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The Škocjanske jame Regional park

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Because of their extraordinary significance for the world's natural heritage, in 1986 the Škocjanske jame were included in UNESCO's World Heritage List. The Republic of Slovenia pledged to ensure the protection of the Škocjanske jame area and therefore adopted the Škocjanske jame Regional Park Act. The Park is managed by the Park Škocjanske jame Public Service Agency, located in Škocjan 2, Slovenia.

The Škocjanske jame Regional Park is situated in the south-western part of Slovenia, in the region called Kras, or Karst. Kras is the area where researchers first began discovering typical karst formations, karst caves and other karst features, and is therefore also referred to as the original or classical Karst. The internationally accepted term used in karstology for a steep-sided and flat-floored depression -- doline or dolina - owes its origins precisely to the dolines in the Škocjan area (Velika and Mala dolina), where the Reka river disappears underground for the last time.
The Škocjanske jame Regional Park, which is situated in the Divača municipality, extends over an area of 413 hectares and encompasses the area of the caves, the surface above the caves, the system of collapsed dolines and the Reka river gorge to the bridge in Škoflje. The boundary of the Park runs along the Kozina-Divača highway on the west, embraces part of the Divača Kras on the north, and in the south-eastern direction extends to the foothills of the flysch hills of Brkini. The passage of a river from flysch to limestone is called contact karst, and the Škocjanske jame caves which are located in such a passage, are a unique example of this karst feature.

The Park embraces the characteristic and unique karst landscape combining a great number of karst features in one place. Together with the system of caves, collapsed dolines and individual cultural monuments, the Park makes up a typical karst "architecture". The unusual climatic conditions in the dolines and at the cave entrances account for the blended presence of both Alpine and Mediterranean flora. The unique concentration of plant and animal species cohabiting in such an extremely small space gives this area a significant value in terms of biotic diversity. The employees of the Park, in collaboration with local inhabitants, pay great attention to the protection of the natural ecosystems and archaeological sites, to the restoration of architectural heritage, and to sustainable management.

The Škocjanske jame caves have an extremely complex system of cave passages in a total length of 5.8 km. The difference between the lowest and the highest point in the caves is 209 meters. The caves are the biggest and best known natural phenomenon within the classical Karst area. With the shifting of sink holes in the geological past, numerous collapsed dolines have formed at the contact point where flysch meets limestone under the caverns. With their depth of 163 meters, Velika dolina and Mala dolina charm every visitor. The finest view of both dolines with the natural bridge and the cave that separates them is from an observation point. The caves, with an immense underground gorge and halls, are the beginning of the Škocjan underground system. The height of the gorge exceeds 100 meters at several points. The caves probably have the biggest cave hall in Europe, measuring 12,000 square meters (1.2 hectares) in cross section. The Reka river runs underground for almost 40 kilometres, to the sources of the Timav in the Gulf of Trieste.

Within the Park's protected area, there are three smaller villages featuring typical karst architecture: Škocjan, Betanja, and Matavun. The entire village of Škocjan is especially interesting. It was once a fort, and with its square and church of Sv. Kancijan (St. Canzian), after which the caves were named, it is considered a "settlement monument". There are several archaeological sites in the territory of the Park from various archaeological periods, including settlements, burial grounds and cave sites. Because of their special value they are included in the regime for the protection of cultural heritage. Stone houses with stone wells, portals, barns for wheat threshing and storage, water mills, ice pits, and the cemetery with old tombstones form the life and cultural circle of the local population.

Visitors are invited to enjoy the beauties of Kras in our Park as fully as possible and to help preserve local natural and cultural values -- not only for all of us but also for future generations.

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