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Report 866: Castles, Caves and Cablecars

By wendy lynn from California, U.S.A., Spring 2005

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Page 12 of 16: Skocjan Cave and Piran

photo by Wendy

Joe and Julia enjoying ice cream in Piran, Slovenia

We were up, packed and off to Tanja’s for the last breakfast at Psnak. Alex had become accustomed to the Fructal apple juice which he sucked down without breathing. We were unsure whether he would be able to go back to our own watered down juice at home.

Joe had asked Tanja the night before for some honey schnapps to take home. She sold us two really big bottles. We sealed it ourselves using paper and glue. We paid the bill. The total cost for the schnapps, the apartment, two big meals a day and hand laundry was the equivalent of 100 USD/night.

Only after Tanja had offered to do our laundry did we realize that she might not have a washer or dryer. It was sweet to see Alex’s “Bob the Builder” underwear hanging next to the cows. She had apologized for the delay in returning our clothes, telling Joe that it had taken her a long time to iron them! We wished we could have saved her the trouble. She barely charged us for the clothes. We will miss Tanja's kindness and her ever-present smile. A fond farewell to Tanja, Family Lipovec and Farm Psnak.

Next stop: Skocjan caves. We sat and waited out in the sun in a little playground area for a couple of hours for the first tour to start. Joe and Julia walked across the gorge and explored the church and other building there. We know we have entered southern Slovenia because all of the other visitors here are speaking Italian and not German.

Of course, again, on the tour of the caves, Joe carried a scared little Brother the entire 2.5km. This time, no convenient train. It was a short hike across the highway and down a dirt path to the cave entrance. We met a nice Canadian couple on their way back from Croatia. They told us that we were the first North Americans they had found in Slovenia.

At first, we did not think that the more intimate and less developed Skocjan cave system compared to its more commercialized karstic brother Postojna. Ultimately, however, the main part of Skocjan measured up. The massive underground cavern carved by the visible underground river was both breathtaking and terrifying. There were several heart stopping drops and a long and skinny bridge suspended high above a rushing river. The exit through the gorge was almost as amazing as the cave itself. (You can view Skocjan Cave by clicking on the weblink to the right.)

Off to Piran, a small coastal town on the Adriatic Sea about an hour or two away from Skocjan. We were looking forward to a change of pace, a more Mediterranean and Italian vibe. (Trieste is less than half an hour away from Piran by car.) What a disappointment. It did feel more Italian, and its old town was indeed a labyrinth of narrow streets and red tiled roofs, but it felt touristy and the delapidation was disheartening. We had become used to the pristine sunshine of the Alps, and perhaps the gloomy skies unfairly skewed our perception. Joe said he could imagine how the city might have a completely different feel in the warm sunshine of a summer day.

After some decent pizzas and ice cream, most of our time was spent dealing with the parking situation. If you want to park in Piran (as opposed to parking in another but cheaper parking lot outside of Piran), it’s over 30 euros a night with the threat of towing. We just weren’t in the mood for this hassle, and the parking lots obscuring the view of much of Piran’s small coastline seemed sad.

We weren’t that much happier with our youth hostel, Hostel Val. The man at the front desk was nice enough, and the room was forseeably small with shared bathrooms. However, the noise was not anticipated. Until 3am there were large groups of partying teenagers directly under our window, some of whom came onto our floor, whistling and yelling. That paired with the parking hassle was too much. That night we probably had to make three long walking trips to our car outside of town. There was something peaceful about walking along the Adriatic on the first trip. Julia waded and a wave splashed her.

After Alex fell asleep, the three of us huddled on a lower bunk (where we couldn’t sit up straight) and watched “Finding Neverland” on the portable DVD player. Best part of the night.

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