The Winchester

"Not all those who wander are lost" – Tolkien

Einslife! (Part One) – Dec 2009

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Its sometimes the things that we don’t take photos of that we remember best. My first European adventure in August 2008 ended with us being requested to leave Berlin. One abiding memory of it was the farewells at the end when we went our separate ways, and the feeling is isolation sitting in my car on my own, after a week in the almost complete presence of my fellow explorers.

Memories of this trip that haven’t been captured on film or digital include being chased away from the Buchallee Weißensee Sauglings und Kinder Krankenhaus by a man who told us that you mustn’t run from dogs because they will chase you, and the dog will chase you because it lives there and it’s her land. The calls of ‘Einslife!’ after hearing it announced on the radio soon after arriving in Germany, the bitter cold of Beelitz and the hype of the early rise with the morning light.

Following a return from a weekend trip to Dublin with my Girlfriend, I changed into my clothes for the week, packed my bags and met the three intrepid explorers who would accompany me. We somehow managed to fit all our gear into Statler’s autocar and made our nests for the week. This was to be a complete contrast to a comfortable hotel with pints at €5.50 a pop. In the various Aldis across the continent, we found a crate of 6, in plastic bottles, for just €1.99. Blue Chimay was a staple for the week, it truly is the best beer in existence.

We had some time to kill when we got to Dover on Monday afternoon, so we did as every good explorer did, and went to a greasy spoon for some lunch and coffee. A warehouse in the centre of town teased us with it’s metal gates on each door, but we didn’t enter, partially due to the lack of reward on the other side, and partially due to the fact we had a list as long as your arm of sites to visit.

The Ferry arrived, we boarded, we drank beer, charged batteries and caught up, before we were let loose on the continent. As ever, the first stop on a eurotrip is the nearest Carrefour. We bought wood, lighter fluid, a grill tray to cook on, lots of Haribo and various other food and drink items. When we got to our first destination, Kosmos in Belgium, we barely used any of it.

I have to say we were all pretty excited when we got out of das auto, despite struggling to find an easy entry to this art deco hotel in the dark. The European bug bites hard, and as we entered the hotel to look for somewhere to sleep, the wind was biting pretty hard too. We found a room with two sofas in, and set to work securing ourselves from the wind. Which largely failed. We drank whiskey and beer, before eventually falling asleep to the bangs of a boarded up skylight, and some industrial music that Brad had on his Ipod. This building was angry, it didn’t want us to sleep.

Upon awakening, we had a brief look around before packing up and deciding to leave. Two gentlemen were out the front, doing something with the Heras. When they left, we did, deciding not to visit the trashed pool at the bottom of the hill, whose failure to gain a license in 2002 eventually led to the bancrupcy of the hotel. Kosmos truly was a miserable shithole. I wouldn’t reccomend it to a tramp.

Back in the car, we headed for our next destination, Home RTT. This holiday home for the children of the national telecom agency was built in 1949 and sold in 1997 to a developer, who promtly knocked the internal walls out before realising the building was protected. So he left it, to be filled up with sand from the nearby dunes.

We spent a while here, getting our teeth into our first ‘proper’ explore. Inside was largely stripped, but the architecture was beautiful and the light was good. In the loft we found cots and toys, amongst other items. The floor was soggy here, the ceiling partially burnt out. Since I started exploring, the aim has been to get to the highest point on a building, and this theme recurred throughout the trip.

We left for Ter Zee, which wasn’t where we thought it was. After walking on a beach where some brave souls were surfing, we drove past a partially derelict building which had loads of kids outside. We had cameras. Cameras and kids don’t go down well, especially in Belgium.

We chose to drive to Transfo, which is a better known site and very highly regarded. We got there eventually, and scoped the place out. Stripping was going on there (Wahey!), so we ended up waiting until they left. Sadly it was dark then, so we didn’t get much good light for pics… We spent a while deciding to hop a fence, when we didn’t realise you could just drive round the front entrance and roll up outside… We toyed with the idea of walking in while they were working, but decided against it, judging it foolish.

When we got in, it was very dark. We did some urban ninjaing before walking into the main turbine hall, with all it’s glorious 1920s nom nom machines. I can imagine this place spewing smoke high into the sky as Messerschmitts made their way towards France.

We drove to Varia, it was pretty cold. First we met some surly youths who decided the best way to enter was to try every number combination on the lock. This didn’t work. One was called in for tea, the other hung around and then left. So we went to Quick Burger, which was pretty vile. We sorted out our kit and went inside, and found a nice sealed room to sleep in. What’s the point in exploring a place like this in the dark, when you’ve got a nice double glazed room with a door to sleep in?

Varia was a truly delicious place, early concrete building techniques and the art nouveau movement combined to create a unique place to explore. The plasterwork was ornate, the stonework outside weathered but interesting, and the stairways and passageways elegant.

After we hopped down and towards the car, a delightful lady who lives opposite babbled at us in Flemish, which happens to be a language nobody speaks except those who seem to want to tell us off. We waved at her as we drove away, cackling at our mischievousness in sleeping in their little piece of backyard dereliction.

Fort De La Chartreuse was our next stop. We drove up a hill that appeared to be a 45 degree gradient, before wandering through a park to get to it. It was pretty cool, rather fucked, loads of grafitti ancienne. We exited through the well maintained graveyard, and bumped into a elderly dogwalker, that wanted to know if we were taking geometric measurements. We showed him our photos and he was very congratulatory. La Chartreuse is a fort that was built by the Dutch before the formation of the country of Belgium. The US used it, as did the Germans. Judging from the graves, there was some sort of attack in November 1917 which cost the fort several lives. The grafitti there was most likely prepared by soldiers positioned here, familiar scenes relayed from WWI, a soldier holding his ears as a field gun fires.

St Josefsheim was our next stop on the list, but guess who had something up his sleeve. Yes, me.

Montzen Gare was a freight station rebuilt after bombing in WWII. It closed in 1998 and still has trains in there. It’s a fun explore, I walked on the rails, jumped down from the platforms and took photos of cool things. This is what I like doing. It’s called Urbex. Somewhat derided by European explorers as the West Park of Belgium, it’s still fun. It’s got good photo opportunities and it’s a chilled, fun explore.

Click for Part Two

Written by Winch

February 17th, 2010 at 11:22 am

Posted in Dereliction,Roadtrips,The Creme

Tagged with , ,

2 Responses to 'Einslife! (Part One) – Dec 2009'

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  1. A good read but some of the sites looked to be fair, not worth the drive. Of course what’s worth it when you’re on the road and I’m lying on my couch differ but some of them just look utterly smashed. Is there not more abandoned powerstations and massive old industry in Germany? Still, props.


    12 Mar 10 at 3:27 pm

  2. Bridging the gap between the marquee sites on the trip does tend to turn out the bread and butter. Wouldn’t have made the trip just for some of those places, but I’ve always found the roadtrip itself to be greater than the sum of it’s parts


    12 Mar 10 at 3:54 pm

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