Pálvölgy Cave – Beneath Budapest Pt. 2

by Yaska Sahara

Part two of my archive posts from Budapest that I half wrote and then forgot to publish, whoops. 

So what else is going on beneath Budapest? Not only do we have haunted catacombs (which you can read about here in part one), but we also have an incredible, elaborate cave system. 

Caving is something I highly recommend. It is great fun and not as expensive or difficult as one may think. 10,000 Hungarian Forints (approx. £27, US$ 34, €30). For around 2 hours of exploring caves in a small group, it’s more than worth it. Experiences are almost always worth it. 

It took us about 45 mins to get there from Central Pest by public transport. You don’t need much, you come with shoes you don’t mind getting dirty, something to keep hair back, you get given a jumpsuit, helmet with a torch on it and that’s about it. In the skills department, you don’t need to be the next tomb raider, as long as you can do some basic climbing and even that isn’t too hard, the guide is very helpful, giving you various routes, holding your foot, encouraging you etc. Our group had some young agile people but also some older people who weren’t afraid of trying. It is not really strenuous in that you don’t sprint through the cave but you may be slightly exerted once or twice as you reach for a good spot to put your hand or foot in, but that’s about it. These particular caves don’t have stalagmites and stalactites and you can touch the walls without sharp rocks, some parts may be a little damp but you’re warned of such. 

You’d actually be surprised at what you can do, the tiny holes you can wiggle yourself through, the walls you can climb… So while you may be pushing yourself to do new things and being slightly out of your physical comfort zone, you will still be able to enjoy yourself. 

The caves are breathtaking, likely like nothing you’ve seen, I’d certainly never seen or been able to experience anything like it. I’d seen caves you can casually walk into, but this was something else. 

The cave was a true labyrinth, all the ‘rooms’ looked quite different. I was astounded at how the guide knew her way around so well, all the routes, all the names of the rooms, her knowledge… how passionate she was about caving… The names of the rooms were great, they often showed what the room looked like, there was one resembling an amphitheatre, in which concerts are actually held for cavers once or twice a year if I remember correctly, there was called the bar, one called ‘death of sandwich’, in which a caver apparently lost his sandwich, poor man. 

We also great conversations with our guide, when in the bar, she asked if anyone knew how to say ‘cheers’ and I, like the language nerd I am, instantly responded with ‘Egészségére’, with what she said was great pronunciation. She said people in her group didn’t generally know and we then proceeded to talk about how I think Hungarian is extremely beautiful and she told me where to get good Pálinka (Hungarian liquor). She was a great guide, remembered the group’s names, making sarcastic jokes (right up my alley), ‘no one has been lost in these caves… yet’. 

She gave us ample opportunity to take pictures, taking some for us, giving us recommendations of cool spots, funny pictures etc. We got a lot of great ones (see above with the feet and the head popping out of opposite ends of a small tunnel). 

My highlight was one point when we were told to sit down, then turn our lights off, then to be silent. These moments are some of my favourites. It was dead silent. I could barely even hear the breathing of my peers. We sat that way for about a minute. I would have sat that way for many more I could. It was serene in a way you can’t achieve above ground. 

All in all, as you can tell, I highly recommend caving. 

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