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Report - Kholodna Balka catacombes, Odessa. Jun '15

Discussion in 'European and International Sites' started by drhowser, Jul 1, 2015.

  1. drhowser

    drhowser Bespectacled & irrelevant
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    I guess most people have heard of the Odessa catacombs by now. I've wanted to visit for probably 10 years now.

    Strictly speaking they aren't actually catacombs; they have certainly been home to a good number of corpses over the years, but not by design. They're actually a massive limestone mine. There are still graves of miners to be found, but that's splitting hairs.
    The catacombs are still largely unexplored and the average estimates for them are around 2500km; although they are still being mined in places and still growing.The earliest workings are probably from the 17th century but the majority of the system now dates to the 19th when Odessa was expanding and the stone was used to build the city.
    As the miners left the tunnels have been used my smugglers and criminals as hideaways and a method of escape or surreptitious movement through the city. During WW2 they were used by the Soviet resistance so effectively that despite the Nazis best efforts they were still down there at the end of the war. People are still finding new camps and caches of weapons.

    Obviously a guide is essential for a visit here, and I was lucky enough that Anastasia from Paris had just returned home for the summer, she's been exploring here since she was maybe 15. She's also genuinely passionate and knowledgeable about the catacombs.
    The section I saw is under a small village about 30km outside Odessa and being as I had only half a day we didn't have time to see a lot, maybe 4-5 hours under. Enough to know that I'll be back for a proper expedition next time..

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    The way in and the last of the daylight.

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    1907

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    1902/1907 Can't make it out properly

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    1899 This was the earliest date I saw

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    The ruts to the right are from the miners carts, you could also see where they had worn the sides of most of the corners. Apparently the horses used to pull these were blinded by the dust within 2 years of working in the mines

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    CCCP.

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    This is a well shaft from the village above. In other places there were drains that had been sunk straight into the tunnels from the houses above. Apparently if it gets really bad the cataphiles go round and seal them up with expanding foam.

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    The drawing above marks the place where a proposal was made. Maybe the prospective groom thought the possibility of being left behind might encourage a positive response. Below is a sign marking a miners grave.

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    This was a large flooded area which unfortunately I didn't have time to go very far into.

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    The final section we went into on the way back to the surface was much larger and more open, you can see on the walls that it's been used for paintball at some time. Bet that was great fun!





     
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  2. Camera Shy

    Camera Shy Old enough to know better
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    Had no idea it was that expansive, great read, what else you got ?
     
  3. drhowser

    drhowser Bespectacled & irrelevant
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    That's it I'm afraid. The trip was really more of a honeymoon and meeting her family. We did make a trip into the Kiev metro, but that ended up being about 15 minutes of running away from the Militia..
     
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  4. Lenston

    Lenston Bajo Tierra
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    Pretty epic mate, looks amazing down there and some great pictures :thumb
     
  5. kevin arnold

    kevin arnold 28DL Member
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    that's pretty epic, i'd love to see it for myself one day... so do those tunnels go all the way back to odessa?? or is it a separate system?
     
  6. drhowser

    drhowser Bespectacled & irrelevant
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    I think it's probably possible to get all the way back. Every chamber that we went into had at least 2-3 ways in and out.
     
  7. Oxygen Thief

    Oxygen Thief Admin
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    I will get there one day... thanks for sharing...
     
  8. Bertie Bollockbrains

    Bertie Bollockbrains 28DL Regular User
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    Epic stuff

    Heading there myself next month, already have my guide sorted. Look out for my report. Does the standard 2 hour tour advertised online include any of the soviet bunkers?
     
  9. Oxygen Thief

    Oxygen Thief Admin
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    2 hours? I'm lining myself up for fours days underground minimum.
     
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  10. GAJ

    GAJ Mr Muscle
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    Think these are on just about everyone's list due to the sheer size of them & you definitely need a guide in there though as maps are strictly controlled by the locals. I'd be doing like OT & hoping for a few days under, although that may be dropping in each day depending on how your guide wants to do it.

    Good stuff @drhowser, always nice seeing this place pop up & you've got some awesome shots in here. Well done :thumb
     
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  11. drhowser

    drhowser Bespectacled & irrelevant
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    I don't know about the tours, but you need to be asking about Moldavanka district in the centre. There's a couple of bunkers under there and i think also a drain that links the system at the same place. I can get the details if you want?

    I'm looking at doing probably three days next time, first day of solid trekking to get right into the system then a day of properly exploring. The people I spoke to organising this are more than happy to get right off the maps.
    I wouldn't be surprised if you've met Anastasia actually, she's well in with the Paris lot, she's married to a guy who calls himself Joanny Catas on Facebook.
     
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  12. Oxygen Thief

    Oxygen Thief Admin
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    Cheers mate, I'll look into it.
     
  13. Bertie Bollockbrains

    Bertie Bollockbrains 28DL Regular User
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    I know that 2 hours is pants - but that's the standard tour being advertised on the internet in various places (including TripAdvisor of all places) and also in the Lonely Planet guide book at a cost of about £4.50 each. Trying to find out if there would any point at all for a tour of this duration - also I will be having kids and wife in tow who would much rather be on the beach.
     
  14. bhg

    bhg In Search of Lost Time
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    So glad that you managed to see some of it D! I wish I could travel there one day. I guess you will be visiting Odessa more often from now on :)
    Amazing pics as always!
     
  15. fb

    fb big in japan
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    the 2500km of tunnels that gets banded about is pretty accurate I think, but its not one single system. It's a bit like Paris, where you have one or two big mines that connect, but then boat loads of smaller mines that are all independent. The really big systems are outside the city. In the centre, there are quite a few smaller systems, some of which connect to the sewers and fresh water drainage. Most of these smaller inner city systems are a complete nightmare to work out as the city has officially renouced ownership and control over them. The best ones have been locked up by the local police who offer 'official' tours for money on their days off. Many others have been filled in, or at least the entrances to them have, and there is a bit market in selling old maps to these 'lost' systems to the big construction firms who want to build massive buildings over uncharted ground. Some of the stories of the wars for territory down here are fucking mental. Lots of beatings and murders, people being stripped naked and left in the dark with no light etc.... all good fun.
     
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