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When exploring Slovenia there is a lot to be said about the smaller towns, often offering more than meets the eye. Vrhnika, showcasing its history and nature in its brand new Ljubljanica River museum, is a good case in point. If you are a history lover, the ancient artifacts along with the story of how Vrhnika is transforming itself these days, will make for a compelling half-day trip.

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Vrhnika is situated some 20 kilometres west of Ljubljana and is easily reachable by public transport or by car via A1 motorway. The town lies at the edge of Ljubljana Marshes and by the river Ljubljanica, the sources of which are nearby. Its streets are a mixture of newer suburban and older pseudo rural architecture.

Archaeological treasures from the Ljubljanica river

At the Ljubljanica River Exhibition you can explore the rich history of the area and learn about the unique natural landscape of Ljubljana Marshes. The museum is housed in Vrhnika's brand new cultural centre which used to be an industrial object. Its halls are submerged in half-light and packed with archaeological artifacts including the replica of world's oldest wooden wheel (3,350-3,100 B.C.).

There are still great things to come. A large, 15-metre long and cca. 2,000 years old longboat, which is the largest such find in Europe was excavated last year from the riverbank near the local petrol station. It's currently in restoration but already its place in the exhibition is reserved and equipped with a striking visual representation. The boat was at first thought to be of Roman origin but just recently carbon dating determined it belongs to an earlier period of the Celts. An even larger boat, this one definitely Roman, is still at its site under ground, waiting to be excavated.

The Ljubljana Marshes, inscribed under the UNESCO World Heritage List, used to be completely flooded up until the end of the Bronze age. Later water gradually retreated but large vessels could still navigate it in Roman times. Its inhabitants, from the prehistoric pile-dwellers to Celts, Romans (Vrhnika, which was named Nauportus then, was their port) and later Slavic tribes, left behind a wealth of historic objects, excellently preserved in the riverbed and the clay of the marshes.

The river of many discoveries

The area actually wasn't extensively explored by the archaeologists yet. Pioneers like the local diving legend Miro Potočnik made the most of the discoveries in Ljubljanica. Others were often excavated during various infrastructural projects. These, like for instance the new water treatment plant in the former industrial facilities nearby, are refocusing the area around Ljubljanica river towards sustainable development and preservation of its stunning natural beauty.

More than 400 items already displayed at Ljubljanica River Exhibition are just a glimpse into the rich history of the area where Ljubljanica begins its path which later takes it through the historic Ljubljana city centre under the beautiful bridges we all know. The Ljubljanica River Exhibition is open Tuesdays to Sundays, from 10:00 to 18:00.

What else to see and do in Vrhnika

Your trip into history can be rounded up by the visit of another great establishment: The Technical Museum at the Bistra Castle near Vrhnika. Unfortunately not reachable by public transport, it's more than worth taking a taxi to.

Before goring there you could stop for a coffee or something to eat at Stara kašča Inn (near the Ljubljanica River Exhibition), Gostilna Bajc or Hotel Mantova restaurant for a local culinary experience.

Speaking of coffee, the local brand Cankar's coffee is quite popular and comes with the story of the great Slovenian writer Ivan Cankar (1876-1918). His memorial house is worth a visit if you are interested in local culture. If you wish to round your trip with a nature experience we recommend a one hour easy hiking trip to the Planina lookout hill.

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  • tivoli

    Every city trip consists of your typical touristy activities such as local cuisine, sightseeing and of course cultural activities like visiting museums and galleries. Ljubljana's compact size makes gallery and museum hopping very easy and some of them are free of charge which makes Ljubljana a perfect arty getaway when you're on a budget.