Book Review Slovene Karst and Caves in the Past


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Slovene Karst and Caves in the Past by Trevor Shaw and Alenka Čuk 2015  464 pp, 582 figs.  HB DW  Euro 49.00  Published by Karst Research Institute, ZRC Publishing House
ISBN  978-961-254-740-0

What is so extraordinary about Slovenia is the large amount of karst it holds - 49%.  If you include the parts of Slovenia which were part of the old Austrian region, Carniola or Krain,  the figure rises to 69%.

The caves and dramatic limestone scenery of the Slovene karst have attracted visitors for centuries. The great stalagmites and roaring underground rivers were seen by relatively few people in former times but many of them did record their experiences in diaries as well as in print. These records have been made use of in the book, which is a result of a long-time collaboration between Trevor Shaw an English historian of speleology and Alenka Čuk a Slovene historian.  The book describes what these historical visitors thought and experienced when visiting the underground wonders, with contemporary illustrations by contemporary artists and photographers.

Modern tourism can be considered to have taken off when Murray in 1837, and Baedeker in 1868, published their first guidebooks.  Tourism really took off when, in 1868, tours were led by Thomas Cook to Postojna Cave. Music in that cave has had a very long history with dancing and concerts. This latter is only one example of the relationship between caves and people which is a constant theme in this book. Altogether the 39 chapters describe, for example, the access problems facing all travellers in pre-railway days.  Also touched upon is Darwin's interest in Slovene cave animals.  He mentioned the Proteus in his book On the Origin of Species in 1859.  In 1831 the first cave beetle was discovered in Postojna Cave by the cave guide Luka Čuč.  He passed it on to Count Franz Joseph von Hohenwart, who in turn passed it on to his entomologist friend Ferdinand Schmidt who named it  Leptodirus hohenwartii.

With a limited print run of only 500 copies I suspect that this book will soon be out of print and highly sought after.