Odessa catacombs

What is Odessa catacombs? History

In the end of 18 century, Russian empire conquered the land, that today is southern part of Ukraine. Immediately after the war, empire created a city called Odessa. To build the city, people used wide layers of limestone underground. As a result, appeared largest underground labyrinth, which lately named – Odessa catacombs.

How big are Odessa catacombs

It’s hard to believe, but Odessa catacombs length is 2.5 thousand kilometers (1500 miles). And it is only official catacombs size! Some part if catacombs have even three levels! There is no such phenomena in any place in the world. That is why dozen of tourist want to visit catacombs in Odessa. Of course not all of catacombs are in access today. Lot of underground tunnels were poured with sand or concrete during fast building of a last years. But this related only to catacombs under Odessa, because much of them located out of the city.

odessa catacombs

The catacombs within the city

Ukraine сatacombs location

Odessa city located on steep sea coasts on south of Ukraine. Fifteen-kilometer zone from Black sea coast inland, has extensive limestone deposits underground. That is the place where Odessa catacombs are located. Most of catacombs are abandoned limestone mines of XIX and early XX centuries, when there was a rapid construction of Odessa city. Extraction of a stone had an accidental character, each builder – on its site. As a result, catacombs located everywhere: under old city, suburbs and also out of Odessa, under small villages – Usatovo and Nerubayskoe.

odessa catacombs map

Odessa catacombs map (small part)

How to visit Odessa catacombs

  • By yourself – highly unrecommended! Yes, it’s not so hard to find entrance to wild part of catacombs, but 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 there without light is almost doomed to perish. Visit Odessa catacombs alone is highly dangerous. First of all you need to know how correctly navigate underground and don’t forget basic safety rules.
  • Take a guide – there are number of people, who spent many hours exploring Odessa catacombs for fun. They call themself diggers – local urbex community. Lot of them provide excursions in wild catacombs. There are many options how to visit catacombs with guide. One can get into wild part or visit special museum preserve. Catacombs of Odessa apparently one of most interesting places for tourists.
  • Visit museum – there are couple of such suggestions for tourists. Museum is a good option, because they located in catacombs and totally safe. Nothing can happen with you there. The most famous is Partisan one, opened in USSR times and dedicated to catacombs WW2 history. You only need to get to the museum, buy an entrance ticket and wait for a group to gather. Notice, that one can enter museum only with a group, or with a guide! Also, museum workers make 20 minutes excursion, not more. To hire a guide is always better, because with him one can spend as much time in catacombs, as you want. Also, as a rule, guide tells much more information and usually more interesting.

Odessa catacombs missing people

The fact is that catacombs under Odessa is a deadly place and official power highly don’t recommend to go down inside this labyrinth. Nevertheless, whole history people searching and exploring catacombs, despite all warnings. Of course, from time to time somebody get lost in catacombs. Odessa news not always cover such incidents, but only most scary, when rescue teams find dead bodies inside dark underground tunnels. One of such story happened in 2005 in Odessa catacombs.

odessa catacombs

Catacombs inscriptions marking the way

In 2005 the group of people went down into catacombs under Odessa suburbs to celebrate New Year. It’s quite usual, when young people searching for extreme feelings get to catacombs and spend couple of days underground. By all means they took a lot of alcohol with them. Such groups usually go very deep inside catacombs labyrinth, opposite of those, who just wondering how catacombs looks like and don’t go too far. Couple days after, they left the catacombs, except one girl, which they left underground.

odessa catacombs

WW2 soldier in Odessa catacombs 2014

Nobody knows exactly what happened there, why they left the girl inside. Few month later, her decomposing body found in Odessa catacombs one man, who explore the catacombs a lot. He made a photo of the corpse and show it on his blog. Despite that even news retold this story, there wasn’t full investigation of what happened. Obvious questions, like: why they didn’t return for her, was alcohol is the reason of her missing or something else, why they kept silence until the body found, have no answer for today.

Catacombs structure

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.

odessa catacombs

Karst cave inside catacombs below Odessa

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.

Is breathing air safe in catacombs?

Catacombs are located inside shell deposits that formed millions of years ago. In fact, the local type of limestone is an unimaginable amount of pressed shells. Shell rock is clean and environmentally friendly. Inside the catacombs there is no gas or other dangerous substances for humans. In addition, the mineralized deposits of shell stone contain a lot of calcium, which prevents the occurrence of fungus. The upper layers of coquina deposits are highly crystallized and are not used in construction. Crystallized coquina can be easily found on the seashore and see fossils with your own eyes.

odessa catacombs

Crystallized coquina

What expect under ground

People, who like exploring abandoned places, should to know few things about Odessa catacombs. Complete plans of underground maze do not exist. Official city government has never sought to investigate them. So all existed maps belong to different groups of amateurs or done during mining works in 19 century. 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.

odessa catacombs

Wild Odessa catacombs tunnel

Inside Odessa catacombs on the walls there are various inscriptions and pictures. Symbols and marks are 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!

odessa catacombs

Odessa catacombs wall pictures

What is the purpose to visit catacombs?

Catacombs are one of the main tourists attractions in Odessa Ukraine and an important part of local culture. Underground tunnels bear unique information about daily life of in 19th century. The catacombs served as a shelter for resistance units in World War II. The history of partisans detachments is the most dramatic part. Besides, the tunnels crossed natural caves with paleontological remains of prehistoric animals. Due to this, catacombs tour is one of the most popular types of excursions among tourists.

odessa catacombs

Museum preserve catacombs of Odessa

During WW2, 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.

Сatacombs stories

  • Golden Titanic. The legend says, that in 1912 years on a board of Titanic, was a rich tradesman from Odessa. By the fortune he was one of survived people in a disaster. After return home, he decided to left something in memory of this event and ordered to creat a model of the Titanic. According to the legend, the model was made of gold, nearly 20 kilograms weight. When became the dark times of revolution, being afraid criminals and communists, he hid golden ship somewhere into catacombs below Odessa. The owner of a golden Titanic escaped the country during civil war and forget the ship under the ground. For a time after, dozens of people explore catacombs tunnels tried to find this treasure, but no one get the fortune. Do the ship existed or not? Was it found or still inside labyrinth? Maybe treasure was buried under earth collapse? Nobody knows…

    odessa catacombs

    Finds in catacombs

  • Ancient drinks. It is well known that alcohol plants in Odessa had large cellars for storing products. Quite often, they used catacombs to expand underground storage. Such storage facilities in the catacombs were later abandoned or littered with land. In the 1970s, a group of researchers exploring underground tunnels beneath Odessa suddenly stumbled upon a moldy, falling apart wooden box. When they opened the box there were several old champagne bottles with untouched corks. Without hesitation, they decided to open the bottles and try the wine. The taste seemed strange to them, so they poured contents of the bottles and threw them away. Subsequently, they realized that the box was a remnants of an old factory warehouse and the champagne was produced in the end of 19 century. At modern auctions, each bottle of such a drink costs several thousand dollars. These bottles lied inside catacombs more than a century and our heroes wasted the drinks, which costs few thousands dollars for the bottle.