Primož Jakopin
Jožek Košir — Cox
it is caves that count

in Mačkovica 2004, from a drawing by Vladimir Posypai*

We have known each other for a long time, would you perhaps know when and how this happened?
          We met through Saša Albert, when the famous Sinclair ZX Spectrum set foot here. He modified the hardware, keyboard, stylus, interfaces, etc., you wrote the software. Then came the Commodore and later the library computerization. At that time, Martin Cvilak also wanted to start production here of something on "A" (Amstrad, author's note). I made him a power supply.
          I met Japec (author's brother, AN) and other divers even earlier when we were preparing a gymnastics performance for the Youth Day Celebration in Belgrade (President Tito's birthday anniversary, May 25, AN, in 1965 or 1966, note Japec Jakopin).

Jožek in the gymnastics row, second from the left, 1965 or 1966, the author of the photo is unknown

          When the ice was broken, my mother brought to light the family connection and adventures from Dramlje.
          I don't know where we collided in the caves. I once went with the caving school of your school, DZRJL, when Nina Prevčeva, later the wife of Cile, also joined (in the spring of 1991, note Rafko Urankar - Cile). She was accompanied by the caring daddy Mile, who was my companion from Partizan Narodni dom gym practice. It was almost certainly him who invited me.
Can you introduce yourself briefly?
          I am a war child, I was made somewhere near Semič at the time when the Russians crossed the Yugoslav border in the east. They said that the war would soon be over and the fallen must be replaced... 😀
          I was born on the last day of May 1945 in Belgrade, where Tito was gathering Slovenian experts to raise the country from the ruins. Uncle Martin Mastnak was supposedly even the Minister of Agriculture or later the Slovenian Minister of agriculture, I am not sure. And Peričevi, Bidovčevi, etc. were there. I think I even had diapers from the Ranković family, because both mothers knew each other. When we were in Belgrade for the second time, we even visited one of the "more equal" families, the Ranković or the Kardelj one? I marveled at the toys that these parents snatched from the houses of pre-war elite.
          In the summer of 1952, all of us moved to Ljubljana so that the children could go to Slovenian school.
          I don't know how old I was when I was in "foster care" with my grandparents, the Mastnaks, in Celje. I had a dramatic recovery from whooping cough there. The cough went away, but I still have a bit of "whooping" to this day... 😀. I used to visit the other grandparents in Novo Mesto. Then we went to Kosančičev venac no. 1 a, the two windows behind the Opel car.
          I went to Stane Rozman primary school in Šentvid (1952-1956), followed by two classes of junior high school (it took four years at the time) in the ex-Bishop's institution, in the wing where the retirement home is today. After two years, the eight-year primary school was introduced and we all moved to the new Alojz Kebe primary school in Šentvid. The following year, the school districts were shuffled and I sailed back to the old "Stane", where I started the first grade. At that time I also attended the music school, for three more years, to play the flute.

Diploma in gymnastics, 1967, photo by Jožek Košir

          Then in the electrical engineering high school on Jurij Vega street, also called the "conservatory of electrical engineering", you get these wording from musicians 😀. After four interesting years, I moved across the street to the ground floor corner opposite the Philharmonic, 1964 - 1968 (at that time, the Department of Mathematics of the Faculty of Natural Sciences and Technology was hosted on the ground floor of the University, AN). Of course, I would also stay in touch with music 😀
          As long as it was on a "natural basis", it worked, but when long hours of study were also needed, I got a little stuck. Hmm, time and the stupid things I was doing in addition to studying slowly pulled me away from mathematics. Gymnastics, diving, scouting organization, aquaristics, you name it. But then the cruel fate grabbed away the excellent professors, one by one. One could say I was a little slow ... 😀
          I was close to graduation and the last grades in the index are excellent, but Prof. Križanič thought that something more than a satisfactory grade in differential equations was appropriate for a technical mathematician, and that I should come again. And it happened that he was no more too soon. I managed to catch Prof. Jamnik in time. Now I am involved in genealogy and know the ancestors of all the professors and their last locations as well, I have photographed over 80,000 tombstones. Maybe we'll meet again in the afterworld to finish the story I started 😀

Military service comrades in Karlovac, 1969, photo by Jožek Košir

          A year of paid "vacation" in the army followed, from September 1968 to September 1969, I also earned a little, and then a job at the Faculty of Natural Sciences and Technology, 1969 - 1976. Logically, since we already knew each other well... I worked as a "ground staff", I had an electronics workshop where we prepared experiments for practial labs and for lectures. Students of physics and pedagogical mathematics also came around to learn a little about technicalities. From time to time we had a very special generation. I was constantly in contact with physics, I also listened to the lectures because I also had a role there.
Your further career path was varied and interesting. Can you elaborate on that?
          I have a lot left from physics. I took advantage of this in my next job, in the company Iskra-SEM (ISKRA Special Elements and Materials Factory, AN), where I worked in development. I learned a lot here as well, we had a more than excellent mentor, Matic Seliger, PhD. However, the system of that time hampered moving forward. We had a lot of ideas that were not supported by the management. And what next? Almost all of us sailed into private waters. Where the action was. At that time, the Yugoslavian market was still very closed and the industry was hungry for special equipment. I was practically making boutique products. I was a little bit everywhere, energy, pharmacy, food industry, utilities, army...
          I was one of the first to start using optical communications in industry. That's how I got rid of noise in transmission. Some products can be found on my old website It has now been ten years since I last updated it. You taught me how to do it 😀. There are no more telephones, and even fax machines... But the company is still up and running, just doing other things.
What about the memories of your grandparents?
          I only remember my maternal grandparents, I attended the third grade of elementary school there, for half a year and we often also spent our summer holidays in Celje, at Jenkova street 16. In that porch to the left was my den. At that time, there were no houses in the back and I yawned at the steam locomotives at night, they spewed sparks as they left the station towards Savinjska dolina.
          Grandpa Martin was from Dramlje. From Kopinca as the house name was. Fate brought my grandmother there. She was a k. u. k. teacher and such folks were then whipped around the Austria-Hungary with decrees. She did not want to go to Pečovnik and was sent to Dramlje. Of course, the young men of the village immediately started hanging around the school, a young educated girl was a rarity at that time. And pretty she was! Hmm, what young woman isn't, you know that very well, don't you, my old pal...
          Grandfather Martin was a good, honest and strict professor of classical languages. He was a respected man. Because the kids cut off his right index finger during the play when he was little, he did not serve in the army. In those days he was a professor at the Slovenian high school in Gorica. After the start of the war, the school was closed, he was transferred to Trieste, and he sent his family to safety in Dramlje. He was a caring master of the house and a good educator. He achieved everything by perseverance and not by force. When I rushed out of the house and closed the door a little too quickly, he came right after me and I had to go back and close the door nicely, with the handle. Those manners stayed with me forever. He had many interesting solutions in the house, he installed a hollow grate in the stove, through which the water flowed thermosiphonally into the boiler, mounted under the ceiling in the bathroom. Burning firewood in the stove also heated the water. Every year he bought a "relative" with a snout and made excellent sausages and salami. We had a basement with compacted soil which kept a constant moisture. By the color of the mold, he could see how things were standing with the drying meat and we carried it from the cellar to the storeroom and back again. He burned the shells of eggs and bones in the oven, then I crushed them in a mortar and mixed them into the chicken feed so that there was calcium for the new eggs. He made vinegar, brandy, cider, he kept bees. He was indeed a wise man. Grandma was just a grandma, religiously "prepared" in her youth. With constant prayers, and masses, and... Maybe I was even secretly baptized, who knows. Grandfather just smiled at all this and hummed his oube, oube. One could write a lot more here.
          Before the grandparents built a new house on Jenkova street, they bought a house on Kersnikova street from the Germans fleeing from Celje after the First World War, which later adjoined the new plot of land.
          Of course, such a family produced good children, beautiful and smart. Only the eldest Mirjam missed the second part a little. They bridegroom candidates drooled around her, but Martin did not want to "trick" any of them. The war came when she was just on "vacation" in Vojnik (insane asylum, TN). The Germans collected all the inmates and they ended up somewhere near Spittal in Austria. All the children had a musical education. During the student years, they used to hang out in Dalmatian hotels, played dance music and had a good time. Uncles Tina and Tone were agronomists, Ciril was a veterinarian, mother Luša a professor of mathematics and Lenka a chemist. They were all very successful in their professions. Uncle Tone tended the lawns on the golf course near Radovljica.

Mama Luša, high school graduate, 1933, photographer unknown

You loved your mother very much. I remember how you used to go to visit her from Ježica by bike to Trnovo every day. Can you tell us more about your mother and father?
          Dad and mom come from completely different families.
          Pavla Luša Mastnak, professor of mathematics and physics, was born on September 20, 1914 in Gorica as the fourth child of Greek and Latin professor and high school principal Martin Davorin Mastnak and Pavla Mrevlja, a teacher from Vipavski Križ (her father was landowner Tomaž Mrevlje). The First World War drove the mother and children first to Dramlje, from where they moved to Celje after the war. Here, at the time Paul Francis was baptised, Luša finishes high school and goes to Belgrade to study mathematics. After graduation, she also became k. k. (imperial royal) employee. Such people were then whipped around the wide country with decrees. She was thus assigned to her first job in Serbia. And the "re-assignment" to Novo Mesto just before the Second World War was "fatal". That's where she "ran into" my future father — mechanical engineer Božidar Košir. He was from a wealthy merchant family and the children were spoiled accordingly. They had a fabrics store in the main square. During the war, it was "erased" by a bomb. When the Italians occupied part of the gymnasium and later even banned classes, parents and professors organized classes in private homes. So the "class" was once here, another time there. This became known to Italians and it was necessary to escape to the forest. The men from the father's side were also not "behaving properly" and they too joined the armed resistance. Partisan time united my parents. Mother Luša was a teacher at Baza 20 in Rog, and pa Božidar also came by from time to time. She first taught mathematics, later she lectured in a communist party school and also represented the school as a delegate at the Kočevje Assembly in October 1943. Father and mother were married on 19 May 1944 in the liberated territory, in Ručetna vas near Črnomelj. The wedding ruined my grandmother Pavla's plans. When the mother's family lived in Maribor, where their grandfather was the headmaster of a classical high school, they hung out with the Maister family, who lived nearby. My grandfather had an apartment right in the school building. Well, Pavla's grandmother and Maister's Marica thought that my mother would be a good match for their Borut. Then "I" would have a really thick black mustache 😀. The second "mustache" owner was a spoilsport, and things took a different path... My father's uncle, his mother's brother Ivan Medic, was a merchant and tailor, and ... single. After the First World War, in 1924 he organized the sewing of shirts, which he sold in his shop. He was very enterprising and the Labod shirt factory was created from a small workshop. Since he also wanted to make the fabrics himself, he founded a textile factory. As he was childless, so sent the children of his relatives to school, to become managers. My father studied as a mechanical engineer for textile machinery in the Czech Republic. The war ended this story, too, as the liberators nationalized everything after the World War II.
          I have already explained what happened after the war — finally, after 1952, my mother was a professor of mathematics at Šentvid Gymnasium. She was soon retired due to spine problems. She gave up political activity and devoted herself to the family. We moved from Pržan to Vič, where shortly before her centenary she was moved to a nursing home near the Trnovo bridge over Gradaščica. She died there on March 20, 2015.
You were three children, you were the oldest. What are your memories of your brother and sister?
          I am, the most of all, like my father Božidar. Fairies at the cradle gave the best to the middle Martin, who inherited the gift for languages from the Mastnak line and for mathematics from the Košir branch. The youngest Manca is of a similar variety. My parents didn't give me much language skills. Otherwise, Talkativeness is my strong point, but that's all I've got from the language field. But I do not lack ingenuity. As a craftsman, I knew how to make good use of this and I made a lot of interesting things, I even got one patent, just for fun. So that I could see how it works. Tinč unfortunately ended up much prematurely, at 51, he perished in the steep slope of Velika Planina, chasing the birds he admired so much, in an icy winter morning.
          Manca is my direct opposite, I am a physicist, she is a spiritual being. Clever, good and honest. An image of parents and grandparents. Mother nature is not always kind to her, but she never gives up. She's really good!

Manca Košir in Tacen, 2005, photo by Primož Jakopin

When and how did you get the name Cox?
          Ages ago there was a radio serial, a detective story by Mr. Becker, I think it starts with a line like this, "Hello, my name is Cox". My classmate and late next-door fellow Dušan was Richi, and I was Cox. People used to know me just by that name. There was a lot of fun with it. One could say it is a partisan nickname.

When and where did you serve your time in the army? What made the biggest impression?
          I spent my military "vacation" in Karlovac, at the school for reserve officers in Gornji Mekušje. Military engineering. At the breakup of Yugoslavia everything there was demolished, including a brand new gym, and an industrial zone is slowly emerging there. The army time was very useful for me. We were learning to operate construction machinery, and I got to know the "third caving team member" up close. The knowledge I gained there is still useful to me today. I had an Altix camera, with official permission, and interesting pictures were taken, where it was permitted to and also where it is was not. I sent the films to brother Martin in Ljubljana. He sent back the contact copies and then fellow fighters placed their orders. Photos arrived with the next mail. What I earned I sent debts home, because I didn't need anything there. I don't drink, I don't smoke either, the barber was "in-house". I did a lot of sports, especially running over obstacles. I used to be there every afternoon. Then various garrison and army championships followed. I had a permit for rides in the officer's bus and went to "learn" to swim in Korana. At times I also acted as a diver and pulled some detonators from Mrežnica river. I enjoyed close to employee status, company car...

Cox was a corporal in Karlovac, sitting in front of the first row, 1969, the author of the photo is not known

          I instructed children of the army officers and thus had a permanent "permit to exit the barracks". Mathematics is a powerful tool and so versatile! Professor Križanič liked to say, "Gird yourself with the bright sword of your mind."
          Such a life requires quite a bit of energy, and luckily we had an excellent cook from Novo Mesto. an additional serving after a meal and you lose two kilograms per month, two servings and you gain two kilograms. Supposedly I was the best "cadet" in the year and the best athlete as well. I have to check in the book I got as a souvenir. Maybe it's just like the one Janša got in Kumrovec 😀
has           When I had my squad for a while after I finished the school, I learned statics from construction people. I bought various manuals and drew and calculated the plan for my own house. There must still be a few rolls of tracing paper somewhere. I passed the manuals on to my sons. I wrote to building material companies for their brochures and I always received them. The guy must be a professional, they probably thought.
          The officers at the engineering headquarters made a good impression. More or less all lieutenant colonels and colonels had a civilian technical doctorate. The lectures were superb, all due respect. The major, he had a master's degree of something, who ran the finances, was very smart with money. When the bills for goods came in, I had to look for the ones that promised a discount for immediate payment and they were paid the same day. We had bedrooms in this complex, which was later demolished, too.
          But what I remember most was the experience of a certain night duty. The army headquarters were in the middle of the city, but it was so quiet and peaceful at night that when it rained I could hear the drops gently landing on the puddle surface. (There, by that black car, was that puddle). Unbelievable. I only experienced this one more time somewhere in Pohorje or some place like that. Today my ears are already too furry ears and there is at least 40 db of noise in the surroundings at all times. Too bad.
As a reservist, you held the rank of captain and commanded a regiment. What are your memories of that time?
          Yes, I was a “captain first class” … in the reserves. After the "war" of 1991, I was offered the rank of major, to "activate myself", to take a job in the Slovenian army. Thank you very much. As we had a shortened service of only a year (regular compulsory army service was 18 months, TM), we more than made up for the shortened time with various later trainings. There was a lot of serious work at that time. Every now and then we had a practice drill with the JLA, in form of big maneuvers, and every time we, the reserve units, won big and the arly officers had long noses and a "fierce" look. Since I was an intelligence officer, I didn't have my own army unit, I used the time to "check the field of operation". I criss-crossed the Bloke plateau, Polhograjski dolomiti hills and many other places. During these walks, I collected interesting flowers and stored them under my cap. Then I completely forgot about it, and when on return I stopped in the canteen in the evening, everybody would laugh at me when I took my cap off. We had botanists among the soldiers, and then they taught me about those vegetables.
          I always took everything on the bright side and always had a wonderful time. Even today, I can show you the little stream, the twinkle, at St. Miklavž pri Ulaki, or the stream behind Sveta Trojica, which will one day flow retrogradely to Bloščica, to the other side, to Gradiščica and on to Cerkniščica. Those places are really beautiful. The army hotel at Velike Bloke was demolished by this time, too.

Cox's chimney in Najdena jama, map from the minutes of the excursion on January 11, 2000, by Jožek Košir

When were you first attracted to caves? On what occasion?
          In my scouting time, our area was a forest from Šentvid to Toško čelo. We lived in Pržan. And there, by the Slavkov dom hut, behind Bormes is a piece of karst with a few holes. And we were frequent guests in a cave there, in Perce. I bought a clothesline, a carbide lamp, Mežica type, in harware store Metalka, and off we went. I took the children under my arms and brought them over the edge. Later I knew the cave so well that we could get in and out even without a light and a rope. But that crevice to the north was also very intriguing. People told us that somebody lost his pants when he tried to get out of the crevice, so narrow it was. I would like to have a "closer look" at it now, some day 😀. It can't go very far, because there is a stream below. After a visit we lit a fire a little higher by Babišnica, we cooked polenta, we fried eggs and made tea from what we picked up along the way.
          When I went to primary school, I had classmates from Podutik. They said what happened nearby immediately after the war. And we went to have a look. Of course, this was not permitted at the time. The dead dogs from the dog school were probably deliberately thrown onto the ruined bridge where the unfortunate people were shot. It didn't particularly bother us. Somehow we squeezed through that small hole that they failed to fill and descended into the depths of Brezarjevo brezno. It was "almost" cleaned, but some human bone could still found, a forbidden trophy, of course.
          Right on the already flat bottom, there was a bicycle standing on its seat, as if someone had just repaired it. Of course, we only used a clothesline again! One wouldn't have fallen very deep, but and the bottom was also soft 😀. We had no means of transportation, no equipment, and these were all our ventures. Maybe something else on nearby Rašica.
You and me have been to the cave Mačkovica many times, solving questions related to it was interesting work, no end in sight. If I only remember Jama Sv. Prvoaprilija (The Cave of St. Aprilfoolsday). How would you briefly describe the meaning of Mačkovica?
          I went to Mačkovica for the first time quite late in my caving career. Since we didn't find the way out right away, I had a chance to take a good look at it. Especially those holes around the edge, around the chimney, where you get into the Great Hall, until we found the right one. I'm always on the lookout for creepy-crawlies in the caves, they are excellent indicators of the distance to the surface. Even the smallest hole is enough for a grasshopper to escape from the winter cold. And there were quite a few of them in the tunnel with signatures. As we rushed out of the cave, we determined the approximate direction and distancee, and voilà, here it was Jama Sv. Prvoaprilija. When we were later drilling there, masde the passage to the lower chamber passable for humans, the drilling noise could be heard very well in Mačkovica's Little Hall. Now we have two avalanche transceivers and no one to go to check things out.
          On another occasion, there were again many grasshoppers above the big rock at the beginning of F tunnel. It is already quite a bit further into the cave - we wandered outside for some time and found the Cmok cave. The story is not over there either, the location is most interesting.

Cox by the lake at the beginning of the Eastern tunnel, after the hundred-year high water, February 24, 2014, photo Primož Jakopin

          Together us two found those blowholes along the trail to the railway station Planina where Klojerca cave is today and several more promising places where warm air from the underground melts the snow on the surface in the winter. And together with the cavers from Domžale, who were our mentors, we moved the boundaries of unknown in Mačkovica from the bottom up. The most promising is the Chimney of five, which must come very close to the surface, Klojerca will probably "fall" into the Chimney of drops. I don't dare to predict where the Hole near the pole and the blowhole near Klojerca lead, the latter may fall into the continuation of Mačkovica, because it is already close to the edge of the Eastern tunnel.
          Matluk's tunnel also deserves to be mentioned, as well as the Hammer chimney and Honza's chimney, all in the Laze tunnel... we climbed them first. And on St. Stephen Day us two found the Spring. The two blowholes right at the entrance were also tackled. Very interesting "things", including archaeological finds, were uncovered there. Yes, Mačkovica truly deserves some younger devoted team.
What are the unresolved issues in Mačkovica? What do you think about the connection with Logarček?
          Logarček is also unfairly neglected. It needs a new Uroš (Ilić, AN), who at that time, in 2003, was "spiritus agens" there. The cave is practically open at both ends, north and south. The connection with Mačkovica is very likely, but it will probably be very "wet".

Above the pool in Cox chimney, Najdena jama, 2000, photo Jernej Valenčič

What are the other hot spots in Lanski vrh?
          Lipertova jama 😊. We are approaching it from all sides. Najdena jama has a lot more to say, but we were almost chased out of there. Cox chimney is a good piece of work, above the Šerkova štirna hall and where Galacijevka comes to Najdena, and that rope to the hole above Šerkova štirna. And, of course, underwater undertakings in Velika štirna and in the lake at the end of the Boris tunnel. The divers of that time, Tomo Vrhovec and Marko Kraševec, are unfortunately no more with us. Now I am teasing the young guys to bite this dragon a little.
          There is still a lot of work to be done on Lanski vrh, even in the old Skednena jama. First of all, that appendix under the south entrance would have to be finished. Do you remember, old pal?
The seaside karst, best represented by Stojan Sancin and Claudio Bratos, is also very interesting. What surprised you the most there?
          The karst around Trieste does not surprise me in any way. Since it is almost right next to the sea, where all the underground water flows to, huge amounts of water must leave big traces behind. Even Kačna jama and the caves behind it, which surround the whole thing, point to the limestone Emmental there. I support theory of an even distribution of caves, if only the conditions for it are met and the Karst is such a place. When Skilanova jama and later The Impossible cave were discovered in the Cattinara highway tunnel, it was only a matter of time that a new giant cave would be found. And Sancinova jama is certainly one of them. It's not the last. Now Mauro and Claudio will soon add something more. Slama is not bad. And Burja is also a big deal. However, there is still a lot of "empty" space for new giants. I am most interested in what will be discovered in Kačna jama area from Povirje onwards, to where the Czech cavers came, and to Kanjeduce. In between, it must be wild, where the underground Reka river falls by about a hundred meters at a horizontal distance of just a few kilometers. Velika Šprinčnica is waiting there for a strong team to tackle. Stojan and Claudio indicated the right direction.
Perhaps your journey also took you to caves outside of Slovenia? Where have you all been?
          I haven't been abroad much, and I'm mainly interested in "our caves" and not "their caves". I don't follow these matter at all and I don't even look at the reports of various expeditions. It's another world. We have so much to discover here that we could organize a large expedition every week. Fortunately, something happens here and there on Kanin. Why only in the highlands? Connecting Škocjanske jame and Kačna jama would also be a great success. Not to mention the connection Postojnska jama - Planinska jama. These are very demanding projects, equivalent to those in the mountains. We looked for blowholes on the planned route and also found promising points, but to get to the water stream hundred meters below the surface is not a walk in the park. If and when done we could bypass those first siphons after Pivka jama.

Matija Perne is attempting to board a small boat, Vodna jama v Lozi, 2004, photo Primož Jakopin

          The water cave in Loza also has hot points, where one could get behind the siphon and take a closer look at the matter. Ugh, let's leave those thoughts to the younger generation.
What was the most beautiful and most difficult occasions you experienced in caves?
          Caves are a strange world. First, the nosiness pulls you into an undiscovered world, but then you're all happy when you see the sun again. Beautiful events are always a surprise and can happen even in the dark. The following happened in 2003.
          At that time, my younger son and I systematically inspected all the holes along the edge of the Planinsko polje. Maybe something just recently opened somewhere, like in Logarček. Right in each of the caves visited, a toad was waiting below, sitting on some rock. You tick off the first one quickly, the second one is already a bit of a surprise, and the rest ... can no longer be just a coincidence, even though what else could it be 😀 The medieval castle is not very far... I asked my son to kiss one, and let's see what happens ... The cherry on the cake at that time was the olm in the Škofji lom cave.
          The most terrible time was in Planinska jama after the unfortunate Wraber girl was swept away in the siphon. The water rushed into that hole with such force that the blast of air almost blew out the flame on my carbide helmet light. Brrr, terrible.
Younger generations are not familiar with this terrible accident, but they should be. When and how did it happen?
          It happened on October 28, 1990, in the Pivka branch of Planinska jame, where Pivka river hides for a while in Šmidl hall. There should be more about this in the minutes of the JRS (Cave Rescue Service, AN). A short, rather "softened" report was written by Filip Šemrl in the DELO newspaper, October 29, 1990, page 5: Water dragged the student into the siphon.
          I was there a few days after the accident. To this day, nothing has been found of the unfortunate girl.
What are your favorite caves? And what do you like about them?
          I didn't see many caves, maybe a hundred. But I was a regular guest in some, because I wanted to discover something new in the old ladies. I left some traces behind, though.
Let me guess who these old ladies would be. Mačkovica, Najdena, Planinska, Logarček?
          Logarček, Planinska, Mačkovica, Najdena, Skednena, Postojnska, Zelške jame ...
What would you say to everyone who would like to start caving?
          What would you put on their hearts? Yes, go for it! This is a dangerous and incurable disease...

Floor plan outline of the Najdena jama with Cox chimney (below, far right), 2023, Primož Jakopin. A mouse click on the image shows it on Wikimedia Commons.

Did you do a lot of diving? When and how did it start?
          My diving career is actually very short, the longest undertaking was a diving course that lasted half a year with a two-week conclusion at sea. At that time, the course was strict and demanding, because the army also had a hand in it. First, a thorough medical check-up, then all winter long exercises in that little swimming pool in Illyria, which is no longer there, and then in the summer mornings and afternoons in the sea. With various "military sabotage" exercises and the like. Today, everything is much easier. My favorite diving was with Ivan Kuščer, when we dived the old fashioned way, with air pump, on vacation. Pure pleasure. Naked like Adam, just with a "hose" in your mouth and a magnifying glass in your hands. What all can be seen up to those fifteen meters, which you can dive in this way. A fairy tale!
          We had our base on the coast under the ruins of the church of St. Nicholas in Vinica under Vrbnik. Marjan, Krivček, Toto, ... (Marjan Richter, Primož Krivic, Anton Praprotnik, AN) did it more seriously, but for me it was just fun. Nice memories. From those times, Riedel's "Fauna Und Flora der Adria" has remained with me, which was the key to identifying members of the "animal kingdom".
How was the cave diving? Also in Logarček and Najdena jama?
          The older son had been considering diving in caves for a while, but he quickly changed his mind. He had a very unpleasant experience, in the Suhadolca cave at the side of Cerkniške jezero, fortunately it ended well (with a length of over 2 km, it is now Slovenia's longest siphon, AN). Cave diving is no walk in the park! But I liked to help Tom in Govic and Najdena jama, Igor Vrhovec and Uroš Ilić in Logarček, Marko in Pekel, Najdena jama, Planinska jama, Aleš Vidic in Vodni kevder...
When did you first see tidldibab**?
          Tidldibab is a completely different world, which materialized almost by accident. My Metoda has half-Macedonian origins and we loved going to listen to their music. Ljuben (Dimkaroski, TN) led the ensemble Strune (Strings, TN) at the time. And we met. He was a man of many talents and, among other things, he also used cut and rub stones for so long that an interesting figure appeared on the stone's face. He then framed such miniatures. Here and there he made an exhibition of these pebbles. Geologist Miha Jerško found all this interesting and invited Ljuben to present his work at the National Museum. In return he got a not-so-good replica of a Divje babe flute from a cave under the Šebrelje plateau. He didn't know what to do with it and put it in the nightstand drawer. One night, however, he had a dream and in it a vision of how he should play it. He stood up and started tp whistle. But in a completely different way than his predecessors did. He then went to look at the original and made a rather clumsy clay replica. When done, he drove every day across Peske towards Dobrova and practiced and practiced somewhere in the forest, on a stump. When he felt that he already had something good enough to show, he started asking one of the discoverers of this historic flute, Ivan Turk, PhD, to play for him on the flute. At that time, he had this whistle over the top of his head, because the enemies of the discovery would make him problems on his head, both at home and abroad. Finally he agreed once and was excited. At home, he found a suitable bone from Divje babe, which he probably took with him home from work, after all that he had to endure, as a souvenir. We then forged an unbroken original from it. We cheated a little bit and grinded the mouthpiece edge on the flute, because at that time it had not been yet recognized that the original mouthpiece edge was also ground. If the mouthpiece edge is rough, you get a "shaggy", effervescent tone, a rounded edge gives a better one, and a sharp one, pointed in a triangle, gives a clean, clear tone. Kaval, which is played similarly, has such an edge. It is important that only the part you blow into is sharp, the rest is anyhow covered with your lips. When the original flute arrived from Trieste, where a microtomography was done, Ljuben was invited to take a close look at it. And there was the same sharp edge. But polished inside and out. No animal could ever do this! (enemies of the flute claim that it is not a flute, but a part of animal bone, where the holes were made by a predator, chewing the bone, TN).
          The "production" of more replicas followed, with very primitive tools. Ljuben collected all kinds of wood, various bones, and carved and sawed and drilled somewhere in solitude in the Barje area. Arne Hodalič made a documentary film about it for National Geographic.
          The first replicas lacked something. If you put any flat on the table, it was still, but the original was wobbling. We finally concluded that the bone is a little torsionally twisted. And new copies followed this discovery. This meant that we could make left-handed and right-handed versions. Hunters provided a bear corpse, and it turned out that today's furry bears are more slender than the bears of 50.000 years ago and so their bones are too thin. Some time later it turned out that a leg bone of a hind would be most suitable and from that bone a proper instrument could be made. The rest is known, recorded in many places, and the eight-minute film on YouTube already has more than 750.000 views.
          It is interesting to note how the attitude towards this subject is different in Slovenia and abroad. In Belgium, in the village of Spy, where they have the Neanderthal Museum, they tried to find a connection with Ljuben and when they did, they commissioned an original composition, which is now being played there daily. They would not negotiate the price because they knew that such an opportunity is not to be missed. In Slovenia however the management is still very rigid and mercilessly hampers many such undertakings.
How was made the film about the flute, by Sašo Niskač?
          I didn't have much to do with the film. I only made the "exploded" version of the flute, which shows what is missing from the original, what is broken off (the wooden model). Sten (Stanislav Glažar), a very experienced caver, led the party through the cave 😊.
What about matters of the heart? When and how did you meet Metodka? Was she your first love?
          She couldn't be the first because I didn't know her in primary school 😀 Then the mutual scouting time helped. It was around 55 years ago.
What do you like most about her?
          She is as good as bread, one would simply say, to eat 😀
Did you go often to Macedonia? Which place and which event from these voyages was the most interesting to you?
          I was only "passing through" Macedonia when Gašper (the oldest son, TN) was a border guard in Kosovo, on the Albanian border, in Ðakovica, at the Morinë pass. Today there is a road to the place, back then you could only get there on foot or with an all-terrain vehicle.
In addition to caves, do you also like to travel?
          I did not go often across the border. Such travel was mainly business-related. In Trieste, Klagenfurt and Munich, we procured elements for the electronic devices I worked on. Once, prof. Kuščer took me with him on a trip to Munich. We spent two days wandering in the technical museum. Partizan (gym association, TN) paid the team leaders the travel and stay in Munich during the Olympic Games and national competition in Stuttgart. I also went there to become a coach on a flexible tarp, trampoline. For three weeks, I was on a course in the USA, to service the winding line at the company Rotomatika in Idrija. Well, I also visited an electronics exhibition in Paris, and some other such event could also be found.
          I wandered around Slovenia much more. We didn't have a car and it was on foot and by bike. And certainly by train and by bus. I hiked the Slovenian Mountain Hiking Trail twice, also attempted to get on foot from Ljubljana to Triglav. Yet on the second day in Selška dolina, my knee gave up and I was forced to return, I hiked on foot and by paddle boat to Novo mesto. By bike across the Barje and Borovniški Pekel to Lipsenj near Cerknica, across Čičaria to Novigrad to the sea. And to Bled, Dolenjske toplice, Tolmin across the Baška grapa and back across Godovič with a backpack full of lead from the Soča front, ... there was a lot such hikings. All the mountains around Martuljek to the north and south. Bohinj hills in all directions. We had an interesting experience there. The party hiked from Savica over Komna, Prehodavci towards Peski. It was getting a little dark and foggy, and in complete silence, the dark openings of the First World War caverns and the empty windows of the ruins stared ominously at us. We stopped at a small plateau, where a few buildings were apparently erected long ago. In the caverns, we placed all the available containers under the dripping water so that there would be water for breakfast in the morning. It was a bit windy and we improvised protective screens out of stones. We lied down, in thin sleeping bags, we felt the floor to the bone and we pretended to sleep more than we really did. The wind drives the low clouds almost overhead. Suddenly a rifle goes off. Then more rifles and a machine gun starts rumbling. We moved, but we are as quiet as mice. After a while, Peter speaks up: What if we got caught in a time loop... You know what kind of it 😀. Down in Tolmin, the army was having night shooting practice, and the wind carried the sound through some space between the walls, straight into our silence. An interesting feeling and an indelible part of the memory. Alzheimer's will probably avoid this event too 😀
Is there a place you always like to return to?
          Rather than old places, I like more to look for new ones, which may be even more beautiful 😊
You are quite interested in genealogy. You contributed tens of thousands of photos to the collection of images of Slovenian graves. How and when did you get attracted to it?
          I am editing the Slovenian part of the project "Save our graves", which is managed by the French genealogy portal
          A few of us have currently collected over 300,000 tombstones. Only in Slovenia, that is. To this time I contributed around 80,000 of them. Since the "church authorities" do not allow us to look into data from church registers less than one hundred years old, we found this bypass to compensate for the missing data from the books of the deceased. And the French provided this platform, which is the best of all that I know.

Angelfish, Pterophyllum scalare in the tropical aquarium of Palais de la Porte Dorée in Paris, 2014, photo Loury Cédric (Wikimedia Commons)

Have we forgotten anything important from what you like to do and from your experiences?
          What else was I doing? Except for the nonsense, of course. My late brother and I were dedicated aquarists. I operated that big aquarium in the Ljubljana Komuna cinema, which of course was knocked over when the stairs were renovated. At that time, we even exported fish and aquatic plants to Trieste. We bought some equipment for the lire earned.
The Aquarium in the Komuna cinema was one and only. When we went to the cinema, we waited in front of the door and enjoyed the water "cinemascope". We all only realized how much it really meant to use when it was gone. I'm glad I at least know now who was behind it.
Finally, three slightly different questions. Your favorite movies?
          I've been on a lot of movie sets and when you see all that cheating, it's worse than computer games, so I just hated movies. I could watch them for free every day in the Komuna cinema, in the staff seat or from the operator's cabin, but I only watched The Jungle Book. If the film is bad, it's a waste of time, if it's good, it's stressful and it's a waste of health.
What about your favorite music?
          Art is like a firework rocket, first it goes higher and higher, then it bursts into countless beautiful lights and then the embers slowly fall and keep falling. We are now somewhere in this last phase. That beautiful flash happened around 1800. Everyone, painters, poets, musicians, were in their prime at that time. I perceive most of today's music as fairy-tale music, like Andersen's fairy tale, the one about clothes, of course 😀 and everyone pretends, very hard, that it would not seem that the emperor is naked. Have you ever visited a concert where they didn't play any new things in the first part and only after the break what you actually came to listen to. Nobody has the balls to reverse the order. And why would he? Certainly, because there would be a lot of empty seats after the break. There are many works that are played just once, for the first time, for the last time and never again. I am so honest that when someone is being praised terribly, I take the time to click on YouTube and listen. I am usually done pretty quickly. And I only added one more to those few dozen visits. It was also my last one on their YouTube account.
          Let's say, there are pieces that I can listen to many times, not just once 😀. Both men are of "good vintage".
          Painters and sculptors have similar misfortunes. You carve a hole in a stone with an angle grinder and give it the title "Hunger". Clearly, the stomach is empty 😀. In the old times painters would draw, because the pictures were a document of something, a portrait, a castle, a ship in a storm, ... Can you imagine drawing someone's ear on the top of his head? Let's say Louis XIV, ha, ha. And the photography came along and soon the painters turned into decorators. Today, the paintings are just decoration, there are few with a message, say a pure white canvas, which can mean that he ran out of paint... Let's leave it at that, I'm not called to judge it, I'm just that stupid shepherd who doesn't see the emperor's clothes and that Emperor Trajan has very strange ears...
And your favorite color?
          As for the color, I prefer yellow, more precisely sunny yellow. I have all documents, business cards, catalogs, website in this color. I also collect sand from everywhere and the data sheets that are in the jars are also yellow. I don't know how and why, yellow is warm to me.

Primož Jakopin: Mellow Yellow, fractal composition, 2003

Is there anything you would change about your life if you could live it again?
          Hmm, I would think about what if and how it really is with negative energy...
          If I draw a line, I've been in serious trouble so many times that I can be happy that I'm still alive.
          Three times I was knocked off my bike by a car, a few times I climbed "a little off course" in the mountains, I was caught in a storm in the middle of the sea in a small dinghy, luckily it didn't hit my oar but only a little away 😀. Even in Bohinj, I was shivering, but I deliberately ran so that the lightning would not be attracted by the tension of my step. The other day I visited the place where the lightning struck almost right next to me. I have saved a piece of the tree it struck into. During the winter, I went from Rogla on skis across the Lovrenška jezera to Ribniška koča on Pohorje range, at the time Mateja Svet was winning somewhere else. The weather was fine, so why not to ski also to the top of Kope. Once there, you realize that you're actually only halfway done, you still have to get home... Then it dragged on, especially from Šiklarica to Lovrenška jezera. The lake shoreline was icy, I was "riding" the ski poles downhill and got stuck here and there in some snow drift. On the way uphill, it was necessary to stick a pole under the skis for every step, so that I did not "ride" back downhill again. It was already dark and I hadn't eaten anything the whole time. When I finally reached the plain near Lovrenška jezera, a heavy stone fell from my heart. I could break a ski there, lose my strength and freeze.
          There were more such "funny" occasions.


Other versions:

*The portrait of Jožek Košir - Cox is taken from a drawing by Vladimir Posipaj, 2022, based on two photographs by Primož Jakopin, from 2004 (Cox) and 2009 (background), made in agreement with the photo author.
**The instrument was named by Ljuben Dimkaroski as an acronym: Turk Ivan Dimkaroski Ljuben DIvje BABe.



  Miran Marussig, caver and road builder, October 2023   Hudojberdi Mustafokulovič Zokirov, the eyewitness from Botoš, November 2023

The page was made by Primož Jakopin, who also accepts comments, at the address primoz jakopin guest arnes si (insert periods and afno in the appropriate places). The photos in the portrait are the property and copyright (c) of the authors. Where known, they are published with permission. The Slovenian version of the portrait was created on November 7, 2022, revised on January 2023, completed in October 2023; last modified on October 28, 2023. It was translated into English at the end of October 2023 and last changed on November 28, 2023.