Dobšinská Ice Cave
So, we left early morning Podlesok camping place, expecting long day, full of extraordinary events, and, maybe, also a bit of physical efforts.
From Podlesok, or Hrabušice-village, we drive to the south, go throughout Slovak Paradise and Dobšinska Ice Cave will be our first stop.
Which way to go?
We can choose from two roads, Those direct one could be a little shorter (28 kms) and more adventurous, and leads in the same way, i.e. towards Velký Sokol. From Pila, the road is mounting, with endless windings, via Vernar Col, and descending, after several kilometres, to Dobšinska Cave. However, a disadvantage of such romantic way could be its very outstandingly bad surface, consisting predominantly of gigantic holes and wash-outs, making the passage rather difficult. During period of my visit (August 2010), the road was, from reparations´ reasons of short section, completely closed, and this fact I realized approx. one kilometer before its end…
So, as more passable way, it could be to effect the drive on less romantic route (approx. 32 kms long) Betlanovce-Spišský Štvrtok, and continue on road No. 67 to the community of Vernár, descending many windings down the valley, where (except main road in direction to Banská Bystrica) you can find our first target - cave, situated at north slope of Duča, limestone hill, in an altitude of 970 metres above sea level. From parking place, you have to overcome relatively hard climb along steep slope, along stony way (your calves remind you, for sure, that you were not lazy during past days). So, 130 metres high excedd is overcome, wipe off our sweat and admire vital old men and women from tourist excursions, as they overcome this climb in the same way as we did.
The entrance fee costs EUR 7 for adults, EUR 6 for students and pensioners, and EUR 3,50 for children of 6-15 years of age. More favourable entrance is valid also for disabled persons, but, however, let´s forget the fact that you would be able to visit the cave, including its narrow stages with invalid carriage. You are allowed to make photos or films with a camera in the cave, for a surcharge of EUR 10 but this action is not worth to be done, as everywhere you can see the crowds of people, and without good preparation, camera-stand or flash of the best quality, good pictures cannot be made at all.
Let´s enter into freezing underground!
This difficult climb, as metioned above, has its risks, and so called „wet back“ belong to those most frequent ones. The outside temperature could exceed 30° C, but after entrance into „Cold Hole“ you feel the frost on your back, as local temperature does not exceed 0° C! So, it would be very good, to became cool, after the hill is overcome, to take some dress on, and disregard that you could look as snowman among another excursionists in the middle of sultry summer.
During 30-minutes´ excursion, even those indifferent hardened persons would be felt chilly. After entrance into cave system, we descent through steep stages to several independent sections. So, subsequently, we pass Small Hall, Great Hall, Broken Dome, Ruffinyi Corridor and Basement, including impressive ice-waterfall. Anyway, the biggest space of the cave is formed with Great Hall, of ellipse form, 72 metres long, 42 metre wide in the middle and 7-10 metres height. The greatest ice column, known as The Well has the dimensions of 9 metres.
In general, you feel, as if you enter the ice-box (refrigerator). Anyway, the guide adds this atmposphere with his effective commentary, following, with his sharp eyes all eager photographs. They try to make their pictures inconspicuously, without permission, their pictures (with flash) of stalactites, stalagmites and ice-waterfalls, and you can see there really countless number!
A bit of history and facts about the cave
From total cave length (1388 metres), only 475 metres long circuit is open for public. The cave is unique also with a fact that it was electrically illuminated just since 1887, as the first one in Europe. This place was welll-known from past centuries, especially among local shepherds, as they came there, in order to be getting chilly. Nevertheless, the first foolhardly person who came down cave entrails, was Eugen Ruffinyi, Mining Counsel, with his friends. This action was effected in 1870. Glacier floor, with its average thickness of 25 metres, was established by freezing action of mountain springs, under the influence of air streaming through limestone chimneys, bringing together freezing air from upper surface. To most impressive parts of the passage belongs, no doubt, final powerful hall with many glacier columns and ice-waterfalls, named in poetical way, such as: the Organs, Curtain, Well or Niagara Falls.
From shepherds up to Ice-skating
In past, Dobšinska Cave was joined with near Stratenska Cave. However, the fall divided both systems, and, as a consequence, air-circulation was partially closed. So, we can say that, from long-term time priod, the ice starts to thaw slowly. On the other hand, spring air streaming as well as snow thaws partially compensate such loss, so that, there is no fear, that this cave, one of most beautiful,and regarding richest ice-decoration caves of the world, would lose its unique character.
Nevertheless, we wish also to mention several sorts of bats (great, long-eared, bearded, etc.)These animals stay in non-iced sections of the cave. To another cave speciality belongs a fct, that, till 1946, ice-skating for public was permitted in cave spaces, for all year round! So, within 1950-1955, Karol Divín, famous and successful Czechoslovak ice-skater, as well as military ice-skating units, made their trainings there!
In our next chapter, we pass Muranska Table Land and visit Muráň, a ruin of rocky castle.
Text/photo: Jan Chaloupka
Translation: ing. Jas Jonáš
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