Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Gobsmacked by Slovenia's Postojna Caves and Exploring Ljubljana's Castle.

Tue, September 27, 2016:
Ljubljana - Postojna Caves - Ljubljana Castle.
            Both Chriselle and I slept well and awoke to our unusual surroundings quite refreshed. We wished to make the most of the day ahead and did not waste too much time on showers as we hurried through them.

 Breakfast in the Hostel:

            Out hostel tariff included a rather wonderful breakfast buffet on which we feasted: scrambled eggs, cold cuts, sliced cheese, bread that we could toast in a toaster, spreads (jam and butter), yoghurt and juice. We ate well and even carried a sandwich with cheese and cold cuts with us to eat at lunch as we did not want to waste too much time in a restaurant.

            Taking instructions from hostel receptionists, we walked about 10 minutes to the bus station which was next-door to the train station in order to find the most efficient public transport to get us to the place we wished to see—the famous Postojna (pronounced Pos-toy-na) Caves.

    This is supposedly Slovenia’s biggest tourist attraction and we did not wish to miss out on seeing it. Accordingly, we found a train to get us there in about 45 minutes. We booked our tickets and found our platform and our train—thanks to a helpful railway employee who spoke very good English and guided us ably. Although there was a terrible delay before the train departed, eventually it moved and in about an hour, we were at the caves.

            Once at the train station, we were disappointed to discover that there was no public transport to get to the Caves—the only way we could reach there was on foot—a walk of about half an hour. Steeling ourselves for the trek ahead, we set off. Fortunately, it was a very nice day—neither too hot nor cold or windy—and asking for directions along the way, we finally got to the Caves.

 Exploring the Postojna Caves:

            Once we reached the Caves, it was a matter of getting tickets to enter the venue. Unfortunately, the tickets are by timed entry and we just missed the 12 noon entry. This enabled us to get tickets for the 1.00 pm entry—leaving us with enough time to get a snack lunch. We found a little eatery on the way to the main entrance and there we ordered cold beers (as it had started to get very warm indeed) and Kremsnista—traditional cake of the region made with phyllo pastry and thick layers of custard cream and whipped cream. It was quite delicious indeed, although not Chriselle’s cup of tea. We also both ate our breakfast sandwiches and at 12. 45, made our way to the entrance to get into the caves.

            Seeing the Postojna Caves was seriously one of the main highlights of our travels. Neither one of us had ever been in caves with natural rock formations that created stalactites and stalagmites. These were simply spectacular. Mile after mile of these natural wonders kept us enthralled as we boarded an electric railway train (the only one of its kind underground anywhere in the world) and gave ourselves up to the delight of the sights before us. It is impossible to describe in words exactly what we saw. After a while, we even gave up taking pictures as flash photography was not allowed inside and the formations could simply not be captured in the dark. We had a guide who gave us a commentary as we passed through varied parts of the caves—along the Russian Bridge, the Red Room, the White Room, etc. until we arrived at the piece de resistance, Brilliant White—an iconic dome-ended pillar that dazzled in its white luminosity. We were deeply impressed by every sight we saw. The train ride ended about an hour later when we were led back to the entrance of the Caves.

 Back to Ljubljana on the Train:

     We walked back to Postojna train station (having purchased return tickets) and just made the train by the skin of our teeth—there was a train each hour and we did not want to miss one. The scenery on our way to the caves and back kept us occupied on our journey and in about an hour, we were back in Ljubljana.

 Off to Ljubljana Castle:

     Once we were at the train station, we went straight to the city center in order to spend the evening exploring Ljubljana Castle. It was then about 4.00 pm, but the castle is open until 11.00 pm. We found the funicular train that whisked us up to the top with little effort while offering lovely receding views of the city below as we climbed ever higher. Once at the top, we were left to our own devices as we received maps to enable us do a walking tour at our own leisure.

            Although the Castle occupies a fine location, there was really nothing that impressed us much about it. We watched a film on its history which really told us nothing and left both of us disappointed. We climbed hundreds of steps to get to the Watch Towers for stirring views of the city. We could recognize a great deal of the square and churches below from our exploration on foot the previous evening. There were exhibitions to see, a puppet museum to visit, lots of cafes and restaurants, and some terraces. We watched the sun go down and the city’s lights come up as time passed slowly at the top. When we had our fill of the place, we took the funicular train down again and slowly made our way back home.

Dinner at Sokol Restaurant:

            By this point, we were both ready for a nice meal and we found the answer at Sokol, a traditional Slovenian restaurant where we opted for Mushroom Soup served in bread bowls. It was hearty and thick and very delicious and we really did enjoy it with the house red wine. Filled with our meal, we picked up more gelato along the way as we returned to the hostel at the end of a rather tiring day.

            Until tomorrow, cheerio…

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