Sneaking into the past: the heyday of urbex in Eastern Europe

Sneaking into the past: the heyday of urbex in Eastern Europe

Most of us pass by the once vibrant, but now abandoned and dilapidated buildings with a mixture of nostalgia and rue. But not everyone leaves it at that: urbexers (urban explorers) are dedicated to discovering places, often illegally, that still have the charm of the past but are now deserted.

There are countless photos of hospitals, sanatoriums, palaces, and even huge hotels from the last century standing completely empty, often just as they were left in the heat of the moment: old letters and papers scattered on the table, toys lying on the floor, a calendar hanging on the wall, a coffee cup on the kitchen counter. Many urbexers are amateur photographers who travel the countryside to capture this double condition in their photos: a frozen moment of the past in the present.

Many people investigate the history of such abandoned buildings to find out who left them to rot and fall to pieces and why, as it is not uncommon to find a property worth tens of millions of forints that is privately owned, desolate, and rapidly falling apart.

Not only in Hungary, but also in Eastern Europe, a growing number of urbex destinations are becoming more and more popular. Our region abounds in great examples of communism and other vestiges from the previous century. These include the Buzludzha Monument in Bulgaria, the Mamula Fortress in Montenegro, and the tiny Daksa island in Croatia.

The former Soviet barracks, Szentkirályszabadja is now the largest ghost town in Hungary
The former military site has been abandoned since 1996
Although privately owned, the Preisich Sanatorium in Budapest has been empty since 2009
The space-station-inspired, brutalist architectural oddity was named one of the seven most endangered heritage sites in Europe in 2018 by heritage organization Europa Nostra
It is on the bucket list of many urbexers, as the inside is still decorated with amazing mosaics
An uninhabited isle off the Croatian coast: the deserted island of Daksa
The Mamula Fortress has a dark past as it used to be a concentration camp. This year, it was turned into a luxury hotel by a private company

Sources: The Spaces | Reuters | Index | Telex | Origo | szellemvarosok.hu

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