Visiting abandoned buildings is something I used to do a lot, but haven’t done in years. Revisiting an old favorite for the third time (Chateau Miranda, Winter Camping) was an absolute treat. It was so nice to walk around this beauty, even though it’s state of decay is getting worse over the years. Especially the balustrades that made it’s staircase so special, have completely fallen to pieces.
It felt like a homecoming to walk around here again, and feeling so familiar, after so long. Maybe it’s time to start doing this again. I guess I once stopped visiting abandoned places because I thought I had already seen the most beautiful place I would ever see (this gorgeous thing, in my memory the amazing), and that every other place would not live up to it. But I have been missing the feeling you get when walking around an area you are not really meant to be, and where you can only imagine the history of the place before it was left to be forgotten. And apparently, I still enjoy taking photographs of these places, even if its a place I have seen often before. So let’s see if I pick up this old hobby of mine again in the new year :).
FujiChrome Provia 400, Pentacon six TL.
Belgium, November 2015.
Abandoned industrial buildings in Holland, a rare find. And right in the middle of a suburban area. This place was completely and entirely covered in a greasy substance. It once was a Vaseline factory and left for quite some time now, not sure how long. We were here more than a year ago. I’m sure by now its being demolished for something else to be built there instead.
De Pers, a Dutch newspaper, published an article written by Floor van Dijck about Urbex Photography. In this article she writes very nicely about my experiences during some Urbex trips and it showcases some of my photographs too! Bellow the article you can find a gallery of the photographs chosen ánd the full text in Dutch. I have conveniently added a Google Translate button in case your Dutch isn’t up to scratch :).
“Entering vacant buildings to take photographs. Urbex combines excitement with art and architecture.”
Leegstaande gebouwen binnendringen om er foto’s te maken. Urbex combineert spanning met kunst en architectuur.
‘Het duurde een tijdje voor we de ingang vonden. Al een paar uur liepen we rondjes rondom het immense verlaten kasteel in de Belgische Ardennen. Toen we eindelijk een open raampje vonden waardoor we naar binnen konden kimmen, zat mijn lijf al vol adrenaline. Eindelijk! Ik had door het raam al gezien, dat de hal prachtig was; vol marmer, nog helemaal authentiek. Binnen begon ik meteen met fotograferen. Ik was druk bezig de hal vast te leggen, toen ik een van mijn vrienden enthousiast van boven hoorde roepen. ‘Kom!’ Ik liep de krakende trap op. Toen ik de deur van een van de leefruimtes opendeed, voelde ik een rush van emotie. De kamer, die toch overduidelijk al meer dan tien jaar onbewoond was, stond nog helemaal vol met spullen: kastjes, antieke meubels, oude boeken. Het bed was opgemaakt, kleren lagen losjes over de stoel, alsof de bewoner net vertrokken was. Het was een korte blik in de geschiedenis, ergens waar de tijd heeft stilgestaan. Onvergetelijk.’
De Amsterdamse studente Lucia Willems Ramírez (28) is een van de ongeveer 300 urbexers die in Nederland actief is. Urbex is een samenvoeging van Urban Exploring. Het is een vrijetijdsbesteding die het verkennen van verlaten gebouwen en locaties combineert met fotografie. Het draait om het verkennen en vastleggen van het verval. Oude ziekenhuizen, kastelen, verlaten fabriekscomplexen, sanatoria, scholen, bunkers en millitaire complexen; europa heeft een schat aan leegstaande gebouwen vol historie die leeg wachten op sloop of een nieuwe bestemming. Via afgesloten internetfora -alleen toegankelijk voor actieve leden- delen urbexers hun foto’s, avonturen en locaties. Erg happig op publiciteit zijn de urbexers niet. Bang voor sensatiezoekers die ook op verkenningstocht uitgaan in de schaarse verlaten gebouwen die Nederland rijk is en het voor hen verpesten. De scene kent veel ongeschreven regels. De belangrijkste: ‘take nothing but photographs, leave nothing but footprints’.
Regelmatig gaat Lucia met een groepje vrienden op zoek naar een nieuwe locatie om te verkennen. In binnen, maar vooral buitenland. De locaties vinden ze via internet. Mede-urbexers delen plekken op de fora en ook google earth helpt mee. ‘Als je rotte daken ziet, heb je een grote kans dat het verlaten is.’ Ze kwam in contact met urbex via vrienden die dat al langer deden. ‘Mijn eerste keer was in een verlaten chocoladefabriek in Bussum, zo’n vijf jaar geleden.’Inmiddels is Lucia op 30, misschien wel 50 plekken geweest. ‘Het leuke is voor mij de fotografie. Ik vind het mooi om het verval, de geschiedenis vast te leggen. De spanning maakt het ook interessant: je bent op een plek waar je niet hoort te zijn, maar je doet er niets fout, je maakt niets kapot, je bewondert alleen. Maar toch; het mag niet. Je moet een goede entree vinden, stil zijn, niet gepakt worden. En met mijn vrienden heb de gewoonte om een ‘dakbiertje’ te drinken, liefst in de ondergaande zon, dus zoeken we de weg naar dak. In 95 procent van de gevallen lukt dat, soms als hoogste punt niet lukt nemen we genoegen met een lager dak.’
Het verkennen van de verlaten gebouwen is niet zonder risico’s. Urbex is officieel verboden, en de verkenners lopen risico een boete te krijgen. Ook kan de staat van het gebouw erg slecht zijn. ‘Er kan altijd wat gebeuren, dat is ook onderdeel van de spanning. Ik heb zelf nooit een ongeluk meegemaakt, maar heb wel via fora gehoord dat mensen door vloeren en daken zakken en dat er dan hulp moet komen. Wij zijn altijd heel alert op krakende vloeren, ik zorg dan dat ik heel voorzichtig je voeten neerzet. We zijn wel een aantal keer weggestuurd door bewakers. Dat gebeurde ook in het Belgische kasteel. Een boete hebben we nooit gehad.’ Het is essentieel om op een urbexexpeditie een mobiele telefoon, water, wat eten en zaklampen mee te nemen. En een goede camera natuurlijk, want de foto’s zijn uiteindelijk net zo belangrijk als het verkennen.
Het vinden van een droomlocatie als het Belgische kasteel wordt, merkt Lucia, steeds moeilijker. ‘Er is meer controle op dit soort plekken en er zijn ook minder leegstaande gebouwen. En als een plek ontdekt is gaat hij snel achteruit.’ Ook worden leegstaande gebouwen gebruikt als hangplek door lokale jongeren, die vaak vernielen en bekladden. De beste plekken houden de Urbexers daarom zoveel mogelijk geheim. ‘Je merkt dan ook, dat de actieve urbexers steeds verder weggaan om speciale locaties te vinden, zoals naar Zweden, Italië of het voormalig Oostblok. Ik ben bang dat ik zelf de mooiste locaties in de buurt wel gezien heb. Na dat kasteel in België helemaal; zo mooi als dat wordt het niet meer.’
Somewhere in Spring 2009, Belgium. A beautiful house, completely covered up by branches and leaves, this time of year. Inside its a total mess and all the layers of floors have fallen down. Ouside it looks stunning.
All photos made with a Pentacon six TL, FujiChrome Provia400.
This has truly been the most beautiful castle I have ever seen in my life, and I have seen some stunning places… It was also quite the adventure. We first arrived on this terrain somewhere around sunset. We walked all around the forest to find an easy and quiet entrance but getting through the forest and finding the castle was quite easy. When we saw this beautiful spot we decided to camp on the terrain. We wanted to go back to the car and grab our gear and thought that we could find an easier way. So we walked into the forest where we thought the quickest way to the little village was. This was a bad idea…
First we were walking on a path, and slowly but surely all the paths we had walked on were nowhere to be found, or completely blocked off by fallen trees. After about half an hour we had really lost all sense of direction, and in the mean time it had gone dark and birds all around us were going mental because of all this forest action. Blair witch project came to mind, but we didn’t speak about this until we were almost out, to spare ourselves the stress…
Eventually we found an exit and then we had realized how far we had gone off track, and how huge this forest really is. We went back to the car to get our stuff. We had a small moment of doubt, should we really go back in there? But we hadn’t seen it from the inside, and we had this great idea of getting up at sunrise to photograph this place with the morning fog. So we decided to go back and we did. We went back in the way we knew best, found a good spot and set up base camp. We enjoyed a really nice evening with a lovely bottle of whiskey, wondering what the history of this amazing castle is. We went to sleep and set the alarm for sunrise. That was a bit rough, but oh soo worth it.
The surroundings of this castle on a foggy morning in fall are simply breathtaking, but inside the history and the feeling that is left here by its previous owners is incomprehensible. When I walked into one of the bedrooms I saw all the stuff lying around there. The beds still made. Slippers on the floor. Clothes rested on one of the chairs, as if someone went to bed with their clothes hanging there ready for the next day, but then never showed up to put them back on…
It was an overwhelming feeling I felt at that moment, quite a sad one as well. I remember saying to my friends that I was so speechless that I simply didn’t know where to start with taking photos, there was just too much beauty. After being inside for about, what I think was 20 minutes, we heard a motorcycle from very close by. We went to peek out of one of the windows and we saw a man looking inside the building. I was quite amazed because I thought we had walked on all the paths in the forest, and all of them were blocked off. Apparently I was wrong. We waited in complete silence until this man had left, then we ran to make our way out. We were sure that he would come back. We went outside where we had hidden all of our packed gear, and waited there again for a while. We heard stuff coming from the forest, but weren’t quite sure if it came from animals or humans. Finally we made our way out of the forest and back to the normal world. We arrived at the car and had to sit on the curb for a while. Lying in the morning sun and realizing what we had just experienced. This was fucking amazing….
All photos made with a Pentacon six TL, Kodak Ektachrome 100Plus.
End of september, 2009.
The second location was on my list of things to do because what I had seen of it reminded me of Beeltiz Heilstätten (Beelitz & Elstal), up to date one of my favorite locations visited. The beautiful tiles and long halls. The sereneness. This place is also very nice, and did have a bit of the Beelitz feel to it, but in a different way. This time we where accompanied by Anna Bas Backer and her friend form Argentina. Anna is an old colleague of mine who is now part of our little explorer nerd group :). Anyways, here are tha last photo’s yo.
These are more photos taken on the germany-trip I was talking about earlier in the posts Sleeping with Lenin & Sanatorium S. The Urbexweekender in august 2008. In the mean time I’ve had another one of these weekends, august 2009, but I’m just a bit slow on my scanning and posting material… So your gonna have to bear with me, and read stuff that happened ages ago :).
These are the last photos form locations in eastern Germany from that weekend. The first location is a bit of a lucky shot. My friend martino was scanning through google earth in preparation for our weekend, looking for locations. Found some rooftops with black spots on it and named it Bingo. We drove there and it turned out to be a massive location in the middle of a forest next to this beautiful lake. Well done Martino!
June 2008. Me and some friends had a really nice weekend planned of exploring some abandoned places in Belgium. On our first night away, coincidentally on a friday the 13th, we were going to do an Urbex-hotel. For me and Martino being virgins to this kind of sleepover, it was quite exciting. The location was chateau Miranda, a huge castle in Belgium in the middle of a forest. We arrived on the base of the hill in the middle of the night after a detour through France caused by a faulty tomtom. We packed the bare necessities for the night and started our uphill hike through the forest. When we finally found the castle it was like magic. Through the darkness we first only saw the tips of the towers and slowly but surely we saw the whole building.
To celebrate our arrival we poured ourselves some whiskey, made some nightshots from the outside of the building and chilled for a bit. Then all of a sudden we heard loud noises coming from a distance. It took us quite some time to figure out what it could have been. We heard the sound again but this time much closer. Tjarko figured it must have been a wild boar. I remember getting a bit scared now because all our stuff was scattered around on the ground outside, so it was hard to go for a quick sprint inside the building. Martijn was good at calming me down by getting us all to stand close together and saying that shining our lights in the boars eyes will make him go another way. When we heard the boar again from a further distance we made our way inside with all our stuff to find a decent sleeping spot. The chateau is in a pretty bad state now; the banister of the staircase is really falling apart and the ground is basically just a bunch of beams. We found a spot for sleeping and got our beds prepared for sleepytime, but before calling it a night we had to get the full view of the area by going all the way upstairs and have a look from the towers. This view must have been the best i have ever seen. The sun was already lighting up the skies in the distance and the fog over the surrounding forest made this fairytale castle experience complete!
The next morning we got woken up by the caretaker of this decaying castle. Asking us what the hell we were doing here and telling us to leave asap. Luckily he left us to our own devices after that giving us some time to make some coffee in the morning sunshine and the chance to make some photo’s of this amazing location before leaving. See for yourself.
Apparently this place is really close to very observing villagers. People live and work right next door to this place, although its located in a very peaceful and beautiful area.
It is meant to be difficult to enter, but once we found the place to get in (all windows and doors were covered by wooden panels), we managed to get in quickly and unnoticed.
Inside we had to be very quiet so people wouldnt notice our presence and kick us out. We were a little bit disappointed that the whole building was empty; no furniture, materials, objects, books or traces of it being inhabited whatsoever… But the place itself was very peaceful.
Pentacon six TL, FujiChrome Provia400
Pentacon six TL, FujiChrome Provia400
Pentacon six TL, FujiChrome Provia400
The next photo was taken in a different building then the shots before, but still part of the same sanatorium. It was more in the woods down a hill. Here it was completely trashed. The stairs to the top floor had completely disappeared. So the only way up was a rusty little fire escape on the outside of the building… Luckily I went up, because there I found this little beauty of a room!
Military Base in Germany somewhere.
This is my second ever Urbex hotel; sleeping at an abandoned location…
We arrived here by car in the middle of the night and set up camp on the terrace of one of these buildings. It wasn’t very cold so all we had to lay out were sleeping bags and we could sleep underneath the moonlit sky.
Before we went to sleep we walked around the area and in the middle of some bushes we saw this giant statue of Lenin which had red sprayed eyes, thus quite the evil look…. We heard these slammin’ doors we thought, a loud bang once every half an hour or so. But it wasn’t that windy… This freaked us out a little. We never really found out what that sound was, but we don’t think it could have been the wind.
The next morning we woke up by the rising sun, that was really nice. This was also the very first morning of our 4 day weekend trip in Germany. Starting it off with a sunny day, well you just can’t wish for anything better.
We had some coffee and started looking around and taking pictures. Then at some point one of us bumped into a security guard doing his round. We sent some text (seen as all four of us had spread out over the area), met back at our little base, packed up and made ready for the final exit sprint! The last 20 meters we had a car behind us trying to chase us out. But we managed to climb the fence in time, jump into the car and drive away…. Phew
Months later I had a nightmare about this night. We got caught on the terrain and were wearing bulletproof vsts. Then we escaped and we were chased out of this military base by an army tank. Mad scary!