PEOPLE AND PLACES

PEOPLE AND PLACES

Saturday, June 23, 2018






Inside the 65ft-deep man cave dug out by one man over 23 YEARS
These fascinating photos show how one man painstakingly created a jaw-dropping basement under his house, using just a hammer and chisel. Builder Levon Arakelyan (inset) spent 23 years crafting the incredible 65ft-deep, 3,000-square-foot subterranean space and he was even working on the project on the day he died in 2008, aged 67. He began working on it after his wife, Tosya, asked for a cool space for her potatoes. He got carried away. Today the hand-crafted cellar in the village of Arinj in Armenia is open as a museum and New Zealand-based Radio Free Europe photographer Amos Chapple recently journeyed to the attraction to shed some light on it.



Now THAT'S a man cave! Inside the 65ft-deep underground world dug out by a builder over 23 YEARS... using just a chisel and hammer

  • Levon Arakelyan, who was a builder by profession, spent 23 years crafting the 280-square-metre cave
  • Today the hand-crafted cellar in the village of Arinj in Armenia is open as a museum 
  • New Zealand-based photographer Amos Chapple recently journeyed to the attraction to shed some light on it 

These fascinating photos show how one man painstakingly created a jaw-dropping basement under his house, using just a hammer and chisel.
Builder Levon Arakelyan spent 23 years crafting the incredible 65ft-deep, 3,000-square-foot subterranean space and he was even working on the project on the day he died in 2008, aged 67. He began working on it after his wife, Tosya, asked for a cool space for her potatoes. He got carried away. 
Today the hand-crafted cellar network in the village of Arinj in Armenia is open as a museum and New Zealand-based Radio Free Europe photographer Amos Chapple recently journeyed to the attraction to shed some light on it. 
These fascinating photos show how one man painstakingly created a jaw-dropping basement under his house, armed with just a hammer and chisel
These fascinating photos show how one man painstakingly created a jaw-dropping basement under his house, armed with just a hammer and chisel
Levon Arakelyan, who was builder by profession, spent 23 years crafting the incredible 3,000-square-foot subterranean space and he was even working on the project on the day he died in 2008, aged 67
Levon Arakelyan, who was builder by profession, spent 23 years crafting the incredible 3,000-square-foot subterranean space and he was even working on the project on the day he died in 2008, aged 67
Apparently Tosya no longer ventures into the cavern as she's scared of having a fall, so the cameraman went down there alone. 
Describing the cave,  'I went and scouted the place out with the lights on. I then went back up and asked Tosya to switch all the lights off and I would work down there alone to take photographs. 
Today the hand-crafted cellar in the village of Arinj in Armenia is open as a museum and New Zealand-based Radio Free Europe photographer Amos Chapple recently journeyed to the attraction to shed some light on it
Today the hand-crafted cellar in the village of Arinj in Armenia is open as a museum and New Zealand-based Radio Free Europe photographer Amos Chapple recently journeyed to the attraction to shed some light on it
Levon started hammering out the basement in 1985 after his wife Tosya requested a cool spot to store her potatoes in
An entrance way features intricate carvings
Levon started hammering out the basement in 1985 after his wife Tosya requested a cool spot to store her potatoes in
Over the years Levon continued to burrow 65 feet down, adding intricate detailing to the cave-like space
Over the years Levon continued to burrow 65 feet down, adding intricate detailing to the cave-like space
Some of the tunnels feature grand doorways, with Romanesque columns carved into the stone and there are perfectly angled stairs chipped into the rock
Some of the tunnels feature grand doorways, with Romanesque columns carved into the stone and there are perfectly angled stairs chipped into the rock
'So being down there in the darkness was amazing - there was utter silence and darkness, and it was easy to get lost.
'At first though I was a little nervous - Armenia is earthquake-prone and in the deeper caverns the rock crumbled under my fingernails. 
'I tried to banish the thought of a collapse from my mind and just concentrate on photographing.' 
Tosya shows some of the buckets Levon used to remove the earth he dug out from the ground
Tosya shows some of the buckets Levon used to remove the earth he dug out from the ground
Levon would often spend 18 hours a day underground only emerging for a few hours to sleep before starting again
His wife Tosya now opens the quirky basement to visitors
Levon would often spend 18 hours a day underground only emerging for a few hours to sleep before starting again. His wife Tosya (pictured right) now opens the quirky basement to visitors  
Photographer Mr Chapple said he decided to visit the unique basement after reading an article about it online
Apparently Tosya no longer ventures into the cavern as she's scared of having a fall, so the cameraman went down there alone
Photographer Mr Chapple said he decided to visit the unique basement after reading an article about it online. Apparently Tosya no longer ventures into the cavern as she's scared of having a fall, so the cameraman went down there alone
Describing the cave, Mr Chapple told MailOnline Travel: 'I went and scouted the place out with the lights on. I then went back up and asked Tosya to switch all the lights off and I would work down there alone to take photographs. So being down there in the darkness was amazing. There was utter silence and darkness and it was easy to get lost!'
Describing the cave, Mr Chapple told MailOnline Travel: 'I went and scouted the place out with the lights on. I then went back up and asked Tosya to switch all the lights off and I would work down there alone to take photographs. So being down there in the darkness was amazing. There was utter silence and darkness and it was easy to get lost!'
The walls of the cave feature a mix of hard and soft volcanic rock and the temperature remains around 10 degrees Celsius all-year round. 
Asked what the most interesting feature of the cave is, Mr Chapple said: 'It was impossible to photograph well, but there's a kind of portal above ground at the very top that runs down through all the levels. 
'You can stand in this back room of the house and look all the way down to the bottom level some 65 feet below you.'  
The cave museum features the rustic tools used by Levon. All of the earth removed during the excavation project was donated to local builders for use on construction projects
The cave museum features the rustic tools used by Levon. All of the earth removed during the excavation project was donated to local builders for use on construction projects
The walls of the cave feature a mix of hard and soft volcanic rock and the temperature remains around 10 degrees Celsius all year round
The cave is full of quirky decorations and ornaments
The walls of the cave feature a mix of hard and soft volcanic rock and the temperature remains around 10 degrees Celsius all year round
The shredded boots worn by Levon underground are shown in a display case 
The shredded boots worn by Levon underground are shown in a display case 
Levon started hammering out the basement in 1985 and over the years he continued to burrow, adding intricate detailing to the cave-like space.
Some of the tunnels feature grand doorways, with Romanesque columns carved into the stone and there are perfectly angled stairs chipped into the rock. 
Levon would often spend 18 hours a day underground only emerging for a few hours to sleep before starting again. 
The cave museum features the rustic tools used by Levon and the shredded boots he worked in. 
All of the earth removed during the excavation project was donated to local builders for use on construction projects. 

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