This is one of the most mysterious places in the world.
Perhaps no man who has not heard about the Paris catacombs, but how many know about the library in these catacombs. However, this is not a normal library with a reception and a checkout where there is a comfortable place for visitors. This library and its modest but carefully selected collection of books waiting in the eternal darkness underground strangers who come to her in rubber boots and helmets with headlamps. To find the underground “city of books”, it will take much more than a regular library card.
The world literally blew up the pictures of Francois Klein – a German photographer who claims that it is always immersed in the environment that he photographs, and it allows him to take pictures as objective as possible and realistic. To remove amazing library that exists deep beneath the pavement of Paris he sank to a depth of 35 metres, having become acquainted with the new generation of explorers of the catacombs, which he called “the Underground pirates.”
To break in deep secret micro community, which itself calls catfile (cataphiles), can take years. Close friends and family most cataphiles not even aware of the nocturnal habits of the people they seemingly know everything. They have no idea that those with whom they spend each day, regularly disappear at night under the earth and explore the complex network of tunnels and chambers. These nocturnal habits are completely illegal, but it’s not the only reason why they are kept in the strictest confidence.
Only a small part of the catacombs, where centuries stored piles of human bones, is open to the public as a tourist attraction. The rest (about 300 km of tunnels) are the patrimony cataphiles who do not like to share their territory, especially with newcomers, who accidentally find a way for them. “All cataphiles combines the fear of losing your shelter,” explained Klein.
François Klein found its way into the catacombs, walking along the Petite Ceinture, the former Paris ring railway with a length of 32 kilometers, which was abandoned since 1934. At first glance, this railway is so similar to a place in limbo between us and the underground worlds, because it was forgotten for 80 years. On this railway there are several secret entrances to the catacombs. On the Petite Ceinture Klein met people who eventually introduced him to catfile.
Francois quickly succumbed to the allure of “a parallel world in which the lack of daylight creates an entirely different view of the passage of time.” He learned that some katapila deliberately stay under ground for extended periods of time to experience a kind of seclusion, enjoying the caves, away from the noise and stress of the city.
For the first time the hatch for Francois in a quiet corner of the centre of Paris was opened by a person who is known by the nickname “Dirty”. Most community members know each other only by nicknames. This anonymity and the specific atmosphere of darkness, silence and danger arouses a feeling of real magic.
After a few kilometres of narrow passages and countless crossings and trails, françois Klein, with the attendant got to the first room established and equipped catfile. Some caves already existed before, but the diggers only converted them, and others cave catfile dug themselves and furnish according to their tastes. So in the tens of meters under the ground of Paris, many miles from the entrance had created an alternative space for artistic expression. Here you can find a very unusual form of painting and the plastic arts.
“Tourists not welcome here,” says Klein, acknowledging that some hardcore katapila and it is still considered a tourist. – Local underground residents are trying to scare visitors away with insults and a home-made smoke bombs and steal and burn all existing maps of the catacombs. The reason for this hostility lies in the fact that the more people spend time under the ground, the greater the risk of unwanted attention to the catacombs.
People often get lost in the huge maze of passages. This is a dangerous place even for experienced cataphiles: because there are cases of destruction of ceilings, loss of orientation, cuts and injuries from sharp rocks. So Parisian diggers, even vital information, for example, constantly changing the point of entry, transmitted in oral form personally to the person whom you trust”.
Often the Parisians drinking wine or coffee in many city’s cafes, watching the surreal scene: the figures disappear one after another under the surface, and then behind them from inside the hatch closed. Francois remembers that the first time he got to the catacombs, they went first at 35 meters down into the darkness. Then they had to squeeze through very narrow openings to reach the vast cave galleries are covered with paintings. After that they walked in the dark in waist-deep water to find underground beach cataflam.
“It is likely that no matter how many times I go down into the catacombs, I will always be considered a tourist, concluded françois Klein. – Although the label “tourist” I don’t really like, but to become cataflam, you need much more than sporadic visits from time to time in the underworld. You need to really commit ourselves to the darkness and become a real pirate of the underworld”.