Postojna - feature

Caves as Entertainment

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Words by Dalene Heck / Photography by Pete Heck

In the spirit of giving ‘second chances‘, I decided to face a familiar fear.

The Castellana caves in southern Italy gave me a pretty intense scare. The passages were cramped and dark, the whispers from our small group were muffled around sharp corners and echoed around others. Thoughts of suffocating in enclosed spaces and being spooked by creepy crawlers dominated me the entire time. I counted down the minutes until we were finally led out by our guide.

Damn you Indiana Jones, Arachnaphobia and Lord of the Rings. You instilled a deep fear in me that resulted in the onset of heart palpitations, perspiration, and a bruise on Pete’s squished hand. All just from a little hike underground.

Why then, pray tell, would I subject myself to this again?

In the name of exploration. To overcome my fears. (And because our good friends David and Vesna wanted to take us there!)

Turns out, the second time wasn’t so bad. The Postojna Caves in Slovenia have over 20 kilometres of underground tunnels, and are the top tourist site in the country.

Top-tourist-site-in-the-country‘ means it is built for mass consumption. They don’t want crazy ladies with deep-seeded fears to be screaming and ruining everyone’s good time. The best way to prevent that: make it feel like an amusement park.

As soon as the train accelerated to take us deep into the caves, kids began cheering. The tiny engine whipped us around corners and sped through massive, well-lit rooms. And as we passed through one that was illuminated with large crystal chandeliers, I knew there was nothing to be afraid of.

(Or, at the very least, I was too ashamed to admit it at that point).

Postojna - Train into cave

The chandeliers were the clincher. Hard to be afraid of a tastefully decorated cave!

Postojna - chandalier

Or a formation that looks like a delicious ice cream cone.

Postojna - Ice Cream Cone

And there was even an appropriately named ‘Spaghetti Room’!

Postojna - The Spaghetti Room

After having shed my fear, I began to appreciate the caves for the miracle of nature that they are. Formed by tiny drops of water over millions of years, the variations in size and shape of the structures are dramatic and fascinating.

Postojna - Inside the cave

Postojna - walking through

Afterwards I read that there are almost 100 species of underground animals in the caves. (CREEPY!) I’m glad I faced my fear, but I am sure that it will be the last time.

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  1. The caves were an adventure but they still scared me. The pressure and weight of the rocks over my head. I can’t get over the thought that if it falls, I’ll never see sunlight again and I’m TOO far underground for the sun to of ever reached here. I was STILL weary, even WITH the tourist infrastructure!

  2. I’ve never been afraid of caves but I can understand the reluctance of those who are… especially the really deep, winding ones because you really lose your sense of direction and that trapped feeling can be overwhelming. There were some really cool caves in Tasmania that I checked out and they had very similar formations to the ones in your pictures, particularly all the little ‘straws’. Although I will say your pictures turned out better than mine lol

    1. The fact that the Postojna Caves were quite “open” also made it much easier on me. The cramped ones we were in while in Italy were much more scary!

  3. Caves give me a weird feeling too – it’s almost claustrophobic knowing that I couldn’t get out quickly if I needed to. I went caving recently in Wales, and the experienced guides pointed out an area where there had been a recent cave-in; that was unsettling!

    1. When we were touring Mt Etna in Sicily, I skipped the ‘cave’ part of the tour for that exact reason! The ground was far too unsettled and I know I would have lost my cool down there!

  4. I’d never been afraid of caves until I went caving in Carlsbad Caverns, New Mexico and realized I’d only ever been in “tourist” caves that have nice paths you stick to. Since, I’ve been caving twice and admittedly I totally get freaked out by the small spaces. But it’s always an awesome experience!

    1. I think I’ve hit my ‘caving’ limit. It was awesome, but I don’t know if I would want to do more unless there is a fun train and some chandeliers. 🙂

  5. Glad to hear you gave caves a second chance, Dalene. And also glad to see I’m not the only one who took illegal photos at Postojna. 😉

    1. Haha, they are pretty lax on those rules, hey? By the end we were taking pictures right in front of the guides and they didn’t say a word!

  6. Wow, those caves are awesome! Love the chandelier and spaghetti shots. (Uh, that last part came out wrong.)

    And I’m with you: There are few things I’m truly terrified of, but small, cramped spaces are at the top of that list!

  7. We just did the caving in Budapest. For that one you have to crawl (slide) on your belly to get through some of the holes. Helps if someone pulls and pushes you too!

    Fair to say you might not enjoy that experience…

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