Spelunking in Slovenia

Trip Start Jun 28, 2007
Trip End Jul 27, 2007

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Friday, July 20, 2007

Sunny and 32C

Today we were a little more prompt leaving the house by 09h15 (only 2 hours after awaking). We caught the train back to Maestre to collect the car and hit the road for Slovenia. Two hours of intense concentration to navigate the Italian autostrada and we found ourselves at the Škocjan Caves, seventeen years since our first visit during our honeymoon.

We had a quick bite to eat in the parking lot, then joined the 13h00 tour with about 80 others. It was wonderfully cool in the cave (12C) in sharp contrast to the sweltering heat outside. Although we were not allowed to take any photographs in the caves, we used our eyes as cameras, taking in the myriad caverns and passages. The variety of stalactites and stalagmites was remarkable especially knowing they grow at a rate of just 1mm/decade. Some of them were over 2m in height! Most impressive was the main cavern, its vertiginous bridge 50m above the Reka river and the stone steps cut in the walls by the original explorers. One could easily imagine the Fellowship of the Ring finding passage here to the mines of Moria. Indeed, I stopped on the Bridge of Kazadoom to pronounce Gandalf's famous words to the Balrog..."You shall not pass!".

The piece de la resistance to the afternoon was the meal we shared at the Orient Express in Divača. Starting with the house brewed pivo (beer), our meal included lepinja, tomato salad, čivapćići, and a platter of mixed grilled meats and vegetables. It was fabulous!! and only cost 40€. It was topped of by an excellent espresso that put a finishing touch on a fine repast.

Another 2 hour drive at 130-150 km/h (interspersed with stretches under 90 km/h due to drivers who don't know how to use the autostrada properly) and we were home by early evening. At precisely 20h07 on the 20th of July we stood on the Ponte degli Scalzi bridge spanning the Canal Grande. In digital form it was 200720072007 or 20h07 20/07 2007.

Once we got home, cleaning and packing was the order of business. That and ice cream for desert and hopefully a game of Phase 10 with the kids. It will be our final sticky night in Venice. We are all excited about our return to country living tomorrow, this time in Tuscany.

Celine's Thoughts
What an awesome day! We drove to Slovenia today, specifically to Divača to visit the Škocjan caves. Paul and I had seen them 17 years ago on our honeymoon in 1990. And to be back today with Paul and the kids was very special. The caves are as spectacular as I remembered them. They are a UNESCO world heritage site and I can understand why. We were part of a tour that lasted 2 hours. Our guide was a native with an Australian accent having lived in both places. She lead us through caverns that subsequently got bigger and bigger with ancient stalagmites and stalactites. It was a thrill especially when we reached the enormous cavern with the river running through it. The walkway was perched along the edge and we had to cross a bridge to the other side. Visions of Gandalf on the bridge confronting the Balrog with "YOU SHALL NOT PASS" echoed in my mind. Below we could see the old trail and carved steps that previous explorers used. Along the top, wire could be seen which present employees use to scale the "mountains" and check the conditions for safety. At one point the lights went out and it truly was dark. At the exit we took pictures of Warwick the troll.

To cap an amazing afternoon, we took a recommendation from our guide and went to have supper at the Orient Express. It was truly a highlight! We feasted on Yugoslav fare until we burst - čivapćići, lepinja, grilled meats, roast potatoes, rice, roasted vegetables, tomato salad, and beer! This is where I'd like to come back with Paul - Slovenia and Croatia - beautiful and inexpensive.
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