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Born in Stockholm (Sweden), now live in Sapporo (Japan). Hold a Ph.D. in computer science and work with computers during the days, perform magic in a bar during the nights (and weekends, for kids). Also used to teach historical fencing back in Sweden.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The catacombs of Paris: Three hours of waiting and then great fun

My flight back to Japan did not leave until 21:00, so I had almost one whole day to do some more sightseeing. I decided to go to the catacombs of Paris, that I had never seen before. I got there early in the morning (they do not open until 9:00, so I was not there earlier than that, though) but when I got out of the station I immediately noticed what looked like a fairly long line.
A small part of the long line to the catacombs
The 1 hour mark
Since the catacombs are located in a part of the city where there is nothing else of interest, I figured this was the line I wanted to be in and lined up behind the rest of the tourists. The line seemed to move at a fairly good pace, so I figured it would not be as bad as the day outside Versailles. After standing in line for 30 minutes or so, I came up to a tree where there was a notice saying: "Roughly two hours of waiting from here"... Great.
A guy doing guitar karaoke for the people waiting in line
Information to read while waiting
At first, I was in the shades of some trees, but it turned out the line was going around the block completely, and most of the time I was waiting I was in the scorching sun. It was hot and unpleasant. People in front of me had been clever enough to bring books to read while waiting. I ended up with a very red suntan, again.
The start of the catacombs was just hundreds of meters of narrow (low ceilings too) tunnels to walk around all alone in.
After entering the catacombs, it was only 14 degrees and very cool and nice. At first, there were very long, narrow, dark corridors to walk around all alone in. Very low ceilings even for me (and I am not tall). After a few hundred meters of labyrinth style tunnels (though they have been barred off so you can only walk one way and cannot get lost), there were some places where there were models carved into the rock. Very nice.
Old models carved into the rock in various places.
There was also a small exhibit area with some fossils, and there were rooms and parts of the tunnels with different designs and colors.
Fancy looking part of the catacombs
They have found lots of fossils in the catacombs.
Then, the main event started. There were kilometers and kilometers of skulls and bones piled up artistically. There were remains from people who died in the 17-hundreds and in the 18-hundreds, with markings on the walls from time to time detailing from where and when this set of bones had come. This part was amazing, and worth the long wait.
The main goal: kilometers and kilometers of human remains stacked in artistic ways.
After the many kilometers of bones ended, there were some more rooms with high ceilings, and then finally a very narrow and very long stairway leading out. Once out, it was difficult to spot anything touristy at all. No other tourists, no signs, nothing. And it was a bit difficult to tell where the heck you were. I saw a bigger road a way off, and walked out there to get a grip on where I had emerged.
Some skulls are in worse shape than others
There was a lot of water dripping into the catacombs, so I was a bit wet when I got out. The shoes are also pretty muddy.
When I took photos of myself with my camera, the results were mostly sharp...
When I asked other tourists to take photos for me, the results were mostly not sharp...
Not sharp
There is a lot of water dripping down, so the floor was wet and muddy, and from time to time your hair or camera became wet too.
Nearing the exit, there were very high parts (11 meters to the ceiling, in one place) too.
The last part is a very narrow, very steep, and very long flight of stairs.
Wet and muddy, slightly slippery stairs
Everyone comes out with shoes that are dirty, and a good way to spot the exit is this dirt.
In fact, that may be the only way to notice the exit from the catacombs. This exit (center of the photo) is very unremarkable, and it is located very far from the entrance.

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