Thursday, August 21, 2008


Recently, I was watching the show Nick Baker's Weird Creatures on Animal Planet. Biologist Nick travels all around the world, and tries to find rare animals. This time, I was surprised as I spotted more than familiar images within opening shots - it was my hometown Ljubljana, Slovenia.

Nick’s quest this week takes him to the fairy-tale world of Slovenia, a country steeped in folklore that centres around the existence of dragons. On the quest for such a creature, Nick descends deep into the mountains to find the proteus (Proteus anguinus) or olm –a blind, albino salamander with remarkable qualities, that resides deep in the 20km-long Postojna Caves. Also called the ‘human fish’, because its skin resembles human flesh, the olm has adapted to life in total darkness with atrophied eyes and a heightened sense of hearing and smell. According to local myth, this bizarre amphibian is a baby dragon –but truth turns out to be even stranger than fiction.

Postojna, or Postonja as Nick was saying, is of course world-famous for its cave and the ''human fish'' inside. However, apart from good scenes within the cave and ''human fish'', there was something that caught more of my attention. Before entering the cave, Nick was driving on a sandy trail in the midst of Slovene countryside. The trail lad him through very green and very blooming meadow in all its summer glory. Butterflies and other insects, tall grass, the smell, the sounds... the guy seemed totally astonished and impressed by the nature. He said most of the butterflies flying by had already extinct in Great Britain, he was amazed as he could listen to the crickets. He was breathing clean air, and finally he lay down into the tall grass to enjoy the buzzing life.

A plain, more or less regular Slovene meadow that was. However, when Nick was admiring Slovene natural scenery, he probably did not spot some of those things, among which the following two examples could be categorized. The first one...

The picture was taken on Slovene seaside in one of very popular towns - I guess these thingies should not float in the sea, neither finish on the beach. Well, at least those apples will eventually rot.

And then here...
Even worse. The system of salt evaporation ponds in Sečovlje is now a natural park, featuring unique and protected habitat for many animals and plants. Since the visitors are several times asked to protect the environment of the park, things like this should not occur... but they do anyway.

As Nick noticed clean air in Slovenia, I have had some similar experiences - yet reversed. Whenever I come from Finland to Slovenia, I feel the air there is not as clean as in Finland, and ecological awareness is not that high as up North; in many ways. Such show featured on international Animal Planet could be a good touristical advertisement;
nevertheless it points out jewels of Slovene nature very well. In a way, it was good the show was done from fascinating perspective of a short-term visitor, hiding away all those unpleasant details we locals can notice. Thus once again I keep thinking how Slovenia offers its own beauty, and I feel slightly proud - yet this beauty should be preserved and cared for even more...