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Slovenia and the Skocjan Caves – Day 59
Monday 28th September 2009 – Slovenia
I decided on a bit of sightseeing today round Slovenia, and also a day trip to the caves. It would be a long journey there and back, but I had a feeling it would be a good day, as exploring is what travelling is all about in my mind. Read on to find out more.
Having been up most of the night, unable to sleep much due to the incessant, irritating itching all over my body, I was quite groggy when I woke up. I had to be up a little early to get the train to Divaca to the Skocjan Caves. It didn’t help much when as I slept, I scratched the bites unknowingly, causing me to wake up in a writhing state as my legs and feet were on fire with the pain and itching. When morning came I was more relieved than anything.
I showered and got ready to leave after covering my body in anti bite cream. As I set off from the hostel, the cream got to work and all my bites flared up. Walking was incredibly difficult, and immensely irritating.
I found myself at the station in good time, having taken a slight detour to the shop for a bit of breakfast and some lunch to take with me. I jumped on the train that was 15 minutes late, and enjoyed the ride to the caves.
The route was quite nice as we dissected little towns in the valleys, but the train never really got up to speed, it just plodded along. I didn’t really know where we were as the driver didn’t announce anything, and most of the stations we went through were very small, and looked almost derelict, but for the station controller waving a little green sign at the driver. The stations had no platforms either, and no sign to say where you were, or the sign was well hidden or well worn.
It got to half an hour after we should have arrived, and the train stopped in the tracks before a station. A lot of confused people left the train, so I followed, and to my relief I saw a sign on the one building present that said we were in the right place.
Out of the train station, everyone was piling onto a coach. I asked the driver in my touristy way if this was my coach also, but he pointed to a mini bus just behind and said this one is for me. I walked up and there was no-one there, except me of course, so I waited. Soon I was joined by two other guys that sounded they might be English, but I couldn’t be sure. We all hopped on the mini bus when the driver bounded towards us with a big smile on his face, and set off on the short journey to the caves.
Myself and the other two guys on the mini bus, each bought our tickets and we introduced ourselves. They were indeed from England, Birmingham to be exact. The tour began at 12:00, so we had a bit of time to while away beforehand. I used this time to look around the shop and empty my bladder, (not in the shop I should add).
The tour commenced when a girl walked through the seating area saying the tour had started. We didn’t know if she was the guide, but everyone followed so we guessed she was, there were many other people by this point. We headed down the hillside and up to a door leading to the caves. Here the group split in two, one English, the other non. Our guide spoke English, but not incredibly well. We understood all she was saying though.
The tour took us through some incredibly stunning cave systems, right into the heart of this cave, and it really did take my breath away.
We started in the first chamber, where stalagmites grew tall, and stalactites hung in their thousands from the cave ceiling. Some of the mites were huge, and also very thick. They would be hundreds of thousands of years in the making, maybe even millions. The tour went on fairly briskly, which didn’t allow an awful lot of time for reflection, and we soon entered chamber two, that I remember was called the organ chamber, for the organ shaped stalactites that dominated the chamber. The next part lead us into the great hall, or the kings hall I think she said. A vast open area housed many rock forms, some resembling figures. One in particular resembled a king in his throne, hence the name. I thought it looked like a king as soon as I saw it, I was amazed. In the centre of the hall stood the largest of the caves stalagmites, standing 15 metres tall and many meters wide. Other rock formations decorated the hall, with an array of colours resulting from the build up of certain minerals and substances. There was also a black on the ceiling. This however was due to the bats mess.
Further on through the passageways, we entered the penultimate chamber. This was by far the most impressive of them all. A descending walkway gave way to an enormous cavern which we circumnavigated, lights drawing the outline to the walkway ahead. Below was the soft murmur of water as it worked its way through the cave. I cant explain how significant this is, but the water rose in the cave by 170 meters during a flood many years ago. If you could see the size of this cave, and get a feel for the volume of water needed to fill the cave by this level, then you would not believe it. Bits of wood in the cave ceiling, put there during the flood by the high levels of water, helped my imagination piece it together. The beam from the guides torch also revealed the bats flitting through the air. There was no photography allowed in the cave, although people were sneaking in a sligh picture here and there, I’m not sure how well the pictures would come out though as it was fairly dark. The guide switched all the lights off behind us as we went, revealing an altogether different atmosphere, one of distinct eeriness. I wanted to venture back into the cave without the lights, just to get a different feel of the place.
The final chamber was reached, which led us back up out of the cave and into the open. We were given a choice here to either take the lift back to the top, or walk by way of the waterfall. There was no option as far as I was concerned. I headed for the walk route. I took my time at this point as the guide left us, and took in the sights and sounds with the 2 Birmingham guys. As we went on, the walk became tiresome, with many steps. It was here that the guys went back to the lift as I carried on the walk route. The waterfall was very dramatic, and the whole spectacle was inspiring. I loved it. It was very hot today and the walk did take its toll on me, especially as I was in wintry clothes to hide my bite marks from other people.
The tickets also included a look around the 2 small museums. I was the only one who took this option, as everyone else headed back to the start for a drink. The museums weren’t great by any stretch of the imagination, but they were interesting. Small dinosaur fossils that were unearthed here were the highlight within the museums for me. As I arrived back at the start, others were downing a pint, or having a meal at the restaurant. I looked to see when the next mini bus was coming, and surprise surprise, I missed it by 5 minutes. The next was due in an hour and a half. I spent this time sitting in the seated area outside under the trees.
The mini bus pulled up after what seemed a lifetime, and I got on with the 2 guys again. We had a laugh on the way back to the station, and I learned about the travelling the guys had done since retiring years back. It was good as we shared the same views about travelling. I hoped I would be as adventurous as that at that age, they were having a lot of fun.
My train wasn’t due until a further 2 hours, which was annoying as I could have been on the previous train if I had got the minibus before this one. Anyway, the bus was also going to be an hour for the other guys, so we chatted some more. The bus arrived and the guys went off, and I sat for a while longer outside the station in a nice shaded area under some conker trees. It was a tiny village, and there was nothing else I could do. As the train approached I went to the so-called platform, and boarded the train.
The trip back was very slow and made me sleepy, and as the sun went down behind the mountains, the darkness crept in and night time was upon us. I couldn’t even see if the train had stopped at the final platform or not, but as a few others on the train were departing, I followed.
I was too tired to worry about food this evening, and ashamedly I got another take away. I visited the 24 hour supermarket before arriving back at the hostel, then threw myself down onto the sofa in the common area. It was quite hard picking myself up and throwing myself down onto the sofa. It was nice and peaceful until a girl came in from Slovenia, sat down with her laptop in front of everybody, and had a conversation at full volume on her headset, without breathing between sentences it seemed, for many, many minutes. I got tired and left to get ready for bed. Shortly after an American couple came into the room. They has also had enough of this girls voice.
We introduced ourselves and swapped stories, and afterwards I covered my unsightly body in bite cream. I’m sure there were some horrified looks coming my way, but I didn’t care any more. The dreaded night time was upon me again, and I had visions of all the little bugs coming out to play again, as I’m sure I am carrying them around with me.
Written by Daniel Stevens,
Founder of Roundtheworldtrip.org.
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