The Škocjan Caves are about 6 km long and are considered to be the most important feature in the Karst landscape of Kras. They were created by the Reka River, which flows around 40 km underground and only emerges shortly before it flows into the Adriatic Sea in the Timavo springs in Italy. The gorge in which the Reka disappears underground has always been a source of great fascination.
Skocjan Caves: facts
|Official title:||Skocjan Caves|
|Natural monument:||Regional park with a limestone cave system over 5 km along with picturesque burglaries such as Globocak, »Stiller Höhle«, the sintered »Paradise« and the »Great Hall«; in addition, the “Sinter Baths Hall” and Hanke’s bridge over the Reka, which flows 45 m deeper, as well as Martelova dvorana, a cave measuring 308x123x146 m, and underground passages of the Reka and Timavo to the Gulf of Trieste; known before 1918 as the Reka caves and sinkholes of St. Kanzian; since 1996 Regijski park Skocjanske jame with an area of 4.13 km²|
|Location:||near Matavun, east of Trieste, southeast of Divaca|
|Meaning:||one of the world’s most important cave systems for studying karst phenomena|
|Flora and fauna:||Mediterranean, sub-Mediterranean and alpine flora such as venus hair and alpine auricles as well as the aconite anthora, which belongs to the genus monkshood, the common judas tree, the delphinium fissum, which belongs to the genus delphinium, the juniperus oxycedrus, which belongs to the genus juniper, and the genus Laburnum alschingeri, which belongs to the genus delphinium; Fauna and others Snow mouse and bat species such as lesser horseshoe bat, long-footed bat and mouse-eared bat, alpine bat and pug bat|
Foreplay to hell
Thousands of subterranean labyrinths are hidden in the mountain range of the Karst Slovenia near the Adriatic. The best known is the Adelsberg Cave (Postojna jama), which was praised by the English sculptor Henry Moore as “the most wonderful gallery in nature”. The caves of Sankt Kanzian (Skocjanske jame), through which the Reka River flows, are less crowded, but wilder and more spectacular. They were sung about by Virgil and Pliny the Elder, and they are said to have inspired the Italian poet Dante Alighieri in the early 14th century for the Hell chapter of his “Divine Comedy”. Why the poet let himself be tempted to apocalyptic visions in this very place becomes clear to everyone who descends into the dark underworld with its mysterious corridors and tunnels. There are glass daggers aimed at the intruder, and gullies with ribbed walls are reminiscent of the microscopic image of entrails. Bats flutter around at night. During the day they hang upside down on the cave ceiling: the eight centimeter long mouse-eared mouse and also the little horseshoe bat, which is only half as large and weighs eight grams.
Between curtains made of thinly folded rock you descend into a “hall” that looks like a cathedral with a cloister. Stalagmites tower up and combine with stalactites to form a forest of twisted columns. So-called sintered terraces are seen more frequently than in Postojna: cascades of solidified lime water “slide” over their stone basins. Sounds can be heard that announce a threat: a strange noise that steadily swells up to a furious finale. Before our eyes, a river pours along high steep walls at a dizzying depth, crashing over several rapids and spraying steaming spray. The enormous masses of water that roll through the underground canyon are a natural phenomenon that fascinates thanks to its force, especially after heavy rain.
Since the Reka rose from a foothill of the 1796-meter-high Snežnik, it has covered more than 40 kilometers and after its initial run it has buried itself in porous chalk limestone over impermeable marl shale near Vreme. The numerous caves of Škocjan were created in the course of dissolution processes, the so-called karst corrosion: With the help of carbonic acid, the water dissolves the lime; about ten liters of water are capable of leaching ten grams of lime. Shortly before Škocjan (Sankt Kanzian), a village that daringly clings to a cliff, the Reka descends in a steep face. It emerges once again into daylight in two burglar funnels below the village, before finally saying goodbye to the upper world at the foot of a 160 meter high rock face. From a viewing platform, 800 meters from the cave entrance,
Archaeologists found tools and bones in the Tominč Cave, which branches off from a large burglary cauldron. These are believed to have come from people of the Neolithic Age, to whom the cave offered protection from storms and enemy attacks. It is to be expected that there will be more exciting discoveries to report in the coming years. Because tests with colored water have shown that the five kilometers explored so far only form a small part of the cave labyrinth and the Reka only comes to light again 40 kilometers to the west, at San Giovanni di Duino, not far from the northern Gulf of Trieste. Since it was previously believed that it was the source of a completely new river, it was given the name Timavo – and it still bears it on maps today.