|The view from the tournament field.|
In the last several years, though, the experience has been jazzed up. Most of the rooms have some sort of recreation of a scene of life in the castle back in its medieval heyday, and audio guides are on offer in 17 languages. Plus, the cave system beneath the castle has been opened up for tours. When we were there before, all we could do was peer into the entrance.
(Note: The photos of inside the castle are sort of randomly arranged to break up the paragraphs, or I´d have to dump them all at the end.)
To get there, you have to leave the main road to wind (literally) through several small, picturesque villages up to the castle. At least, they were picturesque to me, who was not negotiating the hairpin bends and cliff edge. (Every time I go through these beautiful places, I have an urge to move out to the hills, quickly tempered by the obvious reflection that we would never be Slovene enough to fit in.)
The cave tour, as we knew before we went, was only for those six and up, so I had already elected to play outside with the three year-old. We threw a ball around the area used for the annual medieval tournament, complete with a viewing box for the lords and ladies that made for much climbing fun. This weekend, there was a break from the relentless heatwave, so playing outside in the afternoon for a whole hour was extra appreciated. We had only just retired to get coffee and ice cream when husband and teenager emerged from the cave.
According to them, the cave experience was pretty interesting because it was unlit except by their headlamps. It is also warmer than normal, meaning that stalactites and stalagmites grow more slowly. Oddly, it also has the record for the greatest number of bat species in Europe (15) - it´s closed in the winter to allow them to hibernate in peace. They pronounced it well worth the admission.
So, fuelled with our now traditional family refreshments of coffee, wine and ice cream, we made for the castle entrance. The castle is most famous for the knight whose name is linked to it: Erasmus (Erazem). Legend has it that he became an outlaw after killing a relative of the Holy Roman Emperor while helping avenge a friend. He fled to Predjama castle, from which base he lived the life of a robber baron (perhaps he would have approved of the two strategically placed shops within the castle designed to rob you of your euros.) Eventually, the Emperor sent the governor of Trieste to besiege the place. However, what the besiegers didn´t know was that there were secret passages leading out of the castle, which allowed those within to get supplies from the village. Things came to an end with an ignominious betrayal - a servant let the enemy know where and when Erasmus went to the toilet each morning (I suppose he was a man of habit) and he was killed by a cannon shot in the loo. I guess I should nix any cannon ball jokes right now.
|The view from the main lookout point.|
By the end of our visit, I was wondering two things. One: why does everything we do here involve slogging uphill (I pulled a leg muscle on one of the ginormous steps)? Two: how did any medieval mother keep her small sons alive - because, by the end of the adventure, our toddler was so psyched he was trying to jump down stone staircases and push his way through all the apertures to death below (look at the photos to see what I mean). Oh, and of course, we were almost at the top when he decided he had to pee. He and I were all for doing it authentically out of the window - what better way to give him a real understanding of siege tactics? Alas, we had to bow to modern convention and let him go in his pull-up. So much for potty training and historical re-enactment.
|Yes, he did try to move those stones.|
As we slowly made our way back to the car park, we stopped for a peek through the barred entrance to the Church of Our Lady of Sorrows, which dates back to at least the mid 1500s, consecrated by the Bishop of Trieste, later Pope Pius II. Unfortunately it was closed to the public - I would have loved to get a close-up look at the beautiful blue and silver altar.
All told, picnicking and coffee break included, we spent over four hours there, and it cost around $55 euros (counting coffee, wine and ice cream). We thought it was definitely worth the revisit.
Touristy stuff: the website for the castle is part of the same complex that also includes the most touristy cave in Slovenia, Postojna. If you are really fit and keen, you can book a serious, four-hour cave tour at Predjama that takes you beyond the tourist part, for about 150 euros, equipment included.