The Catacombs of Paris is an intense and mind boggling experience. A few friends and I had to wake up at 630 to leave by 715, hop on the metro to arrive by 830 to wait in line. By the way, it doesn’t open until 10am. When we got there we weren’t even the first in line. It was so chilly my hands got numb. We traded off in groups to get coffee and delicious crossients from the local boloungerie (bakery). 10am finally rolled around and we had to wait for two tour groups to enter first and the handful of people in front of us. That was okay because there were people all the way around the block and to the other side. A lady tried to cut us but us and those around us, who have been waiting since dawn, created an inpenetrable wall of bodies she could not pass.
They allowed us in finally at 1020. They only let about 20 people enter the catacombs at one time to start and only a maximum of 200 people in total at any given time. So if you are waiting outside you literally have to wait until someone exits. I’m glad we got there early. (Oh and if you’re a student it’s free!)
We descended down 130 steps and entered to the dank stone hallways. Under the city we followed winding paths until we saw them. Skulls. Bones. All stacked on top of each other and just as tall as I am, that’s almost six feet. It is almost in fathomable how many people or people who once was, are stacked so closely together. Who were these people. It could be a merchant or a soldier, a mother or a vagabond, a child or a prince. It is like in death we are all equal. Will I be just a body when I am gone? Just adding to the collection? Walls and walls of bones as we entered room to room. The air was chillier and stalactites started to form from the ceiling. There were quotes periodically in the stone. This is another time I wish I knew French. I was tempted, but I did not touch a single skull. It seemed wrong to me in some way. I felt like visiting these 6 million bodies was a way of paying respect and being witness that they did exist.
We ascended the 83 stairs up after walking 45 minutes through the 2km cement art pathway. The exist was a non-descript street on a regular city block. It seems strange that I had just surfaced from an subterranean burial ground. It was amazing, scary, peaceful and I think this is something I will still be processing for years to come.