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A natural beauty presented in an uncommon way

BURIED in the green hills outside the eastern Slovak town of Prešov is Bad Hole (Zlá Diera), a place that serves as an entrance to the underworld. Neither a mafia meeting point nor a drug den, Bad Hole is a cave in which a private company offers guided tours.
One of the main attractions of the cave is its natural state, which allows visitors to see an environment that is usually hidden in the cracks.
"We teach people a little bit about the natural life of a cave," says Rudolf Košč, the manager of the cave.


BAD Hole Cave, where a private company offers tours.
photo: Ervín Némethy

BURIED in the green hills outside the eastern Slovak town of Prešov is Bad Hole (Zlá Diera), a place that serves as an entrance to the underworld. Neither a mafia meeting point nor a drug den, Bad Hole is a cave in which a private company offers guided tours.

One of the main attractions of the cave is its natural state, which allows visitors to see an environment that is usually hidden in the cracks.

"We teach people a little bit about the natural life of a cave," says Rudolf Košč, the manager of the cave.

The cave is not lit, nor is there a concrete path, apart from some steps and handrails at its mouth. To minimize the impact on the cave environment, visitors are led on special routes. Bats live there, though only during the winter.

To enter the cave, visitors can put on coveralls and helmets to protect them from the mud and rocks, and carry kerosene lamps.

In the cave's main chamber the walls are decorated with multi-coloured calcium deposits left by dripping water. Little stalactites cling to the ceiling. At the end of each quivers a drop of water. The sound of dripping is everywhere. The air is cold and wet, and supposedly possesses curative properties - some visitors even spend the night there to take advantage of its effects.


COLOURFUL calcium deposits.
photo: Ervín Némethy

Deeper in the cave is a special area called the Labyrinth. It is a set of interlocking chambers where what looks like little cracks in the walls turn out to be tight passages.

According to tour guide Veronika Koščová, the cave has served as a hiding place for nearby villagers at various times during the history of invasions and uprisings on Slovak soil. More recently it was used to host a concert. The cave also brims with legends, including those of the Slovak hero Juraj Janošík, a fairy, and a dragon.

It is strange that the cave is managed privately for the state, instead of by the state itself, as is the case with the high profile caves in Slovakia. "Only cave experts are given this permission [by the state]," explains Košč, "and in Slovakia there are currently only two caves that are operated in this way."

Košč sees a great difference between Bad Hole and state-run caves, such as Gombasecká. "They don't belong to private people, they belong to the state, which runs them in a similar way as was done during socialism, which we don't like."

The floors of public caves are cemented, and the spaces are lit by electric lights. In Bad Hole, on the contrary, people access the cave in a natural way.

Košč has been caving since 1980. The cave has been open since 1999 and in that time it has seen about 25,000 visitors. When asked how he came to his profession he replies: "I wanted to do something different from other people. And it has been a crazy experience."

Also popular with locals is Lačnovský canyon, located in a valley near the cave. Ask the guides for directions.

The cave is open daily from April 1 to October 31, from 9:00 to 19:00. A standard 40-minut tour costs Sk60 and children pay reduced prices. From Prešov take a bus toward Lipovce-Lačnov, with a special stop for the cave, or drive. For more information call 0905/237-565 or 0905/518-975, or visit www.jaskyna.szm.sk.

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