Today was Bear Caves day. I was super-excited about this because I love caves. I love exploring them and learning how they were created and all that fun stuff. This cave was especially unique because it has a pretty awesome story to go with it. “Pestera Ursilor” means Bears’ Cave in Romanian. The cave was named so, as numerous cave bears (Ursus spelaeus) were found in this cave. The cave was visited by these large animals more than 15,000 years ago. But one day, a rock slide closed the entrance while more than 140 bears were still in the cave. Becoming hungry, the bears killed one another until all were dead. Today, this story is told by their remains; tons of bear bones covering the floor of large parts of the cave with the marks of bear teeth. The Bears’ Cave dwells an extraordinary range of stalagmite and stalactite formations varying in size and forms, as well as an impressive amount of Cave Bear fossils. – Ursus Spelaeus – a species which disappeared more than 15,000 years ago. The cave entrance – which is situated at 482 m altitude – is by the tourist pavilion. Bears Cave is 1 km in length. It is disposed on two-overlapped levels: one which is larger, being 488 m in length and fitted out for tourist reasons, and an interior level, temporarily active, being 521 m in length, which is used for scientific reservation.
The cave was undisturbed until 17 September 1975 when the cave was discovered during quarry works. The marble and limestone of this area was mined by the inhabitants of the nearby village of Chiscau. The first person in the cave was quarry worker Curta Traian from Chiscau. And he still lives today. I wanted to get a picture with him but he wasn’t around. When we arrived at the caves, it cost extra (just like at the castles) to take pictures. But Ana’s, (Alex’s wife) father used to work in the area and is good friends with the tour guide. So when it came time to pay to take pictures, he told the cashier that it wasn’t necessary. So I took a lot of pictures.
Here we are about to go inside:
From left to right: Alex, Soren, me, Alex and Ana.
Just like the Salt Mine that we visited, it was very cold inside. And it was nice to get out of the heat again. Romania was absurdly hot, and I think I’ve mentioned this a few times already. But it felt good to sweat and get some much needed sun.
Here’s the tunnel as we walked in…
…pretty cool, right?
And here’s all the bear bones they have been talking about:
We weren’t allowed to go off the platforms and they told us to not touch anything. The tour guide was especially concerned about people touching the stalactite formations because oils on the human skin ruins them and they stop growing. Here’s me with a bunch of stalactite formations in the background…
…and here’s a picture with a bunch of stalactite formation:
See the ones at the bottom of the picture that are kind of flat on the top? Those ones have stopped growing because people touched them. I was very curious to know what they felt like and I’m pretty sure I refrained from touching one. I think. If I did touch one, it was one that had already been touched and wasn’t growing. That’s my story. At the end of the bear caves tour, we came upon this:
This is the remains of one of the bears at the end of the tour. The bear apparently died of starvation and collapsed. Beyond the bear there is more cave to discover. Nearly 600 kilometers of cave that scientists want to explore. The tour guide had a great sense of humor and although everything he said was in Romanian, my fiancée translated the majority of it. Or at least the funny stuff. On our way out, he played a joke on us. He claimed that bats were going to fly over our heads for a few seconds when he turned on the lights. I thought that was going to be awesome but I didn’t want a bat to fly into me so I was a little nervous. When he turned on the lights, everyone jumped but no bats flew out. It was all a gaffe but the kids on the tour all jumped and screamed. It was pretty funny.
Also, make note of the green algae growing on the rocks. This is formed by the air and humidity from the outside air getting inside the cave. When we entered the cave in the beginning there were a set of doors that we had to go through so it kept the outside air out which helps preserve the cave. But at the end, it’s pretty much just a turnstile that we exited from and all the outside air flows in and helps grow the cave algae:
We left the bear cave and headed deeper into the mountains. This spot…
…was a favorite of the aforementioned group of people we went into the bear cave with. During the summer months, when it’s super hot (like today) they would jump in the river to cool off. It was like being a kid again but as an adult. The landscape and the things to do around this area was beautiful and endless at the same time. Life seemed to go back to the basics. Playing in the river, walking around town, a simple life with out all the big city lights and big city hustle.
We headed back to the city of Beius to spend the evening with Alex’s other cousins. They lived in these old looking communist apartments. They seem very rundown and old on the outside, but I assure you. They are very nice and updated on the inside. It was cozy and very peaceful. Here’s a look at some across the way:
Notice the laundry line at the top of the photo? A lot of Romanians believe that it is not necessary to have a dryer along with a washer machine. It’s not that people can not afford one. Its the idea of people just don’t feel the need to use that type of resource to dry their clothes. They hang dry everything and let the breeze and sun do the work. It takes a bit more planning and it takes longer to do laundry but it’s very effective. I was used to the idea of just throwing them into the dryer and going to do something else but not here.
We had to be up pretty early tomorrow to head to the mountains again. Alex’s cousins were working over night and they would come home, we’d load up the truck and head out. The next three days were going to be epic.
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