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Usually, people put beautiful, breathtaking and/or awesome destinations on their bucket-list. One of the places that Lars and I had on our list was quite the opposite: the Catacombs of Paris.
At the end of the 18th century, the French capital faced 2 major problems: a series of cave-ins and overflowing cemeteries. The city officials decided to dump remains in the Mines of Paris. Nowadays, the whole network of tunnels is more than 200 kilometers long and at some places, the tunnels are 100 meters below the surface. About six million bodies have found their final resting place here. Some of the skulls and bodies are scattered, others have been neatly arranged.
Before 2016, I had been to Paris numerous times, because it is not that far from Brussels. But I didn’t know anything about the catacombs, until I found this on YouTube:
After 5 minutes into the documentary, I simply knew I had to see this place! I showed the video to Lars, who quickly became as excited as I was. And earlier this year, we were in Paris, but the day before we left, I found out that the catacombs would be closed during our visit. Fast forward to a sunny day in October, when the catacombs were open…
Only a small part of these nightmarish tunnels are open to the general public. They are really easy accessible; the entrance is opposite the metro station Denfert – Rocheraud. The entrance fee is 12 euros. If you go early, be prepared for a long queue! Lars and I had to wait more than 90 minutes; we talked with some of the people around us and it turned out that they came from all over the world. You can buy tickets online, by the way, but they are very limited in quantity and you have to pay twice as much. You want to visit the catacombs in group? Then you pay even more.
After having paid the entrance fee, about 130 – 140 steps lead you 30 meters below the surface. The first kilometer or so you walk in a boring tunnel and then suddenly, you are in the “Kingdom of Death”. Or, in other words, you are completely surrounded by skulls and bones.
The thing that struck us the most was the deafening silence. Lars and I had expected to hear the nearby metro, but apart from the footsteps and voices of the other visitors, we didn’t hear anything. And that was quite spooky… Talking about spooky, in general the corridors are very narrow and the ceiling is low, adding to a feeling of claustrophobia.
I think we walked around for 45 minutes in the catacombs. Afterwards, we spent some time sitting on a bench, catching our breath and trying to register everything we had seen and felt during our stay. Yes, it is thrilling and impressive, but also sad and scary. Would we do this again? Maybe not… But Lars and I are happy for this experience!
In our next post, we will publish the video we made in the catacombs and we will tell you what frightened us the most!