The river River & the UNESCO Škocjan Caves

Prior to coming to live in Slovenia, my life could have been described as somewhat nomadic. As a child there were frequent moves from country to country and from home to home, and this trend continued into adulthood. I have always enjoyed travelling, new experiences and wholeheartedly believe in broadening one’s horizons. However, I must admit that since finding Slovenia, and my adopted home town of Radovljica, where I have now been for 7 years (a record for me), the travel bug has somewhat abated; partly due to financial constraints but also largely due to the fact that I no longer feel that burning urge to travel to pastures new as Slovenia has so much to offer, most of which is right here on my doorstep. Therefore, these days I rarely feel the need to travel far from Radovljica and the surrounding areas of the Julian Alps, the Karavanke range, Bled, Kranjska Gora, Pokljuka etc. If I do, I can either make the short 2 hour flight to the UK to visit friends or family or just jump in the car and drive for a day out to the Slovene coast, the Soča Valley, or even to neighbouring Austria, Italy or Croatia.

One such trip I like to make is to the annual ‘Pohod po ponoru reke Reke’ (Walk beside the Sinkhole of the river River) – note: this isn’t a typo, the name of the river really is ‘The river River’! The walk, which is organised every April by the local Škocjan Tourist Association, begins in the village of Matavun, near Škocjan. From Radovljica, on a quiet Sunday morning, it took about 1hr 15mins to drive there. There is a symbolic 2 euro start fee which covers the organisation, a quick slurp of schnapps at the start and tea and/or another slurp of schnapps and refreshments en-route.

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Škocjan itself is best known for the UNESCO listed caves which, due to their ranking among one of the best caves in the world, are undoubtedly one of the ‘must-see’ sights for visitors to Slovenia. Guided tours are available daily, see this link for more information – http://www.park-skocjanske-jame.si/eng/skocjan-caves-park_caves.shtml

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Though the annual walk doesn’t lead through the entire cave system, it does offer a glimpse into this mysterious and fascinating underground world, whilst also passing through some delightful and diverse scenery in the surrounding areas before reaching the Škocjan Cave Park and ending at the village of Škocjan. The terrain is varied; some level walking but also a fair few inclines but nothing of great significance and it is therefore suitable for all ages and abilities. The walk takes around 3-4 hours and also passes the ruins of Školj Castle and includes a visit to St. Helen’s Church in the village of Gradišče, known for its frescoes, painted by Jean de Kastav, who also painted the much admired ‘Dance of Death’ frescoes in the Church of the Holy Trinity (Cerkev Sveta Trojica) in Hrastovlje.

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This week its school holidays here and also two public May Day holidays on the 1st and 2nd of May. On the eve before the 1st May holidays, it is a tradition in Slovenia to hold bonfire parties, known as ‘kresovanje’. Most towns and some villages have a bonfire – either somewhere in the town or many are also held atop a hill or at mountain huts and people gather in their masses to socialise and raise a glass (or two) beside the bonfires. In Radovljica, the bonfire party is always held next to the SPAR supermarket, at the entrance to the town, and is accompanied by live music. One of the biggest events is held on the Rožnik hill in Ljubljana, which up to 40,000 people attend.

On the 1st May numerous other events also take place across the country. Top of my list this year will be a visit to the cave under the Babji Zob peak, which is near the village of Bohinjska Bistrica, near Bled. I have written previously about hiking in this area (https://adeleinslovenia.wordpress.com/2013/08/05/medieval-radovljica/) but as yet haven’t actually been inside the cave. Usually the cave is only accessible upon prior arrangement with a guide however, every year on the 1st May there is an open-day and guided tours are available on the hour from 9am – 3pm. More information can be found here – http://www.bled.si/en/events/2014/05/01/1246-Traditional-May-Day-walk-info-the-cavern-under-Mt-Babji-zob

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