Längerer Beitrag – schneller Überblick:
For years we have made fun of the superlatives of the regions. Here the largest, there the most beautiful. Elsewhere the longest or the deepest. Whatever can be increased, the marketing departments of the regions increase it.
In Apulia there are stalactite caves, we read. Nothing about higher, bigger, further. Outside the door we discuss when a two-hour tour at a rather high price is really worthwhile. And decide: Today is Sunday, we'll do it!
And we won't regret it. We follow the English-speaking guide from cave room to cave room. And are fascinated. Thrilled. And let us say that this is the most impressive, beautiful, wonderful, enchanting and spectacular dripstone cave we have ever seen in our lives. (And I have to admit that I know at least many of them, I used to "have" to visit caves all the time with my dad, as a child I found that less exciting).
Photography is only allowed in the first room, but we are not told why. Probably because of the lightning and the photosynthesis that takes place in the light. Here I have to thank our daughter, from her I got the worn-out, for her old, for me super-modern iPhone, which takes magical pictures even in low light. Of course I have to take pictures in secret, me rebel, me. Let myself fall back a little. Only to be caught by the guide of the next group.
So, the cave:
This cave stretches over 3,348 metres and reaches a maximum depth of 122 metres below the earth's surface. With an average temperature of 16.5°C, it was normal "winter weather" for us down there. In the entrance cave there is a huge hole in the ceiling, which can also be seen from the outside.
The collapse site of the so-called grotto, which is visible from the outside, has always caused fear among people. Particularly at dusk, clouds of mist rose from the abyss, awakening the idea among superstitious passers-by that souls were trapped here, trying in vain to ascend to heaven.
Karst (the word karst comes from the Slavic word kar, meaning stone or rock) refers to the dissolving effect of rainwater on limestone. Cave formation began 65 million years ago with the dissolution of limestone by water. Fractures in the rock formed channels that continued to expand. Collapses reduced the thickness of the rock until finally the cave was formed.
Stalactites & Stalagmites
Now comes the most important thing: how do you remember what stalactites and what stalagmites are? Which ones grow from above and which ones from below? Of course I asked, because I could never remember that as a child. We learn: From the shape: StalakTites grow from above like a big T, StalagMites from below like a big M. He smiles mischievously and mentions in passing that there are even more slippery mnemonic devices. I don't ask any more questions, I have enough imagination of my own.
The Castellana caves are known for their impressive stalactite formations, created over long periods of time by limestone deposits. The water that drips into the caves leaves behind deposits of calcium carbonate that form either stalactites on the ceiling or stalagmites on the floor. Over time, these formations can grow together to form sinter columns. There are also other types of stalactites such as moon milk, sinter curtains, cave popcorn, calcite crystals and cave pearls. Of particular interest are the helictites, which grow differently from normal dripstones and form spectacular shapes.
The caves also house a variety of animals, including isopods, pseudoscorpions, carabineer beetles and five species of bats. The number of bats is estimated at 100 to 150. In the 1970s they were huge swarms, but unfortunately the many visitors (15 million since the cave opened!) have pretty much driven them away.
At the beginning we were still very sceptical about how you can spend almost 2 hours down there, but on the way back we just rushed through the cave. There was so much to see, to marvel at, that I would have loved to look at every single crystal wave, every work of art of nature individually. I would have loved to stroll through the cave at my leisure. But: There is a strict time regime here that must be observed. What can you do, with so much beauty and too little oxygen down there, each group only has its own time quota.
The Grotte di Castellana: highly recommended!
PS: All photos were taken "from the hip", without flash and without extra lighting. So nothing with destruction and so on. Just long exposures with the smartphone.
Merci for "travelling with us
These weeks we are travelling through Iran. It's possible that we won't be writing posts or that they will be delayed. We first have to see whether we have enough internet or reception and whether it is suitable for us to publish from the country. And whether we will even manage to write down all the fantastic impressions in time.
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