Urbex

Curiosity of forbidden places is a trait of human nature, and leads people to seek out and explore their own niche environments. Some folk take to scaling buildings, others burrow in drains and caves. My personal passion is dereliction; places left behind after people have moved on, scenes from another time, with a particular fondness for curative, industrial, and more recently historical sites.

Nuclear Tourism in Ukraine

A colourful Ukrainian banknote holds place in a black and white notebook resting on the keyboard of a small Apple laptop

To mark the 30th anniversary of the worst nuclear accident in history I’m publishing my notes from a trip to the Ukraine back in 2010. The contents of the following three pages started out as excitedly scribbled paragraphs in a little black Moleskine,…

REIMAHG facility, Thüringen

Black and white image of a rusting mining trolley disappearing into long grass

On a recent visit to Germany I was pointed in the direction of an interesting third reich ruin: the REIMAHG facility near Kahla. Like nearby Lehesten, this was another case of the Nazis using forced labour to construct technologically advanced weapons towards the end of the war, imposing tremendous cruelty and suffering on their captive slaves in the process.

Rushen Parish, Isle of Man

Exterior image of the dwelling attached to the old car business

Easter weekend finds us visiting relatives on a tiny speck of rock halfway between England and Ireland. Home to the world’s oldest democratically elected parliament and proudly independent of the European Union, the Isle of Man is a haven for business and for…

Walter’s Winter Wonderland

Fish-eye view of hotel entrance and a large, frosty plant

The former holiday retreat of East Germany’s great granddaddy and the man who built the Berlin Wall lies in ruins just meters from a famous winter sports track, yet it’s history is far from benign, testament that when it comes to greed, corruption, misappropriation of public funds and even murder, capitalism has plenty of competition from the East. What better way to break up the drive through Winter Wonderland?

Tempelhof Airport, Berlin

People play, cycle, and relax with BBQs at the end of runway 09R

When Albert Speer, Architect of the Third Reich, drew plans for Hitler’s »Welthauptstadt« he had no idea he was about to create a collection of time capsules on par with those of London, Paris, or Rome – cities whose historical significance he sought to eclipse by creating a new World Capital. And they say Germans have no sense of irony …

Bajan Helicopters, Barbados

A white and blue helicopter is being refuelled on a sunny helipad under a blue sky

Another fascinating tale of Caribbean corruption, studded with gallery-class photos and backed up by dozens of creditable sources? Hardly. Just another sad story of a once thriving business now gathering turds and weeds in one of the world’s most popular holiday capitals. Probably safe to say this one’s off the cruise tourist circuit.

Örtelsbruch, Lehesten

I first heard about this abandoned village near an old quarry a couple of years ago and decided to add it to a road trip being planned at the time. Sadly when we arrived the place was overrun with film crew and trailers so we bailed on to our next destination, reasoning that if it’s so well known it’ll likely be trashed and boring. I forgot all about Örtelsbruch until a recent visit presented me with the chance for a return – and a headlong dive into the rabbit hole.

NVA Hotel, Frauenwald

Exterior view of a wedge-shaped building that's been properly trashed

There’s nothing like an impromptu explore on the way to the airport, and the Sprungschanzenhaus in Frauenwald fits the bill nicely: a bit of history, zero security, and all the crumbling paint you can eat. OK, so it’s a bit trashed in places and if you’re not careful you can fall down eight flights of stairs or through an open window, but then that just adds to the charm of this wedge-shaped wonder.

Haus der Offiziere, Wünsdorf

A large red number six is propped in the corner of a pigeon pooed bell house

It’s roots firmly in the 19th century, this sleepy town just south of Berlin was not only home and HQ to German high command through both world wars, but also played a crucial role in grooming the Reich’s elite, the olympic sports teams, and housing up to 75,000 secretive Soviets during Russia’s occupation of Germany. Today only ruins remain, and with bunkers below as numerous as buildings above ground you’d be hard pushed to find a site more richly steeped in history.

Kaserne Krampnitz, Germany

Detail view of ceiling mosaic showing swastika and reichsadler

Hidden behind the sleepy village of the same name, Krampnitz was originally built for the German cavalry and later used the Soviet army for pretty much the same thing. Today it’s a vast complex of trashed barracks, overgrown parade grounds, and rusting machinery, but it also presents some photogenic secrets for those inclined to keep digging.