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Predjama Castle

45.8153° N, 14.1267° E

  • Around an hour away from Ljubljana sits a nigh on impenetrable fortress. Half castle. Half cave. Complete with creepy dungeons, creaking drawbridges over wild river waters, and secret passageways leading into a cavernous network of tunnels beneath. In truth, even the existence of Predjama sounds made up, but the parable of this peculiar keep is one that just keeps on giving.

    Sitting at a vertiginous 120m above the Lokve brook, cast in karst, this 13th century castle was once occupied by the knight Erazem Lueger – a man reported to be both wilful and rebellious in equal measure. Lueger had fallen out of favour with the Holy Roman Emperor, after an unfortunate affair involving the murder of a Marshall in the courts of Vienna, and his troops were being fiercely pursued across the country. Fortunately, familial ties meant Lueger could retreat behind Predjama’s impassable walls and, though the Emperor’s forces fought resolutely for a year and a day, they failed to breach this most stalwart of strongholds.

    Never being one to kick men when they were down, Lueger delighted in taunting the tired troops with cherry stones, flinging them gleefully from the battlements in a situation akin to the finest of Monty Python sketches. Throughout the siege, the attackers were perplexed at how long Erazem and his men were able to stay holed up without supplies. Little did they know that a passageway behind the bastion led all the way to the nearby village of Vipava, where supporters ferried food to the not-so-starving insiders.

    Though Lueger might have thought he was sitting pretty, he couldn’t have ever accounted for the fate that awaited him. A traitor among his party gave word that he would signal the opposing side when his master was in striking distance of the only weak spot in range of their cannons – an outhouse on the uppermost part of the castle walls. One little call of nature and it was all over for our fabled knight.

    Fortunately for those visiting today the facilities are much better situated, with very little likelihood of a repeat performance. Instead of flicking fruit from the towers, sightseers can instead be entertained by the five-floor museum detailing the ups and downs of life in the 16th century. The current incarnation of Predjama is almost exactly as it appeared over 500 years ago, having been rebuilt in the wake of a devastating earthquake, and includes an armoury, treasure horde and various interactive exhibits. The caves beneath the keep are also accessible from May to September, restricted on account of the hibernating colony of bats which dwell in the darkness and don’t take too kindly to being disturbed during their down time.

    Of course, real history hounds will want to time their visit to coincide with the wonderful festivities of the Erasmus Knight Medieval Tournament, held in celebration of Lueger – the so-called ‘Slovenian Robin Hood’ – every July. You just can’t say ‘Ni’ to that.

January 22nd 2015