Friday, April 24, 2015

U = Underground Paris and Urban Explorers, French Faves - A to Z Challenge

Deep beneath the city, in caverns and connecting tunnels, you may see the intrepid Cataphiles, urban underground explorers of a different Paris, one many of us will never see.

A partially flooded section of rue de la Voie Verte, CC* by Thomas Baselius in Jan 2006

U = Underground and Urban Explorers

Cataphiles tour the former 'mines of Paris', albeit illegally. These underground tunnels connect a network of unused caverns or former mines.  The Catacombs of Paris is only one subset of the whole system, which spans 170 miles (280 kilometers) in length.

Entrance to the Catacombs is restricted. The tunnel system is complex, and it's easy to get lost. Some tunnels have plaques indicating the name of the street above, but some do not. Some passages are low, narrow and at times, partially flooded. Aging telephone wires, pipes, and other detritus can make the trek dangerous. Cave-ins do happen, but they are rare. 

Paris monitors some of the caverns and the E.R.I.C. special police patrol the catacombs. A good guide is indispensible and even they occasionally refer to a map. Due to the possible dangers, accessing the catacombs without official escort has been illegal since November 1955. Those caught are fined 60 Euros, or $77. 

How do they get into these off limits mines? 
Secret entrances exist throughout Paris, and sometimes it is possible to enter the catacombs via the sewers, the metro and certain manholes. Some unofficial visitors hold keys to certain official entrances. On rare occasions, people use these access points for meetings with others, to hold exclusive parties or simply to explore.

The term Catacombs refers to a small part of the underground network where the remains of several million Parisians were transferred in the 1780s from the overflowing city cemeteries. That ossuary is open to the public and is visited by many tourists.


Refer to DG's previous post:
Underground Crypt under Notre Dame and the Catacombs

Would you go exploring underground in Paris, with a guide? Have you see the Catacombs of Paris, which is open to the public? Does the idea of being underground bother you?

Please leave a comment to let me know you stopped by, and if you are part of the A to Z Challenge. I'll be sure to check your blog, and reciprocate. If you're not in the challenge, thanks for stopping by to visit! I try to reply to all comments.


The A to Z Blog Challenge is the brainchild of Lee, at Tossing It Out.  Please visit the A to Z blog site to find out more information and the participant list.  There are also Twitter and Facebook presences if you want to check those!



View of Rue de la Voie Verte, Underground, (today called rue du Père Corentin) at a partially flooded section
 Picture taken by Thomas Baselius in January 2006
This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

*** Cataphile NY Times article on cataphiles Nat'l Geographic article on Paris Underground

 Paris Underground