Thursday, December 31, 2015

Paris Catacombs: 6 million bodies

Really the only LONG line we had to wait in during our visit (thanks to all those fast past pay in advance options...which we loved!) But despite the wait (3 hours ugh,) the Catacombs gave us an entirely new view of this mysterious city--from underground! Such a respite out the 100+ weather, we enter and pay our fee, instantly cooled by the ancient, icy air from below.  This Labyrinth, 20 meters below the heart of Paris, is a maze of dark curves and turns. The passage: "ArrĂȘte, c'est ici l'empire de la mort" [Halt, this is the realm of Death ] above the entrance sends a chill all around. We wound through the narrow passages, separated from any other visitors, a solitary and spooky shadow falls upon us. We pass skull upon skull, over six million to be exact, and the numbers unnerve us. The bones are stacked for space, yet set in an aesthetic design as well and occasionally, we forget they were once humans, each with their own story to tell. These bones, transferred between the late 1700s-mid 1800s, mostly originated in graveyards that were closed as risks to public health. These tombs, now filled with the memories of these lost souls, were once sediment accumulated from an ancient tropical seabed. The deposits formed into limestone and were later mined away, transforming these endless underground passages into the country's largest unknown cemetery.