My Worldy Obsession with Abandoned Buildings

Room with a view. A hospital on the seaside in Sardinia, Italy. Room with a view. A hospital on the seaside in Sardinia, Italy.

This is from an interview I did for an online Swedish news paper – yeah I’m famous! The article can be found in Swedish at the link and in English below http://nyheter24.se/nyheter/intervjuer/806638-david-ar-en-urban-aventyrare-det-far-adrenalinet-att-pumpa

> – How do you find out about these abandoned places?

A lot of research and/or local knowledge. As these places are usually illegal to enter and generally quite unsafe, requiring a lot of spatial awareness and respect, they are not advertised at all. The more popular, larger, easier to get into places aren’t too hard to find on the internet, however they visited by more people, people without the values and ethics of a good urban explorer and as a result they destroy the place, take anything that is worth taking and graffiti all over the place.

The golden rule among explorers is that you don’t take anything and you don’t leave anything, just like hiking and camping in nature, you leave the place intact for the next person to equally enjoy. But people who don’t follow these codes trash the place, take whats not theirs and ruin the place. For me these places are museums telling a story, when you stand inside an old hospital in the complete silence, you can feel what it was like, picture the pain, the healing, feel what it was like to lay in that room suffering while overlooking the Mediterranean sea – as was the case in an abandoned Italian hospital on the beach.

The real gems, the places that are relatively untouched and left to decay in a natural process can be very hard to find, requiring the smallest clues from a photograph uploaded on the internet or a comment, followed a great deal of searching on google maps. Local knowledge is by far the best way, places people have heard of, that a friend of a friend visited.

Once the place is located the real work begins. You have to find how to get there, which can be difficult as a tourist due to their obscure locations, then you have to research the best way in, think of the best time of day to visit. A lot of the time it is luck, not getting caught, but like anything research and preparation is key.
> – What was it that made you go on these non-mainstream trips?

Adventure. In a world where being an explorer is becoming increasingly difficult, with the stakes increasing all the time; it is nice to find a place that you can explore for yourself. You can explore without knowing what you will find, usually you don’t know the layout of the building, you could open a door and find a dead dog, or a chandelier. Walking around these places it is usually dead silent aside from the wind slamming windows open and shut, and as the place is usually almost completely void of furniture every step you make, every piece of glass or rubble you unavoidably stand on creates a seemingly deafening noise echoed throughout the hallways of the once frantic hospital/factory/TV station/fortress/bunker. You are forced to walk slowly; with each step you take you pause to listen, constantly wondering if someone heard that. It keeps the adrenaline pumping and you certainly stay on your toes – particularly in the beginning when you are sussing out the place, does it seem likely that homeless people might live here, are the police likely to come, are there vandals and people doing more illegal things than exploring an empty building. You never know, and therein lies the appeal of exploring the uncharted territory.

> – Could you ever go back to “normal” holidays and visit typical tourist spots.

It’s a long time since I have stopped calling myself a tourist. Like most travellers, I feel uncomfortable if I am in a tourist location for long periods of time.

I personally like to mix it up when I travel. While I always prioritize visiting abandoned places and other attractions off the beaten path, I do still visit some of the more usual attractions if they sound interesting and I have time. For me traveling is always about meeting people, learning from different cultures, living like a local and having a unique experience. You’re not going to meet people who are interested in exploring abandoned buildings beside the pool sipping a cocktail in a cosy hotel, locals are the ones with the knowledge and other travellers you might meet in a hostel would be more likely to be up for the adventure of finding a unique place to explore. So it is the travel style you adopt and the state of mind that determines how your holiday is going to pan out. Sitting by the pool relaxing with your family for two weeks after working all year is all some people want and that is great, if everyone wanted to explore abandoned buildings they would start charging entry for tours and ruin the entire experience.
> – Do you know some cool abandoned places in Sweden or the Nordics?

There’s a few around yeah. I have only visited a few in Sweden, like a car graveyard contained within a forest with 1000s of cars from the 1940s or so, stacked 4 cars high in places, where the forest is taking back the land and there are trees that have grown thru the floor of cars, tree trunks wrapped around the steering wheels, intertwined with the engine. This graveyard is one of the best examples of nature taking back the land I have seen. I’ve been to a few cool factories, mostly old paper mills which Sweden has plenty of. I’ve heard of a few more really cool places, like an old ship somewhere on the west coast that sounds well preserved and very hard to get into. While poorer countries with less ability to repair these structures and more experience with war have more buildings that are easier to find and less secure, it may surprise people to learn about abandoned places located in first world countries like Sweden/Norway/Finland. It’s not something you picture when you imagine the Nordic countries.

> – Where is the coolest place you have been? 

Each place is different and I have a lot of favourite places, for different reasons. For the scare factor, exploration factor, places nature has taken back, places relatively untouched where you can read documents left behind and examine photos taken 50 years ago. Hospitals, factories and ex-military bunkers are usually among the most interesting as they are large and have a story to tell. They contained people dying and people working to death and you can really absorb their stories if you just listen, put yourself in their shoes as you look out of the tiny slit in the door where they would place their gun should anyone come knocking.

Among my favourites was an old tuberculosis treatment centre, turned hotel, turned hospital which was the closest to a haunted building I have ever been. In short after exploring for a while, as we were about to enter the top level, the ‘wind’ picked up and the doors and windows started slamming open and shut in different parts of the hospital each taking turns in quite a rhythmic fashion. We sat in silence in the darkness for what seemed like eternity unsure of how to react, just listening, convinced it was a security guard looking for us. Eventually we decided it was just the wind and bailed. However, and this sounds like a pretty tall tale, we never dared question where a girls scream we heard from outside the building came from, as the building was quite remote.

Another favourite would be a train graveyard with old steam trains out of service decaying in peace. Another, a TV station bombed by NATO in 1999 with the reels containing the film to television shows still intact in the basement, and of the many houses my favourite was one full of old gaming artifacts from the 90s, controllers from the first Nintendo gaming consoles, gun controllers, game boys, old calculators, very cool things – none of which I took, of course. Places with an interesting history like a mental asylum used by the Nazis to secretly kill Jews where you can walk in the tunnel systems where the dead bodies would have been transported, or holiday villas on the coast used by the communist party during the Soviet Union. Every place is different; every place has a unique history and should be preserved in its natural state and left to decay by natural forces.

Abandoned hospital turned hotel turned hospital in Zakopane Poland. The most haunted building I have ever been in. As soon as we entered the top floor (where this photo was taken) doors and windows throughout the building took turns in slamming open and shut, in a series of three each time. Im sure it was just the wind, but a scream from a young girl outside remains a mystery.
Abandoned hospital turned hotel turned hospital in Zakopane Poland. The most haunted building I have ever been in. As soon as we entered the top floor (where this photo was taken) doors and windows throughout the building took turns in slamming open and shut, in a series of three each time. Im sure it was just the wind, but a scream from a young girl outside remains a mystery.
A house in Kielce Poland full of old gaming relics. Heaven for a nerd like me.
A house in Kielce Poland full of old gaming relics. Heaven for a nerd like me.
Mental asylum in Warsaw. Used by the Nazis to kill Jews they labeled mentally ill during WWII. Mass graves with hundreds of bodies was found in the forest years later. The forest certainly has a creepy, uninviting atmosphere. I played 'tag' with a group of explorers who were there without their knowledge, using the underground tunnels to avoid them, tunnels which were once used by the Nazis to dispose of the bodies.
Mental asylum in Warsaw. Used by the Nazis to kill Jews they labeled mentally ill during WWII. Mass graves with hundreds of bodies was found in the forest years later. The forest certainly has a creepy, uninviting atmosphere. I played ‘tag’ with a group of explorers who were there without their knowledge, using the underground tunnels to avoid them, tunnels which were once used by the Nazis to dispose of the bodies.
Car graveyard in Sweden near the boarder with Norway. 1000s of cars spread throughout the forest that has taken back the land and engulfed the cars.
Car graveyard in Sweden near the boarder with Norway. 1000s of cars spread throughout the forest that has taken back the land and engulfed the cars.
A street of abandoned factories one after the other in Tallinn, Estonia.
A street of abandoned factories one after the other in Tallinn, Estonia.
12 storey uncompleted university building in Novi Sad Serbia. Requiring an imagination and some climbing skills to get in, I am told the project manager simply walked away with all the money half way thru. Certainly the best view of the city.
12 storey uncompleted university building in Novi Sad Serbia. Requiring an imagination and some climbing skills to get in, I am told the project manager simply walked away with all the money half way thru. Certainly the best view of the city.
Train graveyard in Budapest. Old steam trains decaying in peace. One of the most challenging places to get in and out undetected, across train tracks, over barbed wire walls, thru thorn bushes.
Train graveyard in Budapest. Old steam trains decaying in peace. One of the most challenging places to get in and out undetected, across train tracks, over barbed wire walls, thru thorn bushes
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One thought on “My Worldy Obsession with Abandoned Buildings

  1. This entry is epic. Reminds me of the abandoned Coogee Power Station – awesome.
    “However, and this sounds like a pretty tall tale, we never dared question where a girls scream we heard from outside the building came from, as the building was quite remote.” – I do not doubt you for a second!

    Liked by 1 person

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