Odessa catacombs

Odessa catacombs it is a wide net undeground tunnels, appeared after intensive stone mining in 19 century. It’s hard to believe, but full length of catacombs is 2.5 thousand kilometers. There is no such phenomena in any place in the world. That is why dozen of tourist want to visit catacombs in Odessa. City stays on steep sea coasts on south of Ukraine. Soil under city representing by pontic limestones of 12-16-meter thickness piled at the base, covered with red-brown clays and loess-like loams. Upper part of section of the coastal slope is plate-like, recrystallized limestones, lower part is uniformly cemented, and more friable. That is the place where so-called Odessa catacombs are located.

What is Odessa catacombs

Underground catacombs in Odessa are not homogeneous in their structure. Oldest element of them is karst caves, which arose more than 3.7 million years ago. Other types of underground cavities formed much later, not earlier than beginning of 19th century. At this time began underground mining of saw limestone for construction purposes. Synchronously with the pace of city construction, rapidly increased number of underground cavities.

Huge spaces of abandoned quarries are called “mine fields” and have analogs in Europe. However, total length of the galleries in two and a half thousand kilometers has no one underground massif in the world, except Odessa. Such scales testify to extraordinary rates of development of old city.

Most of them belong to XIX and early XX centuries, when there was a rapid construction of Odessa. Extraction of a stone had an accidental character, each builder – on its site. As a result, appeared vast labyrinth, which has many entrances to coastal slopes, in cellars of city houses, ect.

What expect inside

odessa catacombs usual tunnel with a wall of bricks

Usual tunnel with a wall of bricks

Complete plans of Odessa catacombs do not exist. Official city government has never sought to investigate them. The air temperature under the ground is +14 throughout the year. It is very pleasant in summer, when temperature on surface reaches +35. Simple walk to catacombs in summer become a very pleasant pastime. Depth of catacombs in some places reaches 40 meeters. Having no plan of mine passages, they seem to be a real labyrinth, which is very difficult to get out. As a result, one who lost here without light is almost doomed to perish. Enter to catacombs alone is highly dangerous. First of all you need to know how correctly navigate underground and don’t forget basic safety rules.

Inside Odessa catacombs on the walls there are various inscriptions. It is a traces of a people from 19th century until now. Inscriptions are very diverse: religious prayers, appeals for help, patriotic appeals of revolutionary times, political caricatures. Small number of poetic texts also exist on the walls of mine tunnels. Most of that “artistic heritage” of catacombs are obscene words. Even underground darkness does not subjugate human desire for self-expression!

Touristic route

odessa catacombs painting of the wall

Pictures on the wall in Odessa catacombs

Catacombs are one of the main tourists attractions in Odessa Ukraine and an important part of cultural layer of the city. In addition that layer bears unique information about everyday culture of Odessa in times of Russian Empire, sometimes reports unexpected information about Second World War, contains paleontological remains of prehistoric animals. Due to this, catacombs tour is one of the most popular types of excursions among tourists.

During Second World War, catacombs used as bomb shelters by civilians. Some of such bomb shelters were settled by several hundred people at a time. This is a unique case of massive underground civilian campsites in the history of Odessa and picture of hard lifetime in the time of war.

Today, for most tourists, Odessa catacombs are exotic and opportunity to spend an interesting time. For the city itself, empty mines underground represent kind of problem. The fact is that in the late XX century catacombs have caused a sharp complication of  engineering and geological situation. More than 40% of old city is located on territory of former stone mining.