Urban Exploration, also known as urbex, is all about the exploration of abandoned buildings, usually combined with photography. It is a form of photography that is always flying a bit below the radar because it is on the edge of what is allowed and what not. Therefore, urbexing is mysterious. What are these buildings and why is it so exciting to explore them? In this post I am opening the door for a bit and invite you to take a peak in the world of Urban Exploration.
‘Are you sure it is here?’
‘Well, the navigation system says it is.’
‘I saw a big gate along the road before, maybe it is there?’
‘Could be, let’s park the car somewhere so we can check it out.’
‘Shall we take our gear with us or do you want to see if we can find it first?’
‘No, let’s take everything with us.’
‘Hehe, it is creeping me out dude!’
‘Hehe, yeah me too!’
‘What if someone else sees us?’
‘I guess we run?’
‘Is your walkie talkie working?’
‘Ok good, let’s go!’
After a two-hour drive we arrived at a small and quiet place somewhere in Belgium. It was the first location on the list and according to our information it was an old villa which is abandoned for a many years now. We were on a road trip for two days to find old abandoned buildings and to take pictures of them. It is called urban exploration which is a form of photography I had never tried before and I was pretty excited.
After we had parked the car we started to walk to the big gate we saw before. We were mentally preparing ourselves to climb over the gate because we didn’t know for sure if it was the right one. For what we knew, it could easily be just a normal house and chances were that we were going to be chased by dogs. Suddenly we saw another small road. It was lined by trees and looked like an old entrance to a big house. It looked deserted but a little further between some trees we saw some white walls. Slowly we approached the house. There was still light burning so this could not be it. ‘We have to be quiet now!’ ‘Ok, Let’s take that small road over there.’ When we walked further, the surroundings started to look more and more like a country estate. Look over there, there is a house!
A huge white house appeared in front of us but we still were not sure if it was the right one. Everything looked so well maintained. There was a little pond, the trees were properly cut and the house still seemed to be in a good state. It did not look abandoned at all! But we were here now and the only way to find out if it was the right villa was by looking through the windows. With our hearts in our throats, we quietly approached the house. There was an eerie silence. We came closer and closer, the house was empty! We had found it but the next challenge was to get in. All the doors and windows were shut and there did not seem to be an opening. I tried the doors again and this time I felt that one was moving a bit. I pushed harder and all of a sudden I was inside.
I called my friend and the next moment we were breathing in the air of forgotten times. It felt strange to be in a place like this. It looked like people woke up one day and decided to leave, without even warning the house. There were still chairs in the room, next to a cozy fireplace. I imagined myself a man sitting there with a pipe, who was drinking a glass of red wine while he was reading a dusty book. But the chair was empty, just like the rest of the house. I looked around me and it seemed to be a wonderful house with everything still intact. The soft carpets were relatively clean, colorful curtains were hanging neatly along the sides of the windows and there were no big signs of decay. I prepared my camera and tripod and started to take pictures of the room and so did my friend.
When we walked out of the first room we entered a beautiful hall. The stairs were made of dark wood and the walls were red, mixed with colorful wallpaper. The house was huge and we started to explore the rooms separately. All the time I could not help myself but wonder who the people were that once lived here. How were their lives? When I saw my face in the mirror I wondered which other faces looked back once, in different times. In the kitchen I thought about the meals that were prepared here. There was still a fridge in the kitchen and an oven. All the rooms were enormous and looked different. It must have been a very wealthy family who had lived there. Normally I would have never seen this place but now I did. I got to see a place where people experienced happiness and sadness. I got to see a place where people always came back to and what they called home.
I had entered a domain that was not mine and while I was walking around and taking pictures I was on guard. I listened to every sound and I tried to walk as quiet as I could. You never know what you disturb. Upstairs I saw my friend again. He was feeling more and more uncomfortable by the moment but there were still some rooms to discover. At one point we were in the same room concentrating on taking pictures when something scared the crap out of us. We heard two loud sounds in the house, like a doorbell that was ringing. How could that be? There was no one in the house and as far as we knew there was no electricity. We looked at each other, slightly in fear and started to run to the exit. ‘Maybe there is someone at the door?’ ‘Could be, but why would anyone ring the doorbell of a house that is abandoned for years?’ We looked through the windows but there was no one there.
After a few moments we were getting calm again and decided to explore the rest of the house. There was no one but things felt creepier than before. We wanted to leave the house so we searched the third floor quicky and only took a few pictures. When we were done upstairs there was one more thing to do. I know my friend for a long time and when we were younger we always challenged each other to things we were a bit scared of. Like walking through a dark park in the middle of the night and it is something we have not lost yet. This time it was the basement. It was a dark hole going under the ground and it was not really inviting. Especially because we still did not know what caused that loud sound. Of course we went in and for me it is always a good metaphor. Things are always less scary once you are doing them.
We wanted to leave the house from the same road we came from but there was a car standing along the way so we decided to take the other entranceway. This one was the official one and much bigger than the other one. It led us through the wonderful green country estate and eventually to the big gate we had seen before. We pushed ourselves through a small hole and we were back in society. It felt like we had been in a different world for a while and we could finally relax and breath free again. We gave each other a high five and felt satisfied and relieved as we walked back to the car to find our next destination.
In total we have visited five different places in those two days. One was completely destroyed but the other ones were definitely worth exploring. It included an old swimming pool, another villa and an old military fort. It is strange to walk around in these forgotten worlds but at the same time enchanting. It feels like you step in a different dimension for a moment where you can see what would happen to the world if we are not here anymore. We took a lot of pictures home and you can find my personal favorites in Capture The Forgotten, Urban Exploration in Belgium.
When you decide to go urbexing, please use the motto : take only pictures, leave only footprints. This way others can enjoy these places as well.
I will leave you with some pictures which did not make it to my photo essay but are in my opinion still worth posting. I hope you enjoy them!