Raise your hands if you’ve seen Jackie Chan’s Armour of God! Remember the scene in which he jumps out of a hole in the wall with a parachute? Well, that’s Predjama Castle in South Central Slovenia. If you’ve been travelling around in Eastern European countries, you would probably say, “Oh no, not another castle!” But let me warn you, you would be missing something if you left this out on a visit to Slovenia. An hour’s drive from Slovenia’s capital, Ljubljana, Predjama Castle is a convenient day trip that can be done through guided tours or rented cars.
What makes Predjama Castle unique?
As way back as 1274, the castle was built into the rock face of a 125 meter high limestone cliff in order to fortify it against invasions. As happens with most ancient structures, it went through renovations and expansions. In 1570, it was reconstructed in the Renaissance style, remaining unchanged to this day.
Consisting of a chapel, a network of caves, tunnels, dungeons and steep stone steps, the castle is a labyrinthine challenge. Being a popular tourist destination, it is usually crowded and you will need to wait for your turn to climb the steps which at times are so narrow that they cannot accommodate more than one.
Legend has it that the castle was the family home of the Knight Erazem Lueger to which he returned in order to escape the wrath of the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick III. From this hideout, he continued with his infamous robberies that has since earned him the title of Eastern European Robin Hood. He allied with the Hungarian King Mathias Cornivus to continue with his attacks on the Habsburgs. Despite being held in siege here, he managed his regular supplies of food and even went for an occasional stroll through an existing tunnel which he expanded! His good times ended when he was shot by a cannon ball while performing a basic activity, viz. crapping!! An apocryphal tale or not, it surely had us in splits when the guide narrated it. His ghost haunts the castle to this day according to a 2008 episode of Ghost Hunters International on the Sci Fi channel. By dusk, it closes and even bravehearts haven’t dared to spend the night here.
As we walked around the castle, we found bright sunshine in some parts, and a constant dribble of water through the crevices in other parts. The views from inside the structure are incredibly captivating to say the least. The sun plays hide and seek making the landscape alternate between mist covered hills and green grass all around with a river cutting through the expanse.
Various chambers in the castle are done up to represent life in the medieval times. The dining room, living room and the magnificent Knight’s room on the third floor of the castle have a mix of original items, models and replicas on display. A unique feature here is the presence of a souvenir store high up in the castle. Erazem’s ghost has no fancy for the computer which works wonderfully well here. The lone salesman swore he’s waiting to have an encounter! I picked up a metal knight in armour (not shining as I’m not a damsel in distress by any stretch of the imagination!) designed as a bottle opener.
Once you are done with the castle tour, do visit the souvenir store below. There is a small section of taxidermied creatures such as roe deer, badgers and owls which are part of the Slovenian fauna along with a wide variety of souvenirs at affordable rates.
Whether it was Erazem’s ghost or the magic of Predjama, I know not. True to the tourism industry’s tagline “I Feel Slovenia”, I feel the beauty of this place in my bones to this day. Yes, it haunts.