Archive for the ‘Portugal’ Category

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Juromenha has a relatively remote location in Southern Portugal. It’s a 2,5 hours drive from Lisbon, and a few dozen kilometers from Évora. It has been inhabited at least since the 9th Century and in the 10th Century there was an Arab castle on the spot. It was conquered by the Christians led by the first king of Portugal – Dom Afonso Henriques – in 1167, and then lost again to the Muslims in 1191. Only in 1242 was taken by the Portuguese for good.

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In 1312 the castle was totally renovated, entering a phase of decay from the 16th Century. Only in the late 17th Century the castle regained its strategical significance, playing an important role during the long war (Guerra da Restauração) between Portugal and Spain. Most of what we can see on the spot these days was built in that period. It was in 1640 – the year the war started – that was decided to rebuilt the fortress. There were 3 proposals, being the winner the one presented by the Dutch clerical Cosmander. This was the most elaborated and complex design. However the works came to a stalemate and another of the candidates, the French Nicolas de Granges got the job.  In 1659 an explosion in the powder storehouse caused the death of a few men and damaged the structure of the buildings.

Meanwhile the French switched sides and led the Spanish artillery during the attack of 1662, when the fortress was temporarily lost.

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Located in a borderland it change hands quite often. Only in 1808 was finally taken by the Portuguese. Since then it lost its importance and became gradually a ruin. In 1920 was officially abandoned. In 1950 the Portuguese government (Direcção-Geral dos Edifícios e Monumentos Nacionais) invested in the renovation of the fortress with the works being done until 1990. Which is strange because one won’t notice much of this on the site.

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Although it’s a bit far from the main cities, it’s not hard to get there. Juromenha is also a village and there are proper roads leading to the location. The fortress is completely abandoned and wide open. Just use the main gate and enter. Lots to explore there. The view is breathtaking. Enjoy!

To find it, just Google Earth: Juromenha, Portugal. The fortress location is obvious. Nearby Urbex site: Forte da Graça, Elvas.

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Vale Navio: a ghost resort in Algarve

Posted: November 21, 2013 in Portugal

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This place, located in Albufeira area, was one of the first time-sharing resorts in Portugal and one of the largest. The original project included 300 apartments and 95 villas, but in the end the whole thing collapsed.

The project was designed in 1972 by the architect Ramos Chaves. It was a special project, thought to be a model of positive interaction between urbanization and environment. Amazingly, only three trees – pine trees – would be cut down to make space to the buildings. But in the 80’s the success of Vale Navio was so intense that greediness dictated the expansion of the resort and the good principles were forgotten.

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I couldn’t determine when it finally collapsed but probably in 2003. Initially I thought of 1988, because in the workshop there I found plenty of documents – repairing requests – with that date. But no. Googling it (there is plenty of information in Portuguese in a newspaper Público article here) made it clear. In 2000 Vale Navio was still up.

It’s an easy exploration. Located a couple of hundred meters from the main road in the region, there is even a parking spot and then, it’s just a matter of walking in and take pictures. The  most interesting spot in the former Mexican restaurant, significantly named Mexiko. What’s really awkward is that many properties initially included in the resort were saved from abandonment and people now live there. How strange can be to live surrounded by a ghost resort?

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Palacete Fonte da Pipa, Portugal

Posted: September 26, 2013 in Portugal

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For me, this was quite an unusual urbex experience: I was in this place only three or four years ago and it was not abandoned at all. I went there one evening to visit an art exhibit promoted by the City of Loulé. By then I thought the City was the owner of the property but it seems they were only renting it out for the occasion.

This chalet is located in the boundaries of Loulé, in Southern Portugal. When I visited all doors were wide open and the indoors were not specially vandalized but were nevertheless in a poor condition. There is abundant water infiltration. No graffiti, no rubbish. There is a small gipsy community living nearby, in another abandoned building which used to be a support structure for the chalet. When I was wandering around an old man came around and we spoke briefly. A long time ago he worked in the farm as general manager. He told us some anecdotes and described the property in its good old times.

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The chalet was built during the last quarter of the 19th Century.  Follows a brief history of the property, in Portuguese:

No local onde se ergue o “Palácio da Fonte da Pipa” existiu uma fonte à qual recorriam as pessoas da “vila de Loulé”. As terras da Fonte da Pipa foram compradas por Marçal Pacheco, que quis erguer aí um palacete (a partir de 1875) semelhante aos que vira nas suas viagens ao Norte da Europa, enquanto advogado, político (Partido Regenerador), deputado, presidente da Câmara de Loulé, cidadão.

A propriedade foi baptizada de “Quinta da Esperança”, nome que não permaneceu na memória popular. Não se conhece ainda quem foi o arquitecto que desenhou o palacete mas sabe-se que o seu construtor foi José Verdugo, que também trabalhou na construção do Mercado Municipal de Loulé.

O decorador foi José Pereira Júnior (Pereira Cão), pintor e ceramista de Lisboa, que também trabalhou no restauro e decoração do Palácio da Ajuda por altura do casamento do príncipe D. Luís.
Marçal Pacheco faleceu no ano de 1896 sem ter visto terminada a construção do seu palacete de sonho. Em 1920, a família do antigo presidente vendeu a Quinta a Manuel Dias Sancho, banqueiro de S. Brás de Alportel.Dias Sancho introduziu melhorias, mandando eletrificar o palácio e construir os bancos dos jardins embutidos com conchas, corais, búzios, cascas de caracol, porcelana, cerâmica, num estilo Kitsch de feição romântica que envolve todo o edifício e jardins.

Nos anos de 1927/29 os bens da Casa Bancária de Manuel Dias Sancho, a título ressarcivo, foram entregues ao Banco do Algarve. Por sua vez, Francisco Guerreiro Pereira terá comprado a Quinta ao banco. O amor deste novo proprietário às plantas exóticas permitiu que ainda hoje permaneçam nos jardins espécies florais não autóctones.

Após a morte de Francisco Guerreiro Pereira, foi herdeiro da Quinta o seu filho, o Dr. Guerreiro Pereira, de Faro. Em 1981, este médico vendeu a propriedade à empresa “Quinta da Fonte da Pipa, Urbanizações, Lda.
A Quinta da Fonte da Pipa não está isenta de histórias de fantasmas, almas penadas e sons estranhos. Ainda hoje permanece o anátema tão arreigado na crença popular de fenómenos supostamente psicofónicos aí acontecidos. O que se deve, provavelmente, ao facto de ter aí havido jogos de interesses materiais, onde o cenário dos fantasmas foi instalado propositadamente a fim de afastar quaisquer interessados na propriedade, ou ainda porque, durante a epidemia da pneumónica (1916/18), foram provavelmente lá sepultadas vítimas dessa doença
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No need to mention an entrance spot. The whole property is wide open. It has one inhabitant. I found a room locked and I looked through a hole and it was all arranged, I saw a sleeping bag, hiking boots, a bike.  Some people mentioned another “guests” wandering around the house, but no troubles were reported so far. Coordinates:   N 37° 07.741 W 008° 01.196

More pictures as well as these in better definition are available in the Facebook Page of Urbexzone

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Torre das Águias, Portugal

Posted: August 2, 2013 in Portugal

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I found this place while doing Geocaching. Lost, somewhere in the inland of Southern Portugal. It was built around 1520 by Dom Nuno Manuel, one of the close servants of the king Dom Manuel of Portugal. It survived the strong earthquake of 1755 – which destroyed so many old buildings in the country – but without proper maintenance it slowly aged and it is now a ruin. On the 23rd June 1910 it was classified as National Monument and some works were performed in 1946, but to no avail. It is surrounded by buildings of a farm, also abandoned.  It’s located in private property bot nobody will object if someone wishes to visit. It’s possible to enter the tower-castle and go all the way up, but caution is advised.

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Extra caution is advised on this one. The building is in very poor condition and the floors between levels can collapse at any moment. Specially if you walk on them. Which I did, but very slowly and feeling it with my feet. Now… if you go, go all the way up, for an awesome view of the surrounding fields and the local abandoned farm. Because the site is not all about the medieval tower. The farm itself it’s interesting although the houses are still locked. Plus, there is also a chapel, also locked. And it’s not a good idea to be a smart ass around. There is at least a guy who takes care of the place, keeping his tractor and machinery in one storehouse and he his a nice fellow but I am sure he wont be thrilled if some foreigner comes and tries to get in in a locked property.

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This place is a factory. I mean, it was a factory. A huge, massive spinning factory. Its construction started in 1790, sponsored by the French Jácome Ratton & son and Timóteo Lecusson Verdier. The idea was to use the natural energy of the nearby river Nabão to move the spinning machinery. The British Engineer Francisco Wellhouse (or perhaps, Francis) was the first director of the factory and he supervisioned its construction. Eight years after the beginning of works the factory was far to be ready and an extraordinary flood ruined part of water channels. It took six years more to inaugurate the factory.

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Then, in 1883, the place was completely destroyed by a fire. Rebuilt by Henrique Taveira accordingly to a plan designed by the engineer Charles Hargreaves, the factory eventually got to the top position of the Portuguese ranking as the largest in the country. Finally, in 1993, unable to face the fierce competition of cheap Asian textiles, it was shutdown. Nowadays it’s half destroyed. Not in ruins, destroyed, really. Most of it is a chaotic field of debris. The entrance building, probably the main offices, and the house which probably was the home of the senior staff (or perhaps just of the director, no idea) still stands, but in very poor condition.

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I was surprised to find this urbex site in Tomar – a great place to visit – because I know fairly well the town. But there it is, and in fact, it’s quite obvious in Google Earth. It’s only by looking at the satellite imagery that one gets the real idea of how big the area of the factory is.

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I didn’t feel comfortable in the factory grounds. When I entered the place a pair of junkies was leaving. I politely greeted them and got the same back. But feeling a bit trapped in a walled area, I couldn’t relax. Of course, I was alone, and as always, exploring near or in an urban area, it’s always tricky.

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These are the coordinates of the entrance spot, which is the main gate, now “open” as you see in the picture below.  39° 36.552’N   8° 24.504’W

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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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Quinta do Casalinho, Portugal

Posted: January 24, 2013 in Portugal
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I am back to petty Urbex, but, hey, it says up there: “abandoned places with a soul”. And even small places like this have a strong soul. So I came to Porto area to spend a couple of days with a friend. Who happened to live across the street from this abandoned farm. I think he was never on the spot though. So we came together, usual partners in these explorations when I am in the region.

After walking up a partially destroyed wall, one will see a straight trail, which goes for 300 or 400 meters, leading directly to the premises. This abandoned farm had a name: Quinta do Casalinho, owned by the Bastos, a wealthy local family. There is a main house – or at least its ruins – and some attached buildings.

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Unfortunately a jungle of thorny bushes took over all the indoors (or what used to be indoors) areas, and the explorer is limited to a glance from outside. Note the palm trees, which were very popular in wealthy properties, as a status sign. Although a considerable number of palm trees died in recent years, due to a plague of lethal beetles, it’s still common to observe these noble trees standing, alive and kicking, where human enterprises collapsed.

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This visit can be combined with some nearby spots: Fabrics Factory in Crestuma and Wine Packaging Factory in Pedroso. Ah! The entry spot can be found at this coordinates. And see the following picture.
41° 4.474’N   8° 31.763’W
Important: the coordinates are aproximate. I forgot to mark a waypoint and the entrance is not recognizable on Google Earth. Check the picture for extra help.

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After some entries with petty urbex I decided to publish something out of my archives. I was in this spot in January 2011, just before flying out from Porto to Canarias Islands. Not far from the home of the friend who hosted me for a couple of nights, we found this vintage industry, which used to be called Fábrica de Fiação de Crestuma.

This whole area used to be highly industrialized, at least accordingly to the Portuguese standards of the late 19th Century. Oh… before I carry on, let me tell you something: if you were thinking about visiting this place, forget it. Actually, this is an “in memoriam” entry. The place doesn’t exist anymore. The latest news say it’s impossible to get in and anyway the whole area is under renovation (whatever it means).  Hummm now that I think about it, back in January 2011 we met some local person who told us something about the factory being bought with plans for a renovation.

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Even when I visited, there were some buildings which had been renovated and were being used as offices and workshops. It was awkward. By then, we couldn’t enter on the spot my contact indicated. So we drove the car through the main gate which had a warning of some kind – like “private” or “for service only”. That’s when we saw these small businesses laboring in some of the premises. Then we met a crazy woman who made a big fuss about our presence there. We just ignored her and proceeded with our exploration.

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Overall, it was a great day out. Not only because we also explored another spot (see the entry here) but due to the natural interest of this fabrics factory. One thing which impressed me was the chronological layers on the spot. I mean, some parts of the complex were obviously older than the others… and finally there were areas obviously built in the last times of the functioning factory. Then, because it rains so much in Northern Portugal, there was this green – the moss green – everywhere. Great colors for photography, this blend of greens with the warmer tones of the pastels painting, the yellow stone and the light provided by the overcast day.

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As it was customary by then, the factory was strategically assembled by the river, in order to use it as a natural sewage system. Well, to end this short chronic, I would like to mention the details, specially in which used to be the hospital and the management building. Ah! I almost forgot… after exploring the factory we walked a bit on the grounds of the company and we end up finding an old house, which was definitely being used – I would rather say, it used to be used – by drug addicts. Plenty of syringes, robbed staff, including piles of mail which is taken by this people in order to find some postal payment order which they can take with some of their tricks.

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As the place is not available anymore, it’s pointless to provide coordinates.

Ruined Farm – Pedrógão, Portugal

Posted: December 31, 2012 in Portugal

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This is, once again, petty urban exploration, and for that I apologize. But I didn’t want to miss the chance of sharing my found and besides, this blog also has a function of personal catalog, so…..

I bumped into this place by sheer accident. I was on the move, during a Geocaching trip, heading to the nearby town of Moura. My navigation GPS pointed me in this direction, as a way around the village, and suddenly I saw it. I just stepped on the breaks! What a hell! I had to check it out! Parked the car by the side of the road, half blocking the lane (it wasn’t a busy road, but I saw a few cars passing while I was exploring) and walked in.

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The place is open wide, so there are no specific instructions on how to get access to the ruins. Now, be aware, the whole area is surrounded by gypsies huts so keep an eye open. Usually that will not be a problem unless your provoke any of them. Then you do have a problem. When I visited I saw a group of young girls staring at me, at a considerable distance, and that was all.

The place stimulated in me the kind of curiosity we all know… what happened there? What kind of people lived in the farm? How was their daily lives? Were they educated? To which level?

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Obviously these farmers were well above average in terms of financial condition and education. The house was more than a typical farmers house. You can say by the painted walls in what I believe used to be the lounge, and by the once fancy bedroom, on the first floor. Then you have the straw bedding all over the place and you think… who the hell did this? Apparently, after the final moments of the wealthy family, someone used the whole building to host livestock. The gypsies? I don’t think so, it doesn’t sound their thing. A neighbor? Perhaps. I will never know.

There is a spacious patio in which you will notice a nice feature: part of the inner wall of the main house was built making use of a large boulder, as it’s usual in some parts of Portugal, but not that much in this region.

So, this will be all. Coordinates? Here: N 38 06.914, W 7 38.718

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This was the best urbex site I ever visited. Not that I visited a lot, I know there are plenty of truly spectacular spots out there but I cant reach them, so I have to talk out of my own experience. And accordingly to it, this is the most impressive!

Elvas is a town within walls. Actually, it was classified as UNESCO site this year under the title Garrison Border Town of Elvas and its Fortifications. And it was the chosen place to spend my birthday in 2012. The weather wasn’t promising, but I really wanted to get out of my usual routine in this day. So we spent a few days with friends in Évora (another UNESCO site, geez, this small country most be the one with higher ratio of UNESCO sites per area). And it was from there that we left for this expedition. Elvas is about 90 km from Évora, good road, easy trip. Although there is much to see and do in Elvas, we took Forte da Graça first. For a single reason: weather forecast was “promising” rain in a couple of hours and this isolated fort was the major attraction for the day, so I wanted to explore it with perfect weather conditions. The light was great, with a dark sky offering a powerful dramatic touch to any picture I would take up there.

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Getting there was a piece of cake. I was on the spot a few years ago, but by then it wasn’t possible to enter the core of the fort. And I mean, a proper fort is not a place you can trespass, not without climbing skills and equipment (neither of which I possess). But I was told that nowadays the main gate is wide open. Well, it is true. I found the main gate as promised… and a police car parked just in front of it, with two officers sitting inside. I thought to myself: “Well, I am not going to pay a fine and definitely not going to spend my birthday in jail if I just walk in”. I believe in these situations a relaxing atitude is the key for success. So we got out of our car, picked the Nikon D90 from the back seat, put my rucksack on and started waling towards the gate, expecting to hear something any moment. But they just stayed there. And, as I noticed shortly after I entered the outer ring of the fort, they left for good.

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A bit of History now. Elvas, being a border town for centuries, saw plenty of action. It was involved in endless wars between Portugal and Spain, and even in the conflict with France, when Napoleon invaded – the only occasion in which Portugal was invaded since its foundation, back in the 12th Century. It’s not surprise then, that the whole region is packed with medieval castles and modern fortresses, especially from the 17th Century, when the longest war against Spain took place.

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It was during that conflict (Restoration War 1641-1668) that the Spaniards set siege on Elvas, and occupied Graça hill, with dramatic consequences for the Portuguese. A century later, another war, the same happenings. Spanish going up Graça hill, unleashing hell to the Portuguese down in Elvas. So we thought “enough is enough”. In 1763 – a year after the mentioned event – the works for the building of a new fortress in Graça hill started. It was finished in 1794 and initially named after the man who reorganized the Portuguese Army and proposed its construction: Count of Lippe.

In 1801 the last war against Spain took place, and the enemy was kept away due to the newly built fort. Ten years later, the French also failed to take the fort (poor general Soult).

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In the last decades the fort was used as a military prison but it’s currently abandoned. he city of Elvas will eventually take over and requalify the structure (I can’t imagine with which money, considered the size of the fort) but the process is still going one.

Ok, enough of chitchat. Let the images talk!

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No need for coordinates for this one. It’s pretty obvious, Google it, Google Earth around Elvas, ask in the town for directions, whatever.