Known as Central Europe's last great mystery, the Erdstall tunnels of Bavaria and Austria are made up of a labyrinth of vaults that don't offer an easy explanation. A vast spectrum of theories relating to their origin abound — ranging from Celtic or Pagan cults approximating some sort of passage to the underworld to escape routes from castles destroyed centuries ago to dwellings for helpful goblins to hiding places for the disabled. The purpose as well as the timeline remains shrouded in mystery. Experts place the tunnels anywhere from the 5th century to the late Middle Ages.
Der Spiegel profiled the recent efforts to explore the tunnels and trace their entrances and exits. The explorers have found themselves squeezing through oxygen deprived passages barely 16 inches wide only to emerge into the "kitchens of old farmhouses, near churches and cemeteries or in the middle of a forest."
Photos: Ben Behnke / DER SPIEGELblog comments powered by Disqus