I’ve started to realize that I’ve been planning all my trips lately based on a single photo or comment from someone about a particular locale. For Slovenia, it was a photo of Vintgar Gorge (I’ll share photos from this place soon) which was amazing but I had to find other things to do as well. Turns out, Slovenia is amazing, especially if you like hiking. It’s filled with awesome canyons, caves, castles on islands, delicious food and its inexpensive compared to Western Europe. After just a few days it became one of my favorite countries in Europe. It’s easy to find cool sites in Slovenia and we found two on the way to Lake Bled from Croatia. Predjama Castle and Škocjan Caves, the latter of which is also a UNESCO site.
We visited Predjama castle first which is not just a castle but a castle in a cave (the best kind.) There’s a long and interesting history to the castle but I’ll just share my favorite anecdote. In the 15th century this robber baron named Erazem was holding down the castle. The kingdom of Hungary was mad at him and sent an army to try and take it over. For a year and a half, Erazem held off his enemy and by using a secret tunnel in the back of the castle could obtain fresh food to prevent being starved out. They taunted their befuddled attackers by throwing fresh cherries at them from the castle – the attackers thought witchcraft was at work – how else could they get the fresh cherries? Eventually, the besiegers bribed a servant to reveal when Erazem went to the toilet. When he did, they fired a cannonball at that part of the castle (the weakest section also) and killed him while he sat on his (other) throne. The tour inside the castle is 12 euros and worth it.
After the castle we visited Škocjan Caves, a massive network of caves and one of the most important in the world according to its UNESCO description. Access to the caves is granted only by a guided tour which is 21 euros if you want both the cave and Reka River section (do both.) The tour starts out in a couple of small rooms which are pretty cool but not spectacular. After that you enter two larger chambers, the second being an unbelievably massive chamber (the largest underground chamber in Europe.) At first, its pitch black but when the guide turns on the lights you see the trail on the far side, 3.5 km away – it’s amazing. One of my favorite parts is seeing the old trails the original explorers used which your guide will point out. Exiting the cave you’ll follow the Reka River along a trail that is mostly outdoors. It’s not as stunning as the cave but still very interesting. They don’t permit taking photos inside the cave so you’ll have to forgive the blurry shots my camera accidently took when I wasn’t looking. There are better photos in the links below.
You can get to either of these sites by train and then a short bus ride but having a car is easier. Here is the official site for Predjama Castle, Škocjan Caves and the UNESCO page for Škocjan Caves which has some great photos.