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The article was written 28.1.2007.
No cave is the same. As no same is the same to the other. The underground landscape is so varied... Of course, if you visit a show cave you'll know about nice flowstone formations because that's what you see in show caves. But caves also feature wild underground rivers, roaring and often very high waterfalls, pitches in all sizes (up to and over 300 m deep!), beautiful lakes, gigantic halls, narrow meanders, low crawls, canyons and so on.
Caves -mysterious holes of the Earth.
The process of forming caves in soluble rock is very slow. It all begins with rain. Glacier and ice caves provide us with interesting environments. Glacier caves are formed by water that has melted from a glacier to create tunnels and caves through the ice while ice caves are formed from water freezing in a well-ventilated cave with either a single or multiple entrances. They are found in areas that have seasons, which allows the ice to melt.
The best known cave formations are called stalactites and stalagmites. These are pure crystalline forms of the mineral known as calcite, the main component of limestone. When seepages of water enter cave passages some of the dissolved limestone may be re-deposited as tiny crystals. Gradually these crystals build up to form a stalactite or stalagmite.
One irreplaceable inhabitant of the caves is the bat. As you know it is very sensitive when it comes about light, so the natural environment of the cave offers him the perfect home. The Apuseni Mountains have a great variety of caves, well known all over the world.
As the caves aren't situated in very accessible places you should think thoroughly about where you will spend the night. There are a couple of alternatives you should consider depending on your boundaries with nature.
If you want to feel like home, you can spend the night in a guest room of the typical farms in Apuseni. The price is accessible and you can enjoy all the existing comfort in the area.
If you want to feel the real essence on Apuseni Mountains, I recommend you sleeping in a tent. Be aware that there is more than the tent you have to carry, as the caves are deep in the mountains, and the only ways to reach them are, either by jeep or by a local's wagon.
The first time we went exploring the Apuseni Mountains, we enjoyed an 18km hayride from the road to Scarisoara Ice Cave. It was an amazing experience as we had the chance to admire the incredible scenery surrounding us.
Don't forget to bring your camera so you can capture the nature's beauties and if you want to explore the caves, you should have the proper equipment. As the difference of temperature can affect sensitive people, you should always have an extra change of clothes just in case.
The Bears Cave
It is one of the most beautiful caves in Europe. It is lighten and here you can find the most beautiful stalactites and stalagmites. At 17 meters underground the access of the tourists is forbidden in order to preserve 15000 years old bear bones.
Scarisoara Ice Cave
This cave has a gigantic and astonishing underground glacier -actually the third largest glacier cave in the world. It is interesting to know that here samples of pollen extracted from the lowest ice layer gave an age of 3,500 years. The visitors have hourly tours, in small groups -this way the impressive stalactites and stalagmites are protected from the damaging effects of the heat. The ice columns were so beautiful colored by the reflectors that I simply didn't want to leave the cave
Obviously, on the glacier the temperature is constantly below 0, so in the summer time while descending, it might be a temperature difference of 25 degrees or even more. That is why you should come prepared as you don't want to freeze and not be able to enjoy the beauties of this place.
What is interesting is the fact that during the summer, the stalactites and stalagmites melt a little bit. They are rebuilt by the winter's coldness but they have a different shape from year to year. That's amazing! And also a reason to come back next year to observe the imminent changes.
As the cave is situated in an isolated place, deep inside the forest, you should think about the means of transportation as there are 18 km of bumpy road. If you are strong enough you can try walking by foot though 18 km is pretty much .But this way you can observe best the impressive scenery. On your way to the cave you will find The Gate of Ionele Cave -a real speleological museum.
Focul Viu Cave
As well as Scarisoara Ice Cave there is an underground glacier. But it's far more spectacular. I recommend you to visit this particular cave on a sunny summer day, around noon, otherwise you will be a little disappointed by what will seem to be just another huge piece of ice. The cave has an open "roof" though which the sun comes in. This cave's charm is represented by the sun shines that reflect on the ice creating the impression of an alive fire -this is how it got its name in the first place- due to this curious lighting effect.
The Lost world
If you want to see a wild, unmodified piece of nature, I highly recommend you the Lost World, a serene and quiet place. It has this name from the ancient belief that the people that went on this place never returned. Away from the noises of the city, it is a great place to put some order in your thought -if you feel like it. If not, you will enjoy the beautiful avens. The name of this place comes from the past wilderness of its landscape. The Lost World is in a fact a Karstic plateau The Last World plateau hides in its belly a widespread network of active galleries signed on the surface by dolines covered with vegetation. Two of these are entrances in the underworld on two avens which are unique for the Romanian Karst.Though you should be aware that getting close to these avens is dangerous for the slippery ground!
As you can see, exploring all these Apuseni's caves will take you plenty of time, the least one week. But you don't have to see them all at once as there will be more holidays to come. It is important to choose the things you want to see according to your preferences.
When I first started this journey, I just had a big rucksack down my back and a tent. No maps, no flashlight, just matches and my cell phone. I wondered trough the woods, I discovered by myself the Gate of Ionele Cave and I had a real support in the local people for guidance. I don't recommend you this as you may not know when it will rain and you have to have a proper shelter in this case. But in the end this gave charm to the whole trip. It was interesting to discover all these by myself! And very exciting!