Our adventure actually began in Venice, Italy. We landed in Venice, picked up a car, then drove to Trieste, Italy and then onto Ljubljana, Slovenia. But all of that was way too much for a single story, so I broke it down into regional segments. This particular story covers the Postojna caves and the Predjama castle.
First off, about the driving. It was way easier than you might think. They drive on the right (and correct, haha) side of the road. Using google maps trip navigation works very well, not a single issue or missed turn.
As you cross into Slovenia, be sure to stop and get a vignette. This is their replacement for a tolling system. It’s required by law. If you aren’t able to get one when you cross into the country, stop at the first gas station you come to. They are €15 for 7 days. This means you sail through most of the toll areas.
It took us a little more than an hour to get to the caves from Trieste. We considered this an equal part of enjoyment for the vacation since it was so beautiful driving through the foothills and back country roads of Slovenia. There was hardly any traffic, so it was quite relaxing and enjoyable.
Note that the Postojna Caves are very popular, and most of the tours will sell out days in advance. How sad for you to drive all the way out there only to be turned away because all the tours are sold out. Sign up online and get your tickets in advance! This is the way of the future for most all tourist activities anyway.
There are countless caves in and around the Slovenia area. The trick is to find one that is safe and well run. Postojna caves are extremely well done. To start, if you arrive hungry, there are some really good touristy restaurants right there on the premises. Mostly hamburger and hot dog places, but they do serve wine, beer, and coffee. There is one place that is a slightly higher venue, but we didn’t try it.
One thing that was really interesting about this place is they have an area directly accessible that goes into a cave area where they have several exhibits set up. There were three or four displays that housed live proteus salamanders. These guys have lived in dark caves for so long that they no longer have eyes! And their skin is an albino-like pinkish white (essentially colorless). This is a “must see”. Sorry, couldn’t resist. There are other equally interesting exhibits in that area related to life in the caves.
For our tour, we rode the rail cars deep into the caves, then got out and walked through them with a tour guide. He stopped at various points and give us some history about the caves or pointed out some interesting facet. It was very enjoyable and informative.
I would recommend wearing a hat as there is a lot moisture in the caves and it sometimes drips down on your head. It’s also a little chilly, so a light jacket or sweater would be appropriate.
All told, we probably spent around three hours at the facility. Definitely time well spent.
I promise you this is not a professional endorsement for the Predjama castle, and they are paying me nothing to say this: I have literally been to more castles than I can even remember, and this is one of the most interesting castles I have ever toured!
I mean, first of all, just look at it:
It was originally constructed in the 11th century then rebuilt after an earthquake around 1570, and remains essentially untouched since. It is literally built into the side of the mountain and integrates into the caves within the mountain.
The castle was most famously inhabited by a knight, sir Lueger, who was also an infamous robber baron. Legends treat him as a Robin Hood, of sorts, and his father was the mayor of Trieste. Anyway, I’m not going to spoil the story for you or reiterate what dozens of existing sites can tell much more flamboyantly than I, but it is quite a tale.
The castle is fully open to the public (but not all of the caves) and the tours are self guided, so you basically go in and explore at your own pace. You can hire guides to take you through and get all the nitty gritty, but we didn’t do that. I don’t think you can get a guided tour at the castle proper but have to hire them elsewhere. As I have previously indicated, an excellent castle with a dramatic story to tell. Even without a guide, there is enough labeling and signage to give you the full story.
It’s about an hour drive to get to Ljubljana proper from the castle.
Oh yes, and they really didn’t like me hanging out the window waving to the peasants: