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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 8 of 16: Postojna Cave and Predjama Castle

photo by Joe

Wendy and kids near the bee museum in Radovlijica, Slovenia

Today was worth the whole trip to Slovenia. We took our first road trip out of the Alps to the cave country. First stop was Postojna Caves.

The weather changed as we left the northern areas, and it started lightly raining for the first time during our trip. We were happy to be using the day to go caving, although it didn’t help in creating a beautiful setting as we drove through the more industrial areas of Ljubljana. This was our first time in Ljubljana. On the outskirts of town, the motorway suddenly stopped, and drivers had to wind their way through a few surface streets before being able to reconnect to another motorway. We didn’t know this beforehand and were grateful to see that we had not made a mistake.

After another hour or so of driving, we arrived in the town of Postojna, home of the famed Postojna Caves. We knew we were in for something good when even the tourist information center was located in a cavern with massive limestone formations. There was interesting graffiti on the walls from the early 19th century. You could also see the river running into the caves from the place where the tour ended. Most of the trinket (spuminki) shops were closed, but there were enough people milling about to merit a tour.

The real cave was beyond belief. Who knew that places like this even existed in the world? You enter the cave system on an electric train. Brother loved the train which goes underground for about two kilometers. Just the train ride alone was an amazing journey of limestone formations. When you arrived in the main cavern, it was mindblowing (even Julia was impressed). We then walked about one kilometer through the most fantastic cave system.

Worthy of note was the fact that no one told you not to touch the formations (although we tried not to). Thus, some have become darkened by repeated touching. They have also obviously excavated quite a bit to put in the network of concrete footpaths. They must have destroyed a lot in the process, but I guess they don’t care when they have so much to begin with! Despite a few darkened formations in the face of what were probably millions of pristine beautiful ones, it was refreshing to feel that there wasn’t always a rope between you and what you were trying to see. We mused at how different this experience would be if it were in the United States. On the train ride out, Julia discovered that she had lost her special white hat in the cave. Perhaps in a million years it will be the base of a stalagmite.

Next, onto Predjama Castle, which was about a five minute drive from the cave. The rain had stopped, but it was still a bit overcast. This only seemed to add to the dramatic atmosphere. The castle is unique. Built into a sheer cliff, Predjama Castle was one of the more interesting sights we'd seen. The cool part was that the back walls were essentially the side of the mountain, caves and all. If you climbed to the top, you had a view of the castle and the valley below. Again, Julia was a little scared of the mannequins that were intended to recreate the robber baron Erasmus who used to live there. Erasmus foiled enemies by escaping through the secret passages until a bribed servant betrayed him. Alex particularly enjoyed the mannequin of a man hanging from a chain in the torture chamber. He kept asking where that “guy on the chain” was.

Also of interest was the fact that when we drove up to the castle, there were few signs directing us and no clear parking lot designated. We tried to pay at the nearby kiosk but NO ONE was around, and we could see that the castle doors were open. When we walked in, there was one person on a lunch break who appeared and told us that we could pay on the way out if we wanted. The entire time that we were there, we saw only two other couples.

After exploring the castle, we walked down a little dirt path the width of a bicycle wheel to the creek that runs through the valley and into a cave underneath the castle. It was wet and slippery near the cave, but we got pretty close anyway. It was a great view up to the castle above. There was NO ONE on the path with us. Maybe it’s busier in the summertime? We could have swum in the river, explored the cave system by ourselves…I don’t think anyone would have known or minded. (You can view both Postojna cave and Predjama castle by clicking on the weblink to the right.)

On the way back home, we enjoyed an unintended scenic tour of the Slovenian countryside thanks to goofy signage. Wouldn't you expect that the ONLY signs that direct you to Ljubljana would not take you the roundabout way? Ultimately, however, we managed to find our way back to our peaceful valley.

Hungry for dinner, Tanja fed us vegetable soup and schnitzel with the usual beet salad, bread and butter. The kids enjoyed Tanja’s fresh lemonade. Mom and Dad like beer, however; Wendy goes for the Union and Joe for Zlatorog. We admired Joe’s beard, which by then had started come in, giving him a decidedly Slavic look. Joe amused us all with his attempts at Slovene pronunciation…takes a bit of practice we’ve found. He'd adopted the name of “Primorje” which must be some sort of corporate name as it appeared repeatedly along the highway.

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