Exploring the Green Karst: The Križna Cave (Križna jama)

Slovenia’s Green Karst is abundant with caves, only a few of which are open to the public. Although the Postojna caves and the UNESCO-listed Škocjan caves are by far the most well-known and visited tourist caves in Slovenia, for a more authentic and less Disney-esque experience, I can recommend first-hand the naturally-preserved 8.273 metre-long Križna jama cave. The name, which translates as ‘Cross cave’, comes from the nearby church of St. Cross (Sv. Križa). It is the seventh longest cave system in Slovenia and offers a totally unique experience – a ride in a large rubber dinghy on one, or more, of its 22 underground crystal-clear emerald-green lakes.

I must admit I felt a little trepidation at the thought of entering the cave, togged up in the mandatory wellington boots, torch in hand. But I needn’t have! In fact, once inside it was quite the opposite.  The cave is so captivating that you can entirely forget about the outside world.

 

I opted for the short tour, which lasts around 1 hour and involves a 600 metre walk, followed by a short dinghy ride on the first lake. Here the lake splits and those taking the short tour return on foot the same way. The temperature inside the cave is a constant 8 degrees year-round, so be sure to wear your woolly socks and coats!

On entering the cave into the Great Hall, our guide, Gasper, first acquainted us with the entire cave system and showed us the part that we would be visiting.

We proceeded on foot, stopping at short intervals to see things such as ancient wall writings, the earliest among them date back to the 16th century,

The skulls and bones of cave bears, which are particularly notable for their size – the largest skull measures 56cm.

Gasper pointed out how the edges of the cave walls were rounded by the cave bears brushing past in the pitch black.

There is also an alternative tour to Bear Tunnel (Medvedji rov) for those particularly interested in finding out more about cave bears.

The Križna jama cave is known to contain around 45 animal species, making it the 4th in the world in terms of the number of species. During the tour that I joined, we came face-to-face with one, albeit it a sleeping one!

Then came the best bit. The dinghy awaits! I really didn’t know what to expect, but the overwhelming feeling as we sat in the boat with just the floodlights beneath the boat illuminating the crystal-clear water, was just total serenity and tranquility – a rarity in this modern fast-paced world.

There are also 2 longer tours available for real cave lovers. In order to protect the cave, visitor numbers on these longer tours are strictly limited. The 4-hour tour to the Calvary lake (Kalvarija) can be visited by only 1000 people per year (year-round, by prior arrangement), whilst only 100 people per year can take the 7-hour tour to the end of the 20th lake (from October to March, by prior arrangement).

Should you opt for either of the longer tours, you will be kitted out with all-in-one suits, and will need to take your own refreshments (a small snack, not an entire picnic!). After the first lake, you will transfer to a smaller dinghy and continue the tour partly on foot, partly by dinghy.

The 7-hour tour visits 20 lakes, culminating at Crystal Mountain, which is especially rich with stalactites.

One hour tours of the cave are available from 4.6 – 31.9 with no prior reservations required (at other times tours are available upon prior arrangement). Tours take place daily at 3pm on Saturdays, Sunday and public holidays from 4-30.6, thereafter at 11am, 1pm, 3pm and 5pm until 31st August, and at 11am, 1pm and 3pm during September. The one hour is suitable for all ages, providing you are able to walk on uneven ground. Prior booking for the longer tours is essential.

You can visit come rain or shine! So whilst in Slovenia, don’t miss the opportunity to see this amazing part of the mysterious Karst underworld.

More information about the Križna jama cave can be found here – http://krizna-jama.si/en/about-the-cave/ and more information about what else to see and do in the surrounding Green Karst can be found here – http://zelenikras.si/en/

Official cave photos: Peter Gedei, Gašper Modic.

© Adele in Slovenia

 

 

Love Swimming, Love Slovenia!

It’s always lovely to hear from, and meet, readers and self-professed ‘fans’ of my blog. In the past 3 years I have received hundreds of emails, comments, messages on Facebook etc., some wanting ideas and advice, others just writing to say ‘thanks’, and have also enjoyed many a wonderful Taste Radol’ca meal together with readers generously wishing to show their appreciation.

It was particularly nice, then, when I recently met a whole group of readers! Patricia, a regular reader of my blog, has shared it with many of her group of fellow Americans, who were staying in Radovljica for a family swimming camp. She told me how helpful my blog had been in planning excursions and activities for the swimming camp and invited me to join the group for their final night’s banquet dinner at Kunstelj Inn – one of the Taste Radol’ca restaurants and just one of the venues where members of the group stayed during their visit.

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Maja and her team at Kunstelj Inn cooked up a delicious meal, using locally-sourced ingredients, and, as ever, the views from the terrace provided the icing on the cake!

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This was the 4th consecutive year that the Piranhas Swimming Club from Stuttgart chose Radovljica as the base for its summer family swimming camp. This year’s group totalled 108, comprised of 40 swimmers, with their families and friends, and, in some cases, 3 generations of the same family.

During their time staying in Radovljica, they certainly packed in a lot of sightseeing and activities, which just goes to show, as if proof were needed, what a wonderful place Radovljica is to base yourself for a holiday in Slovenia.

Radovljica’s Olympic-size swimming pool was the venue for the daily pool-based training and fun sessions. More information about Radol’ca’s swimming pools here – http://www.radolca.si/en/swimming/

Slovenia Swim Camp 2016 - Radovljica

They swam in Bled Lake.

Slovenia 2016 - Swimming Lake Bled

And did an open-water swim in the Adriatic sea in Piran Bay.

Slovenia 2016 - Open Water swim in Piran Bay

When not swimming, and for the non-swimmers among them, there was a whole host of other organised activities including cookery classes at Kunstelj Inn.

Slovenia 2016 - Cooking Class at the Kunstelj

Rafting on the Sava and Soča rivers.

Slovenia 2016 - Rafting the Soca River

Other activities included a visit to the iron-forging village of Kropa, a ride in the cable car to Vogel, kayaking on Bohinj Lake, hiking to the Savica waterfall, a visit to the Škocjan Caves, fishing, playing golf, making the famous Lectar gingerbread hearts at Lectar Inn in Radovljica, and more!

Patricia told me that they have all ‘fallen in love with Slovenia and Radovljica’ and are already planning the 2017 camp. So, I look forward to seeing you all back here next year. In the meantime, I’ll keep writing and providing ideas for some more activities for next year, so, stay tuned!

© Adele in Slovenia

Spas, Caves, Eats and Other Rainy (and Not So Rainy) Day Ideas!

Anyone visiting Slovenia in the last fortnight might be forgiven for thinking it rains here a lot! Please be reassured, however, that this much rain in June is not the norm. In the 9+ years I’ve been living here, I don’t think I can remember such a prolonged period of wet weather at this time of year. It really is turning out to be a strange year, weather-wise. After having very little snow during winter, we then had snow in late-April, and now, in the second-half of May and early June, it seems to be April! It’s been either raining torrentially or the clouds have been looming ominously, making it frustratingly difficult to go anywhere too far from home.

The good news is that it’s set to improve soon, just a couple more days of these storms then hot, dry weather is headed our way, yippee! In the meantime, I thought I’d share some of my ideas for how to spend rainy, as well as not so rainy, days in the Radovljica area and elsewhere in Slovenia.

VISIT A SPA

It doesn’t matter what the weather is doing outside if you are inside getting wet anyway! All of Slovenia’s thermal spas feature indoor and outdoor pools, saunas, jacuzzis and modern wellness facilities, offering something for all the family. You can read plenty more about spas and the facilities here and read some insider tips from me, here – https://spasinslovenia.com/

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DELVE INTO THE MAGICAL UNDERWORLD IN CAVES

A visit to one Slovenia’s caves, such as Postojna Caves or the UNESCO-listed Škocjan Caves, is ideal whatever the weather. There are over 9,000 caves in Slovenia, though only a small number of these are open to the public. The temperature in the caves is constant year-round so it really doesn’t matter if its snowing or there’s a heat-wave! All of the caves are fascinating and unique, and the current phenomena of the newly-hatched ‘baby dragons’ at Postojna Caves provides an additional reason to visit. Read more here – https://adeleinslovenia.com/2016/06/01/the-phenomenal-postojna-proteus-phenomena/

Underground river Pivka in Postojna Cave_photo Iztok Medja for Postojnska jama

VISIT, TASTE & DRINK RADOVLJICA

Rainy days always bring an influx of visitors to the Radovljica area as the small town packs in quite a few sights of interest. You can visit the Lectar Gingerbread Workshop, the Museum of Apiculture, the Šivec House Gallery, and the Beekeeping Education Centre of Gorenjska. More here – http://www.radolca.si/en/

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I don’t know about you, but this miserable weather makes me want to eat, eat, and then eat some more! The participating Taste Radol’ca restaurants all offer home-cooked, and locally sourced and produced food. Or why not visit the Sodček Wine Bar for a wine tasting session. More here – https://adeleinslovenia.com/taste-radolca/

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LISTEN TO SLOVENE FOLK MUSIC AT AVSENIK

Visit Avsenik in Begunje na Gorenjskem – home to the world-renowned legendary Avsenik music – a popular style of folk music. There are regular live events, festivals and workshops, and you can also visit the gallery and museum. More here – http://www.avsenik.com/en

TAKE IN SOME CULTURE AT SUMMER MUSEUM NIGHT

There are hundreds of museums and galleries in Slovenia and a lot of attention is placed on culture and cultural-related events and activities. Next Saturday, 18th June, is Summer Museum Night, when, from 6pm until midnight, museums and galleries throughout the country offer free entrance and host special events. More information here – http://www.tms.si/PMN/?page_id=67

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GO SHOPPING

Admittedly, I’m not a fan of shopping, particularly large shopping centres and especially when on holiday in a place where the great outdoors is so ‘great!’ So when I say ‘shopping’ I don’t mean traipsing round clothes shops, and getting hot, bothered and irritated in changing rooms (or is that just me?). Instead, when on holiday, I prefer to browse craft shops, visit local markets, buy and try local produce, and try to find unique buys. I particularly like foodie events such as Odprta Kuhna (Open Kitchen), which takes place every Friday (weather permitting) in Ljubljana. Closer to home at Vila Podvin in Mošnje a market takes place on the first Saturday of every month from 9am-noon, come rain or shine. You can meet local producers, buy food and non-food goods, and enjoy a delicious lunch cooked by one of Slovenia’s top chefs, Uroš Štefelin. More information here – http://www.vilapodvin.si/events

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I hope to have provided some ideas and inspiration, after all, the weather may mean some plans have to curtailed but there’s always plenty more to see and do until the next sunny day comes along!

© Adele in Slovenia

 

 

Hell’s Cave

The last few days have been a perfect mixture of brilliant spring sunshine with cold, bright, crisp mornings, and warm afternoons. The week ahead looks like being more of the same. So, no complaints here – for a change!

On Saturday I went, almost literally, ‘to Hell and Back’, since I visited Hell’s Cave (Jama Pekel), near Šempeter in the Savinjska valley! Actually, I’d struggle to tell you exactly where it is since finding it was far from easy and in the end it was more by luck than judgement. The journey from home in Radovljica began relatively easily, following the motorway to Ljubljana, then onwards in the direction of Slovenia’s 2nd biggest city, Maribor, taking the exit for Šempeter. I suppose I only had myself to blame as I was armed with only a basic map but, in my defence, many of the larger tourist attractions throughout the country have familiar brown signs beside the major roads to direct visitors, this one, alas, did not and is woefully lacking in signage;  rather strange since it seems to be a relatively popular and visited one. Oh well, at least I got to see some of the hidden parts of the countryside which I wouldn’t have otherwise! If you plan a visit, as long as you turn right on leaving the motorway, you will, eventually, pick up the signs to the cave as it is only a couple of kilometres from the motorway – just don’t, whatever you do, turn left!!!

Anyway, once I arrived at the cave, all was forgotten and it was well worth the effort. When one thinks of caves in Slovenia, of course the world-famous Postojna caves and the UNESCO listed Skocjan caves are the ones that immediately spring to mind. Slovenia, though, actually has over 10,000 registered caves, and to think that those are the ones that are known about, who knows what else lurks in the mysterious underworld. Many of them are largely unexplored whilst others, those that are open to the public, are not as vast as the aforementioned ones, but nonetheless each offers an intriguing glimpse into the underground karst world. Hell’s Cave is no exception, and the highlight is most certainly the 4m waterfall which is actually inside the cave, the only of its kind in the country.

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The Ponikvica stream carved out the cave and runs through it throughout the part that is now open to the public. It is well-equipped with boardwalks, ladders, lights etc. though very narrow in places and quite a lot of ducking is required for anyone over a few feet tall (oops, metres tall – still can’t get to grips with European metric measurements!). The name of the cave originates from the rocks at the entrance to the cave which, with a bit of imagination, appear to form the shape of the devil and additionally, during the winter when the temperature inside is warmer than the outdoor temperature, it appears as if steam is coming from the cave’s entrance.

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Guided tours of the cave are available daily on the hour, from 10am-5pm from 1st April – 30th September; in March and October it is only open at weekends with the last tour at 4pm. During our group’s tour, we witnessed a pair of sleeping bats, yet to wake up from their winter hibernations, as well as a crab-like creature which is at home in the stream within the cave. Following the tour I took a walk on the forest nature trail which begins at the entrance to the cave and is easy to follow; just follow the green owls! The 2km circular trail takes less than 30 minutes and is nice way to begin, or end, a visit to the cave.

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Nearby is a Roman Necropolis which I had also planned to visit but on this occasion was unable to since the monuments are still covered up for the winter period. About 2000 years ago a Roman road ran through the area around Šempeter and the necropolis, discovered quite by chance in 1952, is considered the most important of the remains from the Roman era, not just in Slovenia, but in Central Europe. So, it will, for the time being, remain on my lists of ‘places to go’ and about which I hope to write about some time soon – I’ll go equipped with a map next time though!

You can read more about the cave, the necropolis, and the other attractions in the area on the Šempeter Tourist Association website here – http://www.td-sempeter.si/en/

The tradition of making and floating models vessels, made by local children and illuminated by candles, in the streams in the villages of Kropa and Kamna Gorica will take place this week. This age-old iron-forging custom takes place annually on the eve of St. Gregory’s Day. The models, which are a mixture of unique art creations made from paper, cardboard and wood with candles affixed either on the exterior or interior, create a colourful effect against the dusk setting. This custom dates back to the era of manual iron forging, before the introduction of the Gregorian calendar in 1582, when the name day of St. Gregory was considered the first day of spring. With the weather we’ve been having in the past few days, this year it holds true. Unfortunately, due to work commitments, I likely won’t be able to attend this year, which is a shame as it is a spectacle worth seeing, so here are a couple of photos from last year.

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© AdeleinSlovenia 2015

Snowy Slovenia and Happy 2015!

Although Christmas Day itself wasn’t ‘white’, just 2 days later, as had been forecast, the snow arrived – and plenty of it too. On Sunday morning I woke up to the familiar winter sound of snow ploughs and people outside shovelling snow from one pile to another, digging out their cars and clearing their pathways and driveways. Those that know me, and regular readers of my blog, will know only too well that I’m far from a fan of the white stuff although actually I don’t mind the virgin, powder, dry snow; what I don’t like are the inevitable icy pavements and paths that follow and wish it were possible to just enjoy the snow for a few days and to then wake up one day and find it all gone – if only! This was the view from out of my window on Sunday morning, and the path down to the Šobec camp (right).

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Of course, owners of Slovenia’s ski resorts will be doing cartwheels to celebrate this big dump of snow as it means their season can start in earnest and will provide a much needed boost to their coffers. Some of the country’s largest and most popular are; Krvavec, Vogel, Cerkno, Maribor’s Pohorje, and Kranjska Gora. Others include Golte, Stari vrh, Soriška planina and many more. Sadly, Kanin, Slovenia’s highest ski resort in the Soča valley, still remains closed and it can only be hoped that a rescue package can be found for what was once a thriving winter destination. The advantage of many of Slovenia’s ski resorts is their ease of access and, in comparison with neighbouring countries, the relative cheapness of ski passes.

It all looked so different on Christmas Day when I took my parents, who were visiting from the UK, for a surprise trip to see the Live Christmas Nativity in the Postojna Caves. A visit to the caves is magical whenever you visit, but on this occasion it was made even more so by the cast of actors and singers performing nativity scenes and Christmas songs. Before reaching the entrance of the caves, there is a working watermill, as seen below, and which you can visit to see flour-grinding demonstrations.

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The Postojna Caves are one of the top tourist attractions in Slovenia and really worth a visit. The experience begins with a ride on the mini-train which takes visitors into the heart of the vast cave system and thereafter a large part of the trip is made on foot, accompanied by guides, before returning to the train to exit the caves. The UNESCO listed Škocjan Caves are equally as impressive (minus the train) so if you are visiting Slovenia, do make sure to visit one of Slovenia’s karst caves, you won’t be disappointed. I’m afraid since flash photography is not permitted, I don’t have any great photos of the interior of the caves; all the more reason then to come and see them for yourselves!

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In Radovljica meanwhile, we were entertained on Boxing Day by Tobia Circus performing live in the old town centre with an impressive, though bizarre, act which consisted entirely of various tricks performed with brooms!

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So, it’s almost the end of another year and thus time for reflection on the highs and lows of my year. I’ll get the ‘lows’ out of the way first, since there really was only one; the weather! It began with the devastation caused by the glaze ice in February (http://wp.me/p3005k-bf), the effects of which are still very much in evidence in forests and woods, particularly in the central area of the country. Otherwise, it was the rain and lack of sun that meant it was a bit of a wash-out of a year, meaning my hiking and biking trips were less frequent and ambitious than I had hoped.

Now, on to the ‘highs’. On the professional side, after almost 8 years living here, my efforts seem to be finally paying off and I have a marked increase in the amount of translating and proofreading work I have been doing of late. But perhaps the astonishing success of my blog is one of my proudest achievements of the year. When I began writing it in 2013, I had no idea if anyone would find it/read it, however, in it’s first year, it had 10,000 readers; this year it has racked up over a further 30,000 readers taking the total to over 40,000 since I began writing it. Along the way I’ve had lots of positive feedback, helped many readers who have contacted me for advice and/or assistance, and met some of my readers too. I believe the thirst for information about Slovenia will continue to grow and I hope to try to keep providing as much up-to-date information about my life here in Radovljica and the surrounding areas; my hikes, bike trips, and trips further afield. My Adele in Slovenia Facebook page has also mirrored the success of the blog and I will also endeavour to keep providing relevant up-to-date information there too, as well as photos on my Pinterest page.

On the personal side, well my year is ending much the same as it began i.e. alone. However, I don’t see that as a negative. This year for me was about regaining some of my lost confidence and assertiveness, meeting new people, building friendships, and continuing to live a relatively quiet, but content, life in this tiny corner of Europe. So all in all, 2014 was a good year and here’s hoping 2015 will be even better!

HAPPY NEW YEAR TO YOU ALL!

© AdeleinSlovenia 2014