Monday, September 19, 2016

Postojna Cave: making a dark and cold cave child-friendly

My obsession with Postojna Cave started in 2010 when I moved to Croatia. Wherever I go and whenever I look in Croatia, there's advertisement of Slovenia's Postojna Cave. The worst thing was actually the fact that we didn't manage to visit the freaking cave since 2010. So when we finally did this trip, my husband made fun of me every single day for the week, sending me pictures to my cell and leaving me leaflets of the cave everywhere, in my purse, on the dining table, in the car compartment... that was lots of fun for him.

Postojna Cave is not even the most essential cave system of Slovenia, although it's indeed the most famous. The bigger and more important cave system is Škocjan Cave, which carries the title of UNESCO natural heritage site -this is on our list for next destination.

On the day of our departure I was ecstatic. My husband asked me whether after all these years my expectation of the cave had built up so high I might be disappointed when I finally see it.

I felt the need to prepare babygirl well for the trip. Caves are dark, wet and cold. A scary place for a toddler. I wanted to enjoy the experience, and the last thing I wanted is a toddler screaming and wanting to get out of it in the middle of the tour. She really liked Oziđana pećina Cave we visited in Krka National Park (about that trip here) but Postojna Cave is way bigger than Oziđana pećina, it's 24 kilometers long (5 kilometers are open to visitors -which is a huge surface for a cave). Then I remember how she really liked the bats and bats story in Oziđana pećina, so we decided to reactivate the bat-mood two days before the trip to Postojna. We told her we're visiting bats' house -although there's no bats in Postojna Cave, but she has the idea of a cave as the house of bats. This story got her super excited, to which her dad spiced up with the story about human fish (Proteus anguinus), a very rare species live in Postojna Cave.

Who wouldn't be impressed with such a natural wonder?
We arrived in Postojna at around 11am and got the tickets (I didn't manage to buy them online, but it would've been cheaper -you could buy here). We paid €32 per person for my husband, his mom (she was visiting us in Ljubljana so we took her) and myself for a combo of the cave and Predjama Castle (story about this Castle in the next post), and €2 for babygirl -this price for up to 5 year old. The organized tour (we took the English group) started at noon so we had the time to have coffee and buy babygirl a little magnetic miniature of the human fish (they don't sell bats, of course).

Beautiful limestone: the kind of view seen during our train ride
40 visitors made up our group, led by a guide called Sandra. Except babygirl, there was only one other child in the group, but she was a small baby sleeping in a carrier. So obviously, my toddler was the loudest creature during the 1,5 hour tour. I mean, she's naturally loud, plus the good acoustic of the cave? Oh how she entertained the whole group with all her (super loud) comments -the ones like: "mama where are the bats though?? oh maybe the mommy bats and the daddy bats are working now so the baby bats are in the daycare. That's why there's none here, right??"

The path of the walking tour: easy, safe and child-friendly
We entered the cave by the electric train which drove us around 2 km. What can be more exciting to toddlers than train?! Temperature fell drastically as we drove into the cave -it's constantly around 10 degrees Celcius inside. We were ready with jackets, babygirl even wore her rubber boots so she could walk comfortably even in paddles. But if you don't have warm clothes, don't worry, they rent coats for €3.5. After we got off the train in the Great Mountain hall, we continued the tour walking (around 1.5 km), while our guide lady explained about the history and the nature of the cave, the creation of stalactite and stalagmite, the development of the cave and the ecosystem in it. We walked through the Russian bridge, the three most famous chambers -the spaghetti chamber, the white chamber and the red chamber,  the tunnel that lead to Pivka cave, the most beautiful stalagmite called Brilliant -which as well the symbol of the cave, the aquarium with some human fish in it, and ended up in the concert hall (oh the great acoustic of the concert hall!) where the train drove us back outside through slightly different route from the one we entered.

The "gothic" and "brilliant" stalagmite, the two most famous stalagmites, which are also the symbol of the cave
The aquarium I mentioned, with the human fish, was also a highlight attraction for babygirl. We saw at least three big human fish in it (they're averagely 20 centimeters long) and learn some interesting facts -that they live up to 100 years and could survive without food for up to 10 years!

When we got out of the cave, the rain was pouring. Babygirl was hungry so we decided to have lunch in one of the restaurants in the cave park complex called Jamski dvorec. Babygirl and I shared pumpkin soup and spaghetti bolognese, my husband got roasted porcini mushroom with salad and my mother in law got autumn risotto -with turkey and mushrooms. Once we're done with lunch, which was very good, at a fair price of around €10 per person, the rain stopped, so we walked back to the car at the parking lot (which cost €4 for the whole day).

So, if you've been thinking about going to a cave, but afraid your toddlers would not like it, don't worry! If you prepare them right, they could actually love the experience. Our did! Caves (even the big ones like Postojna) could be child-friendly too :)

As for my high expectation my husband questioned about, did the cave actually meet it? Absolutely. 

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