Last Belgium visit came with a big surprise to me. Even though I visited the country before, it never even crossed my mind this tunnel system existed. Secret passageways hide in a 300km labyrinth made of limestone.
I was visiting my family in Belgium and we initially planned to go on a day trip to Luxembourg. The weather however was cold, it was snowing and we predicted we are going to spend more time stuck in traffic than actually visiting the city. So our plans changed quickly that Saturday morning.
We decided to stay in, but we still wanted to spend a couple of hours walking or doing something informative. My uncle came up with this idea: let’s visit the Mergelgrotten Zichen in Limburg.
There are 70 caves inside this 300km labyrinth but only 2 are opened for the public. The cave we visited is one of the two opened for the public.
Normally you cannot go inside without a reservation and the cave opens only for groups. The Mergelgrotten Zichen belongs to the owner of the house located above. We were lucky… my uncle knows the owner, he called him and we were informed that they are organising a party there and that the cave is opened. They let us visit the cave together with the invitees.
There is a restaurant inside the cave and the owners have to turn on the heat when they organise events there. We even stopped to drink the beer they were making there, it was one of the best beers I ever had.
This is how they bring the food down:
I entered the cave not knowing what to expect, it literally didn’t look like any cave I visited before, it wasn’t humid at all and the calcareous marl sticked to our shoes the second we went down the stairs.
We greeted the owner and the other guests at the restaurant and then went with them on a short tour of the cave.
The host was speaking dutch with the guests and I did not want to interrupt and make them explain everything twice, my uncle shared with me all the details he learned after the tour was over and my cousin and I explored the cave by ourselves, pretending we are lost in a labyrinth. Pretty exciting and creepy, right?
Here are some of the things my uncle shared with me:
- the cave was an ideal place to hide during war, people who hid there were also creating art inside those walls
- Gioconda was “painted” there in charcoal
- during the french revolution, a catholic priest hid there. Services were held here as well:
- the limestone there was extracted and used for construction
- the cave was also used to cultivate mushrooms
- the temperature there is always constant, no matter if summer or winter, there are always 12C inside
Would you like to get lost in here as well, or rather not?