Predjama and Rakov Skocjcan – Castello di Lueghi – La valle del Rio dei Gamberi
April 4, 2014
We head to Postumia- Postojna where in early February a heavy wet snow fall followed by freezing rain with the resulting power outages and flooding also caused considerable damage to the trees. We had seen some of the damage on a Sunday drive in early February. But now we are interested in seeing how the damage is affecting the leafing process.
This is actually the third time passing through the area and each time it actually hurts to see the trunks of the trees looking like broken match sticks – the tops of the trees, splintered and split and the tree canopies littering the ground below. The carsic soil is so thin that there are hundreds and hundreds of trees completing uprooted. With their shallow roots exposed you can see how they were barely clinging to the red carsic soil by wrapping their roots around stones the size of pumpkins. Other trees, which I think may be poplars, are arced over their tops bent right down touching the ground. This is what we saw in Ottawa and in the Gatineau Park after the massive ice storm ten years ago. The tree destruction, however, here in Slovenia is far more drastic.
There are work crews everywhere with the accompanying sounds of the chain saw. First the branches on the ground are being cut up and put in to piles. There are stacks of logs of all sizes, piles of sawdust, and the smell of fresh cut wood.
The first stop is Predjamski Grad – Castello di Lueghi a castle built 700 years ago right into a rock face under a grotto (Jama pod gradam).
It is perched on a 123-metre cliff:– the perfect hideout for the bold, headstrong and rebellious knight Erazmus Luegher of Predjama, a “robber baron” who is the subject of a legend. The legend has it that this local noblemen tired of paying the constant taxes to the Emperor so he set up his own system of charging the caravans that went by. Of course the Emperor could only put up for this for awhile and then had to act so he sent Lord Ravbar of Trieste Lord and his armies out to lay siege to the castle. The noblemen went up into a grotto and the troops were satisfied that they had won because he would surely soon run out of food and water. But he taunted them by throwing food down at them. They finally found out that there was a tunnel behind the grotto to the other side of the mountain and food was being brought in to him. He was betrayed by one of the villagers who said “I will signal you when he goes to the bathroom” and so he killed by cannonball fire. And as the was custom of the day the castle was destroyed and others built on the remnants.
In the past century the castle belonged to a Slovenian noble family.
There is a view over the river valley below, softly undulating green pastures, pine forests and the red tiled rooftops of the handful of houses that make up the village.
The castle itself is stark but with interesting black and white striped window shutters and medieval looking minaret like towers. The entrance door is quite narrow with a drawbridge over a moat. I did not want to go inside as most of the walk is through the grottoes and caves. As it was a mild spring day my preference is to stay outside. In the summer a jousting tournament is held on a small field in front of the castle, complete with reviewing stand.
Then we headed out to the Valle del Rio dei Gamberi – Rako Skocjan. It is a narrow and dusty gravel road and now the trees are all coniferous “pino rosso”. We stop and try to get on the trail for the first caves. But the trail is covered with broken tree branches. We have lunch at a small look-out with the river valley below. Then head out for another trail. But again the trail has too many downed trees and so we drive along to another set of caves.
This is a park area with many grottoes and rock formations caused by the erosion of the rivers through the carsic rocks. Another feature of carsic rivers is that they often erode the soft stone and then run underground to then surface again. The constant erosion creates stalagmites and stalactites in the caves. I know this because two bus loads of students from Udine unloaded just as we started down the trail and I heard the geology teacher explaining this to the students. You can imagine the din in the caves with what looked to be about 100 fourteen years olds chattering away.
This trail has been somewhat cleared and so we are able to make our way up to the top of the cave and then down the ravine to the river and the open grottos below.
There is a natural bridge – Mali Naravni Most – carved out of the carsic stone about 55 metres above the river. It would have at one time been a large underground cavern that the Rio dei Gamberi – Rak ran through. Then we cross the bridge down a fairly steep and rocky trail to the river and the bridge that we saw below us is now above us. The river water is clear and shallow. And it is cool and very humid. We pass through a cave to see the natural bridge opening above us light streaming down into the cave. Then we cross a made stone bridge and behind us is another open air cave and there is a narrow stone path along the cave wall that you can follow to the opening beyond. The rock face rising from the river is covered with mosses, and ferns, and water loving plants. There is a small flat area under the rock wall and as I look up at the rock face I am reminded of the “living walls” of plants at the Bridgehead coffee shops. But this is the real thing.
We head back up the hill to another cave but again there are too many trees down on the trail so we call it a day – another instructive and great day!