There are 7 Natural Wonders of the World, but arguably, in our opinion, there are indeed many, many more. Undeniably the world is a place full of wondrous gems just waiting to be discovered…quite simply put, you just have to find them. During our recent 2 week summer holiday in Italy, we realised that we were quite close to the Slovenian border. Always wanting to tick off countries from our ‘bucket list’, we took this opportunity to visit two of Slovenia’s greatest tourist attractions; Postojna Cave and Predjama Castle.
Ok, so you may not think Predjama Castle is worthy of being called a ‘natural wonder’ as it is indeed man-made, except the cave; but spectacular it most certainly is. As for Postojna Cave, which is the longest tourist cave in Slovenia; it is entirely natural and was carved out over thousands of years by the River Pivka Ponor.
The drive from Marina Julia (Italy) to Park Postojnska Jama in Slovenia took a little over one hour. Slovenia is absolutely stunning and it was lovely to drive through beautiful picturesque towns and past well-kept vineyards. Something for Mummy and Daddy to go back and explore (sample wine) one day. Our arrival to the town of Postojna (pronounced po-stoy-na) came just after midday. The sun was well and truly beating down on us. Only upon arrival did we realise that we had made a catastrophic call that morning. We failed to apply the golden rule of slip-slop-slap. Our reckoning was that we’d be deep underground at Postojna Cave and away from the suns harmful rays…we neglected to factor in that we may have to queue. It was by far one of the hottest days of our holiday; somewhere between high 20’s and low 30’s!
PEACEFUL PIVKA PONOR
As we made our way to the Ticket Office we crossed a small wooden bridge with the peaceful River Pivka Ponor flowing directly beneath. In the distance a church sat prominent above the tree line. Walking past the Modrijan Homestead the water wheels were still turning even after 5 centuries of use. Outside the restaurant there was a pig on a spit giving off the most amazing smells. This Little Piggy wasn’t quite cooked otherwise it would have been pulled pork sarnies for lunch. Just beyond, in the park garden, there was a colourful bee hive with lots of bee activity at the entrance.
The iconic Hotel Jama is nestled in the heart of Postojna Cave Park, and what a splendid hotel it is. Back in 2016 the hotel underwent extensive renovations and the hotel website boasts of ‘top-of-the-line facilities and furnishings characterised by modern design and a touch of traditional elements’. Now that’s a bold statement! The hotel is also right next door to the entrance of Postojna Cave and the gift shops and restaurants located within the park. We didn’t stay at Hotel Jama on this holiday, but rest assured we will…one day!
A PHENOMENAL FOOTFALL
There are several Package options for visiting the attractions and we purchased the Full Park Experience. This gave us access to Postojna Cave, Predjama Castle, Vivarium and Expo Cave Karst. Should you decide to visit Park Postojnska Jama we recommend booking your tickets in advance and online. During high season Postojna Cave attracts just over 2000 tourists per day…you wouldn’t want to turn up and not gain access. Rest assured that the processing of the hoards of humans is managed effectively and efficiently. Our tour was due to begin at 2pm so we took the opportunity to grab lunch in the spacious and clean restaurant.
READ ALL ABOUT OUR VISIT TO PREDJAMA CASTLE
PUFF THE MAGIC DRAGON
Tickets in hand, on the short walk to the Jamski Dvorec Mansion, which is where you gain access to the boarding platform for the underground train; a ferocious dragon appeared from the mouth of Postojna Cave. This fiery-red critter was definitely not Puff the Magic Dragon! Let’s just hope it’s friendly. Lily-Belle was happy to pose for a photograph but Matilda was a little stand-offish once the dragon clasped Lily-Belle’s head in its jaws. After the friendly dragon left, Matilda asked if there was any real dragons in the cave…and of course we said yes. Poor little mite, she was definitely nervous.
A POSTOJNIAN PARADISE
Thankfully we didn’t have to stand too long under the hot midday sun and our underground train journey began. Postojna Cave has 24,120m of underground passages, tunnels and caves to explore. Also, regardless of the outside temperature, the cave itself has a constant temperature of 8-10°C and 95% humidity. Wrap up warm and wear decent walking shoes. The train descends into a subterranean paradise along the world’s only double-track cave railway. Narrow tunnels suddenly open into a vast space and there’s a ‘tacky’ over-sized chandelier dangling from the ceiling. Not what we were expecting as it wasn’t in keeping with Postojna Cave’s natural surroundings. It isn’t until later that day that we learned the vast space was actually the Dance Hall and the ‘tacky’ chandelier was made from world renowned Murano Glass. Oops, our bad!
STATS AND FACTS
Normally we avoid putting in ‘stats and facts’ that people pass over, but on this occasion, we feel Postojna Cave Park stats are worthy of a mention;
- Graffiti found inside Postojna Cave dates right back to 1218,
- Postojna Cave first began taking visitor records in 1819,
- November 2018 and Postojna Cave has received over 38 million visitors in its 200 year ‘tourist’ history,
- Postojna Cave has the only double-track cave railway system in the world,
- The Postojna Cave system is 24,120m in length and 115m deep and experts believe there are many more undiscovered chambers, as of 2018 there are over 15,000 discovered caves within the system,
- Visitors include over 150 Presidents and members of Royalty,
- Postojna Cave switched on its electric lights in 1883 whilst many parts of London was still lit with gas lamps,
- Need to send a letter from Postojna Cave, no problem, it houses the world’s only underground Post Office.
BRILLIANT TITES AND MITES
Anyway. The train comes to a stop and from hereon in the adventure continues on foot with our Tour Guide, Matej. Postojna Cave is dramatic and striking with stalactites; suspended formations of minerals, and stalagmites; rising floor formations; in every direction. Every now and then the stalactites and stalagmites meet to form huge pillars. One such stalagmite is Brilliant, a magnificent bright-white column standing at five metres tall. Brilliant gets its distinctive shiny white colour from the millions of droplets which deposit a thin layer of flowstone on this eye-catching stalagmite. This majestic stalagmite is a prominent symbol of Postojna Cave and the Slovenian Karst.
ANYONE FOR A GROUP HUG?
There’s around 30 or so visitors in our group and the English-speaking Tour Guide, Matej, wastes no time in moving us along. Photos are allowed but strictly no flash photography. As we wind our way through Postojna Cave the Tour Guide points out different calcite formations and provides lots of information pertaining to the cave system’s history and geology. The tour felt just a little bit rushed for us to enjoy the experience to the max. In the end we dropped to the back and took our time to enjoy the cave; but always staying in site of our guide on the well-trodden tourist path.
EXPLORE, DISCOVER, DAMP
The cave is dimly lit with unobtrusive lighting hidden behind columns and the air smells damp. Just because it’s dark doesn’t mean Postojna Cave is devoid of life, oh no! There are over 115 different species within this fragile cave ecosystem. Back in 1831 Luka Čeč, who incidentally was the explorer who first came across Postojna Cave (but what about the graffiti from 1218?); found a tiny brown beetle unlike any other. The beetle had no eyes, a long skinny neck, thin legs and a big bum…that’s what Matilda said! From this discovery a new science was born – Biospeleology; and the beetle was given the name Slenderneck Beetle (Leptodirus hochenwartii).
Here’s a fascinating fact for you. When the scientists were taking the newly-discovered Slenderneck Beetle out of the cave, they damaged it. It took the explorers 16 years to find another specimen…16 years! Hence the reason the one on display is dead and glued into place. At least it shows visitors what this elusive little beetle looks like.
SEE, THERE IS DRAGONS IN POSTOJNA CAVE
Another discovery found within Postojna Cave is the rather odd looking Olm (Proteus anguinus) or to give it its modern-day name; Human Fish. A little bit like a ‘baby dragon‘ pipe cleaner with 4 legs and a bulbous head! This slender ‘baby dragon’ is almost translucent in colour, with little red tufts and limbs with varying numbers of toes? You can see them, but they can’t see you as their eyes are underdeveloped and covered by a layer of skin, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t aware of your presence. The ‘baby dragons’ have a heightened sense of smell and can ‘hear you’ through vibrations caused by your movement.
An interesting fact about the Olm is that they can live up to 100 years and not eat for 12 years. Just eight meals in its lifespan…what a fascinating creature. The Olms’ unique appearance has been the attention of people’s imagination for centuries. There are early written accounts of a terrible Dragon’s offspring living deep within Postojna Cave dating back to the 17th century.
WHITER THAN A STALAGMITE
A loud bang and Postojna Cave is plunged into a blackness like no other. The lights went out and as we had dropped off the back of the group…we were completely alone! I switched on my iphone torch and Mummy, Lily-Belle and Matilda were stood in a girly huddle. Just to say, the lights were off for less than a minute but the girls were paler than an Olm when the lights came back on. Continuing our journey we took lots of photo’s of this unique cave, albeit under very difficult conditions as we weren’t able to use the flash. Nonetheless, we walk, stop, admire, wonder, take photos and the girls ask millions of question. Postojna Cave is a fascinating and mysterious underground world.
WHAT’S IN A NAME?
Within Postojna Cave there is a show cave which gives visitors the chance to get up close to the life that exists within. In the show cave is an aquarium with the superstars of the show, Olms – baby dragons – human fish, call them what you will. Their opaque pipe-cleaner-like bodies allow them to squeeze effortlessly through the narrowest of crevices. Lily-Belle and Matilda loved gazing at these marvellous miracles of nature. They are truly incredible and fascinating to watch. Back in 2016 visitors witnessed a very rare and special experience, when Postojna Cave successfully became one of the first ever human-controlled environments to successfully breed a baby Olm. The ‘Mummy’ Olm laid her eggs in full view of the visiting tourists. Remarkable and somewhat enigmatic.
THERE’S LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL
Postojna Cave opens out as we come to the end of our tour and we’re greeted by the sound of the River Pivka Ponor rushing though. The Post Office is situated near the exit so we popped in and sent a postcard to Nana & Granda back home in Ireland. Lily-Belle and Matilda also purchased little ‘baby-dragon’ teddy bears to take home. What an amazing experience we have had underground in the majestic Postojna Cave. But the day hasn’t finished yet, next stop the Vivarium.
READ ALL ABOUT OUR VISIT TO SEE DIPPY THE DINOSAUR
A VIVARIUM VISIT
The Vivarium is just a short 50m walk from the entrance of Postojna Cave. Within the vivarium there is the Laboratory which is used solely for scientific research. There is also the Speleobiological Exhibition, a place to meet and see some (not all) of the Postojna Cave animals. This section of our tour didn’t really take too long, and in all honesty, we have to say is a little disappointing. After the ‘wow factor’ of Postojna Cave the vivarium is a bit of a let down. With over 200,000 visitors per year, this exhibit could be bigger, better and improved to ensure it is engaging for tourists. Definitely needs some improvement!
EXPLORING THE EXPO
The award-winning Expo Cave Karst exhibition is a wonderful place to learn all about karst formations and the history of the cave system. Postojna Cave may be millions of years old but the exhibit certainly isn’t with its colourful and detailed presentations. Lots to see, touch and feel. Lily-Belle and Matilda loved the interactive wallboard detailing the various cave-dwelling animals. As part of the Expo Cave Karst exhibition you can also visit two more exhibitions for free; Life Within a Billion Years, and Butterflies of the World. Lily-Belle, loving all things dinosaur and fossil, particularly enjoyed the many fossils on display.
Matilda loved touching the ‘cavewoman’s’ boobs and Lily-Belle liked the touch screens and getting up close and personal to the hairy bison. I did tell Lily-Belle not to be so rude and to stop calling her mother a hairy bison. Of course I jest, but there really was a big hairy bison. There was also a caveman and cavewoman in a rather promiscuous looking position. After a second glance we realised they were trying to light a fire…phew! I won’t tell you what Mummy thought ‘Homo Erectus’ meant!!!
GIFTS, GLASS AND GELATO
Our visit to Park Postojnska Jama had come to an end and we now had to make our way to Predjama Castle. Before we left we had the chance to buy colourful glassware from the giftshop. We also grabbed a delicious gelato to enjoy on the way back to the car. Next on The Callaghan Posse’s travel tale…Predjama Castle.
READ ALL ABOUT FRANCO’S AMAZING GELATERIA IN CAVALESE
WOULD WE GO BACK?
We most certainly will, and next time we hope to stay at the magnificent Hotel Jama. Slovenia is beautiful and we didn’t even touch the tip of what is has to offer as a country. Postojna Cave really is a miracle of nature and the history of its existence is a remarkable story. The Olm (aka human fish or baby dragon) has been around for millions of years, and we hope this little survivor is around for a million more. Stunning!
LILY-BELLE (age 9) SAYS
I particularly liked the train ride and thought it was fun, but it felt like we were going to bang our heads on the low tunnels. The vivarium wasn’t that good because I think all the animals were dead. I wanted to buy a large human fish teddy but wasn’t allowed so I bought a small one.
Daddy: I would happily have purchased the large human fish teddy, but had to think about the practicalities of getting it home.
MATILDA (age 3) SAYS
The cave was a bit scary. I didn’t like the big red dragon because I thought he was going to eat Lily-Belle. Why did they have a funny woman with boobs?
Postojna Cave: www.postojnska-jama.eu/en/
Date of visit: 12th July 2018
Opening: open 365 days of the year, opening times depend on the season
Full Park Experience ticket cost: Adults €41.90 and Children (age 6-15) €25.10 and Children (age 0-5) €4.00
Parking: €5.00 for the full day
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