Meanderings

Karst Caves in Slovenia.

The Karst Caves in Slovenia around 1996.

Trusting our lives to some anonymous Slovenian Casey Jones, we set off through an underground railway tunnel in search of the fabled Karst Caves of Slovenia.

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We wormed our way deep into the heart of the mountain, aboard what surely must have once been a little toy playground train. It was certainly a roller coaster ride. The tunnel was so low and narrow that if I'd stood up to pee out the side or toss a beer can at a passenger, I'd have scraped the bark off my head.

Nine twisty kilometres later, when finally we stepped out, the view was spectacular. Suddenly I realise why nature would keep such a treasure vaulted up and hidden away. I could have been standing inside a loaded treasure chest We were in what felt like an inverted cathedral. The ceiling was high and distant and rock formations were eerily lit in luminous greens and reds. There were the usual stalagmites and stalagtites but also odder shapes like one that looked like a rough hewn camel.

 We walked around in awe, crossing rickety iron bridges over black canyons, climbing rock hewn staircases and talking in hushed tones. The tour guide, who tried in vain to discourage photographs, mentioned that orchestra concerts were occasionally held there.

 After another trip on the Noddy train, we emerged back into the sunlight, we felt we had visited a truly hallowed place. It was a primeval experience: this place that had lain in darkness forever, oblivious to the passing of kings and wars that were fought above its head. And yet, what use is a work of art that is never to be seen. Can art exist without appreciation? Like the old adage, "if a tree falls in the forest and no one is there, does it make a noise?" Or if a man speaks in the forest and his wife isn't there to hear him: is he still wrong?

I bet there are a load of artistic spelunkers out there in the world. But despair not, fellow doodlers: no artist anywhere can challenge the ingenuity of Mother Nature's paintbrush.

 Anyway we got back to the car and someone had crashed into it. We ended up staying a good while longer in Slovenia than we'd intended but we actually had a great time. Thus the accident was a blessing in disguise. If I get back to this later, I'll tell you about a Mr Erasmus who lived in Prejama Castle. Now there's a death.