The Predjama Castle is the only preserved castle in the World located in a cave. With its incredible location, its picturesque setting and its famous legend, it surely is one of the most interesting castle to visit in Slovenia, if not in Europe.
Let me tell you a bit more about it…
A little bit of history and architecture
The Predjama Castle, like many castle, was built over the course of centuries.
Below you will see its evolution from the 12th century on the left, to the latest addition in the 16th century.
The first and main building on the left is the part of the castle with the biggest rooms and is also the oldest part even if it has been modified in the following centuries. This part of the castle host for example the Knights room as well as the dining room.
The middle part of the castle, added and modified during presumably the 14th and 15th centuries includes small rooms mostly used by servants, soldiers etc. It includes the chapel, the chaplain’s room, the judicial chamber, the kitchens, many staircases and passages and the torture room.
The last part constructed between the 15th and the 16th century was mostly defensive and includes the Koblenz tower.
The fourth part of the castle is the one that lies behind those wall, deep inside the cave… something to not miss.
The Predjama Castle is impressive by its size, the complexity of its construction and how it showcases several hundred years of history within its walls.
The visit of the Predjama Castle
The visit will take you through the 4 main different parts of the castle as described above. It is always impressive to see medieval castle and the Predjama Castle is maybe even more impressive than most. The way the castle is intertwined with the cave and form with it such a cohesive ensemble is remarkable. The roughness of certain areas contrast so much with the apparent comfort of other areas that it is confusing to imaging what life may have been like within these walls. And what looks today like a romantic and picturesque sight, was after all a defensive fortress which was never taken.
Here are a few pictures of the visit:
The entrance drawbridge with the Koblenz family coat of arms.
Below, a view of the first tower, the Koblenz tower, a mostly defensive tower of romanesque style which was added in the 16th century. In the upper floor, after having passed the defense gallery, you will be able to see the machicolations you probably noticed from the outside.
Everywhere you will look, there are interesting details. Like this beautiful door.
If one area of the castle can give you an idea of how horrible life could be in such a castle, it is for sure the torture pit as shown below.
In the main part of the castle, where the owner resided, the rooms are much bigger and look today quite comfortable. In the 15th century, it wasn’t quite like that. No glass windows, but rather stretched animal skin would prevent the wind and the light from entering the rooms. Rooms like the bedroom or dining room below were cold, humid and quite dark but they were safe, thanks to their very thick walls.
I was quite amazed to see this baby walker! I guess things haven’t changed as much as we think they have!!
The hallway pictured above will lead you to a terrace with the below enviable view on the valley. But again, things weren’t as picturesque back in medieval times. To ensure that ennemies would not find places to hide, all trees were cut down.
What’s most amazing about this terrace is seen when looking up. It is entirely protected from the rain, by the cave. In fact, the whole castle is pretty much sheltered entirely by the cave.
And what is almost unnoticeable at first when on this terrace, is that you are actually right by the infamous Eraser’s lavatory. Scroll down below to read his legend…
The chapel of the castle is another great feature of the castle
The chapel, tucked between the 2 main buildings, has an unusual and strange shape. The original furniture has been long lost but the 15th century Pietra displayed, gives a hint that the owners of the castle were quite rich.
Another amazing room is the armory. This room was most likely used for soldiers and servants and now displays a great collection of weird but surely deadly weapons, armors and shields.
The Knights’ room, is another room which can be seen in the main part of the castle. It may seems simple at first sight but is filled with surprises (ox blood painting is a real thing!) and secret passages…
Something you must not miss during your visit is the bell of the castle (and it’s easy to miss it because it is quite small!). It was obviously used in the past, as an alarm to announce dangers. But today according to the legend, ringing the bell while making a sincere wish from the bottom of your heart, will guarantee that your wish will be fulfilled! Still waiting on that one so I can’t confirm 😉
Toward the end of the visit, you will finally get to the most surprising part of the castle: the rooms hidden behind this stone wall are actually inside the cave. This part of the castle looks almost prehistoric! But it was actually most likely built toward the end of the 14th century as an additional shelter in case the enemy managed to enter the castle.
Little remains of these rooms but there were clearly 2 floors and several small rooms.
Climb up the stairs and you will see the beginning of the Erazem tunnel….
When leaving the castle and Predjama, check out the Chapel and its beautiful linden tree where Erazem is buried…
The Legend of Erazem of Predjama
Erazem was the Robin Hood of Slovenia. He is the most famous owner of the Predjama castle and his legend lingers within these walls.
According to legend, Erazem came into conflict with the powerful Habsburg family when he killed the commander of the Imperial army who had insulted one of his deceased friend. The Emperor commissioned the capture of Erazem who had already fled and was hiding in Predjama.
For a year and a day, Erazem was besieged in his castle. The army thought they could starve him, but the castle was able to survive without any problem, thanks to the supplies that were brought in, by the secret tunnel which was leading to the Vipava village. Erazem was even able to taunted his attackers with fresh cherries and even roasted lambs.
The besiegers finally bribed one of Erazem’s servants to reveal when his master was in attendance at the privy. As you’ve seen, the lavatory were located at the edge of the castle and were not impregnable. When the moment came, the servant placed a candle at the window, and, with a single catapulted stone, the besieging army killed Erazem.
You will find variation of this story on the web. Was it a candle or a flag? Was Erazem really killed while attending to very personal needs which required his pants to be down on his knees? Or is it just a tale that was told to tarnish his reputation? I guess no one will ever really know but for sure, that’s what legends are made of!
Underneath the Castle, colonies of bats have established their homes deep into the caves where the Lokva river disappears. The caves are not as beautiful as the Postojna ones but there is something magical about them.
You will be provided with a helmet equipped with a frontal lamp and led into the complete darkness and silence of the inside of the Earth. I suppose one could feel claustrophobic there. Somehow, I most felt free. All my senses were heightened. Listening to the bats screeching, trying to see them in the dark without blinding them, the cool air, the unknown depth of the caves… it was scary and liberating at the same time.
The Lokva river
No pictures allowed in the caves because of the bats! This is just to show you the entrance…
The entrance to the caves is below the castle and the exit above where you will get to see the castle from a different angle.
The Technical bits:
The official website: www.postojnska-jama.eu
The Predjama Castle is located 10km from the Postojna Cave, the main attraction in this region, which has so much to offer. It takes less than an hour to reach Predjama from Ljubljana, so it’s an easy day trip from Slovenia’s capital. However, I would highly recommend you to spend more than a day in this region. It’s a perfect stop if you are on your way from Ljubljana to the coast town of Piran before heading to Croatia for example!
The audio guide is super nice. Very informative. Do follow the numbers because the castle is like a labyrinth. You will go up and down and left and right and will mostly loose your sense of direction. I’ve seen people who weren’t following the numbers and missed the bell. And really you don’t want to miss an opportunity to have your wish fulfilled! I’ve also seen people turning around before arriving at the part of the castle which is in the cave. That’s really a miss…
There are combo tickets for the Postojna Cave and the Predjama Castle and a shuttle between the 2. It still ends up being quite costly but I think it’s worth it and I sure hope I have convinced you as well!
The visit of the cave beneath the castle is not included in the castle visit.
There is a super useful app which you can download for free and which will help you remember your visit of the castle. Just look for ‘Predjama’ in your app store.
RTatW now has a Facebook page! Yeah finally… come and say hi!