Stumble down to Budapest’s underground labyrinth

Hungary’s capital city, Budapest, has always had a “split history.” Everything from the town’s name (which is actually a combination of two distinct cities along the Danube, Buda and Pest) to its incredibly diverse architectural styles, to a range of ruling powers from the Ottoman Turks to the Soviet Union after World War II speak to Budapest’s unique dichotomy of influences and history.

Considering this “split” history, it’s not surprising to learn that beneath Budapest’s beautiful World Heritage Site at Castle Hill is a series of spooky subterranean passages dating back to the Middle Ages. Simply called “the Labyrinth,” it’s a maze-like complex of dark corridors that has served at various points in history as torture chamber, wine cellar, bomb shelter and treasury.

Visitors can wander ancient passages on a self-styled quest, replete with a mission to find your way out by feeling your way blindly along pitch black walkways in search of the exit. Sound like a recipe for a lawsuit? There’s more – befitting its history as a wine cellar, the Labyrinth is also home to a red wine fountain hidden deep within its interior. Now you can stumble down pitch-black corridors AND be drunk!

For anyone looking for a quick thrill and an interesting view at Budapest’s many layers of history, the Labyrinth does sound like a lot of fun. How often do you get to wander your way through such an atmospheric place? Give it a try the next time you happen to be in town. Oh, and when they ask you to sign that liability waiver, see if you can’t skip the line…

Zero Star Hotel opens in Switzerland fallout shelter

Fallout shelterOh, Switzerland.

In a subterranean fallout shelter in Sevelen, Switzerland, the Null Stern Hotel, biliing itself as “The World’s First Zero Star Hotel” is preparing to open its crappy, crappy doors.

“Null stern” actually means “zero star,” which is a little relieving. They’re being clever, not insane. Normally, this is a cultural misunderstanding we have with Norway. Maybe we’ve misjudged Switzerland.

The Null Stern Hotel will cost between 6 and 18 euros per night, and includes former bomb shelter facilities, no daylight, slippers, earplugs, communal bathrooms and showers, and a butler (there was one in the photo shoot, I’m not sure he’ll be there when you show up).

We don’t know why they get earplugs.

The Null Stern hotel will open in early 2009, but recently opened up to volunteers for a test run. See the photos here.

What to do in Sevelen? I don’t know. But at least you know there’s a bomb shelter where you can stay. If you can read German, here you go.