The Caves and Castles of Slovenia
Slovenia is beautiful both inside and out: the outdoor beauty of Vintgar Gorge and Lake Bled is complimented by the subterranean beauty of Postojna Caves and Predjama Castle, the only preserved castle in the world that’s built in a cave.
Predjama (literally meaning “before cave”) Castle was built in the 12th century and served as an ultimate shelter against attackers since it was built right into a cave on a large cliff face of a mountain.
The castle is striking and unique in its features, which blend the manmade with the natural as the castle is woven into the cave itself.
The inhabitants of the castle developed ways to cut into the rock walls to irrigate the building since the cave is so prone to being wet. The walls of the castle also had to be extra thick to provide warmth and insulation from the cold rocks.
Erasmus, the Robin Hood figure of Slovenia during his time, lived in the castle and fought off many enemies due to the protected fortress off Predjama Castle. However, the lavatory area of the castle was the least fortified, and when his enemies discovered this secret, they catapulted a rock into the structure when they saw him go to the lavatory and he died on the toilet – what a dumb way to die.
A special bell in the top tier is said to grant the wishes of those who ring it, only if their wish is pure and sincere.
After spending about an hour following the audio-guides tour through Predjama Castle, the nearby Postojna Caves are a perfect second stop. The 24,240 meter long karst cave system located in Postojna, Slovenia is well known, attracting half a million visitors per year.
A tour of the caves takes you deep underground into the heart of the cave network. To reach the center, you travel about two kilometers via mine cart underground, walk for about a kilometer around the center levels of the caves with a cave guide, and then traverse about two kilometers back to the cave entrance via mine cart once again.
The cave guides are experts on the history and geology of the cave, guiding visitors through the depths of Postojna as they point out the variety of unique and beautiful rock formations, from stalagtites and stalagmites in the section known as the “beautiful caves” to little ceiling danglings in the “spaghetti room.”
The most famous geological fixtures in the Postojna caves are “The Brilliant,” known for its brilliant white color, and “The Gothic,” known for its resemblance to Gothic architecture.
Throughout the tour, there are a few times when the lights go out completely and pitch black darkness envelopes the room for a moment before the lights turn back on. The guide explained that this gives an idea to what the caves should look like, since naturally, caves that haven’t been discovered and turned into tourist attractions lack any sort of light in the very depths of the cave.
The lowest point in the tour is 120 meters below the surface. It is down at this depth that there lives a peculiar creature known as the Human Fish due to its color being comparable to that of human flesh. It is able to breathe with external part of its gills and can live up to 110 years, with the ability to survive 5-10 years without eating. The Human Fish is thought to be exclusive to the Postojna Caves and are well-protected, with pictures prohibited. Cute renditions of cartoonish human fish are available in the Postojna gift shops for those who take a liking to the unique, elusive creatures.
The final stop on the tour is the cavernous room known as the concert hall, since the expansive room with its high ceilings provides perfect acoustics for musical performances. Actual concerts have been performed underground here before, and the cave guides invite visitors to test out the superior acoustics themselves by clapping, whistling, or shouting to hear the sound of their own echo reverberate off the cave walls.
During the mine cart ride on the way out of the cave, visitors pass by the sites that they just explored on foot and returning to the surface is a bit of a shock after having become accustomed to the dim lighting underground. The incredible sights hidden deep beneath the earth in Postojna Caves are well worth a visit!
Definitely book a trip to Slovenia and spend an afternoon getting the full cave experience of both Predjama Castle – the castle before the cave – and Postojna Caves – one of the most famous caves in Eastern Europe.