Getting lost in the Labyrinth beneath the Buda castle.

The corridors took us deeper inside the guts of the Labyrinth. The electric lights flickered, and the yellowish glare uttered strange shapes on the walls. The path was dump and mud stuck to the sole of our shoes. The wax figures looked at us with a question hanging in the air, waiting for us to stop and look back at them. We were not entirely sure in which part of the Labyrinth we were. For a moment I had a feeling we were here before, passing through too quickly. The caves seemed cold and hot at the same time…

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The Labyrinth beneath Buda Castel, located around 16m under the Castle District, is one of the major tourist attractions in the capital of Hungary. This unique cave system has been created by hot springs running beneath Castle Hill centuries ago and served as refuge grounds for the prehistoric man. Later on the caves were connected to the cellarage of the Castle District’s houses and were used as wine-cellars, torture chambers, jails or treasury during the Middle Ages.

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In 1930 the Labyrinth became a shelter and military hospital. At that point ten thousand people could be accommodated there. After the Cold War the idea of using the caves as a tourist attraction emerged and luckily for many visitors coming to Budapest – a cave museum has been set up here. On our first day in Budapest, the cold weather and the sky with thick layer of clouds, seems the perfect excuse to visit the Chambers of Dracula, hidden away from the daylight.

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It is easy to get lost in 1200 m of the narrow corridors and small caves, with its damp walls and stiff air floating around. From time to time you will come across bigger caves, in which the wax figures are telling the stories of life in the times of the Middle Ages. Luckily for you, in few places you will see some maps, which could help you getting your bearings, if your sense of direction is similar to mine. After 6 p.m. you will be handed in an oil lamp to help you out, when the electric lights are switched off.

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These underground walls held once Vlad Tepes, better known as “Dracula”. In the XV century King Matthias captured him in Transylvania and took to Buda. For ten long years Dracula was kept underground and probably tortured, not being able to see the sun and his wife. During this time Justina Szilagyi, Vlad’s wife, committed suicide and his castle in Havasalföld was robbed by the Turks.

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In XIX century, Bram Stocker, an Irish writer, published his tale, drawing from the legends circulating in Romanian folklore for centuries. He has created a fictional character, the king of vampires, hunting around Transylvania. The popularity of the novel was enormous. Since its first publication, in 1897, the book has never been out of print.

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Vlad Tepes’s role was to protect Christian Europe from the Turkish invasion. Unfortunately King Matthias, who probably conspired with Turks, made sure that Vlad will not be able to fulfil his role and imprisoned him deep down, under the Castle Hill. Vlad’s cruelty became legendary when he left the dungeons. The most notorious and inhuman human being living in Hungary was born. No one really knows if this change was an unfortunate result of imprisonment, loss of his wife or perhaps tortures implemented during his forced stay. One thing is sure – Stocker found a good figure to create his notorious vampire.

Practicalities:

Getting there – Bus:  16, 16A, 116, address: I Úri utca 9 & Lovas út 4/a. Generally – go to see the Labyrinth if you planning on visiting Buda Castle, as it is easy to get to it from the castle.

The temperature is around 15C, so if you go there during Summer, remember to bring with you and extra layer.

The opening hours are 10 am – 7 pm.

Tickets – adult/under 12yr/senior & student 2000/600/1500Ft

The Labyrinth of Buda Castle

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