Skocjanske jame, a unique UNESCO site

Skocjan

The Skoc­jan Caves are the  great­est under­ground Canyon in Europe and sec­ond great­est in the world. Enlisted in UNESCO because of its out­stand­ing uni­ver­sal value.

That is a strong char­ac­ter to start with, but there is more:

  • it is UNESCO and RAMSAR (inter­na­tional con­ven­tion of wet­lands) her­itage, acknowl­edged as one of the nat­u­ral trea­sures of planet Earth;
  • has about 130.000 vis­i­tors each year;
  • its 6 km long, 200 deep and has 26 water­falls inside;
  • it is 3 mil­lion years old and count­ing.
Location of the caves:

in the Skoc­janske Regional Park in Slove­nia, 60 km from Pos­to­jna and 113 km from Ljubl­jana, in the Matavun vil­lage.

How I discovered the caves:

I was dri­ving on Slove­nian roads from Lipica to Pos­to­jna when I saw a sign point­ing to the Skoc­jan Caves. The UNESCO sign made me turn the car in the direc­tion of the caves.

Arriv­ing lit­tle before clos­ing time, I have missed the last guided tour of the caves which started at 17.00, so I decided to spend the rest of the evening and night in the area. My first con­tact with the majes­tic world of the Caves was the panorama point, which was a 5 min walk from the park­ing place. Yes, my jaw dropped about 150 meters into the abyss of the waters flood­ing the doline, when  I saw this…

RekaThen I saw the small vil­lage, Skoc­jan which is a set­tle­ment over the huge cave..so its prac­ti­cally a vil­lage on the roof  of a cave with 223 m hol­low under­ground world under it. There are 3 vil­lages (Matavun, Skoc­jan and Betanja) a hun­dred meters apart, which is so speci­fic to Slove­nia coun­try side. The vil­lages are small, with 3–6 houses and one church, a grave­yard. No police sta­tion, doc­tor or phar­macy. Prob­a­bly, these insti­tu­tions are not much of a use here. Every­where you turn your head, there is the sound of the falling water of the Reka river, also because the wall rocks here are all lime­stone.

The Reka River

The river Reka:

The river Reka, the high­light of this carstic land, flows on the sur­face for 50 km. Then, boom dis­ap­pears under­ground into the Skoc­jan Caves. Imag­ine 4 m3 /s of water dis­ap­pear­ing and  then, re-appear­ing. Reka has a  34 km route inside the cave, and finally sur­faces near Mon­fal­cone in Italy. This river shares the same des­tiny with another famous river of Slove­nia. Called the “princess of the moun­tain” the Soca river also sur­faces in Mon­fal­cone. Read my story of its amaz­ing jour­ney, here.

Reka cuts into lime­stone bedrock one of the world’s largest known under­ground river canyons, that was cut into the lime­stone bedrock by the Reka River. Along its course, the river sud­denly dis­ap­pears into the karst under­ground, before pass­ing through a vast and pic­turesque chan­nel of up to 150 meters in height and more than 120 meters in width

The Reka which means THE River has aroused admi­ra­tion, fear and spir­i­tu­al­ity. The ancient Greeks believed that the river Reka that was so mys­te­ri­ously dis­ap­pear­ing under the ground was one of the por­tal to Hades- the land of the dead. For that rea­son, they were throw­ing their offer­ings into its waters. The locals’ rela­tion to the river was always one of love and respect. The later because Reka is capa­ble to grow  132 meters in height  in 10 hours, as in 1826 and 2014.

The canyon of Skocjan Skocjan stalactites Skocjan lake in the cave Skocjan inside passage Skocjan inside passage

Tak­ing the first steps trough the cave, I landed in a forest of drip­stone for­ma­tions some 15 m high, beau­ti­fully and dis­cretely light­ened. Water drops were falling from the ceil­ing so imag­ine the sound­track of the place. At some point, Eva, our guide, switched the lights off so we found our­selves in pitch dark­ness… and she said: ” This is what the first explor­ers of the cave heard and saw. This is what it felt like.” That min­ute, was amaz­ing.

Skocjan stalacmite

Interesting facts:

The caves were never vis­ited with­out a guide, because of the dan­gers implied. The first guides to show the caves to those inter­ested , were the locals.

There is a speci­fic gas inside the caves which inhaled occa­sion­ally is ben­e­fi­cial to health, but more it is not. For this rea­son, the cave guides are not allowed to take more than 2 tours (1,5 hours each) per day.

 It takes 10–15 years for a sta­lag­mite to grow 1 mm, so the ones I have had the joy to pass by today, took 225,000 years to grow. A blink of an eye…

Feel like staying a little longer in this carstic paradise?

There are not many accom­mo­da­tion facil­i­ties in the area, as it is small in its self, but I had a very good expe­ri­ence with the Betanci Guest­house. I have paid 25 euros for a room, had din­ner with local dishes and beer for less than 10. The kitchen is authen­tic Slove­nian – no Inter­na­tional dishes and the dessert I have got on the house, called Struklji, leaves my mouth water­ing to this day.

Strong flavors come in small bottles:

Slove­nia, with a pop­u­la­tion of 2 mil­lion peo­ple, has 11.000 dis­cov­ered caves, 3 UNESCO sites and 6 other on the wait­ing list. 13% of the land sur­face is a nat­u­ral reserve and its the birth land of the word „dolina“ used ever since.

Useful links: Regional Park

Note: All pho­tos are the cour­tesy and prop­erty of author – Borut Lozej and source – Archive Park Skoc­janske jame, which were so kind to give me full res­o­lu­tion pho­tos (as it is strictly pro­hib­ited to take pic­tures inside the caves).

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