Postojna Caves and Predjama Castle
Few sights in Slovenia can rival that of the 2 million year old subterranean paradise that is the Postojna Caves. Stepping into this underground world made up of beautifully carved stalactites and stalagmites, you can’t help imagining Indiana Jones is about to race past you with a massive boulder following hot on his heels or a James Bond baddie is going to ominously materialise and throw you into a shark tank. Over millions of years the Pivka River has sculpted passageways through the caves via an underground tunnel near the entrance to create epic icicle like formations, some of which rise up 16 metres tall. Despite stretching some 24 km in length, only 5 km of the cave is accessible to visitors – 3.2 km of this is covered by an electric train, the only one of its kind to run through a karst cave. The remainder of the caverns are explored by foot where at the end you get to see the human fish, believed to be the offspring of a dragon, who once lived in the caves. Postojna Caves are among some of the most biologically diverse caves in the world seeing 150 species living in the mysterious underground world.
Nothing demonstrates an impenetrable fortification quite like the imposing Predjama Castle. Perched 123 metres up a cliff in the wide open mouth of a cave, the awe inspiring castle is one of the most dramatic in Europe. Standing for over 800 years, it is the largest and only completely preserved cave castle in the world. Although constructed in the 13th century, it wasn’t until the 15th century that the architectural masterpiece saw its most notorious owner in the shape of Erasmus of Lueg, a robber-baron who, like Robin Hood, stole from the rich and gave to the poor. There are many legends surrounding Erasmus, but it is widely believed that during the war between the Hungarians and Austrians, he hid away up in his fortress while continuing to partake in his daring plundering expeditions, courtesy of a secret passage that led out from behind the rock walls. In 1484, the Austrian army lay siege to Predjama castle, but unsurprisingly due to its ideal position, it proved impregnable. In a premature show of mockery, Erasmus laughed at his attackers, even going as far as showering them with fresh cherries in a bid to prove his very comfortable position. Unfortunately for Erasmus, the Austrians would retaliate and ultimately have the last laugh when they launched a cannonball at the castle while he sat on the toilet, killing him. A very undignified ending, even for this particular scamp.
Both the caves and castle can be visited in the morning before riding to Plitvice Lakes on the stunning Dalmatian coast road. Unfortunately there’s not enough time to visit both, but that just means you’ll have to come back again!