Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Caverns, Crooks and Castles (Predjama, Slovenia)

In a small hamlet only twenty kilometres south from the capital, Ljubljana and twenty kilometres north of the remarkable Škocjan Caves, lays the dramatically sited medieval travel wonder of Predjama Castle. Seemingly growing from a yawning cavern, it was cleverly built in the twelfth century to take advantage of the natural high walls of the rock face.

In the late 1400s, renown thief and baron, Erasmus owned the castle. Murdering one of the close relatives of the ruling Austrian emperor of the day, he was ordered to be captured. For over a year, the emperor’s men lay siege at the castle and its one drawbridge-managed entrance, effectively starving Erasmus out of his castle.

Little did the captors know that the castle was built on a natural limestone cave which Erasmus used to secrete food and water into his fortress. So brazen was Erasmus that he used to throw food at his besiegers to tease and frustrate them. He was finally betrayed by a double-crossing servant who marked the baron’s restroom with a flag. Answering nature’s call, the baron was splattered by a cannonball while perched on the “royal throne” – a truly ignominious way to die.

Today the castle continues to peer out across the delightful small village of the same name. The rooms are lightly furnished with reproductions of what the castle would have been at the time including wax models. You can almost imagine a riotous feast in the Knight’s Hall and feel the pain wrought in the torture chamber. Most intriguing is the ingenious adaption of the castle with the natural rock. A tour of the lightly decorated cave under the castle is conducted by helmeted torchlight (no electric lighting in this cave) and includes graffiti from the 1700s in the form of the owner’s inscribing their names in blood.

To add to the medieval feel, a jousting tournament takes place in the middle of every summer but the highlight is undoubtedly the majestically but improbably sited castle over the inky depths of the surrounding cave.


Suzanne Perazzini said...

Another of those glorious testaments to the inventiveness and determination of man. What a great story.

Asian Traveler said...

What an interesting story of Erasmus and Predjama Castle.

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Lifecruiser said...

Ha ha! What a truly wonderful story! I loved (?!) the way he died if I may say so. Not so fun for him, but now afterward :-)

The castle look like a fairytale castle, I'd love to visit it some day!

Mark H said...

@suzanne: Inventiveness indeed. And a year-long siege - no-one would have the patience today.

@asiantraveler: Thank you

@lifecruiser: I'll always remember the story because of the way he perished.

Footsteps said...

Location, location, location! What a lovely spot; I'm thinking he did it all for the view...

Catherine said...

The architecture of this castle is stunning...thanks

Mark H said...

@catherine: Great location.

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