This turned out to be one busy day. We woke up really early to have breakfast at 8 a.m. It was actually quite a decent breakfast for such a small hotel and the guy from last night was making us tea and coffee. So we were out the door at nine o’clock with an idea of spending a couple of hours exploring Piran.
Piran turned out to be a very cute little town. And by little I mean that we walked around it twice within just one hour. It had some nice views from the top of the hills, which surrounded the town with most of the buildings being close to the shore of the peninsula.
Piran city walls seemed to be very high up and we decided against hiking up there as it was quite hot already in the morning.
We really weren’t in any kind of hurry, but after an hour we have seen what we wanted to see, so we went back to our hotel, collected our suitcases, and decided to walk to the parking garage the same way we came yesterday, because how hard could that be? Well, apparently lugging your suitcase down the hill is nothing compared to dragging it up the hill. The walk was only about 10 min, but it seemed to take forever. When we finally got on the top of that freaking hill, we noticed that the old city walls were right there! So yeah, we actually managed to climb the hill we refused to climb. 😀
Our next stop was at Škocjan cave, which can be accessed only with the tour and in May they have tours only every two hours as it’s not the season yet. To be honest I have no idea why May isn’t considered “season”, because the weather is fantastic and everything should be free of snow or any other dangers. So the next possible tour was starting at noon and we had about 1,5 hours to get there, which was perfect.
We got to the Škocjan cave, which was a very well-organized place with a big parking lot and an entrance complex with ticket booth, restrooms, and restaurants. We bought tickets (18€ per person) and sat down to wait for the beginning of the tour. The tour started on time and all of us followed the three guides to the entrance to the cave. The walk took about 15 min for everyone to gather at the entrance. We were split into the groups of approximately 50(!) people, with two groups in English and one group in Slovenian. I wasn’t expecting the groups to be that big. So they started letting people in and we were in the first group because we just walked pretty fast and happened to stand in the beginning of most people. If you’re short on time, I suggest you do the same as they really waited for at least 10-15 min before letting the second group in. The good thing was that the second group didn’t breath down your neck for the entire time, but the bad thing was that the group was so big that it always took forever for it to move inside the cave.
The tour took about 1 h 45 min and it was absolutely unbelievably fantastic! I’ve been in many caves during my life, but this one was something special. It was humongous and it had the Reka river running through it. This cave is the most Tolkien-like place I’ve ever visited. Unfortunately it was not allowed to take any photos, but I also don’t think that they could’ve done this cave any justice. Here is the one image I found online, which gives you an idea of what it was like. More images can be found for example here.
There is an amazing collection of stalactites and stalagmites and of course this unbelievable crossing with the river running underneath it. There were also some old steps and bridges visible from the past and let’s say that today’s setup is very safe compared to what it was in the past. 😀
We heard later that taking of photographs is forbidden in this cave because of the fact that it has over 500 steps and if somebody would injure themselves by taking photos, it would be extremely difficult to evacuate them. Apparently that what has happened in the past, that people were taking so many pictures that they weren’t really looking where they were going. And I can totally understand that your attention is elsewhere! 🙂 This cave is not something I will forget quickly and we just saw a small part of it. There are three different tours you can take with varying level of difficulty. Also this tour did have a lot of steps and climbing up, so while I did bring a jacket with me (temperature in the cave is about 12°C), I didn’t use it as I was sweaty most of the time we were there. 😀
We were allowed to take a couple of pictures when we finally got outside.
After this, we decided to have lunch before moving on. We had a surprisingly good lunch at Restaurant Mahnic. I never expect anything from restaurants that don’t even have to try because the tourists will come anyway, but the food was actually good.
After lunch we started driving to Postojna cave expecting the same setup as with Škocjan Cave except that they had tours every hour on the hour, but that complex was huge! Much bigger that the one at Škocjan Cave. They sold tickets to four attractions (Postojna cave, Predjama Castle, Vivarium, and some kid’s attraction with butterflies if I remember correctly). We wanted to see the first three and bought the tickets despite the ticket agent expressing doubt that we would be able to see all of the locations. We arrived some 10 min before the next tour of the Postojna cave started, but they refused to sell us tickets for that anymore as they expect you to be at the entrance 15 min before the tour starts. So we bought tickets for the last cave tour of the day, which would be starting in two hours (at 5 p.m.) and we needed to visit the Predjama Castle and Vivarium before that. The tickets to the three sights were quite expensive (38,90€ per person + 5€ for parking), but in the end it was totally worth it.
So we headed towards Predjama Castle and got what seemed to be the last parking spot in the area. I think that during the summer the parking situation here is a real problem, but we got lucky as we really didn’t have the time to spend looking for parking. We started walking towards the castle and it was so cool! It was partly embedded into the mountain that was surrounding it and I haven’t seen anything like this before. I keep saying that, but this day showed me parts of Slovenia I had no idea existed.
We showed our tickets, got an audio guide and started exploring the castle. I admit that this tour of the castle was a rather hurried one. It takes about 20 min to drive between the Postojna cave and the Predjama Castle, so we only had about 40 min to spend in the castle. I think we saw everything, but we could’ve easily spent more time if we’d listen to everything on the audioguide. The restored parts of the castle were pretty boring or at least very similar to what you see in any castle, but the best part was outside and on the top floor where there was an attic of sorts. Basically there were stairs leading into a cave inside the mountain, which formed “an attic”.
We arrived back at the huge parking lot near the Postojna cave about half an hour before the tour was supposed to start and went into Vivarium, which was an exhibition on cave dwellers and also had an olm. An olm is a cave-dwelling creature, which does not have any eyes, but its skin is very sensitive to light. It can live up to 100 years and can survive without food up to ten years, which is unbelievable! I have seen one before in a cave, but this was an opportunity to take a better look at it. Apparently the scientists at the Postojna cave capture the food suitable for olms and feed them about once very three months, which is considered a very luxurious life for an olm. 😀
Vivarium was quite small, so we managed to see all of it in just 15 min and then moved to the entrance of the Postojna cave. Here I noticed that I forgot my jacket in the car, but figured that everything was ok because I didn’t need it in the previous cave either. Well, this cave was completely different, starting with a 2 km ride on a small train, then about 1,5 km walk and then again the 2 km train ride back. There were barely any steps, so this cave was much more accessible, but I also got quite cold.
Here you were allowed to take pictures, but it seems that you just can’t capture the dimensions of mountains and caves as well as you can see them in real life. They were spectacular! I mean first of all, the cave was one again enormous and stalactites and stalagmites were just unbelievably beautiful and the lighting they had set up just enhanced the view.
After this tour was finished, we headed towards Ljubljana, which was about 40 min drive away. Our intention was to drop off our bags at the hotel, drive the car back to the airport, and take the bus back to the city. We checked into Hotel Lev, left our bags, and drove to the airport. Because we needed to fit the Predjama Castle into this day instead of visiting it the day before, we were late from our “holiday schedule”. In the end by the time we returned the rental car, we missed the last bus from the Ljubljana airport, which departed at 20:10 and the only way back to the city was by taking a cab. Well, we had to get back, but instead of negotiating with the taxi drivers, we tried the desk in the arrivals hall, which said something about group taxis. As there weren’t any planes landing at this time, the driver offered to take just the two of us where we needed to go for 38€, which was much better from the 50€ the drivers asked on the night we arrived, so we gladly took the offer and asked the driver to take us to restaurant TaBar, which was located in the old town. The entire old town is a pedestrian zone, so the taxi driver dropped us off on the edge of it.
TaBar was a tapas place, which also sold a large variety of Slovenian wine by the glass. We were really hungry and once again really wanted a couple of glasses of wine after running around for the entire day. 🙂 The food was very interesting, not your average boring tapas with some of the dishes were really good and others not that much to our taste, but we had a very nice evening here. The wine was very good and the server could give us some good recommendations.
When we got back to our hotel, we also booked a taxi back to the airport two days from now, which cost 39€. In hindsight it would’ve been cheaper just to keep the car two extra days and pay for parking than to pay for taxi twice, but who would’ve known? But this I’ll say that the public transportation from and to Ljubljana airport is super crappy and cheating taxi drivers give a bad impression of the country. Luckily this is the only thing that we didn’t like about Slovenia.