Half a million years ago, prehistoric men first began using these caves; as mankind advanced, he appropriated the caves for everything imaginable: wine-cellars, jails, torture dens, harems.
By the 1930s, when the cellars began to operate as both shelter and military hospital, the cave system could house as many as ten thousand people at once.
The caves were appropriated by the military during the Cold War, and afterwards briefly became a museum. It was cited as one of the underground wonders of the world, replete with wine fountains, wax statues and the long shadows of our shared past.
During black out tours, visitors were allowed explore the cave in the enveloping privacy of darkness, carrying only a single lantern to light their way. The caves were permanently closed in 2011, when a police raid flushed out Hungarians and travelers alike. No warning was given, and visitors believed they were under siege.
Permanent is a strong word for a system older than time. I'm sure there are those who still slip through its hallways even now. Quiet as ghosts...
And when the police and measurement have all gone, ghosts will wander there still.
I want to see it.
I just meant to look up labyrinths for a description in Evening's Land. You see what happens?? Oh well.
When Andrew and I backpacked through Ukraine, lovely new friends took us into Odessa's old limestone catacombs. We scrambled through, hunched over, for miles.
Poetry written with candles on the walls. Broken lanterns, vodka bottles. The smell of rain. Carved beds for the miners, discarded tools. We turned out our lights and lay in the dark, just breathing.
There is a density to silence underground, a sense of stopped time.
It was a womb of our forefathers' own making, burrowed back into mother Earth. And how wondrous.
Pauline West's first novel, EVENING’S LAND, is winner of the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation Award and recipient of the Carol Marie Smith Memorial Scholarship for the NOEPE Center of Literary Arts.
Pauline West's books on Goodreads
Candlemoth: A Holy City Romance
ratings: 27 (avg rating 4.04)
ratings: 24 (avg rating 3.46)
Candlemoth Volume 2: How To Spend It
ratings: 10 (avg rating 4.40)
Candlemoth Book 3: A Twist of Fate
ratings: 6 (avg rating 4.17)
Stalker: A Gothic Thriller
ratings: 4 (avg rating 4.25)