Škocjan Caves

Trip Start Jan 29, 2010
Trip End Oct 14, 2010

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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

I woke up this morning to another gray, drizzly day and decided that a trip to Bled would be pretty pointless. Instead, I decided to give my tour guide's suggestion a try and headed out to Divača to visit the Škocjan Caves.  While the Postojna Caves are actually Slovenia’s most popular cave destination, the Škocjan Caves are on the UNESCO World Heritage List, so I decided to put my faith in UNESCO. 

I had read that there was a shuttle that picked up passengers from the Divača bus and train station and brought them directly to the caves.  However, unable to find the shuttle and led in all different directions by the five people I asked, I finally decided to throw on my rain gear and hoof it the 5K in the rain to the caves. 

Despite the fact that I was walking along a fairly busy stretch of road and it was raining rather hard, only one person stopped and offered to give me a lift to the caves.  However, for likely the same reason that others didn’t stop (i.e. fear of being murdered or robbed), I declined the ride and continued on foot. 

Once at the caves, I joined a group of about 15 others (including a woman wearing 3-inch heels – as if that was the best cave attire she could come up with) on a tour.  Since photography was not permitted inside the caves and I was not as sneaky as some of my fellow tourists, I don’t have any pictures to share, so I’ll try to be descriptive.

We entered the caves via the "Silent Cave", so named because it is quiet, unlike the “Murmuring Cave”, which has the Reka river running through it.  We first entered into “Paradise,” where there were stalactites, stalagmites, and curtains (sideways zigzagging formations) everywhere.  Soon after, we entered into the “Great Hall,” which was a huge cavernous space filled with gigantic stalactites and stalagmites.  The biggest column in the Great Hall has been measured at over 15 meters, and is estimated to be over 250,000 years old.   (Our guide explained that it takes 150-200 years for a stalactite or stalagmite to grow one centimeter).   We also passed a big conglomerate of stalactites and stalagmites that looks somewhat like an organ.  Then, our guide turned out the lights in the cave, and we got an idea of what it was like for the early cave explorers.  To be certain, I wouldn’t have ventured too far inside the cave without the advantage of electricity. 

As we passed from the silent cave to the murmuring cave, the path descended deeper, the temperature dropped noticeably, and the sound of running water became highly audible.  We passed a sign on the wall indicating the water level when the cave flooded to its highest known point several decades ago and filled the Murmuring Cave.  When the river came into view, it was incredible.  We walked alongside a path overlooking the river until coming to a bridge, some 45 meters above the river’s surface.  There, we stopped to watch as the river roared across the shallow cave bottom, and then we continued on, following the path alongside the river on the opposite bank.  Along the way, we came across rock-like pools, stacked on top of one another where the water used to flow down and then puddle.  Our guide explained that nowadays they only fill with water after extended periods of hard rain.  (Funny, they weren’t even wet when I was there. ) Near the exit to the cave, the stalactites took on a twisted appearance, which our guide explained was due to the movement of the air along the cave’s ceiling.  Outside the cave, we saw where the water entered into the cave, and we took a ride up the funicular to get a great view of the little town of Škocjan overlooking the natural cave entrance.

Luckily, I managed to catch the shuttle back to the train station and headed back for another night in Ljubljana.
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