As an American, I think it is extremely important to spend time traveling the world and studying different languages and learning about the history of different people. The catacombs under Odessa are a perfect example of a part of history that is important never to forget. Claudia and I were privileged enough to take a private tour from an English-speaking tour guide yesterday.
The catacombs are partially natural and partially man-made. The Black Sea contributed to large deposits of minerals and lime stone to form under the city. Over a million years of natural erosion left a labyrinth of cavities and caves up to 50 meters underground. The city inhabitants realized that lime stone is a strong rock that they could use to erect buildings. Wooden buildings here are rare, as sturdy trees were not native of the area and importing wood proved to be too expensive. The people excavated the limestone, and what was left was a large unchartered network of walkways that if stretched would reach from Odessa to St. Petersburg, Russia.
|What a beautiful bedroom|
Smugglers evaded taxation by using the tunnels to get their goods from Odessa’s port to their final destination. During the Second World War, the tunnels were used to hide the people from air raids and attacks from the Romanians who fought with Hitler to gain a piece of land from Ukraine if the Nazis succeeded in their quest for domination of Europe.
|Lenin and Stalin: the Charismatic Leaders|
There are many different levels, and we only went down about 15 meters, but just thinking about what these caves were like before the times of electricity was mind boggling. The guard keepers were on duty for no more than one hour, because after being in an area in complete silence and complete darkness, one would start to have hallucinations.
|Remnants of a woman's mirror|
During the war, the women of the catacombs served as messengers and made occasional trips to the surface; they would wear makeup, not to be vain and look beautiful, but to give their skin a more natural hue. After one week without sunlight, their skin would start to lighten, and eventually turn gray – an obvious give away to the enemies that she was from the catacombs.
|End of the Tour Museum|
It was a humbling experience to learn about how people were chased underground and lived underground for two years.