A Great Little Place I know

Cerknica, Slovenia's Mysterious Disappearing Lake

The largest lake in Slovenia spends part of the year hiding.  It’s a beautiful ephemeral world that is half placid lake, half rich grassland.

In truth, most facts about Slovenia are little known; it’s just a little-known sort of a place.  However, one of the strangest facts about the place is that its largest lake sometimes just isn’t there.  During the late spring and summer months, lake Cerknica simply disappears.

Of course, there are lakes all over the world that dry up but that isn’t what’s happening with Cerknica.  It’s not drying up, it’s heading underground.  The lake sits on top of a limestone landscape called Karst and beneath its placid surface (or waving grassland – it depends) lies a natural system of caves and reservoirs.  At the end of spring, when the rains become too little to maintain the volume, the lake just drops through the sink holes and waits out the summer.

The fascinating thing, however, is how quickly the lake fills up again once the rains begin in earnest in the autumn.  Some of the linked reservoirs are in the hills above Cerknica and when they overflow with autumnal deluges, they fill up the reservoirs below the lake.  And suddenly, there it is again: the serene and ever so slightly ethereal Cerknica.

If you fancy a visit, I would recommend staying in nearby Postojna where you yourself can enter the magical subterranean Karst world on a train.  While you’re there check out the very peculiar proteus anguinus – or human fish.  It’s a blind, aquatic salamander that lives exclusively in the pitch black of these caves. 

You could also hire a bike in Postojna and enjoy a leisurely 15-mile trail around the edge of Cerknica.  It won’t exert you and it will give you a fabulous appreciation of this little known marvel.