Day 5- SO MUCH STUFF!!! / by Cal Tufts

    The day started off wet from the night before. We were out of the campsite and back to the Skalni Mlyn Caves early. We were told to get there before 9 to hear if the caves with the boat tour would be open. Because of rain, they sometimes have to shut the boat portion of the cave tour down. The water inside rises to much and they can’t get the shallow electric boats through the passages. 

    While we waited to hear, I grabbed us coffee and charged up the camera so that we had lots of juice for video and pictures. 

    We got the OK and purchased tickets then dashed for the shuttle to the top of the hill where the gift shop and entrance was. AS we we went to get on the shuttle, our driver said we didn't have the correct tickets and Lauren had to run back in and sort it out. We thought we’d miss the shuttle, then miss our appointment to enter the caves. All was well and we got on in time. We had the understanding that the small shuttle was the only way to get up there, but as we were riding it, found out you could just walk up if you wanted. Oh well. It was a nice ride. 

    The caves handle a lot of tourists, so they have a pretty nice and new looking information centre and gift shop. A large timber building, clad in glass. 

    The cave tour was pretty impressive. We took lots of photos, but I don’t think they do the place justice. It’s a series of caves the eventually lead you to large beautiful abyss. You come out of the caves near the bottom of it. It looked liked something from Avatar or the Land Before Time. From here we were lead to the boats.

    They are shallow electric boats that hold about 30-40 people. They are just wide enough to get through some of the narrow passage ways. It was pretty cool to ride the 400 meter journey on the water. There were even some points where you had to duck a bit because of the low ceiling height. Mid way through the journey, we stopped to get out and see a large stalactite in a down a narrow passage that opened into a large hall space. In the centre was a huge stalactite that went all the way to the ground. Amazing. We jumped back in the boat and continued the rest of the journey. It lead back to information building.

    The area is full of different hikes through the hills. We were lucky enough to have purchased a gondola ticket to the top when we grabbed the shuttle tickets, so a lazy hike it was. We used the gondola to take us up and decided to walk back down to the car. Which was really a nice leisurely stroll through the woods. On the way down we stopped at the rim of the Abyss to look at it from above. It was still pretty impressive. 

    The water from the caves was cool and ran down a river next to some of the trails. Apparently the temperature in the cave varies little during the year regardless of the external temperature. 

    Once back down and reunited with Dotty we set off again. Lauren was at the helm and of course a torrential rain started. We stopped at a grocery store to use the last of our Korun money on pepperoni sticks and buns. The buns were perfect for the sticks. You could poke the stick into the bun and pretty much create a hotdog. They were great. At this point I started driving again because of the conditions, and Dotties shakes at certain speeds was getting worse. 

    We spent the day on amazing country roads heading towards Brno. We saw the first of our sunflower fields at this point. They were everywhere, and very beautiful. There were a few stops for photos. We also saw plenty of vineyards and wineries. We stopped in Mikulov which borders Austria. We wanted to check out the castle they had and grab a coffee. The castle was pretty cool, at the centre of the city and on hill, it was very very windy at the top. Amazing 360 degree views of the area. 

    From there we crossed the border into Austria and saw what was once a pretty serious looking border. Open now for free passage of course, but it looked like it could have been an intimidating place to cross. 

    Once we made it into Austria, Lauren had researched a castle called the Falkenstein castle on our route. We headed that way and were able to see it from quite a distance. It was located on a large hill that was able to see all the territory it would have held under it’s control. 

    We got to the top and found out we were the only people there. It’s only ruins now, but was renovated to have a rich historical walking tour and signage. It was originally built in the 11th century by the romans, and then of course modified and taken over by different people over the centuries. It had some amazing views and would have been quite the place when it was in it’s hay day. 

    After the castle we started looking for a place to camp for the night. About 20 km from Vienna we pulled down a road that was probably only used by the farmer to tend to his corn crop. It was on the top of a hill and a perfect place to stay for the night. We set up camp and then went on a twilight scroll through the fields. We saw a large hare and tracks that I said looked like dire wolf tracks. I don’t think they were actually that big. 

    Because of our distance from the cities we were able to see some amazing stars.