Short presentation of the Municipality of Borovnica
Area: 42.3 km2
Elevation: 305m (Church of St. Margaret’s)
Population: 4212 (December 2014)
Number of settlements: 12
Municipal centre: Borovnica, 2500 inhabitants
The Borovnica at a glance
The municipality of Borovnica (4.200 inhabitants), known for its once mighty railway viaduct and the picturesque tourist popular gorge Pekel (»Hell«) is nowadays most know as a place with largest plantations of blueberries in Slovenia. Growing at the Ljubljana Moors since 2006 in most parts designated as the Ljubljana Marsh Regional Park – the delicious blue strawberry is also a basis for the annual local feast that takes place every 3rd weekend of July and attracts many tourists.
The municipality is located in the centre of the country, 20 km SW of Ljubljana the capital of Slovenia, where the moor plain meets the mountain massif of “Green Karst”, on the main railway-line Ljubljana – Koper/Trieste and close to the crossing of main highways in the country.
In 1995, the small market town of Borovnica (nowadays around 2.500 inhabitants) and 11 surrounding settlements regained the status of municipality. The town has a kinder-garden, elementary school, library, post office, bank, medical care unit, a pharmacy, petrol service, a railway and a bus station, as well as two market stores and several pubs and inns. Cultural, sports and voluntary firefighter associations are providing vivid and manifold free time activities in the municipality, while local Caritas and Red Cross organisations provide social care and assistance to the inhabitants.
The municipality has a typical rural character, though the majority of its active population is employed in Ljubljana and Vrhnika, as once strong wood processing industry in town collapsed at the turn of the century. Subsidiary farming, forestry, crafts and SMEs businesses are characteristic of its economy. Tourism, though, has a large potential for development.
Borovnica is also a home town of some renowned scientist and artist such as dr. Fran Ramovš , co-founder of first Slovenian university and Academy of Arts and Sciences, dr. Danilo Majaron, another co-founder of the first Slovenian university, dr. Marja Boršnik, “the first lady of Slovenian Slavic studies”, the poet Ivan Korošec, the writer Jože Kranjc, as well as arboriculture expert Franc Papler and others.
Location and landscapes: where moor meet the hills of brown bear right near the national capital
Although located in a pristine natural environment at the southwestern edge of the Ljubljana basin, where Ljubljana Moors meet the edge of high “Green Karst. Dinaric massif – a homeland of bears, wolfs, lynx and other large mammals – the centre of the municipality is only 18 minutes of comfortable train trip away from the centre of Ljubljana, a dynamic, thriving and attractive capital of the country. By car, one can access the highway Ljubljana – Postojna – Koper – Trieste at Vrhnika entry point in 10 minutes only.
The Borovnica valley is from East, South and West surrounded by from 700 to 1000 m high Dinaric hills with steep slopes, providing a dramatic, yet gentle landscape picture and some excellent spots for breath taking views of Ljubljana Moor, subalpine hills and chains of Karavanke , Kamnik-Savinja and Julian Alps. The remains of Claustra Alpium Iuliarum – the fortified barriers that in late Roman times protected the Roman Empire from invaders – can be seen there, too. For those reasons, the area is popular among trekkers, mountaineers, mountain bikers and para-gliders.
Prehistory and history
In the larger part of the valley, thousands of years ago, a shallow lake was stretching all the way to the slopes of mountains that surround the valley. The archaeological findings provide evidence for the existence of pillar dwellings in the area of Ljubljana Moors. Beneath the slopes nearby Borovnica, half way to Vrhnika, the Dukes of Spanheim in the middle of the 13th century established a monastery, called Bistra or Freudental that started to exploit the vast forests of Menišja (“Monk Hills”) high plateau – the part of Notranjska Regionala Park and cultivated the Borovnica Valley. In that period also the oldest medieval settlement – the village of Zabočevo, known by the fresco painting of St. Christopher at the church of St. John the Baptist – was established. During the reign of Emperor Joseph II at the end of the 18th century, also this monastery was dissolved to make place for modern industry and trade. At present, it hosts the largest museum in the country – Technical Museum of Slovenia. Only a few kilometres from the monastery in the direction of Vrhnika, near the village of Verd, the history oldest wood wheel was found in 2002.
The Borovnica railway viaduct – once the largest stone railway bridge in Europe
Prior to the six years long construction of the magnificent double storey railway viaduct (Borovniški viaduct in Slovenian, Franzdorfer Viadukt in German) that was finished in 1856, Borovnica was just a small and isolated village. The construction of 561 m long and 38 m high viaduct that on 25 arches spanned across the Borovnica Valley boosted the settlement that increased its population tenfold and more. Decades after its construction, the viaduct, designed by genius railway constructor Carl Ritter von Ghega was still the largest stone railway bridge in Europe. At the beginning of WWII in Yugoslavia, the withdrawing Yugoslav Army blew up part of the bridge that was after the last major Allied aerial attack in 1944 never repaired again. With an exception of a single pillar, it was soon after WWII demolished. A railway track was in 1947 rerouted to the edges of Borovnica Valley in order to maintain the busy railroad transport to the North Adria ports. Nevertheless, from the interesting chain of five historical rail bridges in the municipality, two still serve their original purpose. A part of the abandoned railway track, including original three arches bridge at Breg-Pako, is today in use as access road and as a recreation and tourist track that offers magnificent views on Ljubljana Moors, subalpine hills and Alps. The single remaining pillar of the largest bridge still stands in the middle of present-day Borovnica and is protected as a technical monument. Less than a kilometre from the ruins of the viaduct the railway transport still goes on the other at that time build viaduct – the Deer Valley Viaduct – which is nowadays the largest of its kind in Slovenia.
The economy: very mixed and in a large part sustainable
In spite of the rural pattern of its settlements and character of the landscape, the municipality is in terms of economic activities not predominately shaped by agriculture but rather by small crafts and business, whereas the majority of its economically active population is commuting to Ljubljana and partially to Vrhnika as well.
Commercial farming is focused on cattle on one side and planting of about 30 sorts of American blueberries on the other. Next to few commercial farmers there are many small scale farms where farming presents additional source of income and preservation of farming traditions. In addition to farming, gardening for self-supply with home-grown fruits and vegetables is very popular and is together with a growing part of small scale farming increasingly dominated by organic agriculture techniques, partially steaming from preserved old knowledge and practices. Activities in the field of maintenance of traditional sorts and techniques of farming, gardening and beekeeping are in the municipality practised and promoted by very active associations of pomology and beekeeping.
Until the turn of the millennium, Borovnica was for more than a century a place of boosting woodcrafts and wood processing industries, culminating between 1960’s and 1980’s when Liko wood processing factory provided up to one thousand jobs to the people from the area and exported furniture around the world. As the forestry is still very developed and presents an important part of the economy of the municipality, wood processing industry collapsed. Only the chemistry factory Fenolit Ltd. is nowadays providing industrial employment at smaller scale.
Renewal and revitalisation of industrial zone is one of the key challenges in the field of economic development in the municipality. The proximity of the main railway corridor in the country that connects Port of Koper with Central and Eastern Europe is together with proximity of the capital city of the country seen as one of the main opportunities for development of advanced green, lean and clean industrial business.
Outside of the settlements, almost the whole territory of the municipality is classified as Natura 2000 Area. Large area is also under special water protection regime as the underground water is of the top quality and serves for public water supply at the regional level. Area of Ljubljana Moors is in addition also under Landscape Park Ljubljana Moors protection regime that should provide special protection to endangered habitats and species and preserve the eco-system function of the marshes. More than 70 % of the territory of the municipality is covered by predominately mixed forests, managed in a sustainable way. Rare and endangered bird and butterfly species and all large European carnivores (brown bear, wolf, lynx and jackal) are present on its territory.
Since very recently, in the municipality one of the most advanced sewage treatment systems, covering more than 80% of households, is in operation. The municipality has ambitions to assure individual small sewage treatment facilities in dispersed settlements, thus achieving 95% treatment of sewage until 2020.
Most of the space and water heating in households is provided from renewable sources, mostly by wood biomass. However, much stronger support to replace old boilers and stows with efficient and clean modern devices is needed in order to reduce pollution of outdoor air by particles and sulphur and nitrogen oxides. A larger (1 MW) PV plant is located in the industrial zone.
The municipality has one of the highest shares of municipal waste recycling in the country and is taking part in Zero Waste Project aiming to eliminate municipal waste. Also in terms of share of public transport in transportation to school and work in the country, the municipality is, in national terms, placed near the top.
No large-scale industrial farming is taking place in the municipality. Extensive pasture of cattle on wet grasslands, traditional orchards and gardens can be found in the municipality at massive scale. Horse breeding and horse riding are in progress. An increasing number of farmland, orchards and gardens is cultivated according to the principles of organic farming. The production of bio-charcoal and first experiments in its use in farming and gardening started most recently.
Tourism development opportunities
Located near, in terms of railway, and respectively close, in terms of highway, to the main transport corridors of the country, proximity of Ljubljana as large business and tourist centre are together with its pristine and highly diversified landscape, preserved nature and rich cultural heritage, making Borovnica also very interesting for development of various forms of green tourism. The gorge of Pekel (“Hell”) with five small waterfalls is one of the most popular tourist spots around Ljubljana, visited annually by tens of thousands of tourists, especially during summer.
The conditions for tourism development are especially favourable for family cycling, trekking, hiking and equestrian tourism and for those that are not interested in exploring larger historical cities but prefer to be accommodated in a quiet countryside well connected to the urban centres with frequent and comfortable public transport.
The municipality of Borovnica has a lot to offer also to tourists interested to explore natural wonders and technical heritage. It can be also a perfect one or two-day stop for those travelling by train and interested to take a break from travel and experience a quiet and pristine countryside rich in cultural and natural heritage. Train from Borovnica regularly departs not only to Ljubljana but also to Postojna and Divača (word famous Postojna and Škocjan caves ) and Adriatic ports of Rijeka, Pula, Koper and Trieste.