I assume that when Budapest comes to someone’s mind as a tourist, usually a vanguard of bridges, the House of Parliament, and the Danube River (which divides Buda and Pest) are the most vivid. It is of no wonder. The Hungarian capital is undoubtedly one of the most enthralling cities in the whole wide world. Beyond the mentioned House of Parliament, which is the tallest building in Budapest, it is highly recommended that you visit the Heroes’ Square and the City Park with the charming Vajdahunyad Castle. Unmissable tourist attractions are also the majestic Citadel and the Buda Castle. Attention! When you are wandering by the walls of the latter one, however, I suggest you have a maze experience too, 12 meters underground at Labirintus.
Only a ten-minute walk from the castle for which kings have waged for centuries, the Buda castle, you will bump into the entrance of a dubious labyrinth. Fascinatingly, the maze worms deep under the ground for more than three kilometres altogether. The Hungarian people have named it Labirintus. This naturally evolved cave- or rather cellar system is about half a million years old, and archaeologists have even found a 350.000-year-old prehistoric work tool here. The basic function of the labyrinth continuously changed over time, but it always served for practical or cruel purposes. But what for, exactly?
Well, there are plenty of myths about the former designations of the underground labyrinth, but of course, also proven facts regarding what it was used for in the near past. The unique maze served as a community cellar during peacetime, but from the 1930s it started to function as a tourist attraction as well. Considering its characteristics, the Hungarian people and the state itself transformed it into shelters and a temporary hospital during wars. In World War II, even German soldiers were treated here. From the 1950s and during the cold war, when Hungary was under the Soviet occupation, its designation was highly encrypted. We can only guess that authorities brought those who were against the Soviet regime here and that they used the labyrinth as a torture chamber.
If we go further back in time, there are many more conjectures regarding its former purposes. For example, after the Ottoman Empire was expelled from the country at the beginning of the 18th century, several female bones were found. Presumably, they were the remains of the women who had belonged to the harems of the Turkish political elite. The most popular supposition is also relating to the Turkish-occupation times in Hungary. Precisely, that the infamous Dracula was imprisoned in the labyrinth, after Matthias Corvinus, the Hungarian King attacked and trapped him. Vlad Tepes, a Transylvanian voivode who later was called “Count Dracula,” was supposed to defend the European Christianity, but he allied with the Turkish sultan instead. Many believe that he escaped from the cellar in the form of a vampire.
Today, Labirintus functions as a tourist attraction and exhibition, but it can be an interesting maze experience, to be 12 meters underground. It was in this labyrinth where the very first waxworks opened in Budapest and Hungary, in 1983. There are still dozens of wax figures inside – they are commemorating the once flourishing opera life of the Buda Castle. Besides, there are countless frightening and historical statues, creepy nooks, and diversified passages. The effect is even better enhanced by the all-pervading fog and the spooky background music. There are completely dark corridors, and we can solely rely on our senses here – or the flash of our phones.
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