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Published: October 8th 2016
Skocjan Cave Day 254 Wednesday 28th September 2016 – Ljubljana to Divaca
The river that flows through the cave
Been sleeping in a bit lately so it was a bit difficult to drag our bums out of bed at 6am, but we had a bus to catch. Had a 20 minute walk from our apartment to the bus station which was a good heart starter first thing and got down there at 7.10 where we met Traudy who is just so much more on time than us. At 7.30 our bus arrived and no hassles getting underway, we were soon zipping through the beautiful Slovenian countryside. The scenery around here is just so amazing you really do feel as if you are looking at an oil painting and it is as if the whole place has been manicured. Arrived at our destination Divaca at a bit before 9 and then had a five minute walk to our hotel. Being so early for check in we assumed we would have to drop our bags off and come back later but our rooms were ready so we got in straight away, what a bonus.
Dropped our bags in the room and then went downstairs
for a coffee and we were offered free bike rentals so we snapped up the deal. Two of the bikes were electric so us two super unfit people took them while super fit Traudy took the ordinary one. The electric bike took a bit of getting used to and I am unsure I would run out and buy one but going uphill it was a God send and made me feel like Lance Armstrong all pumped up on “Roids”.
The reason for coming to Divaca was for the incredible Slovenian cave systems and today we were off to see the Skocjan Cave system. The cave is divided into two parts, the first being a 5 kilometre guided tour and the second a self-guided walk. We took up the option to do both and couldn’t believe our luck when the tour started just after buying our tickets. The tour starts in the “silent cave” that is filled with thousands of stalactites and stalagmites and then moves into what is Europe’s largest underground canyon that has been carved by the ever flowing waters of the Reka River. To say that this space is vast is an understatement, the main
chamber is up to 60 metres wide and 140 metres high and standing inside makes you feel rather insignificant. Today the Reka River was gently flowing through the cavern down a series of small waterfalls but in the past during heavy rainfall the water levels has risen to over 100 metres almost completely filling the cavern. Along the trail in there are markers signifying the high water marks of the major flood in 2014 and the huge one in 1965, and you seriously cannot comprehend that much water flooding into the chamber. At one point the trail goes over a bridge that sits 50 metres above the water and is a real highlight of the tour. We had seen a picture of this bridge several years ago and had asked Traudy about it and this was perhaps the starting point of getting of us all here and walking over it together. Unfortunately, not allowed to take photos inside the cave and I am unsure even if we could whether they could capture the enormity of the dimly lit space.
After 90 minutes we exited the cave and started our walk onto the second stage. A lot of
this next stage was around what they call the large and small collapse which are where the roofs of huge caves have collapsed creating massive circular holes. The walk took us back into the cave system and down closer to the Reka River. The second stage may not have been as spectacular but was definitely beautiful and well worth the extra money. From here we wandered back to the visitor centre where we got a bite to eat and I may have had a beer but despite having an electric bike we still needed to get up a very steep hill to get home. Traudy again took the normal bike and to prove just how much fitter she is than us got up the long steep hill without stopping, of course I had to show her up by pedaling past her at speed on my electric assisted bike.
We had some pre dinner drinks in the way of fabulous homemade wine supplied by Traudy’s family, and then we dined in the hotel restaurant. The town of Divaca is quite small and it appeared the only alternative was Italian. Had a great feed of some local food before
calling it a night. Day 255 Thursday 29th September 2016 – Divaca
A new day and yet another day of caving. After a hearty breakfast we walked down to the train station and got the 9.35 train to the town of Postojna where another 20 minute walk got us to the legendary Postojna caves. These caves are the second longest in the country with a length of nearly 25 kilometres but only 5 kilometres are open to the public. They have been taking visitors since 1819 and what makes the place extra unique is that a train line was laid through the caves in 1872. In the early days the guides would push the carriages (thankfully it is fairly level) but gas locomotives were soon introduced and today small electric ones pull the carriages. The tickets for entry vary depending on how many side things you want to see and we took one that also included the Aquarium which cost 29 Euros. The groups are split up into language and our English group had about 50 people which was probably a bit too large but it was okay.
The first part was a ten minute train ride down into the cave and we whizzed past some incredible areas including one that was done out as a ballroom complete with Murano glass chandeliers, and other areas that had the most amazing stalactite formations. We were all going “hang on a minute, this train is going way to fast to see this stuff”, but eventually the train stopped and we headed off on a 90 minute walking tour that was beyond spectacular. Been in lots of caves over the years and seen some amazing stuff but the Postojna Cave was by far the best cave experience we have ever had. As always with caves, the photos do not do it justice as it is hard to depict scale and colour in a photo, so you will just need to take our word on how good this cave system is.
At the conclusion of our tour we got to see a Slovenian “Human fish” called a Proteus, which is a type of Salamander that dwells in the water inside the cave and is a strange looking thing that grows to about 30cm long, has 3 digit hands at
Bridge over a gorge
the front and 2 on the back, lives for 100 years and doesn’t need to eat for ten years at a time. They are found in Italy, Slovenia and Croatia, and the Slovenians have just recently been able to breed them in captivity so as to try and bring them back from their endangered rating.
From here we had another ten minute train ride back to the cave entrance, and both girls nearly froze to death. Only ten degrees in the cave which is okay when you are walking around but sitting on a chair on an open platform flying through the caves made it feel like it was minus 10. Once outside we warmed ourselves in the sun and a small feed before heading into the Aquarium where we could see more of the Proteus and other cave dwellers. Of course most are very small things sitting in dark glass aquariums so they were very hard to spot. The nice part about the aquarium was that it was situated in a part of the cave that was one of the old entrances, the walls were covered in lots of graffiti, where previous visitors had scratched their
Groovy walkway bridge
names and most were from the (less caring) 1800’s.
It was getting later in the afternoon by this stage so we headed back towards town to get a ride back to Divaca. Luckily the woman at our hotel had given us times for both buses and trains and it ended up that the bus was a better option (and it was closer so we waited at a bar with a beer. The bus trip back ended up being not only cheaper than the train but also quicker.
Two lots of caves in two days, and we cannot tell you how we have enjoyed both, and likewise cannot tell you which was the best. Skocjan Cave system yesterday was huge with a lot less tourists and situated in a lovely National Park. The Postojna cave has the more spectacular formations and the novelty of the train.
Had a pre-dinner drink of wine from Traudy’s family then dinner at the hotel restaurant and lots of talking. Day 256 Friday 30th September 2016 – Divaca to Piran
Off to the coast this morning the
Exit and walkway lights in cave
bus left at 9.00 so after breakfast we grab our bags and had coffee at the café opposite the bus stop. No pre buying tickets just get them on the bus for the short journey to Piran. Again we were lucky that we could check into the room early and start our discovery of this small picture perfect coastal town. We wound our way through the back streets visiting the Friary Church of St. Francis of Assisi and onto St George Church, climbing the bell tower for a view over the town. We standing there admiring the view not consciously thinking about the bells behind us until they chimed and nearly send us over the balcony railing and I thought I had ringing in my ears before.
Back on the cobbled streets we headed over to the old town walls to walk over the remaining parts that were originally built to protect the town from Ottoman invasion but what is here now is from many different eras. Wandered back through Tartini Square and looking at the statue of Giuseppe Tartini who wrote the “Devil’s Trill Sonata” a solo violin piece that apparently is quite difficult to play.
Due to the difficultly of the work a myth started that he had six digits on his left hand making it easier to play the double stop trills. There is possibly a new myth started as we did not initially know he was except he was a musician due to the violin in his hand. Scott stood in front of the statue and in his most serious tour guide voice announced that he played the right handed violin upside down and the opposite way as he was left handed then set it on fire at the end of each performance – go Jimmy I mean Giuseppe.
Enough of that silliness we have shopping to do, so stopped at a café for a quick bite and leaving Scott with a beer. Traudy and I walked around picking up a few things before making our way back 2 hours later with Scott still sitting on a beer (definitely not the original one or the second one).
Found a nice restaurant for dinner overlooking the sea and then settle into a bar for the evening and a few cocktails and a few more… It was a great
Cheers with the family spirit in the early morning
night with lots of laughs. Finished the night off back in our room with Traudy’s family “fire water”, which was blueberry flavoured (complete with berries) and had a kick like a mule. Day 257 Saturday 1st October 2016 – Piran
A sad day as we have to say goodbye to Traudy but we have the morning together so took it easy with a coffee at one café before moving on for brunch at another, then waving as her 2.15pm bus pulled out of the station. Felt a little down as this was one of the things that we had locked in before we left home and it just went so quickly, and it had been so much fun travelling with Traudy, will really miss her on the rest of our trip. We took ourselves for a walk taking in the great weather watching weddings and as we turned in our street which is just off the seafront there was a large group of people congregated. It turned out to be the weigh in for a fishing competition there were some decent sized fish and some huge eels and lots of
Main square from the belltower
cheering as each was weighed.
Late in the afternoon hit the seafront bars for a few beers and an early dinner enjoying the sun setting over the sea. Day 258 Sunday 2nd October 2016 – Piran
Woke to the steady patting of rain so turned over and snoozed a bit longer. Today we knew was going to be wet so planned to take it easy and catch up on blogging and planning on the next country. There is a café nearby so had a coffee and then back to our apartment for a frustrating day of internet surfing and trying to plan our next legs, and despite spending hours on the computer we didn’t get a lot done. Early in the afternoon the rain stopped and then late afternoon the sun appeared so it was perfect timing to get out of our room and have a long walk around the shoreline to a bar. Had a couple of drinks watching the sun setting and schools of fish jumping out of the water before we went and got a feed. Once again got a great feed of seafood
Sunset at port
before heading home for an early night and packing our bags. Leaving Slovenia tomorrow, which has become our most favourite country on this trip, we have just had the best time here and spending time with our friend Traudy just made it even better. Moving on down the road to Italy tomorrow which we are looking forward to but also worried about the cost and the tourist numbers, let’s hope they will not be as bad as we are expecting.
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