Archive for February, 2013

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I came across this place during a short distance hiking journey in the mountains of Caldeirão, a solid chain which cuts the region of Algarve off the rest of the country in most of its length. In the Summer of 2012 all this region was devastated by a significant wildfire which did the devil work around here for about endless six days. As we are quite seasoned in the difficult art of dealing with these kind of fires, not many people lost their homes. But somehow I suspect one of the houses of this abandoned village has people living in it before the fire.

When I arrived and started exploring I thought this was just another sad story of rural communities which vanish due to the ageing of population. Always the same tale: youngsters follow the call, they move out, go to the big city or to a distant foreign country. Parents stay behind, used as they are to their little world. And when they finally die, one by one, also their dear village dies. Well, I suspect there was still one person alive here. Perhaps a couple. Because all the houses but one are total ruins. Still, you find plenty of personal belongings in one of the houses. The roof collapsed and you can tell it was because of the fire. Lost amongst the debris, one will notice… those nice hand painted plates, assorted pieces of silverware, mouse traps, bowls, cooking pans.

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Outside, an old chair slowly getting rotten still has hanging a man’s hat (see picture above). Another sign of a sudden departure. In of of the rooms, obviously used as a storage space, an old motorcycle was destroyed by the fire. A pile of rusty parts, no tires as rubber went with the flames. Well, usually I wouldn’t consider this for an Urbex website, but I have to admit the place impressed me. You see, it’s these random traces of life still present there, testimonials of a past which can still be imagined with their help. The loneliness, the long winters, the wind, the rain hammering the roof. The memories of the good old times, the first son born, the successful crops. And then, slowly approaching, the idleness of old age. The empty days coming one after the other, the long wait for the by now desired end. So, all of this made me decide to publish this post. I like the pictures anyway.

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I didn’t even found the name of this hamlet. Perhaps I could knock on the door of the nearby villa, featuring a nice swimming pool and a modern car outside. I bet some crazy expat decide to settle down here. But anyway, the place has no name. At least to me. I can tell the area is called Águas de Tábuas. Or perhaps Águas de Tábuas it’s this hamlet? It’s marked as such in Google Earth, but then we all know that Google Earth is not bright labelling places. Either way, here are the coordinates of it:

37° 12.459’N   7° 49.005’W

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For 45 years, USA and Soviet Union kept a tense relationship. From both sides of Europe – western and eastern – an incredible war arsenal was positioned, ready for the was which fortunately never came. Prague was by then the capital city of Czechoslovakia, therefore, part of “the other side”. The country was an important link of the Warsaw Pact, hosting the Soviet headquarters for the Central Army. Czech foreign policy was completely subordined to Soviet Union interests.

With the end of the Cold War and reduction of Defense budgets, many military facilities were abandoned. Amongst them, a network of air defence missile bases around Prague. It was their mission to protect the city against air attacks. Miskovice was part of such system.

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We reach Miskovice, in the northern end of Prague, using a bus from the city public transportation company. It will drop us a few hundred meters from the entrance of Miskovice former base. In the short walk to the spot where once the gates were located, we will observe the way people used the withdrawn of the military to cover the area, taking grounds which used to be strictly forbidden. There now stands a multitude of small weekend houses and vegetable-gardens.

The small base was strategically placed, only a few kilometers far from the air force field of Kbely. It was here that a fair number of Soviet military units and support materials were dropped during the invasion of 1968. Nowadays Kbely has a minor operational role, operating helicopters and cargo planes. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why Miskovice was deactivated.

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The area of the base wasn’t that big. A walk from end to end of the perimeter will take about 300 meters. Still, it was enough to host an efficient force of SAM (Surface to Air) missiles S-125. In the area we will find a few small bunkers, used for storing the missiles, as well as controlling and commanding the operations. We will be able to walk through some of these facilities with the help of a few torches. Although modest and vandalized, these facilities may offer us an idea of day to day life during those times marked by the tension of Cold War, when westerners were definitely the potential enemy for the Czechs.

The kind of missiles which used to be in this base.

The kind of missiles which used to be in this base.

Despite the neglected aspect, we sill can use our imagination to feel the atmosphere os past days. Crossing the asphalted tracks we almost can see the jeep of the commander passing by, heading for the main courtyard, where the launchers were disposed. One can easily imagine the exercises, the days of tension in the barracks, while Kennedy and Krutschev played their games over Cuba. Or the sentries, walking around the fence, carrying their AK-47. It could be a scene of a Bond movie.

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Entering coordinates:  50° 9.376’N  14° 33.024’E