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4:45 in the morning .......

It is 4:45 in the morning, I’m roughly awakened by an alarm clock telling me it is time to get up.  Although I am trying to ignore this fact for a while, I hear my friend jumping out of her bed. As always, she is the first one up. On the other side of me I hear a grunt, the third member of our crew is also disagreeing with this early hour. 45 minutes later we are all up, packed and ready to go. A short drive through the city takes us to our first location, it is a school that is known for its difficult access. We want to enter it in the dark and be safely inside before people leave their homes for work. In preparation of this trip we found a few possible ways to enter the large terrain, but one after the other seems to be failing. As a last resort we decide to go way around to the back, we park the car and get our gear. After a short walk we spot a wall that has collapsed a bit and we climb over it. As we start to make our way through the woods, we hit a few dead ends before we find the property wall. It is too high for us to climb, so we start walking alongside it until we find a spot where we can cross. We help each other over the wall and when we turn around, we see open doors welcoming us in. The adrenaline starts to rush through my body when we enter the building, we did it!!  Because it is still too dark to start working, we sit down, catch our breath and share a smashed-up granola bar from the bottom of my friend’s backpack. As soon as the light allows it, we start working and a few hours later we arrive back at our car feeling content with our shots and accomplishment.

We set our GPS for the next location; it shows it will take us about an hour to get there. Our endeavors in the morning left us feeling hungry and one of us is longing for coffee. So, we try to find a grocery store along the way, but strange enough there seem to be none. The drive takes us further and further up the hill giving us some great views of the city. This next location is way different than the last, in fact it is a rarity in the world of urbex. You can park your car next to the location, there is no fence, no climbing, you can just walk in and enjoy the site. After taking our shots we site down for a short while, rehydrating our bodies, rest for a few minutes and enjoy the view. Since it is one o’clockand we still had nothing substantial to eat our stomachs are growling at this point. Finding some food is our priority.

Driving back down we discuss our planning, we need to keep a close eye on it, because we have to be at a special location at sunset. Next on our agenda is a beautiful cathedral, a lot of it has collapsed and nature is slowly reclaiming the site. Our research showed us it is a location that is easy to access, so we are looking forward to it. When we are nearly there, we finally pass a grocery store, we restock our water and after being up and running for 9 hours we finally get something decent to eat. We eat outside in the sun and a sandwich never tasted better; it truly lifts our spirit. Until we get to our next location that is, because the first thing we see is a shiny new fence. Our jaws drop and I hear one of my buddies saying: “noooooo, I want to visit this one soooo badly!” A little bit further down the road we find a spot in the shade for our car and we immediately start checking out the fence.  The front of this location is all closed and the state of the fence makes us nervous. But when we step around the corner into the bushes, we see an opening in the fence and just behind that an open door. Once we make our way into this cathedral, we understand why the fence is there, most of the roof came down and the building looks unstable. Big blocks of stone lay scattered on the floor, we know we must be careful and look out for each other. I slowly step forward and when I turn my head to the right, I get goosebumps all over. Before me lies this beautiful corridor of arches, moss is decorating the thick stone and the light is ever so soft. I turn to my friend and I see she is just as in love as I am, we look at each other with big smiles and are perfectly happy for a little while. We carefully take the time exploring this amazing sight and two hours later we walk back to our car, talking vigorously about all the beautiful things we have seen, all three of us are very excited.

Full off energy we hop in the car to our next adventure, this time it is a longer drive deeper into the countryside. We talk about the next location, a gorgeous building in a town that is almost completely abandoned. We arrive in the town and immediately see one abandoned building after the other. It is almost surreal how much is abandoned. We find a spot for our car and marvel at the outside of this beautiful place. The last window is open, and my friend is inside within the blink of an eye. But for the girls it is a bit hard since it is a high window. I push myself up on the frame and instantly get myself stuck, so I am hanging there, half inside and half outside, trying to move forward, and my friend inside decides I need a hand, he grabs me by the arms and pulls me in so fast I don’t even realize what is happening. Once we are done laughing and our last crew member is inside, we turn to look around and to our surprise there is nothing there. They didn’t even finish building it!! Such a strange contradiction to the beautiful exterior. So, somewhat disappointed we decide to go and check some buildings in the town. But we have no luck and soon it is time to go to our last location.

As the sun begins to set, we drive from one hairpin bend to the next, higher and higher up the mountain. Suddenly, this beautiful gate greets us, we keep our eyes open while we drive past it, but in first glance we see no entrance. A little further up the road we turn our car and drive past it again in search of a place to park our car. From the road we can see the house a little bit higher up the mountain and we decide to go to the right at the end of the gate. A little further down we find a spot for our car and as soon as we step out a dog begins to bark. One dog turns to two dogs, followed by a third and before we know it, all the dogs in the valley seem to be barking. We are not happy about this, but time is ticking away so we decide to ignore them and go for it anyways. We spot a little dirt path up the mountain, it is not really a path, but you can see someone went there before. We crawl up the steep hill, pulling each other up, grabbing branches so we don’t slip until we reach more level grounds. There we stop to think, check our google maps to see how much further it is and conclude that at this rate we won’t be there in time. So, we decide to go back down and look for another way, this time we must slide down on our rears, so we get covered in dirt. When we walk past the main gate, we had not yet seen other possibilities, so my friend says joking: “the gate is open, you’ll see”. She gives it a push and sure enough it opens. All three of us burst out laughing in disbelieve and we gratefully take the opportunity to enter. When we arrive at the villa the sky shows us all of these amazing colors, together with the gorgeous villa it sure was worth it. We are losing light quick, so we work fast, take turns on the in and outside until it is too dark to take pictures. The time to take pictures is over and all of a sudden I feel so tired, one of my friends looks me in the eye and he says: “I need to sit down and eat, I am crazy tired”. It is like he is reading my mind.

As we drive back into the valley I search for a hotel for the night, luckily there is one in the village below and I make a reservation. Down in the village we see all kinds of restaurants and choose a very cozy looking place to sit, relax and eat. It was a great choice, the people are friendly, the atmosphere is great and the food very tasty. We talk about the day, laugh about all that has happened and share our favorite shots of that day. We discuss our planning for the next morning and enjoy ourselves until we almost fall asleep in the restaurant. So, we quickly get to the hotel, shower, prepare for the next day, and go to bed. It is eleven o’clock and we set the alarm for the next morning. My head is still full of adventures, my body is aching and in six hours the next adventure awaits.

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