Truffle Hunting, Olive Tasting and a Giant Cave... Ah, just another day in Slovenia! And today we have some special surprise treats ahead. We first exit our hotel and find a very unique vehicle we'll be traveling in today. It's a tiny van, but the perfect vehicle for where we're going - into the olive groves up in the hills. So, we pile into these vans and away we go.
These vehicles are straight-stick, feel-every-bump, let's-get-close-together, forty-year-old, restored Fiats. But they sure are fun. We climb up the hills and into olive groves to a viewpoint that looks out over the valley. A great view, and then they lead us to another viewpoint - through the trees, around the rocks, past a girl with her dog, finally bursting out to a fantastic view. And there on the railing is a line of wine glasses being filled with sparkling wine. What a way to start a day.
After a time of tasting wine and visiting with our hosts, we backtrack to where we passed the girl and her dog. Here we find why they are there - the dog is a truffle hunter. So now we get a lesson from the girl on hunting truffles and then, of course, we have to go hunt some truffles (see the video below). These dogs are amazing. The truffles are a few inches below the ground, leaves and weeds. But they smell them out and start digging. The handler (the girl in this case) stops them before they can damage the truffles. Now we are not just hunting these truffles, we're going to have them for lunch, so stay tuned.
After the hunt we continue on our way back through the olive groves and on to the olive oil process facility - a very impressive place. Here we have a nice charcuterie with some wine before being hosted to a very extensive and interesting olive oil tasting. Who knew there were so many different kinds of olive oil - chili olive oil, garlic olive oil, orange olive oil, etc.
They also serve us lunch. First a great sausage soup and then pasta, and you guessed it, featuring the truffles we found that morning. Wow, what a morning. But the day is just starting.
From the olive oil tasting, we head north to Postojina Cave. This is one of the largest cave systems in the world and a very developed one. It's very easy to visit as the first few kilometers are traveled by a small train. Then we walk the paths throughout the cave system. The cave was carved by the Pivka River over millions of years. There are stalagmites, stalactites, and formations called curtains or draperies that look like folded curtains.
The cave system is 24.12 kilometers (14.99 mi) long and is made up of four caves interconnected through the same underground river. However, according to rules by those people that make such rules, the passages connecting the caves must be walked or swum through by man for them to be considered one whole. So they are working on connecting two of the main cave systems and this will make this the longest cave system in Slovenia and one of the longest in all of Europe. There remain 1,300 feet between the two caves, which would make the cave system between 31 kilometer and 35 kilometers (that's about 22 miles) long.
These caverns are very large and any sounds echo throughout the system. So you can imagine what a surprise we had when we rounded a bend and high up among the stalagmites there appears a saxophone player that gives us a private concert right there in the cave (see the video below).
At the very end of the tour, we come across a huge cavern, many times larger than anything we've seen so far.
The guides explain that the space is so big that sometimes they hold concerts there with as many as ten thousand people. The ceiling of the cave is hundreds of feet above up. So, of course, our hosts want to toast us with some wine, but unfortunately, the wine master "forgot" to bring the wine. Flashlights come out and start searching the walls for the wine, and finally all converge high up on the ceiling where a rock climber is rappelling down from the very top of the ceiling. Down he comes, hundreds of feet, and finally lands on the floor and pulls a large bottle of sparkling wine from his backpack - saving the day.