Sunday, June 1, 2014

From Vhrnika to Postojna

May 29th – Today was mostly riding up and down rolling hills in this karst landscape full of forested sinkholes. Amazingly, there were people trying to log in this area. The topographic map looked like it had zits for all the circles on it denoting the sinkholes.

As we bike along, there are a few common things that we see. Trailers of colorful beehives are often found in open meadows. Most just have the colored boxes, but this one had some nice painted covers on them.

Beehive Trailer

Close up of painted beehive front
We have also seen houses with spider sculptures on the outside wall. We haven’t learned if there is any significance to this, so please leave a comment if you know about this!

Decoration or Secret Message?
We arrived at the Hotel Kras in Postjona and we were welcomed into a very nice room with large windows overlooking the main square. Kras is the Slovenian word for karst – from the Latin “carsus” for limestone. After settling in and changing clothes for going into the cave, we walked the 15 minutes to Postojna Cave, the mother of all Slovenian caves.

This is the longest known cave (of over 11,000 caves known) in Slovenia, at nearly 21 km long. It was discovered in 1818 (after being used by early man previously) and soon developed into a tourist cave. There are tourist trains that take visitors several kilometers into the cave and then a guide meets you at a sign posted with your language choice (Slovenian, English, German, Italian, or French) and you get a one-hour walking tour. While it had a bit of the feel of a carnival ride when you are on the train ducking your head and rocketing along cave formations, it is also pretty darn impressive. It felt like a secret passage into Hogwarts.

The signature stalagmites of Postojna Cave (DK photo)
Our guide was excellent, and clearly passionate about caves. He was on the Planet Earth episode on caves in the giant cave in Mexico.

Dripping water slowly forming a stalagmite (DK photo)
Another special feature of the caves in this area is the rich biodiversity they support. Some of the caves have gained UNESCO World Heritage site status because of the archaeological finds, unique culture, and high biodiversity. A signature species is Proteus anguinas, a tiny cave dwelling salamander endemic to this karst region.

That evening, we got a concert from school children in the main square of Postojna. This is the view from our lovely window!

School children give us a concert

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