After driving the pretty road in the far west of Slovenia, we reached the entrance of Škocjan caves in time to join a guided tour through the caves of Škocjan. After walking down for ten minutes with a multinational group, we were briefed in four languages about the caves, and waited to see how the groups would form. The Italian/German group was much smaller than the Slovenian/English one, so the choice was easy. Moreover, the guide of the group seemed more relaxed. It was another hot summer day, but we carried a jacket to be sure not to get cold during the more than 90 minutes we would spend underground. Exploration of the caves starts through a man-made tunnel to reach the caves themselves, adding to our excitement of what we were about to see.
The first part of the walk through the caves is called the Silent Caves, or the Tiha Jama. Here, there are several tunnels, halls, and openings adorned by stalactites and stalagmites. During the briefing, we had been told that taking pictures was not allowed, but soon, a few of us made sure to be at the back of the group, sneaking pictures of the impressive sights of the caves. The other guide had threatened to confiscate equipment used to shoot the caves, but our guide seemed not to mind much. Moreover, without using flash, no damage was done to the caves anyway. One of the most evocative sights in the Silent Cave was the Organ, a formation of stalagmites that resembles an organ, and which can actually be used to produce music. The end of the Silent Cave was the Great Hall, a 30m high space with larger formations. So far, we had been walking on relatively dry ground, and had only occasionally felt drips falling on us from the ceiling. From the Great Hall, we could already hear the sound of a rushing river, and indeed, when we stepped into the next section of the Škocjan caves, we found ourselves on top of the underground canyon through which the Reka river flows. This part of Škocjan is called the Murmuring caves.
We could look ahead into the canyon, thanks also to the lights, and the sight was truly majestic. We were actually looking at one of the largest underground canyons of the world. While our path was descending, we were getting always closer to the river, until we reached the Cerkvenikov bridge, 45m above the river that continued its way towards the west. From here on, the path was right above the river, and we had some dramatic views into the abyss below us. After a visit to the Bowls Hall, where we saw a formation of terraced bowls which were dry, we reached the outside world again. We had only seen 2.5km out of the more than 6km of underground caves. But our exploration did not stop here; we continued walking on a path hewn out in the cliffs, much like the path we had walked inside the underground canyon. We saw the river Reka, running through waterfalls and a pond, before it begins its underground flow. We now had to climb out of the depression caused by a collapse a long time ago, across a natural bridge, until we reached the level where the village of Škocjan is located. A viewpoint close to the visitor centre offers a good view of the collapsed doline that exposed the underground river of Reka. We were back to the "normal" world.
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