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Posted by Victor Crew on

The Baby Dragons of Postojna Cave, Slovenia

Just an hour southwest of Ljublijana, the capital of Slovenia, there is cave called Postojna which is so fast it has its own railway. Despite this, one of the primary attractions in the cave is something much smaller and something 100% unique to Postojna.

Baby dragons.

While Postojna is in modern times one of the most visited underground attractions in Europe, it has been known to locals since about 1213. We know this because of paintings and drawings left by early visitors. Tourists didn’t start arriving in any serious numbers until the last Holy Roman Emperor, Franz I of Austria, traveled there in 1818. Since the his visit about 35 million people have experienced Postojna’s natural wonders.

And it should come as no surprise as the first two miles of its 24 kilometer web of champers and tunnels has a small train to take visitors back and forth between portions of the cave.

The end of line for the train is a monstrous chamber called Congress Hall in which the Milan Symphony Orchestra played in the year 1930. The walking path the leads on past Congress Hall passes through six geological strata. It also crosses a bridge built by Russian prisoners in World War I that takes travelers over a chasm. The path continues on past gorges, slim stalactites, and flowstone curtains.

Some of the passages are as slim as one meter wide while traveling as much as 377 miles underground.

Despite all this, the main attraction seems to be having a face to face with some tiny, unusual creatures that are found only in the cave Postojna and nowhere else on the Earth.

Proteus anguinus, or Olms, are blind salamanders, only about 25 centimeters long. This particular breed never develops beyond their watery, juvenile phase. This is why most visitors experience their encounter with them via an man made aquarium swimming among the rocks.

Locals long ago named them baby dragons as they washed out of the cave if Postojna flooded and since dragons live in caves, they assumed these were the babies.

 

 

 

 

Posted by Victor Crew on

China Announces National Park System

China recently announced not a singular first national park, but a handful of national preservation areas meant to protect specific animal species, including pandas.

The total square mileage of protected land is about 88,800 and the regions include areas in northern Tibet all the way to the holiday island Hainan to the south.

It has been a long road to establishing national parks in China, the country has been working on an institutional system to protect its natural ecosystems since the first nature reserve established in 1956. Today there are more than 10,000 such reserves intended to protect biodiversity.

One problem has been that managing the reserves has been troublesome as different local authorities had responsibilities to protect the same sites, yet their jobs and boundaries were unclear. The establishment of a national park system seeks to remedy this.

Surely the adventurous are asking by now, will visitors be able to access these national parks?

For one, the aptly named Giant Panda National Park will be available to visitors and is already an area where many tourists come each year to see the pandas.

According to the official press releases 75% of the wild population of pandas live in the newly defined region of the national park which includes areas of three provinces, Sichuan, Shaanxi and Gansu and includes four mountains, the Minshan, Qionglai, Daxiangling and Qinling. This area is the panda’s natural habitat.

The provinces of Jilin and Heilongjiang will share the Northeast China Tiger and Leopard National Park, which is intended to protect the habitat of its namesake’s animals.

The afore mentioned Hainan Island is the home of China’s most well-preserved tropical rainforest and the only place in the world the black-crested gibbon lives. Hainan Tropical Rainforest National Park will protect the environment and the rare gibbons who live there.

 

 

Posted by Victor Crew on

New Level of Rome’s Colosseum Open to Public for First Time in History

A never before seen area of Rome’s mighty Colosseum, its subterranean levels, are now open to the public. It has often been described as the heart of the building. This area was called the hypogea and was were gladiators and animals waited to go into combat.

This isn’t just the first time in 2,000 years this area has been open to the public, this is the first time its ever been open to the public.

Now tourists can walk through the passageways on wooden platforms to see the corridors and archways that connected the hypogea between the rooms where gladiators and animals waited before they entered elevators which would bring them into the arena above.

In ancient Rome the hypogea was lighted by candlelight. However now with the arena’s original ground level long gone, you can see the hypogea from the upper levels and the sun shines down into its depths.

The restoration a joint project between the Italy’s Ministry of Culture and Italian fashion brand Tod’s.

Posted by Victor Crew on

Where to Find a Most Impressive Collection of Viking Runestones

If one travels north of Sweden’s capital, just about 30 minutes north, they would reach the lakeside district Vallentuna. Vallentuna is very peaceful community that includes picnic areas, playgrounds and cobblestone churches. While it is a pleasant present-day site it will also allow visitors a journey into Sweden’s Viking history.

Among Vallentuna’s pastoral greenery are many runestones. These magical stones are believed to form a gateway to a one-thousand-year-old Viking civilization. One that is now believe to be one of Scandinavia’s most important historic sites.

Once known as Runriket or the Rune Kingdom, the collection of over 100 Viking age runestones are a light on Sweden’s past. The moss-covered stones, though ancient, still bare Old Norse inscription that tell us truths about Sweden’s ancestors.

While Vikings are often depicted as heartless pagan warriors who spend their idle time feasting and drinking, the runes show evidence of a devote Christian society on the brink of a more typical medieval lifestyle.

 

 

Posted by Victor Crew on

Lesser Known But Beautiful Get Away: Lake Hope State Park Ohio

Lake Hope sits among the rolling hills of Southeast Ohio, which some consider to be the most scenic land in the state. And Hocking Hills, a very popular state park, is only 20 miles away. However, Hocking Hills is known to get quite crowded.

Lake Hope is very much a destination all its own despite its proximity to Hocking Hills. It has a lovely lake, 67 cabins (more than any other Ohio state park). It also has a very well kept, state-owned campground.

Many people find it more peaceful than some of the other state parks which tend to be more crowded. It is also completely surrounded by the massive 28,000-acre Zaleski State Forest which makes it feel even more remote (the closest gas station is about 12 miles away).

There is plenty to do at the park if one wants: mountain biking, fishing, hunting, hiking, swimming, boating and hummingbird feeding (although this service is closed do to the pandemic).

The Zaleski State Forest is also very popular with overnight backpackers. Its 29-mile trail that includes 3 primitive camping areas and smaller loops for day hiking is one of the most popular among backpackers in Ohio.

Hope Lake, however, is also a great place to sit, relax and just take it all in.