Tuesday, October 06, 2009

The Castle Beyond the Goblin City

Hidden deep beneath the cobblestone walkways of Castle Hill is one of the coolest tourist traps I have ever visited. Stretching the length of Buda Castle, the Labyrinth is a series of poorly lit tunnels that have been divided up into different areas and themes. I wish I could tell you more about the layout and idea behind the Labyrinth but in the poorest bit of marketing I have ever seen, there was no gift shop waiting for me at the end of my adventure.

And an adventure is exactly what the Labyrinth is. With low ceilings that would have made the trip impossible for our men, Sconni Girl, Pequeña, and I proceeded into the darkness with only slightly freaked out giggles. From the ominous music and damp, dripping ceilings the mood was set before we had ventured very far.

The further we walked, the more confused we became. The walls of some rooms were covered with carvings and paintings depicting everything from the now familiar labyrinth symbol to animals mating. One room contained a calendar of sorts but this - like most of what we would see - was difficult to make out due to the lack of light. Often, the only way we could light the way was with our camera flashes.

Odd statues were strewn throughout – some simply guiding the way with an unlit candle, others seemed trapped in perplexing tableaux from which they could never escape. Wherever the three of us found a statue, an odd sight was sure to follow. Like the wine-dripping fountain (a nod to the tunnels’ previous use as a giant wine cellar) orthe elaborate string security system we discovered a girl attempting to thwart.

Every time we beheld some new puzzlement a quote from Hamlet kept leaping to my mind: “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” For surely this array of subterranean oddities was never dreamed of in anyone’s philosophy. “What were they trying to tell us?” we wondered when we walked through a curtain of heavy iron chains and found giant head floating up from the ground beneath us like a scene from “Planet of the Apes.”

Near the midway point the Labyrinth challenged us to enter a room that was not simply poorly lit or dim but DARK – no lights, no auras from candles, no illumination of any kind. Pequeña and I bravely headed in and I at least, was far more freaked out by this complete lack of light in the unknown than I had been prepared for. I snapped my flash as often as my camera would allow and probably bruised Pequeña with my grip on her arm. Darkness, I learned, is a matter of degrees.

Perhaps the oddest part of the entire adventure was a section of “found artifacts” that were allegedly fossils that dated from thousands of years ago, yet also depicted modern items like a sneaker print or a laptop. While I greatly enjoyed the rest of the odd collection of paints, carvings, statues, and other assorted curiosities, these “modern artifacts” didn’t seem to fit. Why create a scene of foreboding with uber creepy music, sounds, and lighting only to finish on such a discordant note?

Sconni Girl, Pequeña, and I wandered back into the rainy streets of Budapest after our shadowy escapades, pleased that we had discovered this unplanned adventure. I know the other two thought I was over analyzing the entire affair but that was okay because I sincerely had a fascinating afternoon.


Connie said...

That sounds like fun! Underground interactive art!

LadyFi said...

Wow - sounds creepy, fun and exciting all rolled into one. I do love unexpected adventures!

Corinne said...

This was a hella cool post. I really enjoyed it! Hey, are you doing NaNoWriMo this year?

Anonymous said...

At least you could take photos in those tunnels! What a fascinating place.

Caution Flag said...

That tour would have undone me, I do believe. It's so good to see your blog back up. I've missed your insights.

Limningedge said...

Welcome back!
Glad you took photos, cause I would not be game to go down there.
I am not an underground person.

Little P said...

Wow - that is so cool!!! How did you get the tour?!

Hit 40 said...

You have gotten to see wonderful places!!! Outstanding. I can not wait to travel when my boys are out of the house in a few years.

NicoleB said...

I've never even heard of that place.
A must go for our next Budapest trip :D
It does sound creepy though :)