Today's route begins on Prešeren Square , behind the monument of our greatest poet, Dr France Prešeren , on the spot where three birches are planted. This is a very special place that is supposed to be the energetic centre of Ljubljana. The arrangement of the square is the work of Jože Plečnik and was held simultaneously with the construction of the Triple Bridge which you will not cross at this point. First continue along Petkovškovo nabrežje Embankment, thus in the direction of the Ljubljanica River current. On the opposite bank, you can already see another Plečnik's masterpiece – arcades with the covered market (this time from the back side); the view accompanies you all the way to the stop at the Dragon Bridge. At the point where the route slightly expands, a view of Ljubljana Castle and the Cathedral of St. Nicholas opens above the arcades which are reflected on a calm surface of the Ljubljanica River. When you arrive to the Dragon Bridge, go on it and turn left to Poljanski nasip Embankment immediately after the bridge. The Dragon Bridge was built in 1901 and was originally named the Jubilee Bridge to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the reign of Emperor Franz Joseph I. On the outer side of the bridge railing, you can see the years 1848-1888 which mark this jubilee. The name Dragon Bridge stuck only later when it was decorated with four statues of the winged dragons, symbols of the city of Ljubljana, although the winged lions were planned at first. The bridge is made of reinforced concrete; in times when stone constructions dominated, this was considered a highly advanced construction. It was one of the first bridges of this kind in Europe. It was equipped with lighting (a gas one); its candelabra are still preserved today. The first asphalt in Ljubljana was laid on the bridge. The predecessor of the Dragon Bridge was the Butchers' Bridge.
From Modernism back to Plečnik
On your left is the Ljubljanica River; on your right, the new building of the Faculty of Law and behind it, Kapitelj Palace, a modern commercial and residential building with foreign representative offices and shops. Turn right around the corner on Bavarska steza Path and again left on Kapiteljska Street that ends at the junction of Kopitarjeva Street and Poljanska Road. On the corner between them an unusual building is squeezed – Plečnik's Peglezen.
House – Iron
Peglezen , a house of triangular ground plan was built between 1933 and 1934. It is embellished with various types of windows and complemented by a glasshouse in the front part of the second floor; what is more, a well-chosen flagpole stands in front of it. However, the building stands out the most because of its shape since it fills a very narrow, elongated triangular space between Poljanska Road and Kapiteljska Street. On the front side there is only room for the front door. The house's shape looks a bit like an iron so it became known as Peglezen (a non-standard expression for an iron that derives from a German word Bügeleisen).
The origins of the building are linked to the planning of a new town hall which should be located at Vodnikov trg Square. Plečnik, who won the contract for creating a concept of the future town hall, also wanted to fill the gap between Poljanska Road and Kapiteljska Street where a narrow wooden house stood until the earthquake of 1895. The construction of a new town hall fell through so the director of the city's construction office offered Plečnik a private funding for the construction of this unusual building, later called Peglezen.
Merchants with Coins
Cross Kopitarjeva Street, pass the monument dedicated to the first Slovenian poet Valentin Vodnik and march across the market to Plečnik's arcades. You read it correctly – march and not cycle; it would be difficult to ride a bike in the crowd, so it is better to visit the market on foot. It is also more fun to look at the colourful offer on the stalls while walking; not to mention that it is also more ecological and decent. The central food market could be considered as the heart of Ljubljana because it is so busy and lively. Unlike other cities, where traditional markets decay, Ljubljana's still persists. Daily supplies of fresh vegetables are provided by saleswomen from the vicinity of the city. The most famous ones are, of course, the lettuce saleswomen from Trnovo with their typical barrows. It is true that there are less of them every year but still enough to get a real impression.
The covered market on the bank of the Ljubljanica River was built according to Plečnik's plans in the years 1940–1944. The master used the side of the land that overlooks the river for a series of covered, two-storey markets and left some space in the middle for a construction of a bridge (the Butchers' Bridge) which would link the market with Petkovškovo nabrežje Embankment. In spite of the plans, the bridge was not built then but the delay was made up recently with the brand new modern bridge which rises above the Ljubljanica River in place where Plečnik anticipated it. Naturally, it is called the Butchers' Bridge. To match up to its name, it is decorated with very meaty sculptures of a sculptor Jakov Brdar. Go ahead and see them!
When it was later decided that the market has to be extended up to the Triple Bridge, Plečnik took advantage of the area by designing a smaller building in the shape of an ancient temple (now a gift shop) and expanding the remaining part up to the series of the existing markets by additional, open colonnade . A well-known herbal market where medicinal herbs are sold is located under the colonnade. Next to it is an entrance to the fish market, situated on the lower floor, which surprises with an extremely wide selection of fresh sea fish. Many coastal fish markets do not have such a rich offer.
The Triple Bridge
Another one of Plečnik's greatest and most typical masterpieces. Instead of expanding the existing stone bridge, built in 1842, which became too narrow because of the tram line, two narrower bridges intended only for the pedestrians were added according to Plečnik's plans between 1929 and 1932 – one on the left and another on the right side. The result was a unique bridge, composed of three bridges – the Triple Bridge . Plečnik removed the metal railing from the central bridge and decorated all three bridges with matching massive railings, made of artificial stone. In 1992, the Triple Bridge was thoroughly renovated and returned to its original splendour. Special wooden scaffolds were erected to repair the bridge and were later used for a footbridge which (slightly modified) still links Ribji trg Square with Hribarjevo nabrežje Embankment.
The Shoemaker's Bridge
Without crossing the Triple Bridge, go straight along Cankarjevo nabrežje Embankment on the right bank of the Ljubljanica River. Pass the beautiful Ribji trg Square where the fish market used to be and where the river is bridged by aforementioned footbridge. On Ribji trg Square, you can see the oldest house in Ljubljana from 1528. It was built by the then mayor Wolfgang Bosch; Primož Trubar lived there for several years.
Continue along the river and you will arrive to the next bridge, called the Shoemaker's Bridge or the Cobblers' Bridge. This one is Plečnik's work as well. The wooden bridge, which stood there at first, was replaced in the 19th century by the cast iron one, made in the foundry in Dvor pri Žužemberku. Plečnik respectfully moved this bridge to the hospital where it became known as the Mortuary Bridge because of its location close to the mortuary. The present concrete Shoemaker's Bridge was built according to Plečnik's plan in years 1931–1932. It was designed as a wide, beautifully decorated fenced platform that links two parts of the city. Cross the Shoemaker's Bridge and immediately turn left onto the New Square, followed by Breg Street along the bank of the Ljubljanica River. In the past (until the arrival of the southern railway at the end of the 19th century), the central city port was located here.
In Plečnik's House
You are already at the end of Breg. Stop before Zoisova Road. The last house before the crossroads is Zois Mansion . The plan for Zoisova Road was designed by Plečnik in 1927, including the 'Zois pyramid' near the mansion.
After passing the junction, you arrive to Krakovo. Ride along the Ljubljanica River, cross the Gradaščica River, which flows into Ljubljanica here, and you arrive to Trnovo. Shortly before the mouth of the Gradaščica, the renovated Hradeckega most Bridge crosses the Ljubljanica River. This is a bridge that was originally situated at the site of the present Shoemaker's Bridge (you were there a while ago), before being moved to the hospital where it became known as the Mortuary Bridge. In spite of its name, the bridge is still very alive, as it was successfully moved to the current location again in 2011 and its original name was restored, Hradeckega most Bridge. These prefabricated bridges are a very useful invention! When you get tired of them, you can fairly simply move them if only they correspond to the span. Try doing that with a concrete bridge. It would be difficult!
Shortly after the mouth of the Gradaščica River, Trnovski pristan starts; a unique cascade access to the river, surrounded by willow avenue and filled with Plečnik's spirit at every step. The regulation of banks of the Ljubljanica River and adjustment of the river bed between Špica and Ambrož Square were made according to Plečnik's ideas and plans, including the Shoemaker's Bridge and the Triple Bridge; however, the Butchers' Bridge was not realised then. In addition, Plečnik also planned to arrange the banks of the Gradaščica River. After the bridge, turn right across the Gradaščica River onto Eipper Street (riding straight on would be possible as well to but let's make a small circle) and turn left after the pizzeria facing the footbridge. You come to a small street which does not have a single house number (Pri Brvi Street), pass the residential blocks to Karunova Street and turn right. The last house (two of them, actually) on the left side in front of the Church in Trnovo is the one where Plečnik lived from 1921, after returning from abroad, until his death in 1957. It has been rearranged into Plečnik's museum . The address is Karunova Street 4 and 6.
Bridge with Trees
Passing the Trnovo Church, dedicated to St. John the Baptist , you ride to the famous Trnovo Bridge over the Gradaščica River. Naturally, the bridge is Plečnik's work; it was built between 1929 and 1932. Its distinctions are pyramids in the shape of bells, massive fence with the sculpture of the patron of the church and the birch avenue. The avenue is the most original element of the Trnovo Bridge, allegedly the only bridge in the world with an avenue of trees growing on it. It was supposed to be an extension of the square in front of the church, located on the banks of the Gradaščica River, which seemed to be somewhat enclosed without a foyer. The bridge is 20 meters wide and indeed looks like a square.
The Roman Wall at Mirje
On the other side of the bridge turn left to the street, named after the Gradaščica River that you have just crossed. Go past an intersection with traffic lights and turn right to Bogišićeva Street after the first junction. When the street ends, you face a large wall , a remainder of the Roman Emona. You are standing in front of the main southern gate of Emona ; however, the colonnade was not built in the antiquity but by Plečnik. The same applies to the stone pyramid, other gates and the vaulted area. The wall was built in the years 14 and 15 AD; it had four main gates and around 26 defence towers. It was six to eight meters high and 2.4 meters wide at the top. In the years 1928–1938, Plečnik rebuilt the remainders of the wall, worn by the ravages of time. The distinction between the preserved original wall and the reconstructed part is marked by a line of white pebbles . The wall is original from the ground to the line and above it is the new wall, built with original material.
Turn right and continue along the wall across Barjanska Road and you arrive to Emonska Road where you have to turn left. Some of the most preserved remains of Roman houses are located on the corner behind the wall. Nearby is a famous chapel with a statue of St. Mary of Krakovo from 1258. This is one of the oldest statues of St. Mary in Slovenia. By 1714, it was situated in Križanke; when a new church was built there, it was transferred to Krakovo. Today only a copy of the statue is kept in the chapel – the original is at the National Gallery.
Continue along Emonska Road, pass the well-known gardens of Trnovo, cross Zoisova Road at the pedestrian crossing and ride straight ahead for another 100 meters. When the area widens into a square, turn right. Now you are at French Revolution Square. There is the City Museum in front of you and Križanke on your right. It is worth to look around a bit – there are three Plečnik's works in close proximity.
Let's visit Križanke first. Once a large monastery complex of German Teutonic Order, which settled in Ljubljana in the early 13th century, the building was renovated in years 1952–1956 according to Plečnik's plans. The most visited part is without doubt the summer theatre where the world famous Summer Festival takes place.
The area of Emonska and Vegova streets was formed in the 19th century and was given its present appearance in the following century. In 1929, an obelisk, dedicated to Napoleon and Illyrian Provinces , was erected on French Revolution Square (then Valvasor Square) by Plečnik. What is more, powder from the grave of a French soldier from the time of the Illyrian Provinces, found near the Sava River, was built into the obelisk. In 1932, Plečnik formed terraces with statues of famous Slovenian (and Slavic) musicians in front of the building of Glasbena matica at the edge of Vegova Street. During the construction of the National and University Library (NUK) in 1937, he made a similar arrangement on the remains of the city wall, only this time with statues of prominent Slovenian linguists .
Let's go back to French Revolution Square. At the City Museum turn left to Gosposka Street and around the corner to Turjaška Street. You are now facing one of the most extensive Plečnik's works, National and University Library (NUK) , from 1941. The building is definitely worth a visit. The exterior is modelled on Italian palaces and has an extremely interesting plastic front, complemented by stone and brick accents . The interior is also very interesting.
At the end of Turjaška Street, turn right on Vegova street and continue to Congress Square (Kongresni trg). A few years ago it was not even visible – one of the largest city cark parks was located there – but now it has been reconstructed according to Plečnik's idea and it again shines in all its splendour. Cars that were crowded on the platform a while ago were put in the underground parking garage, built under the square. The square is surrounded by notable buildings, such as the seat of the University, the Ursuline Church and the Philharmonic Hall, but this time you will not linger there for long. Today you will focus on Plečnik's masterpieces. Thus cross Congress Square, ride through Zvezda Park (another Plečnik's work) diagonally, continue down Wolfova Street to the starting point and finish today's sightseeing of a piece of Plečnik's heritage.
The journey was brief but very interesting. Another time you can take a longer trip around Plečnik's Ljubljana. You will not regret it!