Karst is a huge land stretching from limestone cliffs and castles of the Bay of Trieste, along the greater part of the western Slovenia all the way to Vipava. These vast and, with the exception of lush greenery, empty places might seem bereft of anything interesting when we drive from town to town on lonely roads. However, there is almost not a village in Karst that would not hide something interesting, with its narrow streets and ivy-laden houses that really do have a kind of Mediterranean feel to them. Whether it be the famous medieval castles or tombs of fallen national heroes. There you can see monuments to the battles of the 20th century, simple local wineries, as well as a testament of the nature’s patience in the form of Karst phenomena; stunning, awe-inspiring rocky formations. Because of all of this, this part of Primorska is especially beautiful. Not to mention prosciutto.
Land of Wine and Prosciutto
As one drives along Karst, one starts to understand how the many Slovene dialects came about, as vast lands without villages or people lie between Karst towns, filled with nothing but melting Limestone and woodlands. Even any signs of industry are tough to find, with the exception of poultry livestock production in Pivka and of course the green project of a power plant driven by a single wind turbine. The lonely windmill at Dolenja vas is a magnificent sight, giving testament to humanity’s thirst for energy. The most famous fruits of these lands are of course prosciutto, pancetta, variety of cheeses and of course Teran, albeit strong but nonetheless divine red wine. There is almost no village that would not be surrounded by vineyards; both on hillsides and flatlands, and the signs leading you to local wineries are manifold and enticing. And it is because of these goodies that I advise you to visit Karst during the time of the Eights (osmice); great festivities at the emptying of cellars, when people drink and eat as much as they want. The name comes from the time of the Austro-Hungarian Empire when eight days a year were given to farmers, during which they were allowed to sell the surplus of their harvest free of tax to the Monarchy.
The greatest wonders of the Karst lands, other than prosciutto that melts in your mouth and the Teran wine, are the Karst events; various manifestations on the effects of water on the limestone ground. This rock formation, a crystal form of Calcium Carbonate, over the course of millennia melts into various marvels of nature under the influence of rainwater. These further shape the landscape of Karst landscapes, which are thus named after the lands of western Slovenia and north-eastern Italy. We are talking about Karst fields, basically lakes, which are dry for a part of the year, and covered with water the rest of the time; sinkholes, ponors and caverns. Examples of such phenomena are the Karst lakes Petelinije jezero (which literally translates to the Rooster Lake) and Palčje jezero, lying between the cities of Postojna and Pivka. In springtime these unspoiled and hard-to-reach gifts of nature are somewhere in the middle of their cycle and you can see three or four meter tall dark traces on the trees around them, indicating up to where the water reaches when the lake is at its deepest in the middle of May. But the most beautiful examples of the melting limestone are the Karst caves. The most well-known of them being the Postonjska jama ann Škocjanske jame. Those of you who are more hipsterish in your choices of travel can take a look at the less-known but nonetheless beautiful Pivka cave. In her vicinity lies Črna jama (the Black Cave), which was the entry point of the Partisans into the Postojna cave. During the Second World War they snuck into the underground German base and burnt their oil reserves. Soot from their sabotage can be seen to this day, covering the stalagmites of the cave as an eternal memory of the bravery of the red soldiers during the Nazi occupation of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia.
Zum Gedenken an unsere Herren
Many a fortress and castle adorning Karst hills testify about the bloody monarchic history of the Slovenian lands. The most famous is perhaps the Predjamski grad (The Castle at the Front of the Cave) with which we attempted to bribe the renowned American writer George R. R. Martin a couple of years back, so that he would put Slovenia-inspired places into his works of fantasy literature. The castle itself was built in the 13th century as the home of the house Lueger, whose leader Erazem Predjamski defied the Austrian emperor, by making an alliance with the Hungarian duke Mathew Corvinus. Erazem continued his legendary rebellion for many years, as the caverns behind the castle provided a way for people to deliver food and supplies to the knight, and thus the Austrian army could not exhaust the fortress. The siege was successful only when a cannon ball found its mark and blew Erazem Predjamski to pieces, while he was taking a bathroom break. Even more beautiful and perhaps less drenched in bloody history is the castle in the town of Štanjel, which has a very special feeling about it. The town itself continues beyond its walls and many citizens of Štanjel can brag that they are modern-day castle dwellers. Around the castle lies a beautiful walking path with a view of the vast Karst lands, full of forests and vineyards. The path ends with the Ferrari Gardens, built in the honor of a renowned Trieste doctor by Maks Fabiani himself. It is a park with an artificial lake that with its stone bridge, lovely chapel and a tree-surrounded pavilion really looks like a scene from a romantic Disney cartoon. This may be one of the reasons why so many people decide to get married at this very castle.
All of you weary travellers who decide to stay in this wonderful land for several days, so as to truly experience the feeling of western Slovenia, you can find HI Hostels
in the towns of Postojna
Karst is a land that truly belongs to the seaside, as all throughout it one can feel the effects of the Mediterranean blood, even though Adriatic cannot be seen: be it in strong wine or in rebellious noblemen, there is not a person in existence that could not find a gem for themselves in Karst. From lovers of nature, who can surrender to the wonders of Karst lands; to military enthusiasts whose level of testosterone will rise at the stories of bombarded toilettes; and to historians, geologist, archophiles and of course to all the passionate people who would like to indulge the most important Slovenian national tradition: enjoying good food and fine wine. Maybe just a hint for the end; visit this place during the summer, when you will not be drenched in April rains and when passions run even hotter than in the early days of spring.