Date of Trip: May 2008
There is a magically occurring universe deep below the surface in Slovenia.
As we descend, I squint to adjust my eyes from the sun above to the darkness now surrounding us. The accent lighting on the cave wall helps balance my vision and creates a shimmering affect of diamonds. My imagination transcends to films involving pirates, Indiana Jones and any other adventure through the deepest of caves.
We progress along in our open air train through Postojna cave, the oldest in Slovenia dating 70,000 years. The cave maintains a rich history consumed by Emperors, Russian soldiers and passage ways once used by Yugoslavians to pre war Germany.
Today it is an awe inspiring tourist attraction located just 50 k or so outside Ljubljana.
Our train moves quickly and purposefully through the abysmal labyrinth until we reach a large aperture, called Great Mountain, in which we are instructed to exit the vessel.
Awaiting further instruction, I take in my surroundings, feeling as if I am standing at the bottom of a shimmering ocean in which only the stars can be seen. However, the stars in this ocean are called stalagmite and stalactites which are formed by deposits of calcium carbonate from underground rivers and waterways.
5k into the cave, it is cold and damp. I shiver, as a drop of water hits the back of my neck, coolly reminding me of the natural element that I am in. The guides are smartly dressed in sweaters and rain gear and I regretfully look down at my flip flops.
Ahead, an array of signs indicates the language in which tours are available. As we approach the English speaking group the guide, a lively young man from Bosnia, informs us that the entire cave system is over 20k long and jokes that if we behave he will not make us walk the entirety of it.
The walk begins quietly apart from whispers, the snap of the camera (without a flash, of course, as it disturbs the limestone) and the occasional ping from the drops of water hitting the cave floor.
Our guide points out some of the magical elements, alluring our imaginations to the shapes and shadows that surround us.
“Look there’s a turtle!” a little girl shouts in a proud voice so that we all turn to recognize her discovery. The guide congratulates her on finding one of the caves more famous natural occurring sculptures.
We continue around the pedestrian path, snaking around islands and cavities supporting naturally sculpted ice cream cones, leaning towers and embracing lovers.
As we enter one of the rooms a brightly lit pool of water sends a reflection of waves across the ceiling. Inside swims a blind, albino fish, only found in Slovenia, called a Human Fish. I pause for a moment to appreciate the oddity of its slow, cautious movements and its eel like body.
Venturing deeper into the cave, the drops of water fall more frequently and we have to duck around tight corners. The once open rooms become halls of piercingly sharp limestone icicles that our guide assures us will stay attached to ceiling. In any event, it is noticeable that the group picks up its pace towards the up and coming room.
We approach the caves amphitheater where classical and blues concerts are held in the summer. “Go ahead” our guide nudges, “there is a six second echo time”. A brave man in a yellow jumper shouts and the cave greets him back with an eerie acoustic sound. We are all impressed and begin our own claps and whistles.
Through one of the offshoots from the amphitheater we arrive back at the familiar tracks where we board our train once again.
Moving quicker than before, we whisk through the illuminated cave, the magical sights still dancing in my head. The train creaks to a stop. As a group we exit towards a stream of light forcing us to adjust our eyes once again. A gust of warm air leads us back into the outside worlds and lets us know our journey into the underworld has come to an end.