Baradla Cave, Hungary: This Subterranean Jewel is the Most Impressive in Europe
There are many astonishing subterranean wonders in Europe. One of the most remarkable is the Baradla Cave. This is situated in the Aggtelek National Park and it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This cave is a natural world and it has fascinated explorers for centuries and will continue to do so for many more. Baradla is oft regarded as the most impressive cave in Europe.
Baradla Cave is the Diamond of the Aggtelek Cave System
It is situated in the only national park in the country dedicated to the conservation of geological features. The cave is the most famous of the many in the Aggtelek cave system, which is believed to contain some 1200 caves. The mouth of the cave is in Hungary, but such is its length (approximately 16 miles/25 km) that much of it is in Slovakia. Its entrance is on a ridge that overlooks the picturesque village of Aggtelek.
Baradla Cave is so Extensive That Not All of it has Been Explored
The Baradla Cave is made from limestone and was formed approximately 200-230 million years ago when present-day Europe lay under a vast sea. Fossils of alga and sea-lilies can still be found in the limestone. The main passage of the cave is about 10 meters (30 feet) in width and 8 meters (25 feet) high.
Some of the cave is easy to explore, but in areas it narrows and is considered to be impassable by even experienced potholers. As water seeps through the ground it has dissolved the limestone and this has produced the remarkable landforms known as ‘karst’. The Baradla cave speleothems (structures formed by water) are renowned - especially it’s stalactites and stalagmites. When exploring the cave one feels that one is in another world.
Styx Creek in the Styx branch of Baradla Cave ( Public Domain )
There is some water in the caverns as rainwater falls through sinkholes and two streams flow through the main passage. The cave is quite cold and atmospheric pressure can result in strong winds forming in the caverns. It has its own micro-climate and the air is therefore clean and pure which can help those suffering with respiratory conditions.
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The underground system is so large, and its acoustics so good, that concerts are regularly held in them. It’s even possible to get married in Baradla.
The History of Baradla
Baradla has been the subject of many archaeological excavations and evidence has been unearthed that prehistoric man from several cultures lived there in the distant past. Stilt post holes have been uncovered and these indicate that shelter was built within the caves. There have also been many items discovered made from bones and stones that are associated with the Bükk Culture from the Neolithic era. The most important archaeological finds in the caverns were made in the famous Hall of Bones. Here some thirteen skeletons were buried face down with their knees pulled up under their chins. Oddly, each one had a large stone placed upon their back. Archaeologists have also uncovered what they believe are ritual sites from the Bronze and Iron Age.
Lit footpath ( Fotolia)
The caves have been explored for centuries, the first records dating back to sixteenth century. In 1794 a survey of the cave was conducted by a German engineer and he is believed to have drawn the first cave-map. In 1925 the Hungarian government made Baradla a national monument and it was only in 1935 that a director of the cave established that it was one single cave and not two separate caves. There continue to be explorations to this day. The flora and the fauna of Baradla are considered important because the cave is a unique eco-system. There are several troglodytes (cave- species) in Baradla and they are regularly studied by naturalists.
Visiting the Cave
Tourist walks have taken place in the main passage since the early nineteenth century. The Hungarian government has invested heavily in this geological wonder - they have constructed concrete pathways, bridges, and even installed lighting in the caves to encourage visitors to explore this wonder of nature. Past directors of the cave built a hostel near the cave and there is a hotel in nearby Jósvafő. It is easy to get to Baradla cave from Budapest, but the opening hours vary depending on the season and either short tours or long ones that can last up to six hours are available. There are many hiking trails in the area around Aggtelek.
Top image: Stalactites and stalagmites in Baradla Cave , Hungary Source: ( Fotolia)
By Ed Whelan
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