From brutal Soviet-era Estonia to the Fuhrer’s Berlin, gold rush prospectors in California to fortune seekers in Namibia, The Travel Corporation shares five petrifying ghost towns and abandoned places to visit.
The Beelitz Sanatorium, Berlin
The famous complex of 60 separate buildings started as a sanatorium for lung diseases and specialised in treating tuberculosis. Built-in 1898, the hospital treated the casualties of new weapons of war such as machine guns and mustard gas during the First World War. It was also the place that a young soldier by the name of Adolf Hitler was nursed back to health.
Hitler has been wounded in the leg and temporarily blinded by a gas attack. He spent time convalescing at Beelitz in 1916. At the fall of Berlin, the Soviets took command of Beelitz until the late ‘90s when the hospitals and related buildings were abandoned and left to rot.
Beelitz was like a little village on its sporting a butcher, baker, post office, restaurant and a power station.The Hitler connection doesn’t end here. The Beelitz Sanatorium was used as the setting for two movies directly related to him. Parts of Roman Polanski’s film The Pianist were shot here in 2002, while in 2008 Valkyrie, starring Tom Cruise, was filmed at Beelitz.
Patarei Prison, Tallin, Estonia
Patarei Prison started as a sea fortress in 1840, where it housed 500 inmates. When the Soviets occupied the territory in 1940, it gained the notorious reputation it has today.
After taking control of Estonia, and especially after the death of Stalin, the crackdown on resistance fighters and political dissidents was severe. Torture and violence were the order of the day once the KGB took full control.
But that was not the worst thing. Psychic experiments were conducted on inmates of Patarei in a special psychic experiment room where many condemned prisoners were executed. The prison housed inmates until 2004 when it was abandoned. Visitors now roam the inside seeking out the cells, execution rooms, work areas and more.
Earlier this year the Estonian Institute hosted an exhibition titled ‘Communism in Prison’ to educate visitors on the history of Patarei. The exhibition also gave those visiting an insight into the crimes of communism and the inhuman nature of the regime.
From abandoned prisons to ghost towns. Bodie, California, was once a prosperous town after the discovery of gold in 1859. As legend has it four prospectors discovered the gold. One named Bodey froze to death during the following winter, and the town was later named after him (albeit with a change in the spelling).
Soon the boom town sported hardware stores, bars, restaurants and of course the lesser desirable elements of an opium den and red-light district. The image of paradise with more opportunities and money than most could handle soon spread. And of course, lawlessness followed. At one time as many as six townspeople died every week from shootings.
The town virtually ceased to exist. By 1915 the population had declined from a high of 7000 to little more than a couple of hundred loyal townsfolk still in search of a rich vein of the shiny stuff.
Travellers can visit Bodie during certain times of the year. But be warned – don’t be tempted to take any ‘souvenirs’. According to an urban legend, those that steal items from Bodie are destined to be affected by the Curse of Bodie.
Situated 110km from Vienna this village, once the home town of Hitler’s father, was evacuated by force before the start of the Second World War to make way for an army training ground. The Wermacht troops moved out all the villagers by 1941 before bombing the abandoned houses during their training exercises.
An unconfirmed rumour at the time suggested that Hitler wanted the village removed from history to hide the true origins of his lineage – that his grandfather was Jewish. Dollersheim and the surrounding towns and villages are believed to be used military training sites.
Travellers can visit, but they are cautioned to be aware that bullets and bombs could disrupt their experience at any time. In the words of iPhone photographer and blogger No Camera Bag “The military training area is still in use and live ammunition may be used. Do not enter the area behind the hospital. There are barb wire and barriers for a reason!”
Kolmanskop, Namibia, was built on something shinier: diamonds. After the discovery of what is arguably the richest diamond field ever found. In 1912, around 11.7 percent of the world’s total diamond production was mined here. Kolmanskop was founded to provide shelter for workers from the arid desert.
With over a million carats mined in 1912, the town was quite popular. So much so that a railway line was built to connect it to Luderitz to bring in fresh meat and other produce.
But, as fast as Kolmanskop arose from the desert, it started to fall. The mines were virtually depleted by the 1930s with people abandoned their homes and possessions. Now, with their eerie, unearthly and abandoned features both Bodie and Kolmanskop feature high on the list for photographers around the world.