There’s nothing quite as eerie as a long-abandoned building; the hastily discarded paperwork, the once-cherished personal possessions rotting under layers of dust, the faded, crumbling walls of a majestic structure.
Ghost towns, abandoned government headquarters and decomposing train depots – around the world there are still hundreds of these locations; some left to rot because they became too expensive to run, others deserted after ecological disasters - all infected with the sadness of a forgotten former life.
In some places, history itself gives an abandoned location a kind of semi-existence: the Ukrainian town of Pripyat for example, which was evacuated after a huge explosion at the nearby Chernobyl Nuclear Plant in 1986 spread radiation throughout the local area, contaminating neighbouring farmland.
But Pripyat, with its crumbling schools and hospitals, and its spooky abandoned fairground has become a kind of tourist hotspot in its own right, with hundreds of visitors arriving each year to see a snapshot of the Soviet-era.
The same can’t really be said for the abandoned Michigan Central Station in the outskirts of Detroit. The downfall of the station mirrors the decline of the city itself, with the last train leaving in 1988, shortly before the Japan-built Honda Accord became the biggest selling car in America, marking the end of US-dominance in vehicle manufacturing: the lifeblood of a city once known as Motor Town.
The seaside resort of Varosha in Cyprus was abandoned after the Turkish invasion of the island in 1974. Since then it has been a fenced-off, disputed area, which UN resolutions and tense negotiations seem unable to resolve. Car dealerships still have rusting 1970s models on their forecourts and local people claim to have seen light bulbs still burning in buildings almost 40 years on.
As a result of the evacuation, the once-popular holiday resort is slowly returning to nature, with foliage growing inside its derelict buildings and sea turtles nesting on its deserted beaches.
Elsewhere in Cyprus, Nicosia International Airport is another casualty of the Turkish Invasion. Once the island’s busiest aviation hub, the airport is now a mess of broken windows, filthy departures lounges and, perhaps somewhat surprisingly, abandoned aircraft.
Japan has its fair share of abandoned structures as well, many having been left to rot after the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki during the final stages of World War II.
The deserted coal mining structure once known as Battleship Island still lies in Nagasaki harbour. Many of its building were flattened during the initial atomic blast, but those that still stand are now just shells and look unlikely to stand much longer.
Nara Dreamland was not a victim of the atomic blasts, however. The 60s-built theme park closed in 2006 due to a lack of visitors; its once-state-of-the-art rides and arcades now looking distinctly old-fashioned and worn-out.
Meanwhile, in Africa, the entire town of Kolmanskop, Namibia was abandoned after diamond prices crashed in the 1950s, shattering the town’s economy. Now the former mining town has almost disappeared from view, as sand from the encroaching Kalahari Desert slowly swallows its roads and buildings.
It’s not just buildings that are abandoned; elsewhere in the world there are huge transport cemeteries, where the remains of ships, trains and aircraft have been left to rot en masse.
Some of the more striking examples include the rusting locomotives in Potosi, Bolivia and Thessaloniki in Greece and the ships wrecked on the beaches of Nouadhibou in Mauritania.
Finally, a little closer to home, many of the UK’s most-striking abandoned buildings are relics of World War II. The Maunsell Forts in the Thames Estuary were small towers designed as part of the nation’s air-defence system and their job was to deter and report approaching German air-raids.
Decommissioned in these 1950s, these forts have remained largely abandoned since, other than the odd-visit from a boat-load of tourists.
Not all have had such an unremarkable existence since the Second World War, however. Various forts were occupied for use as pirate radio stations in the 1960s, with one – Roughs Tower – being occupied by the late Paddy Roy Bates – an eccentric former pirate radio broadcaster.
Bates declared the fort the Principality of Sealand, claiming it as to be world’s smallest independent sovereign state and crowning himself Prince Roy. Upon his death in 2012, his son Michael was “granted” the title Prince Michael.
Although unrecognised as an independent nation, Sealand does have a self-sufficient economy, declaring itself a “data haven” and setting up offshore internet-hosting facilities. It also hosts a number of unconventional events – such as egg-throwing contests - for the tourists that visit Sealand every year.
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