Leaving the Ghosts in Peace
June 21, 2009 7:11 AM   Subscribe

When thousands of people depart, leaving an entire city dead that’s a real tragedy. There are mainly two reasons why people leave the place where they used to live for years or even generations: danger, and economic factors. Abandoned Places In The World. ( previously 1,2)
posted by netbros (29 comments total) 55 users marked this as a favorite
Varosha, Cyprus, strikes me as the saddest ghost town; so close to paradise and yet so far.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 7:22 AM on June 21, 2009

In the section of Gunkanjima, Japan, when the refer to "forcibly recruited workers" from other parts of Asia, is that some sort of euphemism for slave? I'm interested to know the definition of and reasoning behind that particular word choice. Also, the first two places featured remind me a great deal of the aesthetics of the film Re-Cycle. I'm certain they must have been inspirations for it.
posted by SassHat at 7:33 AM on June 21, 2009

Detroit seems to be missing
posted by mattoxic at 7:36 AM on June 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

Kowloon Walled City, Hong Kong

Kowloon used to be one of the areas of Hong Kong city. By the end of 1970s Walled City began to grow. Square buildings folded up into one another as thousands of modifications were made, virtually none by architects or engineers, until the entire City became monolithic. Labyrinthine corridors ran through the City, some former streets (at the ground level, and often clogged up with refuse), and some running through upper floors, through and between buildings. The streets were illuminated by fluorescent lights, as sunlight rarely reached the lower levels. There were only two rules for construction: electricity had to be provided to avoid fire, and the buildings could be no more than fourteen stories high, because of the nearby airport. Eight municipal pipes provided water to the entire structure (although more could have come from wells).

By the early 1980s, Kowloon Walled City had an estimated population of 35,000. The City was notorious for its excess of brothels, casinos, opium dens, cocaine parlours, food courts serving dog meat, and secret factories.

Is this some sort of Terry Gilliam fantasy??
posted by availablelight at 7:42 AM on June 21, 2009 [5 favorites]

More William Gibson than Terry Gilliam, I'd say.
posted by esmerelda_jenkins at 7:50 AM on June 21, 2009 [2 favorites]

Is this some sort of Terry Gilliam fantasy??

No. And actually Kowloon had a metafilter post all its own a few years ago.
posted by dilettante at 7:52 AM on June 21, 2009

I like how the old diamond mining town of Kolmannskuppe in Namibia is slowly being reclaimed by the desert.
posted by NoMich at 7:53 AM on June 21, 2009

Having played S.T.A.L.K.E.R., Pripyat looks very familiar. Also, having just played Ghostbusters The Video Game, a lot of these places just look like good places to bust some ghosts!
posted by autodidact at 7:53 AM on June 21, 2009

Gunkanjima and Kowloon would seem to have served as proxy locations in damn near every near-future mega-city anime I think I've ever seen.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:14 AM on June 21, 2009

As I began clicking through the photos, I thought, "How very Silent Hill!", and then I got to the burning underground mine.

Metafilter: Letting you know nightmares can come true!
posted by yeloson at 8:24 AM on June 21, 2009

My parents' place is near Oradour Sur Glane. You used to be able to go inside the buildings, but now they're mostly too unstable, except for the church, which is being maintained as a memorial-within-a-memorial.

I think the cars and bikes were what got to me most. Rusting bicycles that had been left leaning against the walls for sixty years by somebody who intended to be riding off on it any minute.
posted by the latin mouse at 8:25 AM on June 21, 2009

Most of these places are viewable on Google Earth. They all look odd: Centralia still has the dozen or twenty-odd streets of a small town, but there almost no buildings left standing. Varosha looks like a typical city except for there being not a single car visible. Weird. Eerie.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:42 AM on June 21, 2009

In 1996, 6 men died as a result of explosion in a coal mine and the mines were closed. 12000 inhabitants were evacuated to other places leaving the town empty and silent.

I have a feeling something's missing here. You don't just close down profitable mines in a country where people regularly steal powerlines and sell them for scrap. Likewise, you don't just evacuate 12,000 people in a country where they still make asbestos and claim that "it's perfectly safe, as long as you get the right kind."

My guess is that either the whole town is about to cave in, or there's some sort of Centralia-like fire going on.
posted by Afroblanco at 8:42 AM on June 21, 2009

Also --

Agdam was fully destroyed in 1993 in the Nagorno-Karabakh War.

My god, the place looks like they dropped a nuke on it! What the hell happened there?
posted by Afroblanco at 8:53 AM on June 21, 2009

This post and the pictures/descriptions were so incredible they cured my hangover.
posted by bunnycup at 9:08 AM on June 21, 2009

Going back further in history, I'm a big fan of Dogtown, an abandoned settlement on Cape Ann in Massachusetts. Also, the pictures of Bodie were simply gorgeous, I practically want to move there now.
posted by fermezporte at 9:09 AM on June 21, 2009

> What the hell happened there?

From the Wikipedia article: "Despite the fact that no fighting occurred in the city, it was destroyed by the Armenians." War is hell.
posted by languagehat at 9:33 AM on June 21, 2009

> What the hell happened there?

Also from wikipedia:
Bricks and other materials from the ruined city are currently being used to repair damage elsewhere in the de facto Nagorno Karabakh Republic.[1]
posted by xorry at 11:09 AM on June 21, 2009

i want more pictures of kowloon.
posted by empath at 12:08 PM on June 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'm left wondering how many small towns in Abruzzo will be like Balestrino & Craco in the very near future.
posted by romakimmy at 12:57 PM on June 21, 2009

Foci for Analysis: Varosha, Cyprus, strikes me as the saddest ghost town; so close to paradise and yet so far.
Ignorant American here, but I also feel that this text left out crucial details: why did it go from world-class tourist destination to abandoned, apparently in a year? Did the Turks prevent it from making money somehow, or was it just undesirable for anyone to go there because it was in Turkey? I would think any invading country would want to keep a cash cow...
posted by hincandenza at 1:26 PM on June 21, 2009

It is tied in with The Turkish Invasion of Cyprus, which is in turn tied in with a Cypriot rebellion at the time.
posted by Joey Michaels at 1:42 PM on June 21, 2009

Yeesh, I didn't even remember the Nagorno-Karabakh War.
posted by Halloween Jack at 2:47 PM on June 21, 2009

Also, even though "DirJournal Info Blog" is one of the clumsiest names for a blog that I've ever seen, it's got some fascinating stuff on there--scroll down the main page for "lilac circle".
posted by Halloween Jack at 2:51 PM on June 21, 2009

Also, the pictures of Bodie were simply gorgeous, I practically want to move there now.

My favorite thing about Bodie: in one house, you're able to peer in through a screen, and there are layers of old linoleum that were put down on top of one another, and then slowly eroded away by the footsteps of the previous occupant. The colors of the linoleum are amazingly bright and vivid. I had no idea such a thing existed.

Bodie + Mono Lake late autumn sunset will blow your mind. If you pay close attention on the ride home, you can spot steam rising in the dusk from the occasional thermal creek along the highway.
posted by oneirodynia at 3:13 PM on June 21, 2009

Gosh, I love me some desolation. Brilliant stuff!
posted by ninazer0 at 6:14 PM on June 21, 2009

Varosha, Cyprus is amazing.
posted by Mitheral at 3:59 AM on June 22, 2009

Great find. I'm incredibly drawn to abandoned places and I haven't heard of half of the ones on this list.

Also, I've seen photos of Pripyat' before, but none are quite so chilling as this one.
posted by spitefulcrow at 2:00 PM on June 22, 2009

It's sobering how once-powerful places can wither so quickly. For example, in the year 1500 Vijayanagara ("city of victory") was the capital of the mighty Vijayanagara Empire of southern India. It is widely considered to have been the second most populous city on Earth -- half a million souls, second only to Beijing.

Wikipedia abounds with breathless accounts of its majesty:

"The city is such that eye has not seen nor ear heard of any place resembling it upon earth", said Abdur-Razzak from Central Asia. There were arcades and magnificent galleries for the bazaars, and rising above them all was the palace of the king surrounded by "many rivulets and streams flowing through channels of cut stone, polished and even." The whole city was full of gardens, and because of them, as an Italian visitor in 1420, Nicolo Conti, writes, the circumference of the city was sixty miles.

A later visitor was Paes, a Portuguese who came in 1522 after having visited the Italian cities of the Renaissance. The city of Vijayanagar, he says, is as "large as Rome and very beautiful to the sight"; it is full of charm and wonder with its innumerable lakes and waterways and fruit gardens. It is "the best-provided city in the world" and "everything abounds." The chambers of the palace were a mass of ivory, with roses and lotuses carved in ivory at the top -- "it is so rich and beautiful that you would hardly find anywhere, another such."

The massive walls, which can still be traced, enclosed an area of more than sixty square miles, much of which was occupied by fields and gardens watered by canals from the river. The population cannot be estimated with precision, but it was certainly very large when judged by the standards of the fifteenth century. The great majority of the houses were naturally small and undistinguished, but among them were scattered palaces, temples, public buildings, wide streets of shops shaded by trees, busy markets, and all the equipment of a great and wealthy city. The principal buildings were constructed in the regular Hindu style, covered with ornamental carving, and the fragments which have survived suffice to give point to the enthusiastic admiration of the men who saw the city in the days of its magnificence.

But it didn't last. In 1565 the Empire suffered defeat at Talarikota at the hands of the northern sultanates, and Vijayanagar was captured and ransacked, its population massacred. Only a few structures survived, and the city was never again resettled.

Five centuries to go from expansive metropolis, the envy of the world, to an obscure collection of ruins, population: 0.

Makes you wonder what Manhattan or Tokyo will be like in 2500...
posted by Rhaomi at 4:20 PM on June 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

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