Beware of the Bear
The initial plan was to visit the Baradla Cave and afterwards take a walk in the surrounding forests climbing the hills, finding a nice view maybe and taking a photo or two. We did some research just to find out that news were published a few months earlier about a bear that had crossed the border from Slovakia and is wandering in the area. The park rangers did not see the bear, they just found its traces, and it has no GPS tracker chip or collar so they don´t know its location precisely.
Since it´s winter it should probably be sleeping in some cave, but that´s also where we were heading to. We had a serious debate whether we should take a walk in the forest. The cave was not a problem as it is a guided tour and the rangers secure the area.
But what about the hills and the forests? You would probably think since it´s winter, the bear is sleeping, some adventurous walk would do no harm, and the bear is not a territorial animal, so even meeting it doesn´t mean necessarily the end of the world, but no arguments could convince me and the final decision was made: we visit the cave and if we like the area we will return for a guided trek as there are a few of them every month, in summer even more frequently.
We traveled from Budapest by car and our destination was the entrance at Red Lake. The GPS gave us several route options and we opted for the longest one which lead us on the highway for most of the road. And that proved to be a good decision, as after Miskolc the country road got worse and worse with many potholes, in some places the edge of the road was completely missing.
It crosses some villages where the traffic rules fell into oblivion. We did pass cars parking in the middle of the road and were relieved to find renovated roads in the villages neighboring the cave which got the title of ˝European villages˝.
Arriving at the entrance of the ticket office at Red Lake Cave, we had enough time to buy the tickets and eat the sandwiches we prepared for the road. Not enough time though to enjoy a coffee... The tour lasted about an hour and a half. We did the Baradla Cave Intermediate Red Lake Tour, which meant the visit of the most important stalactites and stalagmites along the creek Styx which comes from Slovakia and streams through the entire length of the cave.
The hike is a simple one that can be done by almost anybody with an average fitness level, but be prepared to climb around 600 stairs. There are a few steep sections, but you are walking comfortably on a paved and lit walkway that has railings.
The guide explained that the most relevant stalagmites and stalactites were given a name. We are not sure if we would have identified them and had named them the same if we weren´t told the names beforehand, but if we are looking at the pictures we took of them now, we instantly recognize the Willow, the Mother with the child, Romeo and Juliette, the Crocodile, the Shark - with this one we are still debating whether it´s actually a Dragon -, the Observatory which to us rather resembles a Christmas tree and the Howling Bear.
The pace was a bit too fast for our taste as we would have loved to take our time with photography, but the guide was scheduled to do another tour, so he had to finish on time.
The Hall of Giants was the last and most impressive part of the tour. Here the stalactites and stalagmites were lit during a musical show, through which the organizers intend to present the acoustics of the hall and bring more drama to the beauty of the cave.
After the long walk under the ground we came out to the light at Jósvafő and were transported back by a minibus to the Red Lake Cave entrance. We indulged ourselves with a coffee bought at the kiosk located near the ticket office and while warming and energizing up with the hot drink we digested also the information and the experience we went through.
As for the abandoned idea of the walk in the forest, though I felt some remorse towards Greg for being such a chicken, to my relief the weather turned completely grey with an overcast sky and no hint of good light at sunset.
We started the engine of the car and headed to Eger where new places and experiences were waiting for us.