We meet in Bizau at the square in front of the church and soon enough a small group of six people forms. Shaking hands, we say little more than “hello” to one another.At this early hour, the group seems sedate, cautious. To which depths will cave guide Lutz Schmelzinger lead us?
What follows is a communal journey to Schönenbach and along the way we meet a group of cows, a reminder that its summertime in the mountains. From the summer settlement of Schönenbach, we hike up towards the Ifen mountain range arriving at the Schneckenlochhöhle cave.The hike to the cave entrance alone is well worth the effort: The water flowing through the stream is loud yet deliberate, the cool of the forest is near, and in the background there is a humming sound and then silence. The mood at this place is pure magic, like the setting for a dramatic fairytale.
After about an hour’s time, we reach the mouth of the cave where cool air flows from the giant hole in the rock, and the sensation on our sweaty limbs is unexpectedly cold. We gather together our gear, change into overalls and don our helmets. The finishing touch is a head torch to light the way. Before entering the cave we take a group photo, appearing like members of some alien race on a journey of discovery. “It’s a goodbye photo,” says our guide with a wry grin.