Visiting damp tunnels full of centuries old skeletons is probably not everyones idea of a great day out, but there's something I rather like about roaming about in tunnels. And if there's one thing that Paris has got a lot of, it's tunnels. In this case, Paris' famed catacombes.

These particular tunnels were originally limestone quarries - some dating back to Roman occupation (of what was then Lutece). During the late 1700s, there were severe problems with overflowing graveyards and poor burials - especially in the region of Les Halles (once a famous marketplace, now a tragically designed commercial district). To combat the disease caused by these unsanitary conditions (becoming even more problematic during the revolution), it was decided to transfer the bodies to the former quarry sites and create mass graves.

There's something very anonymous about this sort of experience. Graveyards at least give you an indication of who each person was, but here I found myself wondering, as I looked at the rows and rows of skulls, who they were, how they lived, how they died. Though it's sure that these old bones get no rest with all us tourists wandering through day after day.

Here's some other info about the catacombes (from Wikipedia)

* The chamber walls are full of graffiti from the 18th century onwards. In the 19th century some families even lived there.

* Victor Hugo used his knowledge about the tunnel system in his novel Les Misérables.

* During World War II, some Parisian cells of the French Resistance used the tunnel system.

* The arrangement of the bones, as well as the ominous signs, were made specifically for visitors in the 19th century.

* Burial chambers are only a small part of the full extent of galleries under Paris. The total length of all underground tunnels is more than 300 km.

* In theory, entrance to catacombs is restricted. However, enterprising souls can enter the tunnels through certain places in the sewers or the subway system, as well as through manholes in some streets.

* Going into catacombs has been illegal since November 2, 1955. There is a 100 € fine and a special tunnel police. Some of the most dangerous places, especially in the center of the city, have been closed.

* In September 2004, a hidden chamber with a movie theater run by the Mexican Perforation group (a French artistic movement that seeks to convey their ideas in underground places) was found by the French police

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