The biggest European network of sandstone caves discovered in east Bohemia

The region of Broumov with its picturesque rock formations has long attracted tourists and climbers. Now, scientists have revealed that the area has far more to offer - a vast network of sandstone caves hidden below ground. Spanning more than 27 kilometres, the caves are the most extensive underground sandstone labyrinth in Europe. Research work in the area started two years ago and cave explorers have only now finished mapping the whole space. Earlier today I spoke to Petr Kuna from the nature reserve of Broumov and asked him to tell me something about the caves:

“This is not a typical karst cave like people know from elsewhere. It is not a system of big caves and small corridors between them. This is a system of small gaps in the rock which are interconnected. But there are no big caves.”

Will the caves be made accessible to the public?

“I don’t think so. First of all, they are not as accessible as other caves in the karst. There is no space for example for a guide and a group of people. But there are some smaller places in the Adršpach Teplice Rocks where people can get an idea of what a true sandstone cave looks like.”

How important is the discovery of the cave?

“It’s great news that the system is interconnected. Scientists suspected that there are many caves in this terrain, which is full of rocks and boulders that had fallen down from the sandstone table. But I think that they didn’t suspect that the caves could be that extensively connected.”

But what is also interesting is the inside of the caves…

“Yes, that’s right. We have found much of interest inside the cave, primarily a so-called pseudo stalagmite made of tree roots. Drops of water drip down onto the roots, for example onto spruce or birch roots. And where the water touches the root small roots start to grow upwards and create stalagmites.

“Another interesting discovery is the cave fauna. Small spiders and mites were discovered living inside the cave. These animals are believed to have survived here since the Ice Age. The climate inside the sandstone caves is very cold and it is similar to the climate that was here during the glacier era; so the animals live here even in the contemporary climate.”