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Lake Cerknica
For years people have marveled at the natural spectacle that takes place on a field near Cerknica. In the rainy season, the field is flooded to create Lake Cerknica, Slovenia’s largest inland body of water. When dryer weather sets in, the lake just as quickly disappears into the limestone depths of the karstic terrain. Foto: BoBo

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The Legend of a Disappearing Lake

Slovenia Revealed
21. February 2018 ob 06:32
Ljubljana - MMC RTV SLO

For years people have marveled at the natural spectacle that takes place on a field near Cerknica. In the rainy season, the field is flooded to create Lake Cerknica, Slovenia’s largest inland body of water. When dryer weather sets in, the lake just as quickly disappears into the limestone depths of the karstic terrain. It took centuries for scientists to describe the precise mechanism behind the intermittent lake, but the people of the area had long since come up with an explanation of their own – in the form of a Slovenian version of Romeo and Juliet.

A long time ago, two castles – Stegberch and Karlovec – stood not far from the town of Cerknica. The two noble families who inhabited the castles held each other in contempt. The reason for their feud was lost in the mists of time, but rumor had it that it all began with a duel many centuries earlier.

One day, the story goes, the unthinkable happened: a son from the Stegberch clan fell in love with a daughter from the Karlovac family. Their feuding fathers wouldn’t even consider a marriage, but the two lovers were persistent, so the head of the Karlovec family came up with a cynical plan: The couple could marry, but only when the valley was flooded and when the young nobleman could visit his bride-to-be on a boat.

The young man knew that the task was impossible, but one day, he met a mysterious man from the underworld. The man told him to dam several local streams using branches and nets. In desperation, the young man followed the advice – and created a brand-new lake.

But the fathers broke their promise and refused to allow the marriage. The lovers didn’t give up, however, and they continued to meet secretly at night. The young nobleman would row his boat to his sweetheart’s castle guided only by the castle’s flickering light. One night, a rival suitor, who had learned of the visits, moved the light. The noble became disoriented and was swallowed up by a vortex in the lake. Realizing that her lover was lost, the young noblewoman took her own life.

Years later, scientists finally explained the complex system of underground water flows that make Lake Cerknica appear and disappear, but that didn’t stop the story of Slovenia’s Romeo and Juliet from being passed down from generation to generation – and surviving to the present day.

Jaka Bartolj
TV & Radio
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