I think that no one goes to Postojna without a visit to this castle.
Its most remarkable detail is its "impossible" location, in the slopes of a mountain and half hidden into a cave. Caves keep being a relevant detail, with a network of them serving the castle. Part of them may be visited, but we didn't - Postojna was waiting!
They are so big that only 25% is visitable, in an extension of 5 Km. From those, 4 Km are made by train, only 1 Km walking along the deepest part of the visitable area.
That's the uncommon detail, and I must confess that, having seen many caves (in Portugal, Spain, China and more) I was not impressed by their beauty.
The train speed didn't allow a detailed appreciation, but allowed a rather incomparable experience.
Pictures were officially forbidden, but with so many cameras flashing around who could resist? And no one said anything, except a Spanish lady that blamed each flash near or distant until getting tired.
The name of the castle "Predjamski Grad" describes it perfectly - it's the castle ("Grad") in front of ("pred") the cave ("jama"). I've never before seen a castle actually built into a cave halfway up a cliff... anywhere. This really is unique. The furnishings inside are reproductions but still very interesting to see. In fact anything wooden would have to be a reproduction as the humidity due to being in a cave is so great that everything rots. Do take the guided tour - it's really interesting, especially the story about the life (and strange death) of Erasmus Lueger (a sort of Slovene Robin Hood). The views of the surrounding countryside from the castle are fanastic too.
There can be no arguement that these caves are truely amazing. Seeing the wonders in here will be something I will never forget. But it could have been so much better. The cave train which takes you through the first part of the cave system is a great idea as it allows you to see so much more than you possibly could on foot, but it doesn't slow down at any of the most interesting points and so you can easily miss many of the best bits as you speed past. There is also no commentary to explain what you are looking at on the train, probably because this train was installed decades ago and such things weren't done then, but surely they could modernise? The next part of your visit is a guided walk. The guide we had was very knowledgable and informative, speaking excellent English - when you could hear her! The problem was that the English language group was over 100 people with just 1 guide. This is far too many for anyone to get much from the guides' commentary. The walk through the cave system was again done much too quickly for my liking. I would have liked more time to stop and wonder at what I was seeing. You do leave with a slight impression that the caves have become a real industry - get them in, get them out style. The tickets are pretty expensive too but I wouldn't have minded paying this price if I'd had just a little more time to appreciate it. However, I'm very glad that I went and saw the caves.
Despite feeling devoid of life, more than 80 species of animal live in the Postojna Cave system. Your piece of trivia for the day is that species that have adapted to life in the specialised cave environment are known as 'stygofauna' if they are water dwelling or 'troglofauna' if they are land dwelling - I happen to know that as I have had the dubious privilege of working on an Environmental Impact Assessment for a project that could potentially have disturbed specialised ecosystems of this sort! It is unlikely that you will encounter most of these beasties during your tour, so the best idea is to visit the Proteus Vivarium that is located close to the entrance. I didn't visit it myself as my small son had reached his limit for the day and needed to be otherwise entertained, but both my husband and daughter - both animal enthusiasts - raved about it.
The largest and most famous cave animal found at Postojna Cave is Proteus anguinus - known to its friends as the olm. This is a translucent salamander which is often referred to as the "human fish" for reasons that I can't really fathom, since it bears no resemblance to a person. They are amphibians, but have not evolved to the stage where their gills converted to lungs. They are quite big - about 30cm long - and apparently live for up to 70 years.
Forgive me if I regress to my geologist roots for a moment ...
From a geomorphological point of view, the Postojna region is the type location for karst - in layman's terms, it means that it is internationally recognised as the typical example of a limestone landscape that has been shaped by the dissolving influence of water. In this case, water has slowly dissolved the limestone to create underground cavern systems, some of which collapse to form sinkholes that create the characteristic 'dimpled' appearance of the landscape. Another characteristic of karstic environments is that there is relatively little surface water, as streams and rivers tend to flow to the underground through sinkholes.
Much of the karst terminology (karst, doline, polje) were originally Slovenian terms that now have international usage - well, at least in earth scientist circles. Seems like I speak more Slovenian that I thought!
In planning our trip to Slovenia, I was intrigued by mention of a 'disappearing lake' (Lake Cerknica) in the Postojna region. This piqued my curiosity and I was keen to visit this "now you see it, now you don't" stretch of water.
In reality, the 'disappearing lake' is a shallow body of water whose boundaries vary markedly with the season - at its maximum extent, it is apparently huge, with an area four times that of Lake Bohinj (Slovenia's largest lake). Given that the region is underlain by karstic limestone (see my travel tip on karst), water is not retained on surface, as most of it seeps from surface through fissures and sinkholes into underground cave systems.
I'm not sure whether we ever found the 'disappearing lake', but we did have fun trying to find it, and it was a very pleasant excuse for meandering through pretty countryside on a lovely summer's afternoon. I can tell you that we did find some marshy bits (being mid summer, the lake should have been approaching its smallest extent) and we did happen across a couple of streams draining towards large flat areas. Were these the vestiges of the disappearing lake? Who knows? Who cares?!!!
Of all the places that I visited in my first trip to Slovenia, the one I recall being most impressed by was the Postojna Caves, so it was a 'must see' when I returned 25 years later with my family.
Postojna had changed a lot since my last visit - much better developed tourist infrastructure, although I was pleased that the train that transports tourists underground was still as I remembered it. Rushing through the caves at speed is an eerie experience, and even though the tunnels are illuminated, it can be a bit offputting for sensitive children and those of a nervous disposition - the journey takes about 10 minutes from the entrance to the starting point for the tour.
The sheer scale of the underground caverns at Postojna is staggering - 21km of linked cave system has been identified to date. Like most caves that are open to the public, you only get to experience a tiny fraction of what has been identified, but even that is amazing. The stalagmite (think of 'm' coming up from the ground) and stalactite (think of 't' hanging down from the roof) formations are mind boggling, and as ever, they have been assigned fanciful names (I often imagine what sort of party those naming the formations must have had to see some of these shapes in pieces of rock).
It is only possible to visit the caves on a 1.5 hour guided tour (which is included in the entry price), and tours are conducted in a number of languages. Although the walkways are well constructed, bear in mind that the walk is 1.5km and there are some inclined sections that would be challenging to those with limited mobility. And if you're visiting with small children, bear in mind that you have to keep them on the walkways at all times, which can be a bit of a mission if they're excited and want to go exploring!
One thing that is easy to overlook is that caves have their own microclimate and are generally cold - in the case of Postojna, 9C. Especially if you're visiting in summer, it would be easy to forget this go underground in short sleeves, in which case you're in for a chilly hour. So either bring a jacket or hire one of the rather peculiar ethnic-looking cape arrangements that are on offer for a fee at the entrance (these are exceptionally unflattering garments, and I can't imagine anyone ever being tempted to 'permanently borrow' one - maybe why they're designed this way?). It's not wet in the section of the caves that the public can access, so you don't need to worry about waterproofs.
In the final cavern that you'll visit, there are a couple of large dinosaur skeletons. These actually have nothing to do with the caves, and don't even come from Slovenia, but were apparently a present from the Chinese and were put here because nobody had a better idea of where to display them!
Apparently a 'live' Christmas crib is displayed in the caves in the few days around Christmas, and there is also a Christmas market and 'chocolate market' at the entrance over the same period (see website for details) - sounds fun, but then I'm just a Christmas junkie!
Your visit of the Postojna Caves started by train. The rails were laid in the cave in 1872 and since 1945 an electric locomotive was use to carry tourists inside the caves.
The journey by train is 10 minutes long and along the trail you can see the Wedding Cave, the Cogress Cave and others caves which give you an idea about what you will see in the cave.
Velika Gora (The Great Mountain) is the first cave you visit when you left the train. Here you meet your guide. The great mountains is full of wonderful stalactites and stalagmites (the biggest ones of the whole cave) is fantastic and strange forms. Here you can see the great stalactite which is 115 meters tall and about 250000 years old.
You can see more photos on my travelogue.