Of Slovenia’s many show caves, none has quite the pulling power of Postojna, located in the heart of the country’s beguiling Karst region. And, at more than 20km long, it is Europe’s most expansive cave system.
Writing about Postojna in the seventeenth century, the great Slovene polymath Janez Vajkard Valvasor remarked: “in some places you see terrifying heights, elsewhere everything is in columns so strangely shaped as to seem like some creepy-crawly, snake or other animal in front of one”, an apt description for this immense grotto – a jungle of impossibly shaped stalactites and stalagmites, gothic columns and translucent stone draperies, all the result of millions of years of erosion of the permeable limestone surface by rainwater.
Although Postojna has been Slovenia’s most emblematic tourist draw since Emperor Franz Josef I set foot here in 1819, the smudged signatures etched into the craggy walls suggest an earlier human presence in the caves, possibly as far back as the thirteenth century.
Visiting the cave first entails a 2km-long ride through narrow tunnels on the open-topped cave train – a somewhat more sophisticated version of the hand-pushed wagons used in the nineteenth century – before you emerge into vast chambers of formations and colours.