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Slovenia-Croatia 06/07: The Batcave and the Batsub

We headed back towards Postojna, then past it on to pleasant country roads, bound for Predjama Castle. This is striking in appearance, backing as it does into a system of caves, some of which have been incorporated into the household as dog kennels, cellars and torture chambers. There are four floors, making a complete tour quite the workout.

After enduring an expensive and not very nice hot dog at Postojna the previous day, I'd taken the opportunity to visit a bakery back in Logatec and purchased two burek: flaky pastry tubes encasing meat, cheese and spinach. (The bakery lady kept up a torrent of Slovenian at me long after it must have been clear that I had run out at "hello", but at least she was friendly.) We brought these out and sat beside a centuries-old lime tree to have lunch. Here we were joined by an exceptionally incompetent ginger cat, who chose renowned cat-disliker Howard rather than me, the easy mark, to stare at while mewing piteously. Some burek may possibly have come its way all the same.

None of the cats in eastern Europe seem to know how to wash their feet, incidentally.

We had booked on a tour of the caves beneath the castle, and made our way to the start point for 1PM. The tour guide asked every member of the expedition where they were from and if they understood English. When it was our turn, I said that we were from England, so English would be fine.

"That's good," said our guide, "because I read on the Daily Mail website last week that lots of people in England, their first language is not English!" Later, she would take advantage of having native speakers at her disposal to ask us for a more adult alternative to 'poops' for describing bat guano.

I've been in caves before, but always thoroughly sanitised for the general public and bright with artificial light. Here, we carried our own light sources in the form of torches with clunky battery packs, and at one point scaled a set of steep and narrow steel stairs which terrified me. We picked our way across uneven floors, over mud, and through gaps, pausing to admire rock formations and the signatures of 16th century explorers.

The highlight of the caves, though, was BATS. Early on, our guide shone her torch on a small shrouded shape dangling from the ceiling (Howard was shocked, since in the UK it's illegal to shine torches at bats, but these ones didn't seem bothered), and later we would witness dozens of them clustered to the roof, while others put on a flying display. One, near the exit, was so low down that we could gather round and admire its dear little horseshoe nose.

It had been a packed few hours, but tourism time was not yet over. The previous day, we'd spotted signs for the Military History Park in Pivka, and today we planned to check it out. As well as an exhibition chronicling the military history of the region from Roman times onwards, they have two large halls and an outdoor area filled with tanks and other armoured hardware, plus a Gazelle helicopter and Thunderjet fighter-bomber.

The jewel of their collection, however, is a midget spy submarine, and we happily signed up to tour it in the company of a very personable young man. This was the stuff of Thunderball: it would sneak along the Italian coast before disgorging six spies, either riding sea scooters or clutching mines. We had the ever-popular sit in the driver's seat, then at our guide's request Howard sat on the loo to demonstrate how cramped it must have been for the 2-metre-tall captain who commanded the vessel at one time.

This was our last night in Logatec, and indeed in Slovenia. We dined at the hotel, where I had a glass of €0.8 Slovenian white wine and half an inch of pear schapps which made my mouth feel as though I wouldn't need to clean my teeth that night, or possibly ever again.

64 miles

Predjama Castle Shell cases at the Military History Park Submarine Dive! Dive! Dive!
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in the UK it's illegal to shine torches at bats

That sounds like one of those things that should appear on internet lists of wacky laws, alongside things like "it is illegal to chain your alligator to a fire hydrant in Missouri".

(I realise that it's probably part of a more general and quite sensible law about not disturbing bats, but the specifics of torches being forbidden makes it sound funny.)

I am enjoying hearing about your adventures, by the way.
Thank you! Glad to hear it!
What sort of vintage was the midget submarine?
1960s, I believe - proper Bond stuff!
Yes, I was thinking it looked a bit more modern than the midget sub at Duxford, but when I looked that one up expecting it to be WWII vintage, I discovered it was launched in 1954...
I'd no idea the post-war X-craft were to be used to deposit nuclear mines.

The idea of leaving off a nuke with a ticking clock, then vacating the area in a craft with an underwater speed of just 6 knots sounds distinctly buttock-clenching. But then, I think the Cold-War 50's were a crazy time in many ways.

Edited at 2013-07-23 07:44 pm (UTC)
Many of the nuke-dropping scenarios of that era were essentially one-way missions, if only because the chances of there being a home to return to were fairly slim...
Bats. <3

Bureks? Oh, I know those! I didn't know they also existed in Slovenia, though; I mostly associate them with Turkey and Turkish cuisine.

The submarine sounds neat, too. I wonder how it compares to bigger submarines in terms of crampedness; I've always thought I can't see how you could fit ~50 people into this WW2 one on display that I've been to a few times over the course of my life.

Do you know what kind of pear schnaps it was? Kruškovac, maybe? :)
Yes, I thought burek was more Turkish, but didn't like to ask in case of offending national sensibilities :)

This was a 10-person sub, 4 crew and 6 passengers. I don't think I could have coped!
Oh, and not sure - there were many,many words for the different liqueurs and digestifs and they all kinda merged into one!
Oh, neither do I think I could have! I really can't do without a bit of personal space and the ability to retreat to my own quarters if I need to.
Oh, if only the sub were in a condition to be taken on excursions. =:D

I'm loving the design of the castle, too, symbiotic with the caves! What a magnificent option for defense. And quite a stunning overall appearance, too, framed (even enclosed!) by said caves.

How are the food and drink prices generally? Sounding like it's still highly affordable.
Would have been even better if the pound weren't struggling against the Euro quite so much :/ As it was, we found food and accommodation pretty affordable, especially in Croatia where coffee and beer were dirt cheap but I got gouged if I wanted a Coke.

I wonder if I could bear to go on a trip in a sub, or even a tank? Excitement and clautrophobia, duking it out.