As a Morbid Sightseer, I’ve seen my share of grim sites – but until now they’d always been within the confines of the continental United States of Morbidity. I’d read about the grim locations in Europe, and fantasized about visiting them, but I really never thought I would. Why? Well, I could tell you about my neuroses and anxiety disorders, but instead I’ll just say… it didn’t seem possible. Practically or emotionally.
And then one magical day in July, 2011 I met up with a stranger I’d met on Facebook to explore the abandoned (and since demolished) Purple Hotel in Lincolnwood, Illinois. It turned out to be a talented German photographer named Susanne who was living in Chicago temporarily. We hit it off fabulously and ended up exploring together on numerous occasions, and going on some long excursions up into Wisconsin with our friend Katsy. We found that we were kindred souls when it came to the ethics and aesthetics of abandonment photography and the three of us always had a fun-filled shutter-clicking good time.
In late 2012, much to my sadness, Susanne ended up moving back to Hamburg. The one bright spot in her return to home base is that she threw out an open invitation to come visit her. Having someone I knew and trusted over there helped to ease my anxiety to the point where, impossibly, I actually ended up buying that ticket! And Katsy made plans to come over and join us for a few days as well.
And the next thing I know, it’s June 27, 2014 and I’m getting on a plane in Chicago to fly over the Atlantic Ocean. Impossibly! I was actually going to Europe! As I got off the plane in Hamburg, I found a Morrissey lyric running through my head: “Who am I that I come to be here?” This is a theme that will dominate the next two weeks.
Although my greatest love is, naturally, Morbid Sightseeing, this trip wasn’t primarily about morbidity. Katsy and Susanne are all about abandonment photography, and since I share that love, it was easy for me to put aside the bulk of my morbid aspirations and focus on seeing some of the crumbling ruins of Germany and Belgium before they disappear forever. However, they were gracious enough to allow me to slip in a few stunning morbid sightseeing locations during the trip as well. Here, then, is the story of my two mesmerizing weeks in The Old World.
Day One (06/27/14): The Wonder of Flight
Okay, so the first day was technically the 27th, which was just spent sitting in an Aer Lingus jet flying to Hamburg by way of Dublin. Aer Lingus was pretty okay, except I couldn’t get on their website to order a vegetarian meal prior to the flight so I had to risk it. Thankfully they had an extra for me… although, really, there wasn’t much to be thankful about. I’m one of those vegetarians who does NOT think that chickpeas are a meal staple. I also brought along Bob the Moose who rides on my dashboard on all my domestic road trips. Because it somehow seemed like the right thing to do. (I know… you thought I was cool…)