Algeria – Around Tlemcen

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about my first trip to Tlemcen. Of course, my friends and I not only spent time in town, but explored some of its surroundings. So here’s a map to put things into context. We went along road N7 up to Ain Fezza and back and to the lake south of the city. The National Park in the southwest is at the top of my wish list.map Tlemcen Area

Scenic stop number one was at the apex of the hairpin on road N7. There’s a spring which is considered powerful for healing body and spirit. The place is nestled in what in ancient times seems to have been a waterfall. The cliffs are towering over a tiny hamlet which only seems to exist to regulate access to said spring. The exciting bit of architecture is formed by an enormous bridge constructed by Gustave Eiffel.

From there, we headed towards Ain Fezza, and then pretty much up the mountains whose cliffs we had just admired. It was freezing cold, but oh joy, there were raptors circling high up in the air!

So, after a picnic with sparrowhawk, Bonelli’s eagle and some local cats we descended down into the caves of Beni Aad. The whole cave system reaches as far as Morocco, but the part accessible for visitors is small. Nevertheless, you can walk around just on your own, take photos, shake your head about the morons who try to leave their signature in the dripstone, and best of all, spot the bats.caves of Beni Aad

Ascending from the fairly warm caves, we ventured into town, did some sightseeing there and then went up the southern hills again to the view-point of Lalla Setti. The views towards north and in the direction of the Med were impressive. Apparently, on a clear day it’s possible to see Spain.Tlemcen northwards

Our last port of call was the reservoir just south of Tlemcen. We stopped at some farmer’s stall to get some free-range eggs, butter and other locally produced food. Yummy! The lake itself was wonderfully quiet and home to some gulls and waders. The perfect place to finish off our tour.

Exploring the East: Caves in the Karst

As mentioned in my last post about Roznava, I stayed in that area – thanks to my student Vojto and his mum – for a few days. It’s a karst region, in Slovak known as Slovenský Kras which means Slovak Karst. And it’s beautiful.

slovk-karstRolling hills with lush forests, meadows with flowers, and if you’re lucky, you can spot an Imperial Eagle. I did, but you’ve got to take my word for it since I didn’t have my camera ready.

A lot of the area is protected and UNESCO World Heritage Site, both above and below ground. Slovakia has many caves, and there are several in this area. If you’re a geology geek, the Ochtinska Aragonite Cave is an absolute must see! And even if you’re not, the crystals are so magnificent – if you were to visit just one cave out of all on offer, go for that. It’s one of three such caves on the planet. Check opening hours by following the link above, guided tours only, and I’m not sure what languages they have available.

Getting to all caves is possible with public transport, but for the Aragonite cave a short hike is included. You need to take a bus to this stop, Gocaltovo. Then follow the pot-hole-riddled

bus-stop-aragonit-caveroad into the forest for about two kilometres until the parking area of the cave. Entrance is  generally quite cheap, photo permission not. This is the reason why there aren’t any in-cave pics.

Anyway, if you prefer to go on a boat ride in the bowels of the earth, head for the Domica Cave. There are bats flying above your heads, and the stones come in a range of colours. Just check that the water level is alright for the sailing trip. And if you can’t get enough of caving, check out this place: http://www.krasnohorskajaskyna.sk/indexangl.htm.

Of course, there’s more to the karst region than just caves. Above ground, you can find some splendid ruins like this old Hussite church: hussite-church

Oh yes, and actually more caves. The minor problem with this one was that there wasn’t

ice-cave-signany ice. I blame global warming.

ice-cave-no-iceBack in August, it was just the time when this plant was bearing fruit. Very refreshing.

karst-plantDefinitely a region to go to on a holiday!slovak-karst-2