Slovenia

Today we crossed the border and went to Slovenia. The coach picked us up at eight. The first destination was Postonjnska caves. Our ticket entry time was 11am and we get there with plenty of time to spare. It is one of the UNESCO world heritage sites. As we enter the caves, we are directed to board a small train. In twenty minutes it travels 2 kilometres through a tunnel and we arrive at the more open part of the cave. Our guide describes the origins of the cave and gives us a quick basic lesson on the formation of the stalactites and stalagmites. The walk inside the cave is about a kilometre long but it takes us about an hour in total, with stops along the way for explanations. The walk is up steep wet slopes and over a bridge built by WW1 prisoners of war to the most beautiful part of the caves and then back again. This part of the cave has an area where the stalactites look like thousands of straws poking through the ceiling and another which look like curtains. It is to do with the speed with which the water drops and the time it takes for the calcium carbonate crystals to form as the water evaporates. It apparently takes 100 years for 1 centimetre of the stalactite to grow. There is a white section which gives you the feeling that you are walking through a winter wonderland, with the surfaces of the formations glistening like marbles. It is quite cold in the caves as well and it gave you the impression that you were somewhere in Siberia rather than in Slovenia. The red area was formed where the water had seeped through soil rich in iron. We also had a glimpse of the cave creatures in the form of salamanders or human fish as they are otherwise called. There is a concert area just like the one we saw in the caves in Gibraltar where echoes can hold for six seconds. Another train ride and we exit the caves through the part of the tunnel which endured a gas explosion which resulted in the interior of that part of the cave turning black. This is where the Germans hid explosives during the Second World War but it was blown up by the Slovenian Partisan Resistance leaving the Germans short of fuel. The fire raged for a week and left this part of the cave damaged. We have been to numerous caves over the years, Cueves de las Calaveras near Denia in Spain, Batu caves in Malaysia, St Michael’s cave in Gibraltar, Cheddar Gorge in Somerset and have even swam in caves in Cancun, but have never experienced anything like this.

Slovenia was part of the Austrian Hungarian empire for a long time. I never used to pay much attention to the history of a place in the past, but realise now that it plays a significant part in the cultural influence of the country. Since tasting Goulash and Apple strudel for the first time in Budapest, I’ve been hooked and now have it every time I visit Austria or anywhere where it’s on the menu. So we had Goulash for lunch and then made our way to the world renowned Lipica horse stud farm to spend the afternoon.

I have seen these Lipizzaner horses in Vienna, but now get the chance to see how and where they are bred and trained. This stud farm was established in 1580. When born the foals are black or brown in colour and they lose their melanin along the way and become white as they grow older. A tiny portion of the horses stay black or brown. The stallions are then trained to become show horses and the best ones are selected and trained further to perform more complicated jumps which are known as ‘airs above the ground’. There is a 45 minute show where the best of the horses show us their skills in dressage and other performances. I have watched horses perform dressage at the London Olympics. As they dance their way through classical music with each step in rhythm and with the tempo of the music, you can only marvel at how intelligent and skilful these creatures are. Following this we get a guided tour of the stables.

All in all it has been one of the most memorable days. We get back in time for dinner. Tomorrow we have a very long day ahead with a very early morning start.

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