In Odessa, when someone's water line suddenly breaks, or a house settles oddly, or a family pet goes missing, it is not uncommon for Ukrainians to curse about "those damn catacombs."
They are not being delusional, for underneath their houses run some 2,500 kilometers of catacombs, carved into the limestone that the city is built upon. (To get a sense of how much tunnel system that really is, it is only 2138 kilometers from Odessa to Paris.) The Odessa catacombs may in fact be the largest network of tunnels anywhere in the world.
The date of the earliest catacombs in the city is difficult to determine (as they were all widened at a later date) but they likely date back to the 1600s if not farther. However, the catacombs began to truly grow into their astonishing, labyrinthine form in the early 1800s when the limestone quarried from them was used to build much of the city. Odessa's catacombs quickly became the preferred hideout of rebels, criminals, and eccentrics. During WWII dozens of soviet-organized Ukrainian rebel groups hid below the city in the expansive catacombs, some staying underground for as long as 13 months.
Today large portions of the catacombs remain unexplored and unmapped, and there is an entire Ukrainian subculture of catacomb explorers with dozens of semiprofessional groups, often quite competitive, exploring the catacombs. They go on multi-day underground treks, known as expeditions, to document and map the system. Should someone get lost in the catacombs, (as happens every couple of years) these groups put aside their differences and mount large search expeditions. Partisan weapon caches such as rifles and grenades are occasionally still found within the tunnels, and about once every five years a body is found. On rare occasions these bodies are almost perfectly mummified, freeze dried by the cold, dry air of the tunnels.
Join us for a very special Obscura Day overnight excursion into the labyrinthine network of the Odessa Catacombs. We'll have a chance to explore both the history and mystery of the subterranean site before settling in for a night's sleep deep beneath Odessa's city streets.
Attendees are expected to bring their own mats and sleeping bags. If needed, both can be rented with a few day's notice. Email email@example.com to arrange for bedding rental.
Saturday, April 16; 6:00pm - Sunday, April 17; 8:30am
Ticket Cost: $30
Meet-up will be in front of the McDonald's entrance located at Panteleimonivs'ka St, 17, Odessa, Ukraine: https://goo/gl/maps/B3ya2Mx3Qyw
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