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  • Writer's pictureShaun Yeo

Below the City Centre of Budapest!

Unbeknown to many, a complex labyrinth of flooded underwater caves, exists below the city centre of Budapest, in Hungary.

I first heard about these caves on an underwater photography facebook page many years ago. It has always been on my bucket list ever since, for many years.

I recently qualified to Cave Dive, so the problem now was getting to Hungary with all these COVID 19 travel restrictions. I had been closely monitoring the situation in Hungary all year, and the country showed to have very strict regulations in place, unlike many other EU countries. Hungary was only opened to residence and specific personal until very recently. The county then opened up travel to vaccinated people or having to do COVID tests and quarantine. Although I was fully vaccinated, Hungary only accepts vaccination certifications administered in their country and not from anywhere else. Eventually Hungary opened up its land borders, and no travel restrictions was required via land anymore.

I managed to travel to Hungary via Austria. I flew to Vienna and then got a train to Budapest. I found no restrictions at all along the way!

It’s a cold morning in Budapest, a chilly 2’c air temperature. I met my cave diving guide in what appeared to be the town centre of Budapest, but it actually was! The cave system is below us! There’s an old building at the entrance, which I later learned was a Turkish Bath, with waters from the thermal cave system used for this in the 1800s.

A small lake is also found at the entrance to the cave, called Lake Malom. Steam appears to be coming off the lake’s surface… how weird. I am then told the lake is fed from the water inside the cave, which is a warm 21’c. The contrast with the 2’c air temperature outside, was causing this steamy effect on the lake’s surface.

There is a man-hole cover with an entrance to the cave, in between the lake and Turkish Bath, but this is now the old entrance, and a newer one is now used, from a tunnel dug into the rock face beside. A large air bubble was discovered during exploration works in the cave system, and later the tunnel was connected to this large chamber. The dive centre now uses this chamber as the main entrance to the cave dives. The cave is called MolnarJanos Molnár János, after the person who discovered it.

After some paperwork and briefings, I set up my SC Rebreather and then headed for our first dive in the cave. The dive guide wanted to carry out a dive check dive on me, so no camera was taken on this dive. The water temperature in this large chamber is 29’c, very nice! The rest of the cave is around 21’c. The air temperature inside the tunnel and setting up area is in the mid-twenties. Who would have known, compared to the cold 2’c outside that morning!

During the next couple of days, I undertook 6 cave dives. The cave has a labyrinth of passages connecting with each other. We always had a different route to take on each dive.

It was impressive to learn, that blind shrimp, as well as other types of marine life lived in the cave! I was always under the impression that one of the underwater caves in Gibraltar was the only place in the world to have blind cave shrimp! I was also taken to see some fossils on the caves walls from ancient times; a shark tooth and Sea Shell to name a few!

I also had the privilege to dive the lake outside the cave. It was my first time diving a fresh water lake, be it was only 2 metres deep! There was plenty of fresh water marine life in the lake, that I had never seen before, including frogs and water lilies.

My final two dives where at Kőbánya Mine. These were my first mine dives too. These tunnels are found on the other side of the city, and consists of over 30 miles of tunnels. Most of the limestone mined from here can be seen in many historical buildings around Budapest, including the iconic Hungarian Parliament.

The tunnel had other uses too, such as a beer factory, wine cellars, churches, bunkers/shelters during WWII and also a top secret factory for the German fighter planes during the war. Nowadays, the tunnels are abandoned and the lower section is flooded, becoming a dive site for us!

All the walls are plastered and floors tiled, so the mine diving experience is a bit different to what I expected. I’m used to exploring dry tunnel systems in Gibraltar which look a whole lot different, but nonetheless I didn’t want to miss the opportunity whilst in Budapest, and definitely a new experience for me! The waters here are a cold 12’c so a thicker drysuit undersuit was needed. The air temperature inside the tunnels are also much colder than the tunnel at Molnár János!

Below are links to two videos I’ve put together, from my cave dives in Molnár János, my mine dives in Kőbánya Mine and my dive in Lake Malom:

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