel to Ljubljanica towards Mali graben creek

Ljubljana was always fond of its river, Ljubljanica. The town used to be an important river port on the Black sea – Danube – Sava – Ljubljanica – Adriatic sea route, the river transport was a source of living for many and the boatmen guild was a powerful entitiy in the town.

Little boatmen street (left) and Big boatmen street -.the remnants of river transport history of Ljubljana

Boatmen congregated south of city centre and its port in the districts of Trnovo and Krakovo, between Gradaščica river and Mali graben creek. Their guild was established in the 11th century, and they built the first town church dedicated to their patron saint St. Nicholas.

The boatmen of the two districts were constantly at odds, and fights for customers often escalated into serious battles – so much the town elders decided to codify the fight! A charter in the town archive tells of one boatmen fight organized in 1092 (!) – a fighter stood in a boat and tried to push his opponent into the river using a long pole. The prize for the last man standing was quite substantial: a roasted ox and a barrel of the vinest wine from Vipava, donated by the town council.

The river port is long gone; the boatmen threw their oars away and found jobs on the railway that came in 1848. Today only a couple of street names remains of that once lucrative trade – Trnovski pristan (Trnovo port), and Velika and Mala čolnarska ulica (Big and Little boatmen street) in the south of Trnovo district..

Boating on Ljubljanica is still a popular pastime, and a couple of boating clubs reenact the Battle of Boatmen in the summer, pushing each other into the river and enjoying the prize together, the prize that remained the same for over a thousand years: a barrel of wine.

Kite aerial photos shot with Canon A810 on a Rokkaku kite.

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