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Serbia’s cave system

Serbia’s caves are a notable feature on its map of tourist destinations, many of them of interest to visitors thanks to their attractive cave formations and beautiful natural phenomena. The greatest concentration of caves is found in eastern Serbia. Currently, there are seven caves which have been made suitable for visiting by tourists, although the current state of the Marble Cave, located in Kosovo and Metohija, is not known. via(source)

Caves and potholes are classed as speleological natural monuments. The most well-known caves open to visitors are the Resavska, Zlotske Pećine, Rajkova, Potpećka, Bogovinska and Stopića Pećina caves. Of the caves which are only partially adapted or were once open to visitors but have since fallen into ruin, the most interesting are the Potpećka, Prekonoška and Petnička Pećina caves. Entry to these caves without an expert guide and appropriate equipment is not permitted.

Resavska Pećina

The Resavska Pećina cave is in eastern Serbia, in the region of Gornja Resava, 20 km from the town of Despotovac. It is set into the limestone hill of Babina Glava on the fringes of the Divljakovac karst polje, its entrance at 485 m above sea-level. It is one of the oldest caves in Serbia, some 80 million years old, with some of the older formations dating back around 45 million years. Its formation began before the Great Ice Age through the chemical and mechanical action of a subterranean river running through the limestone bedrock.

The Resava cave was discovered in 1962, although it was known of earlier by shepherds who would shelter with their sheep in the cave in bad weather. It was opened to visitors in 1972. The cave is 4.5 km long, 2830 m have been investigated in detail and around 800 m have been made accessible to visitors. The temperature in the Resava cave is a constant 7°C all year round, with air humidity varying between 80 and 100%.

The interior of the cave abounds in numerous and varied halls, channels, galleries, columns, stalactites, stalagmites, draperies and flowstone waterfalls. The cave formations begin at the very entrance to the cave. The formations came about through the dissolving and precipitation of calcium carbonate, and the colour determined by the minerals through which the water passed. Three colours can be seen, red (from iron oxide), white (from crystalline calcite) and yellow (from the addition of clay).

Visitors move through the cave along a spiral concrete path in one direction, not returning via the same route. The trail passes through various halls, on two levels (the upper and lower galleries). The lowest point reached by visitors is at 405 m above sea level. Four halls can be toured in the upper gallery. The first is the Hall of joined columns or collonades, which got its name from the columns which have merged to connect roof to floor and are composed of yellowish calcite. In the second, the Beehive Hall, the roof is covered with stalactites still in the process of formation. The second and third halls are connected by a tunnel of red breccias which are only found in Serbia in the Resava cave. The Canyon Channel is the driest part of the cave and has no formations. Along the centre of the channel is the 25 m-long Blind Tunnel Swallow-h***, which has been explored but is not adapted for visitors. The Canyon Channel leads to the third hall – the Entrance Hall of History. It was so named because tools have been found there (a stone axe and spear-heads), the skull of an arctic fox and a prehistoric human fireplace. Short tunnels, which were made later, lead to the Path of the Flowstone Waterfalls, where the Organ is also found. The hall is highly acoustic, and features two crystal white sculptures, Grandma and Grandpa. A longer, artificial tunnel leads to the fourth hall, the Crystal Hall, where the cave formations popularly known as the Hung Sheep and Elephant’s Foot can be found. There is also a recess in the wall which came about through the merging of a stalactite and stalagmite and is called the Bell or the Cage.

Rajkova Pećina

The Rajkova Pećina cave is in eastern Serbia, 2 km fromMajdanpek. It is reached via a tarmac road along the banks of the Mali Pek river and the Veliki Zaton artificial lake. The whole region surrounding the source of the Mali Pek is rich in mixed woodlands of beech, maple and oak, and is unique both for its natural life and its caves.

Rajkova Pećina got its name from the renowned Rajko Vojvoda, who is thought to have lived in the 19th century. According to tradition, he was an innkeeper by day, but by night he robbed Turkish caravans and hid the treasure in this cave. The cave was first explored by the geographerJovan Cvijić in 1894 but research was not continued until the 1970s, under the leadership of Dr Radenko Lazarević. The cave was opened to visitors in 1975.

The entrance section of the cave, from the direction of the village of Rajkovo, was occupied by humans even in prehistory, as evidenced by a stone hammer now kept in the archaeological collection in the Majdanpek Museum. Rajkova Pećina is an open cave, through which theRajkova Reka river flows. Upon leaving the cave, it merges into the Paskova Reka river which also flows from the cave, and thus the Mali Pek is formed.

In terms of its characteristics and evolution it is one of the most interesting caves in Serbia. The cave has two levels, a descending section and an emerging section which differ, the lower being hydrologically active, the upper dry. With 2304 m of tunnels so far explored it is the longest cave in Serbia. The river and dry tunnel join to create a circular path 1410 m long, of which visitors can currently tour 633 m. The temperature in the cave is 8°C and above, and the relative humidity of the air is close to 100%.

Rajkova Pećina is rich in cave formations of all shapes, made of the highest quality snow-white crystal calcite to be found in Serbia. Walking along the cave trail the visitor has a unique chance to experience the gurgling sound of the clear Rajkova Reka river echoing around the Ježeva Dvorana (‘Hedgehog Hall’), with thousands of calcite straws adorning the ceiling. Following this, the visitor crosses the reddish rimstone pools, past the ‘Winter Fairy-Tale’ with ‘The Polar Bear’ and enters ‘The Crystal Forest’ in which ‘The Quivering Pond’ is found. Some of the better-known figures here are ‘The Egyptian Goddess’, ‘The Snail’ and the ‘Tree Stump with Toadstools’.

Potpećka Pećina

The Potpećka Pećina cave is in the village of Potpeće, 14 km southeast of Užice. It is unique in its monumental entrance in the shape of a horseshoe. The entrance is 50 m, the width at the base is 12 m, and 22 m under the arch, making it the largest cave mouth in Serbia. It is carved into a limestone cliff, the vertical portion of which is 72 m high. The explored section, adapted for visitors, is 555 m long. The path in and out of the cave has over 700 steps.

The Potpećka Pećina cave is an erosional cave, formed by the waters of subterranean rivers which descend underground in the Drežnik valley and follow an underground course to re-emerge from the cave or from springs in front of the cave, to create the Petnica cave river. The Potpećka Pećina cave, geologically speaking, is composed of Middle Triassic limestone with a fine mosaic structure and high fissure porosity.

Two distinct levels can be differentiated in the Potpećka cave’s tunnels: the older – the Upper Cave and the more recent – the Lower Cave. The entrance tunnel is shared by both levels and came about through the destruction of the dividing rock between them. The abundance of cave formations is a rarity in karst caves.

There are 3 types of channels in the Potpećka cave which can be divided according to their evolution: the fossil(Upper Cave), the periodically active (the longer portion of the Lower Cave) and the constantly active (the most recent, underground river course).

The mean annual air temperature is 9.5°C, with the maximum temperature in July and the minimum in January.

It is thought likely that the cave was inhabited by humans as far back as the Neolithic period. Archaeological remains have been found in the cave, such as ceramics, fashioned deer antlers and flint weapons.

The Potpećka Pećina cave is protected as a natural monument.

Stopića Pećina

The Stopića Pećina cave is on the northeastern side of the mountain of Zlatibor. It is 30 km from Užice, 250 km from Belgrade and 19 km from the main Belgrade-Podgorica highway. The Užice-Sirogojno road passes above the cave itself.

Stopića cave is classed as a river cave as the Trnavski Potok stream flows through it. It is comprised of three cave and water levels: one which is periodically flooded, a second river level and the most recent level, a fissure. Excluding the most recent level, the Stopića Pećina cave is 1691.5 m long, covers an area of 7911.5 m2 and has an interior volume of more than 120,000 m3.

The entrance to the cave is at 711 m above sea-level. The limestone layer in the cave dates from the Triassic period and is more than 100 m thick. The entrance to the cave is an impressive 30-40 m high and 18 m wide. The climate in the cave is influenced by outside conditions – in winter it is cold and in summer warm. The waters of the Trnavski Potok stream also affect the cave’s microclimate.

The cave is comprised of five sections: the Light Hall, the Dark Hall, the Great Hall with Pools, the Channel with Pools and the River Channel. The section of the cave open to visitors does not have a great many formations, but there are a number of interesting elements such as the large entrance, the dugure (openings in the ceiling), a limestone chalice called the Dogs’ Graveyard, the Well of Life waterfall and the most striking feature, a series of sinter pools which are among the largest and deepest (more than 7 metres) of any found in the caves of Serbia.

The pools flood periodically and some of them have become lakes.

Ceremošnja

The Ceremošnja cave is located on the northeastern slopes of the Homolje mountains, at a height of 533 m above sea-level, beneath the highest peak, Veliki Štubej (940 m). The cave is 15 km from Kučevo and can be reached via a tarmac road. Near to the cave is the villageof Ceremošnja, after which it was named.

It was made suitable for visits by tourists in 1980. The total length of its hitherto explored tunnel system is 775.5 m, while the length of the tourist trail is 431 m. Since 2007 it has been protected as a natural monument.

Due to its wealth of cave formations, Ceremošnja is one of the most beautiful caves in Serbia. It is known for its large halls adorned with a variety of cave formations – stalactites, stalagmites, columns, draperies, flowstone waterfalls, galleries and more.

Since the Ceremošnja cave is of the open, pothole type, it is subject to outside influences. During winter, the temperature inside is 60 C, and relative humidity 72 do 78%. There are no air-currents in Ceremošnja.

The Ceremošnja cave can be divided into five natural sections:

The entrance section is 87 m long and comprises the section from the cave entrance to the Arena hall. This section has little to see in the way of cave formations.

The Arena is the largest and most attractive chamber in Ceremošnja. It has an irregular circular shape and is very reminiscent of an ancient Roman amphitheatre, hence the name. The total length of the Arena system is 105 m. It is 40 to 50 m in width and 20 to 24 m high. The formations in the Arena are of the highest quality. Some striking forms stand out:

– ‘Forever on Guard’ – a dynamic column, also the symbol of Ceremošnja

– ‘The Waterfall’ – a massive cascading calcite column, more than 10 m high

– Lepa Vlajna – a delicate snow-white column of crystal, sparkling calcite which symbolises a woman from the region.

Nearby is also ‘The Bridegroom’ stalagmite, and two strangely conjoined columns called ‘The Friends’.

The Ponorska Dvorana (‘Swallow-H*** Chamber’) is entered from the Arena via an opening in the high, dividing drapery wall. The opening is named Dveri, as it is reminiscent of the so-named double wooden altar doors in an Orthodox church. The Ponorska Dvorana is named after the funnel-shaped swallow-h*** (ponor) found in it. The Ponorska Dvorana section is 99 m long. The chamber is 36 m long and 18 m wide. Amongst the wealth of formations, a particular rarity is the ‘Cracked Sphere’, a huge hemisphere of streaked, multicoloured sinter, cracked, with separate spherical pieces. The radius of this ball is 3.5 to 4 m.

The Andezitska Dvorana (‘Andesite Chamber’) is entered via a wide passageway from the Arena. It got its name from the mineral andesite, which the chamber is largely formed of. The chamber is elliptical in shape, 60 m long and 15-20 m wide. The total length of this section is 76 m. Among several fascinating groups of formations, of special interest are the ‘Roadside Memorials’ – a group of unusual stalagmites. Especially eye-catching are the snow-white ceiling formations.

The Južni Kanal (‘South Channel’) is the final section of Ceremošnja, leading to the exit from the cave. It begins from where the Lepa Vlajna stands in the Arena. The Južni Kanal is 107.7 m long, or 172 m if one includes the adjoining short blind tunnels. It has little in the way of formations, but there are a number of interesting shapes. Two long, somewhat narrower tunnels extend from the Južni Kanal and at the end of the first of these two is the cave’s exit opening.

The trail marked for visitors in Ceremošnja is circular and one-way, providing an ideal way for tourists to enjoy the cave.

The remains of a cave bear which lived more than 100,000 years ago have been found in the cave.

Flowing into the cave is the Strugarski Potok stream which, after flowing underground for a kilometre re-emerges on the surface as a powerful spring near to the Bigar cave. It is thought that between these two caves there must be a cave system which could be several kilometres long, an old system of cave channels which once emerged beneath the karst arch around 20-30 m above the Bigar cave, and not on the newer level along which the Strugarski Potok today flows. It is known for a fact that there was once a cave mouth here that was buried by the locals.

The cave is set amidst very beautiful surroundings. Just a few kilometres away, there are a number of interesting sites for tourists to visit. On the slopes of Veliki Štubej are the Bigar Pećina cave and theGolubanjska Pećina cave, the Siga waterfall and the remains of the Celtic fortification Arsin Grad.

A road has been built from the Ceremošnja cave to Veliki Štubej, and this peak offers an unforgettable vantage point looking out onto the Pomoravlje plain, the rolling hills of Šumadija and the steep slopes of the Carpathians in neighbouring Romania.

Ravništarka

The Ravništarka cave is very close to the Ceremošnja cave, close to the village of Ravnište. It was fully developed for access by visitors in 2007 when it was also declared a natural monument. The cave is reached by taking the tarmac road to Ceremošnja but turning off after around 9 km from Kučevo for the village of Ravnište and travelling another 3 km.

Ravništarka is one of the larger caves in Serbia. The main section of the cave is 501.5 m long, 589 m including all the adjoining tunnels. The Ponorac stream runs through the Ravništarka, which emerges 2 km upstream in the smaller, Bisina cave.

The Ravništarka cave was discovered in 1980. The locals in Ravnište had known that the cave existed, but only knew of the entrance section (60-80 m). An intrepid group of young local men negotiated the cave from beginning to end, and all that the speleologists later had to do was follow in their footsteps.

The cave formations in Ravništarka are equal in beauty to those in Ceremošnja. In contrast to Ceremošnja, which is comprised of several large halls, Ravništarka has just one hall – the Black Palace. The distinguishing feature of Ravništarka is its main section which resembles a giant tunnel, opulently decorated with a wide variety of cave formations. Most notable of the formations are ‘Prince Marko’s Horse’, ‘The Big-heads’) and ‘The Fair Maiden of Ravnište’ which is also the symbol of the cave.

Being a river cave, Ravništarka is lacking in floor-level formations, but its walls and roof are rich in cave formations. The entrance to the cave is at a height of 406.6 m above sea-level and the temperature in the cave is 8-100 C.

The Ravništarka divides into 9 basic sections:

1. Savin Kanal (‘Sava’s Channel’) begins at the entrance to the cave, is 88 m long and has little to see in the way of cave formations.

2. Omladinski Kanal (‘Youth Channel’) is 72.5 m, and has some notable cave formations, including the Rudonja – a large sinter hemisphere, ‘The Hearth Room’ – a large flowstone which resembles an open fireplace in an old-style house and Šlingeraj – richly pleated flowstones resembling little curtains.

3. Labudovo Jezero (‘Swan Lake’) is 126.5 m long and got its name from the small lake with a figure on it resembling a swan. Especially beautiful is the row of columns called ‘The Lake Fairies’. Another beautiful feature is ‘The Harp’ – a set of draperies and stalagmites resembling this musical instrument, ‘The Devil’ – a large reddish stalagmite with a horn on top and, the striking symbol of the cave, the ‘Fair Maiden of Ravnište’ – an unusually shaped group of wall formations of white crystal calcite.

4. Beli Dvorac (White Palace) is 37 m long, or 44 m including its side-tunnel. It got its name due to its uncanny resemblance to some fairytale castle. The snow-white roof, from which hangs a forest of large stalactites, some of which are more than 6 m in length, is a sight not easily forgotten. Especially beautiful is ‘Snow-White’s Balcony’ – a snowy-white shell beginning at a height of 3.5 m. In another part of the White Palace is ‘Prince Marko’s Horse’ – the large figure of a horse floating beneath the ceiling.

5. Leopardov kanal (‘Leopard Channel’) is 16.5 m and is connected to the Beli Dvorac. It gained its name due to the odd patterns on the roof and walls that are reminiscent of a leopard’s fur. The ‘Virgin’s Spring’ is found here, an interesting geological phenomenon. The spring is in the form of a narrow crack from which pressurised water shoots vertically with a hissing sound, spraying the rock above.

6. Crni Dvorac (‘Black Palace’), which at 43 m long is a classic cave hall, around 20 m wide on average and 12 m high. It got its name from its black rocks which are in streaked in places with white calcite forms. The hall has a mysterious feeling about it, as though an evil fairy lived here, who had enchanted the White Palace and the handsome prince, its lord. In the Crni Dvorac there is a very beautiful formation called Ikonostas featuring a variety of snow-white decorations on a black background, like the iconostasis in a church. Between the “doors” of the iconostasis stands the Iguman (‘Abbot’). Beneath the Ikonostas are some strange forms which have been dubbed Ptice (‘Birds’).


7. Izvorski Kanal (‘Spring Channel’) is 72 m long. Particularly striking are the Glavonje – a group of unusually-shaped stalagmites and the ‘White Gate’ – a white decoration on a black background.

8. Mali beli dvorac (‘Small White Palace’) is a blind tunnel, 17 m long and shaped like a small hall. There is a particularly beautiful group of stalagmites and stalactites called ‘The Refugees’.

9. Dušanove Galerije (‘Dušan’s Galleries’) are the final section of Ravništarka. It was named after Dušan Nedeljković, the man responsible for creating the infrastructure which made it possible for visitors to experience Ceremošnja and Ravništarka. This is an old, dry cave system adjoining the main cave tunnel. The first 15 metres is a single tunnel which then forks into two, of which the longer left one, 40 m in length, extends to the cave exit.

There is an information centre on the plateau above the cave where visitors can buy tickets and souvenirs and enjoy the restaurant with outdoor seating in summer.

Risovača

The Risovača cave is located on the hill of the same name as you enter the town of Aranđelovac, 76 km from Belgrade. Around 150 m is open to visitors and the cave is of interest in the study of archaeology, prehistoric life and speleology.

Research at Risovača began in the 1950s, and a great many ice-age animal bones have been discovered there, as well as stone and bone tools. The remains of human skeletons have not been found as the cave is situated within an old quarry – during mining operations the entrance section of the cave was destroyed, where the richest cultural layers were to be found.

Animal remains found here date back to the last, fourth ice age, their age estimated at around 100,000 years. During this time there were major climate changes which precipitated migrations of animal herds from ice-bound central Europe towards southern Europe and onwards, to northern Africa. At that time the territory of what is today Serbia was populated by Eurasian steppe fauna which is why most of the animal bones found in Risovača belonged to steppe animals, which would have been heading from the Pannonian Plain towards the interior of Serbia. In terms of the number of remains found, the most common is the cave bear, followed by the wild horse, wild ass, cave hyena, fox and cave lion. Smaller amounts of bone fragments of other ice-age mammal species have been found in Risovača such as badger, wild boar, rabbit, woolly rhinoceros, mammoth and others.

The Old Stone Age or Palaeolithic period was the earliest age of human existence. The Risovača cave has been turned into a kind of underground museum of the Palaeolithic Age. Figures representing a family gathered around the fire can be seen in the cave, its members carrying out common tasks of the day. One man is returning from the hunt, another is chipping at a stone to fashion a weapon, a woman is bringing wood for the fire and a male figure is smashing a bone by hand to make a weapon with.

The preserved stone artefacts (a spike, an axe, scrapers for working with leather and fur, a chisel) and bone (a fastener for joining items of leather clothing, an awl and a dagger) suggest manufacture by prehistoric Neanderthal man, whose primary activity was hunting – i.e. an intelligent creature who made tools with a specific purpose.

The archaeological materials uncovered in Risovača were the first scientific evidence to confirm the existence of prehistoric cultures south of the Sava-Danube boundary. Because of the significance of the cave as a prehistoric archaeological site, where evidence of the culture and oldest habitats of Palaeolithic man in the Balkans are found, the Risovača cave is protected as a natural monument.

Zlotske Pećine

There are many important sites near the village of Zlot – especially important are the caves of Lazareva, Vernjikica, Vodena, Mandina, Hajducica and Stojkova Ledenica. All these objects are known as the Zlot Caves or the Caves of Zlot.

Two of the caves – Lazareva and Vernjikica, are adapted for the tourists. The most famous and the one that was adapted the earliest in theLazareva cave.

The entrance to the cave is at the 291m above the sea level and it is located at the left bank of the Lazareva River. Turks have closed the entrance to the cave during their reign, in order to prevent outlaws from hiding in the cave.

The first archeological data about the cave were given by Felix Hoffman in 1882, and systematic explorations were done first by Jovan Cvijic, and later by the Museum of Mining located inBor. The cave tunnels were built by an underground river and the tunnels are still changing.

The total length of the tunnels is 1592m. There are organized guide tours and the time spent in the cave and in the motel next to it represent a unique experience, fulfilled with legends and stories about the burried treasure in those areas.

Bogovinska Pećina

Bogovinska cave is located in eastern Serbia, near the village of Bogovina, which is situated near the road Boljevac-Zajecar. Bogovinska cave is the longest cave in Serbia (the length of the channel investigated is over 7.5 km), and it is certainly one of our best. First 300 m of cave trails are partially furnished. Bogovinska cave is protected by law as a natural monument.

The entrance to the cave is situated at 360 m above sea level. It is one of the longest caves in Serbia (around 6 km is explored). A large part of Bogovinska cave channel represents example of eroded channels. Lower floor, Ponorski channel, has a constant flow.

The upper part, high channel, is dry. In between, the main channel which makes most of the cave is occasionally hydrologically active. The reason for that is the fact that there are occasional flows through the cave, that exit at the entrance. That gives the cave a feature of freshwater spring cave, and occasinally the cave is a spring.

Deeper parts of the cave are rich with ornaments. There is a very interesting fauna of cave arthropodes in Bogovinska cave. Pseudoscorpions are very important, as well as land endemic shrimp and subtroglophyle insects.

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