On October 3rd, 2016 I had the great pleasure of waking up in dreamy Slovenia, near the end of a shockingly wonderful trip that found m’lady and I circling the beautiful nation in a rental car.
After feasting on a splendid breakfast in the hotel we were off, with our first stop being the highlight of the day (and one of the big standouts of the entire trip), Predjama Castle, the Castle In The Rock.
Built sometime in the 1200’s, Predjama is the Guinness World Record holder for the biggest castle built in a cave, and the place is instantly impressive. Stark, four-foot thick walls and turrets tower above a strong river below, and all of if built into and jutting out of the mouth of a huge cave. Inside, the walls of many of the rooms and chambers are half cave and half man-made. It’s just so…castley.
We took the tour and marvelled, clicking endless pictures along the way. There are a lot of stories surrounding the place but the best involves a siege back in the fifteenth century that lasted a full year. The forces that held camp outside of the castle were ignorant to the fact that Predjama backed onto a cavern system that allowed the prince holed up inside easy access to the world outside, and thus the siegers were baffled as to how the rebel-royalty was able to maintain supplies in the castle, including the fresh cherries he would sometimes throw out his window to tease (and further baffle) his tormentors.
(The castle also had a secret, very elaborate system installed that captured and collected dripping water from throughout the cave, keeping the prince and his staff well-hydrated even when the waiting army outside dammed the river and cut off what they thought was the castle’s only water supply.)
After a year and a day one of the prince’s servants sold him out, informing his master’s enemies that the royal toilet was the most vulnerable part of the castle. Sticking out of one side of the large complex the small room was the only part of the castle that did not have fortified walls. That night the servant signalled to the forces outside when his boss skipped to the loo and one catapult strike later the siege was finally ended.
But you know, siege or no siege, all of the castles would have been so cold and dreary back then. They were nothing but self-imposed prisons for the wealthy and powerful. it’s no surprise that castles often get converted into actual prisons (like Ljubljana Castle for example, which we visited a few days earlier). They don’t need much in the way of renovation.
On our way back to the car we stopped at a gift shop and bought a little stuffed human-fish we named Huey. Human-fish (or olm) are, of course, small pink blind cave-dwelling salamanders that rarely mate, can go years without eating, and live up to a century. When they were first discovered people thought they were baby dragons, and with their four little legs and winding pale body that’s exactly what they look like.
We finished the day in the town of Bled, staring wistfully at the unbelievably picturesque church that sits upon the only naturally-occurring island in all of Slovenia. You really should google it.
(You can read about the whole trip to Slovenia – which actually began with a stay in Venice – here. It’s a long read, but there are lots of pictures, so you can skim.)