Poking your nose into places they don’t belong and seeing what is inside old abandoned houses and industrial buildings is a time-honoured activity amongst curious and rebellious types. Stemming from a fascination with the past and with what once was, exploits of young people exploring abandoned buildings have been a prominent feature of many TV shows and films.However in the last decade and the growth of social media, those who explore these buildings have begun to document their exploits, and gained a huge following across the social media platforms, under the umbrella term URBEX. Some of the more successful of these urban explorers have managed to make this their full time profession. Urban exploration is a global phenomenon and also finds clear expression here in Valencia. Our reporters conducted interviews with two local urban explorers to find out why they do what they do, and what importance they place on the exploration of abandoned and historical locations.
24/7 VALENCIA: What made you start urban exploring?
Shuky: Like a lot of others I started visiting abandoned places at a very young age. Since I was a child I would find my way into these types of places. My mother always liked going into abandoned buildings, and she is my role model for the passion I have for urban exploration. When I found out that the URBEX world existed was when I started on YouTube, posting photos of abandoned villages. This was about five years ago and seeing that there was a whole different world wrapped up in all of this, I decided to start as well.
URBEX VLC: In truth I think that exploration is something that has attracted our attention since we were little kids, exploring forbidden things or places, for the simple fact of getting an adrenaline rush or discovering places that could not be seen by any other means. As I got older and saw social media channels dedicated to this, I found that my interest in these abandoned places was still going strong.
24/7 VALENCIA: Why do you think it is important to document these abandoned places?
Shuky: I believe that these buildings are a part of our history and we should never allow it to be lost. There are historical buildings under the protection of the state that have been completely abandoned, buildings representing a different age, there are even buildings that have won prizes for architecture and that have been used in films which are now completely destroyed. Inside many of these buildings are objects that could well be in museums. As a result of all of this I think it is worth preserving, if not physically then at least through photos or videos.
URBEX VLC: The new generations, or as some call them “millenials” don’t know a lot about the antiquities of our past, they don’t even know the history of abandoned places in Valencia. I’m 26 years old so I don’t discount myself as being part of that generation, but thanks to urban exploration I know about history, machines that I’d never seen before, places that I would never have seen otherwise. Just as I soak this stuff up by exploring abandoned places, I like that others can learn about them through my photos and videos. For slightly older generations, you can transport them to different times simply with a photo or a short video, in that they can remember moments and feel nostalgia for these periods
24/7 VALENCIA: URBEX, your instagram bio is “Giving life to dead places,” could you explain what this means to you?
URBEX VLC: Through photos and videos we can record places which people don’t remember anymore. For example, our group is very interested in doing photo shoots based on the place in which we find ourselves, such as eerie scenes in old hospitals.
24/7 VALENCIA: What have you seen during your explorations that has had the greatest impact on you?
Shuky: One of the places that most impressed me was a warehouse/museum that was filled with Francoist objects; bottles of wine, medal, flags etc and also full of hunting equipment like trophies, animal heads, hunting clothes and even rifles
URBEX VLC: Perhaps the thing that affected me most was a grave pit from the civil war in the Guadassuar cemetery. I saw all those bones and clothing fragments covered in rubbish that people had thrown on top of them. I think that was the most impactful image I could have seen.
24/7 VALENCIA: What was your best exploration?
URBEX VLC: My best experience has probably been meeting up with the people in this little world of urban exploration. I have been able to make great friends and meet each other’s families. Regarding experiences inside an abandoned place, we explored an old gold mine from the 60s and my eyes could not get enough of what I saw in there, machines, walls and floor plated with silver and gold pigments. I can’t quite describe the sensation of being in there
Shuky: Now that I think about it, the best experience was the first house that I found with a working piano. It was a mansion divided in two and one half was abandoned, full of objects from the turn of the centuries, a coal burning stove, furniture from the period and even a ceramic pipe. In Urbex you can never steal what you find, you have to try and leave the place exactly as it was before you arrived there, that’s a really important rule in this world.
24/7 VALENCIA: What problems have you encountered during your explorations?
Shuky: Well in terms of problems in truth there’s been a bit of everything, cuts, bumps and falls but thank God nothing serious. We have also run into squatters who are by and large friendly, drug addicts who are quite scary especially one we met in an abandoned eco-village. He was so strange that he made us leave the place almost at a sprint. Also there are thieves of every kind and you never know how they are going to react.
URBEX VLC: The most common problem is running into squatters who don’t want you being there and having to turn on your heel to avoid getting into an argument with them. Another problem of course are the owners, although these places are abandoned they always have an owner whether that be the council or an individual, and there is always a risk that you’ll be seen and someone will call the police.
24/7 VALENCIA: Given that you see a side of Valencia that normally remains unseen, what is your view of Valencia as a whole?
Shuky: I don’t really know how to respond to this last question as I move through parts that few people tend to know about, but Valencia has a dark and sad side. Many of the places I have visited have been abandoned because of murders or having something to do with them.
URBEX VLC: Valencia is precious and has incredible abandoned places. The only bad thing is that there is a lot of vandalism. Valencia is full of country houses that have been scrawled over, which should be left abandoned as they are, castles which, thanks to bad management, have been ruined. I think they should take more care of these places considering the amount of heritage we have here.
24/7 VALENCIA: Although some sections of society may see these individuals as trespassers who have no right to do what they do, it is clear that they view themselves as an essential part of the historical record and preservers of Valencia’s cultural heritage.
See more from:
URBEX VLC: https://www.instagram.com/vlc.urbex/
Report by Danny Weller
Article copyright 24/7 Valencia
Photo copyright ‘Urbex VLC’