Castles, by definition, are commanding and mysterious. Most were built in the Middle Ages, and even today, some lords or other noble folks still call them home.
Still, though, few are as enchanting as the Predjama Castle in the historical region of Inner Carniola, Slovenia, recently profiled by CNN Travel. The castle is tucked into a cave, and, according to Guinness World Records, is the largest cave castle in the world.
Sitting halfway up a 123-metre cliff face and built into the mouth of a cave, the four-storied Predjama Castle dates back over 800 years. Inside, its rooms are mostly cold and damp, apart from a few nice spaces, including a dining room that’s thickly insulated and a bedroom with the only fireplace in the castle.
Also inside is a torture room, a room used as a kennel for hunting dogs and even horse stables. On the third floor is an open terrace that offers a view of the whole valley.
A cave sits below the castle, and is part of the 14km Predjama cave system.
CNN writer John Malathronas took a tour of the castle, and was told a story of one of its former inhabitants by a tour guide. Robber and baron Erasmus von Leuger had fled to the castle after killing Count Pappenheim, Marshal of the imperial Habsburg Court. Habsburg Emperor Frederick III had ordered a siege on the castle, but Erasmus had survived inside, taking advantage of its network of secret tunnels in the rocks.
“The end would come, after a year and a day, when Erasmus was betrayed by a servant,” writes Malathronas.
“As Jurca tells it, when Erasmus went to the outhouse located on a third-floor terrace, the servant lit a wooden torch as a signal. Moments later, a cannonball came whistling through the air, killing Erasmus in the middle of his last bowel movement.”
The castle is open to tourists year-round (note that Lonely Planet reports it only to be open May to September) — though you can expect to be joined by its resident colony of bats. Tours need to be booked at least three days in advance; caving tours range in price from €24 to €80, according to Lonely Planet.
Joint tickets can be bought for the castle and Postojna Cave, 9km away. In July and August, a handy shuttle-bus service runs between the cave and the castle — free for guests who buy a combined ticket for both attractions.