Škocjan Caves

So… my last post was about my love for the National Museum of Contemporary History in Ljubljana… a fascinating, beautiful, small museum that captured my interest.

I have more to say about Slovenia!  So much more!

When we first started traveling, I did not really want to go to countries like France and Italy.  Everyone dreams of going there, and then does.  And then you hear about it, like, all the time.  I was tired of hearing about those countries.  BUT Andrew took me there anyway, and I obviously loved it.  It’s obvious.  Who goes to those countries and hates it?  Right?  Like, unless you have bad luck there and get scammed and have crap weather.  But for the most part it’s an obvious kind of delight.  Or at least, a frequently-reported-upon kind of delight.

So… while YES I do love France and Italy… they haven’t quite captured my heart the way Slovenia has.

I’ve never known anyone personally who has been to Slovenia and bragged about it or even talked at all about it. Until I returned home. And then met one person who was just there, and another who’s main goal in life is to get there.
But, other than these two, everyone else I know doesn’t really know this country exists.

BUT THEY SHOULD. EVERYONE SHOULD.

So I’ve talked about Ljubljana, the capital city.  But we did venture forth from the city.  Ljubljana is right in the middle of Slovenia, and it’s not a very big country (at least, this is what I say as a Canadian… a Liechtensteiner may very well think of Slovenia as a vast country… it’s all about perspective).  So, this makes it easy to simply make Ljubljana your base and take a bunch of day trips out from there.  Which is what we decided to do because I basically hate changing hotels too often, it makes me grouchy.

I regret this choice, however.  Once we were in Slovenia and visited other towns and cities aside from Ljubljana, I realized we were missing out on quite a bit.  I can’t really tell you what I think we missed out on exactly, but this was the feeling I had from the glimpses I caught.  Long, longing glimpses.  Soooooo… not merely glimpses, then.  But stares?  Yeah. I did a lot of staring out of windows of various sorts — bus windows, taxi windows, plane windows.  And sighing longingly.

So anyway, we visited in the midst of a heat wave.  OF COURSE WE DID.  Every place we visit bursts into flames upon our arrival.  Which is all the more painful to us I suppose because we are extremely sensitive, fair-skinned folks who are actually enjoying the fact that yes today it is snowing here at home, in May.  (YES.  I kid you not.  On BOTH counts.)

And so… as Slovenia was super-duper hot and we were not loving that aspect, we decided to check out the caves we’ve heard so much about.  We were told they’re very cold.  That was really our main motivation.

So yeah, Slovenia boasts some of the most spectacular wonders of the natural world.  It’s a stunning, verdant land of varying topographies.  And on this particular day, we visited the Škocjan Caves.  I have provided that link for you there because we don’t really have very many pictures of what it’s like in the caves.  Photography is not permitted in the Škocjan Caves, and we play by the rules when it comes to stuff like that (FOR THE RECORD).  But not everyone else does.  So here’s another link, to a blog post by some bloggers that just found/stole images from travellers who did not heed this no-photography-in-the-caves rule.  It’s a pretty great collection of photos, and conveys our experience pretty well.

That is to say… it’s SPECTACULAR.

Here are some photos that we were permitted to take:

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The Škocjan Caves are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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Looking down into the karst (I may be conveying this wrong).  This is a lake in winter.  It disappears in summer… into the caves…?  That we’re about to go into? WHAT?  Frightening and gorgeous.

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So apparently these holes are lakes in winter.  At the bottom of these holes (valleys?) are the Škocjan Caves.

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This is just at the beginning of our experience in the caves.  The cave is like the Grand Canyon… but all underground.  This walkway is simply clinging to the wall of the massive cavern.  We could not see the bottom.

This experience was almost too amazing for words.  But if I were to attempt to use words, I’d say that it’s unnerving… dreamlike…  made me think of Jules Vern’s book, “Journey to the Centre of the Earth”.

Caves are so strange.  They can have different “rooms”, each with completely different features.  In the Škocjan Caves, first you’re just clinging to the side of an unimaginably vast, deep cavern.  Then you CROSS the gorge on a suspension bridge (gahhhhhh just the idea!  but, it *felt* safe!).  Then suddenly you’re staring at a strikingly blue, tall waterfall pouring into an unearthly pool.  Then you’re staring at a wall of pots of smaller pools.  What?  All the while basically in the dark.  And you turn around, and there’s someone behind you.  Wait, that’s not a person — that’s a MONSTER!  Wait, that’s not a monster — that’s a stalagmite!  Or a stalactite!  (One grows from the ceiling, one from the floor… and then after many eons, they meet to form a column.)  Some of these look like slimy creatures.  Others, like luminescent jewels.   Some are a rose-quartz colour.  Others, white-quartz.  Still others shiny weird grey, some green, and others white.  Many include all these colours.  It takes so long for these columns to form, drip by slow drip, year after year, century after century, millennium after millennium.

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See the tiny people?  And the lit-up pathway?  These caves are monstrous.  Otherworldly.  Europe’s largest underground gorge.

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Strange formations near the exit of the cave.  We were permitted to take pictures here.

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Rounding the corner, the darkness gives way to a bright spot of green.  I clutched Andrew’s arm and whispered, “This is too amazing! It’s all dark… and then all that GREEN bursts out of nowhere! WHAT IS MY LIFE????!”

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Our view as we reluctantly left the cave.

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We then had to climb in a tropical microclimate up to the funicular.  While we waited in line, we looked back to see the opening of the cave we’d just walked out of.

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Aaaaand the funicular itself.

So.  Hey.  A few practical notes…

Even though I was utterly delighted by the temperature in these cold damp caves, I was a tad on the chilled side.  I could’ve used a jacket.  I felt sorry for the people wearing sandals — I’m pretty sure their feet were freezing.  I was glad I was wearing sneakers and socks, for reasons of warmth.  I read a few TripAdvisor reviews of this place, and it’s funny — some report that it’s a super-easy walk (probably in their 20’s), and others state that it’s a little strenuous (in their 60’s).  I found it easy, and kinda felt like the majority of the group was slowing me down.  Which is technically a blessing.  I need to learn to stop and take in the beauty that’s right in front of me.  Look at that, ending this post with a little life lesson.  Erin OUT.

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