April 4, 2018
Slovenia has no shortage of fairy-tale castles, with well over 50 around the country, but the only cave castle in the land, and according to Guinness the largest in the world, is Predjama. This one really is a site to let your imagination run riot in, driven not only by the fusion of the natural and manmade, but by the colourful history of the place.
But just look at this place and think about mounting an attack, or hiding outside, knowing that you had several kilometres of natural cave system to provide a water supply, food storage facilities, and, most importantly, a direct route to the outside world, where you could continue your life as a medieval robber baron, happy in this knowledge right up until a servant sold you out and you met your end by meeting a cannonball travelling at high speed while sitting on the toilet.
Wikimedia - A view of the castle by Johann Weikhard von Valvasor (1641–1693)
Such was the fate of the most famous occupant of Predjama, Erazem (aka Erasmus) Lueger. He lived a life of crime and domination, until he pushed too far and ran up against the Habsburgs, who were profoundly unimpressed with his shenanigans, and thus sought to separate his head from his body.
You’ll find the full story, or more of it, when visiting the castle, but the thing to bear in mind is that Erasmus, along with his staff and retinue spent a year under siege (much less than the Siege of Candia, 1648–1649, but impressive, nonetheless). This is thus a badass castle par excellence, and the kind of place a Bond villain would covet, albeit without the regular tourist buses that now deliver visitors to one of the top attractions in the country.
A striking simple castle, and white against the black grey walls of the living rock, the first such structure is recorded as having been built here in the 12th century. Note that it was destroyed twice after that, and the walls you now see date from the 16th century, although the caves within them are obviously as old as the hills.
Jackie Chan fights four women in the cave
A famous visitor from the last century is the Hong Kong stuntman, actor, director, and singer Jackie Chan, who filmed Armor of God here in 1986, at the height of powers as the human special effect. Indeed, when visiting it’s hard not to imagine WWJD? (What Would Jackie Do?) – which is all well and good, as long as you don’t do it.
One time when you can still see people engaged in acts of daring is the annual Medieval Tournament, held in July, and as seen in the following video. Note that the dates of the tournament had not been announced at the time of writing, and that the video is rather old and low res.
A little under 10 km from Postojna, a visit to Predjama is often combined with a trip to these justly famous caves, and if planning that then do a) read our guide here, and b) pack some warm clothes and good shoes whatever the weather, as things stay chilly all year underground. You can also visit the caves at Predjama, although only between May and September, as for the rest of the year the bats that hibernate there are left in peace.
Tickets for the castle are 13.60 EUR for adults, 11 for students, 8.30 for those 15 and under, and just 1 EUR for anyone aged 5 or less. Note that all prices are inclusive of basic accident insurance, although we’ve never heard of any injuries beyond those sustained by Mr Chan (as per Wikipedia “His head hit a rock, cracking his skull and forcing a piece of bone up into his brain. … As a result, he now has a permanent hole in his head filled with a plastic plug and slight hearing loss in one ear.”)
A tour of the caves, where you’ll be given a helmet with a headlight, costs 9.9 EUR for adults, 7.9 for students, and 5.9 for children 6-15, with those younger than this not allowed to enter.
The castle can be found at 6230 Predjama, the official website is here, and the whole thing is well serviced by tourist buses.
Other articles in this series can be found here.