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There are many tunnels in Switzerland and as a child I always liked to play the game of holding your breath when entering a tunnel, hoping you would be able to hold it till you get out on the other side again. In some cases I managed, in others I would have probably dropped dead if I’d continued. After all, I’m no free-diver and can’t hold my breath to up to 9 minutes…

Driving through the tunnels either by car on on train was most probably my first experience in being underground. That and of course the snow caves we usually built during winter. We had lots of snow back then. Much more than we get now. You could actually build a massive cave. It always freaked my parents out. They were worried that it might collapse and would bury us. So my Dad usually checked it out and made sure it’s “safe” before he let us enter.

I don’t think the experience of being underground went any further than that for me in my childhood. The first time I decided to go underground and was well aware of it was when spending time in Austria, driving from Switzerland to Vienna via Salzburg. We decided to do a tour of one of the salt mines in Salzburg and were told that it was the one “The Phantom Of The Opera” was filmed in. Up until then I had no clue that going down there would actually make me anxious. I realized that I was borderline claustrophobic.

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It was amazing down there but the fact that the ceiling was basically only centimeters above my head while we were on the boat on that underground lake made me nervous. It’s still an experience I look back to with a mixed feeling between amazement and also feeling not at ease. I was happy when we got out again.

Next time I found myself, this time with my son and husband, underground was in a cave (Can Marça) on Ibiza. Again, the hardest part for me was actually getting down, deep into the cave as there were some narrow spots. The moment the path becomes wider and the ceiling lifts up, I actually started enjoying it. It was fascinated to see the stalactites and stalagmites and it was fun trying to teach our son to say those words. I think he especially loved it as it was nice and cool down there compared to the heat outside…

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It’s been years since we’ve took on this little adventure. Many years. I wonder if our son still remembers it… Isn’t it fascinating what they sometimes remember although it has been ages since they’ve experienced it?

Since having moved to Australia my cave or mine “hunting” slowed down. Last time I’ve been underground has been a couple of years and it’s been in a so called open air museum and historical park. I’m actually no longer sure if it’s a legit mine… I think it is…

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It says that the self guided tour into the mine will lead you “to discover the dark and dangerous world of deep lead mining and witness the discovery of the famous ‘Welcome’ Nugget. Weighing around 69 kilograms, it remains the second largest gold nugget ever found!”

I don’t particularly like being underground. It makes me nervous. Knowing about how much soil, rocks and other stuff is above your head makes me feel uncomfortable. I start wondering how well it’s actually built and then my head goes into overdrive thinking about what might happen. Then, on the other hand, it’s a great experience to see, what actually lies below us. What might be hidden right under our feet. All the treasures that our planet has to offer us, submerged underground.

But honestly, I’m glad I don’t have to go down there on a regular base. I’m glad I’m not a miner, I’m glad nobody in my family is. I’m happy to experience it from time to time but I’m not keep to go deeper underground than I have to…



9 thoughts on “Underground

  1. I’ve always been fascinated with tunnels but an admitted claustrophobic, I know my limitations and can only admire them through pictures or TV. I do wish I had the nerve to go cave exploring but I’m sure my mind would convince me I’d suffocate. 😱

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  2. Such an interesting trip but I agree with not having to go there on daily basis. I can get claustrophobic very easily. We have a similar place here in Pakistan, largest salt mine called Khewra. Your trip seemed similar to mine !

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  3. When I saw this title and post, I thought of two underground cities in the US that have been “resurrected” and revitalized. I have visited one of them, Seattle, Washington‘s Pioneer Square district, which has a very peculiar historical quirk: a century ago, they raised the streets by an entire floor. People actually died falling off of the street to the lower sidewalks below before they managed to raise the sidewalks to the same level. It was once the heart of the city: Seattle’s founders settled there in 1852. The early structures in the neighborhood were mostly wooden, and nearly all burned in the Great Seattle Fire of 1889. By the end of 1890, dozens of brick and stone buildings had been erected in their stead; to this day, the architectural character of the neighborhood derives from these late 19th century buildings, mostly examples of Richardsonian Romanesque. In the early 1960s, the destruction of the elegant Seattle Hotel and its subsequent replacement with a parking garage known as the ‘Sinking Ship Garage’ spawned a grassroots preservation movement to save Pioneer Square from the wrecking ball. A series of newspaper articles piqued curiosity about underground areaways in Pioneer Square, which led to the creation of a tour of the areaways. The tour was created as a means to engage the public in signing petitions for the preservation of the Square. Later it became a fixture in the neighborhood by drawing tourists to the area. including my family on a drive up the West Coast to Vancouver, Canada, from our So Cal home. The grunge music scene in Seattle blossomed in Pioneer Square with live music clubs, who featured bands such as Mud Honey, Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam, and Nirvana.
    I have yet to visit Underground Atlanta, though I have been to, around, and through the city a few times since we moved to the Southeast US ten years ago. This is a shopping and entertainment district in the Five Points neighborhood of downtown Atlanta, near the Five Points MARTA, the city’s rapid transit system, which I have also yet to try, station. After the devastation of Atlanta during the Civil War, the city began to rebuild itself around the railroad tracks that brought goods and people to the city. However, by the 1920s, Atlanta had a growing traffic problem. A series of viaducts was built to bridge the railroad tracks and relieve congestion in the downtown area. The viaducts illustrate a dramatic early 20th-century chapter in local transportation and were part of a largely unrealized City Beautiful plan to fashion a Beaux Arts civic center above the railroad. Atlanta continued to grow above these viaducts–and above the original street level of the center city. The ground floors of these buildings, essentially sealed off by the viaducts, reflect the typical architecture of this period. As construction took place in the 1920s, merchants began to move their operations to the second floor of their buildings, and turned the original ground floors’ storefronts into basements for storage and service. Given that this occurred during Prohibition, and the fact that these “basements” were relatively obscured from the city above, some of the basements became sites for speakeasys and juke joints, with music and illegal drinking a common occurrence. One of the first mentions of the area is in the opening lines of Bessie Smith’s 1927 “Preachin’ The Blues” which documents its importance as an entertainment district:

    Down in Atlanta G.A.
    Underneath the viaduct every day
    Drinking corn and hollerin’ hoo-ray
    Pianos playin’ till the break of day

    By the end of the 1920s, the street level had been raised by one and a half stories, and a five-block area was completely covered up. For the next forty years, as Atlanta continued to grow at street level, the 12-acre (49,000 m2) area was effectively abandoned and forgotten until the buildings were rediscovered and redeveloped as a shopping and entertainment district called Underground Atlanta in the late 1960s and early 1970s. In the 1960s, the original storefronts were rediscovered and many architectural features from a century earlier had survived intact including decorative brickwork, granite archways, ornate marble, cast-iron pilasters, hand-carved wooden posts, and gas street lamps. Two Georgia Tech graduates, Steven H. Fuller, Jr. and Jack R. Patterson,[2] began to plan a private development there to restore and reopen “the city beneath the city” as a retail and entertainment district. With the old-style architecture lending considerable charm to the district, Underground Atlanta was compared to Bourbon Street in New Orleans. By 1972, its most profitable year, Underground had 3.5 million visitors and $17 million in sales. Unfortunately, the heyday of Underground Atlanta lasted for only half a decade, and its early demise was sealed with the construction of the MARTA East Line beginning in 1975, though it left a few exposed storefronts which are the surviving lower portions of buildings that were demolished to make way for the MARTA rapid-rail line. Most of the storefronts in Underground Atlanta date from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and are generally Victorian in style. Within the district is also the Zero Mile Post, which marked the beginning point of the State-built railroad line that fostered the development of the city. By 1980, Underground Atlanta was closed and it sat mostly dormant for most of the 1980s. Vagrants occupied several of the historic buildings, some of which were consequentially destroyed by fires. In 1982, newly elected Mayor Andrew Young vowed to reopen Underground as part of his plan to resuscitate downtown Atlanta. During this time, some of the clubs that were destroyed by the MARTA construction eventually won a claim for damages from federal mass transit authorities and used the money to help revitalize the area a second time and, on June 15, 1989, Underground Atlanta re-opened as more of a modern shopping mall than an entertainment district. Although the historic buildings and architecture remained a major draw, some critics felt that the now-sanitized district had lost its original charm and lively atmosphere. Indeed, since its re-opening in 1989, Underground has become a conundrum that leaves tourists befuddled and struggles to attract locals, so I wonder what I’ll find there now, if I ever venture underground in what is today called Hotlanta.

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    • Wow! So much fantastic info! I just learned a lot. Thanks so much for sharing. I have never heard of any of this before but I guess it’s because I never really dug deeper.


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