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One of Slovenia's hidden treasures, Predjama Castle is tucked away in the mouth of a cave near the village of Predjama, Slovenia.
One of Slovenia's hidden treasures, Predjama Castle is tucked away in the mouth of a cave near the village of Predjama, Slovenia. (Jason Duhr/Stars and Stripes)
One of Slovenia's hidden treasures, Predjama Castle is tucked away in the mouth of a cave near the village of Predjama, Slovenia.
One of Slovenia's hidden treasures, Predjama Castle is tucked away in the mouth of a cave near the village of Predjama, Slovenia. (Jason Duhr/Stars and Stripes)
A view of Predjama Castle near the entrance to the cave located beneath the castle. The castle in Predjama, Slovenia was built into a 135- meter-tall cliff.
A view of Predjama Castle near the entrance to the cave located beneath the castle. The castle in Predjama, Slovenia was built into a 135- meter-tall cliff. (Jason Duhr/Stars and Stripes)
This 25-yard staircase is the first of six you'll encounter in the caves under Predjama Castle in Predjama, Slovenia.
This 25-yard staircase is the first of six you'll encounter in the caves under Predjama Castle in Predjama, Slovenia. (Jason Duhr/Stars and Stripes)
The Predjama Castle's dinning room is one of many rooms decorated to show what they might have looked like in the past.
The Predjama Castle's dinning room is one of many rooms decorated to show what they might have looked like in the past. (Jason Duhr/Stars and Stripes)
Predjama Castle, located in Predjama, Slovenia, offers a variety of displays within the castle walls. Here, a figure representing a criminal hangs by his hands in the torture chamber.
Predjama Castle, located in Predjama, Slovenia, offers a variety of displays within the castle walls. Here, a figure representing a criminal hangs by his hands in the torture chamber. (Jason Duhr/Stars and Stripes)
Visitors can hear the tale of Erazem of Predjama, known as a Slovenian Robin Hood, whose story  is one of Predjama Castle's best-known tales. Here, a painting of Erazem hangs on a castle wall.
Visitors can hear the tale of Erazem of Predjama, known as a Slovenian Robin Hood, whose story is one of Predjama Castle's best-known tales. Here, a painting of Erazem hangs on a castle wall. (Jason Duhr/Stars and Stripes)
A bell hanging in Predjama Castle in Slovenia was once supposedly used to alert villagers and castle inhabitants of possible threats. Now, it is said the bell will grant a wish to anyone who rings it.
A bell hanging in Predjama Castle in Slovenia was once supposedly used to alert villagers and castle inhabitants of possible threats. Now, it is said the bell will grant a wish to anyone who rings it. (Jason Duhr/Stars and Stripes)
This picture offers a view of Predjama, Slovenia, from Predjama Castle's uppermost level, the terrace.
This picture offers a view of Predjama, Slovenia, from Predjama Castle's uppermost level, the terrace. (Jason Duhr/Stars and Stripes)
Throughout Slovenia's Predjama Castle you can wonder at how well the builders integrated the structure into the rock face of a cliff.
Throughout Slovenia's Predjama Castle you can wonder at how well the builders integrated the structure into the rock face of a cliff. (Jason Duhr/Stars and Stripes)
A hidden path located in the cave castle behind Predjama Castle in Predjama, Slovenia. Erazem of Predjama used a secret path through the castle to get food while the structure was under siege in 1484.
A hidden path located in the cave castle behind Predjama Castle in Predjama, Slovenia. Erazem of Predjama used a secret path through the castle to get food while the structure was under siege in 1484. (Jason Duhr/Stars and Stripes)
The view from Gostilna Pozar, the sole restaurant in Predjama, Slovenia, is  perfect while enjoying food or drink. The restaurant, near Prejama Castle, is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
The view from Gostilna Pozar, the sole restaurant in Predjama, Slovenia, is perfect while enjoying food or drink. The restaurant, near Prejama Castle, is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. (Jason Duhr/Stars and Stripes)
The only restaurant in Predjama, Slovenia, is near Predjama Castle and is a perfect setting to enjoy a meal. Gostilna Pozar is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and offers a variety of foods and beverages.
The only restaurant in Predjama, Slovenia, is near Predjama Castle and is a perfect setting to enjoy a meal. Gostilna Pozar is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and offers a variety of foods and beverages. (Jason Duhr/Stars and Stripes)

Predjama is a village in Slovenia that is situated in a lush valley about 30 miles from the Italian border. Far from the highly traveled roadways, it’s on a route that winds through mountains and green hills.

The village, with just 100 inhabitants, is easy to miss as you drive through the region’s astonishingly beautiful countryside. And if you aren’t careful, you could easily miss a big part of the village’s history and an even more impressive view, the picturesque Predjama Castle.

The 12th-century castle sits nestled in the mouth of a cave and is set within a 410-foot-tall rock face.

It’s said that the castle’s design, incorporating the cave and rock from the cliff, is why the impenetrable structure is so well preserved.

As in the distant past, the sound of a bell chiming can be heard as you approach the castle. But the bell’s purpose has changed since then.

Originally used to warn villagers and the castle's dwellers of impending danger, the bell is now thought to grant a wish to those who ring it. Many visitors who make it to the fourth floor — near the castle’s watch tower — can’t resist ringing it at least once.

Erected in the 12th century, the castle took on its current appearance under the ownership of the Cobenzl family, who rebuilt it. But it’s a tale from 1484, before the Cobenzl family took possession, that makes the castle famous.

The story — filled with heroism and humor — is well-known in Slovenia. Erazem Lueger, known as Erazem of Predjama, was Slovenia’s version of Robin Hood. A rebellious knight, he was forced into hiding deep in the walls of his family’s castle, where he continued to venture out and rob commercial caravans between Vienna and what is now Italy’s Trieste.

He used a hidden path through cave tunnels to go out for food.

Sought after by Austria’s Frederick III, Erazem was hunted by the governor of Trieste to be captured and killed. After a long siege and a failed attempt at starving Erazem, one of his servants was bribed into giving up the location of the only vulnerable spot of the castle, the lavatory, located on the castle’s upper level.

Late one night, when Erazem was relieving himself, the servant lit a candle by the lavatory, which signaled the Austrian soldiers below. The soldiers fired one ball from a catapult, hitting the target and killing him.

This story is just one of many that are told during the self-paced guided audio tour of the castle, available in English and several other languages.

Other stops in the tour include a magnificent view of Predjama from the castle’s terrace, an armory, a chapel and Erazem’s secret passage through the castle cave. The passage leads you up and out through the top of the cliff.

You can also take one of two tours through a separate nine-mile-long cave below the castle. The first, which can be purchased on the spot, covers 2,200 feet and lasts about 30 minutes. There are six staircases within this 30-minute portion of the tour, which might cause unease for smaller children and those afraid of heights.

The second tour, which offers a look at three miles of the cave, needs to be scheduled in advance.

In total, the cave is slightly more than nine miles long, making it the second-largest in Slovenia.

duhr.jason@stripes.com

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