Alrighty, people! Yes, I said dragons! Before you all set your plans to burn your neighborhood screaming “Dracarys”, hold your horses for a minute! It is big! I know! Let’s take it step by step.
The first time I read about the dragon eggs was last year. I was intrigued. It was a big deal for both my science and fantasy geekiness (Did you know I went to see the ice caves and THE WALL from The Game of Thrones in Iceland on my birthday?) And hence it was decided that I want to go to Slovenia soon. I started digging out what to do in Slovenia but it was Easter this year when I finally made it there. I was pumped! Super excited.
I will write soon about other things we did in Slovenia (and how out-of-the-world magical it is) but today, let’s talk about the Postojna cave and of course, the dragons!
Postojna caves are famous for their long and curving underground passages and galleries (about 24 km). These shiny white limestone formations take place over hundreds of years.
Back in the day, visitors would sign their names directly onto the cave walls and even speleothems. Thus, the Passage of Old Signatures features signatures dating as far back as the 13th century, with most of them being from the 16th and 17th centuries.
Reminded me of the stunning Salt mine caves from Poland I visited last year
A bite of recent history: During World War II, German forces stored nearly 1,000 barrels of aircraft fuel, which was then destroyed in April 1944 by Slovene Partisans. The fire burned for seven days, destroying a large section of the cave and blackening the entrance. You can still see the blackened section when pointed out by the guide.
There are two parts of the cave tour. The first part (3.7 km) is via the Postojna cave train and is a lot of fun. You just board this train and let the cave enchant you. After this fascinating ride, second part starts where guides receive you at the platform and then take you through the caves explaining the science, history and legends behind the caves. Guided tours are available in multiple languages that you can chose while buying tickets.
Pay attention to the guides and they will explain all the different types of the Stagaltite and Stagalmite, with different structures, textures (including spaghetti and curtain shaped) and even colors. You can also do it your own pace but still keep track of your group.
Coming back to the dragons now!!
By the way, isn’t it the best conversation starter: ‘Once I was visiting dragons in the cave in Slovenia and then….’. EPIC!
ARE YOU READY??
So, Let’s go!
On 30th of January 2016, one of the Postojna Cave guides noticed an egg attached to the glass of the aquarium in the Concert Hall. The pregnant female olm, protecting the egg was also around. The global public enthusiastically welcomed the first egg and waited with baited breath for the hatching of baby dragons to begin. On the 30th of May, 124 days later, the first baby dragon hatched into the darkness of the underground world and the light of the world of excited fans (information from Official website).
On 30th May! Judge me all you want but I am adding this date to my calendar. The calendars should be remarked as before dragons and after dragons! 😀 Their whole life so far is documented from the time the eggs were found to now and can be found here (with stunning pictures).
Fun facts about these baby dragons, also known as Olms
- They are also called human fish because, in spite of being completely water-borne, they have limbs!
- This animal is most notable for its adaptations to a life of complete darkness in its underground habitat.
- Their eyes are undeveloped, leaving them blind, while other senses, particularly those of smell and hearing, are acutely developed.
- They also lack any pigmentation in their skin.
- According to the statistics, a mere two baby olms successfully hatch from 500 eggs in nature.
- Olms have a life expectancy of up to 100 years and can survive without food for up to 10 years.
- Olms breathe with external gills, as well as with rudimentary lungs and the skin.
The olm (Proteus anguinus) has always excited people’s imagination. Initially, it was believed it was the dragon’s offspring brought onto the surface by high waters. As a matter of fact, there might be some truth to these old beliefs. The olm is a neotenic animal, which means that adult olms retain most of their juvenile features. And if the olm decided to grow up… wouldn’t it perhaps really turn into a dragon? (excerpt from the official website) (Oh my! Although my scientific intuition is saying it is a bit of stretch but I don’t think my fantasy fascination bought it instantly :D)
And there is one video which is titled baby dragons dance! I would literally call it the Dance of Dragons. Take it, GRR Martin! (Or not. Just don’t kill Arya!). As far as Game of Thrones is concerned, I can live with these baby dragons. But we should just stop here! As soon as the wights become a reality as well, I am done here!
You can find more videos on their Youtube channel.
You can visit them now at the Proteus cave vivarium, next to the Postojna cave, Slovenia. Okay, I get it! They are not the flying-fire-breathing-destructing dragons. But they are fascinating creatures and fill my appetite for the blend between science and fantasy! (In your face, all you fantasy-is-stupid-and-you-should-grow-up-Nisha-saying-people!))
Overall the trip to Postojna caves was epic! A beautiful treat for both nature lovers and the fantasy and science nerds. Before signing off, see a few more photos of the majestic caves and find some useful information below!
How to reach Postojna cave?
These caves can be reached from Ljubljana by car, buses and trains. Detailed information is provided on the official website.
Good to know:
- If you plan to go to the cave by bus, you can already buy the ticket with bus tickets at the Ljubljana central bus station. Arrive at least 15-20 minutes before the bus leaves.
- You can find more information on the official website including the opening times.
- Price/Packages can be found here. I highly recommend buying tickets beforehand (either online or at bus counters) to avoid the long queues.
- The tour of the cave takes about 1 hour 30 minutes. You can visit the vivarium either before or after the cave tour. Plan at least 3 hours for the cave area. There is a lot to do 🙂
- You enter the cave through an open train ride. Please be cautious. It is natural to get excited seeing the marvels of nature but your head/hand/camera might bump if not paying attention.
- Predjama castle is also nearby (around 9km). There is no public transport between the two. So plan accordingly if you want to see both.
- Postojna cave can be cold and slippery. So please wear comfortable and sturdy shoes. Bring jackets!
- Be considerate of the dragons (I never thought I would say that)! This species is harmed by strong flashes of light and hence are kept in dark. There are instruction everywhere to not use flash when taking photos. Please respect it!
Fascinating! Isn’t it? What do you think? Would you love to see them sometime?
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