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Until the late sixties, Ruigoord was just a village like many others around Amsterdam. Quiet, a place for farmers and their families. But then everything changed. Ruigoord had to be abolished and demolished in favor of the expansion of the harbor. At first, the village was evacuated and most people left, leaving it as a ghost town. But soon, the squatters came to help revive the village as the cultural place it is today. A place for art, poems, free spirits and the occasional party. Officially, there are no inhabitants, but it’s certainly not a ghost town.
Actually, nowhere in the Netherlands are ghost towns to be found. A lot of villages disappeared in the sea, were demolished to make space for industry or simply swallowed by the big city. Amsterdam offers many of the latter, like Buiksloot or Osdorp. You’ve probably been there. But empty towns? Not here, where every empty building is considered a playground for creative people and party-goers. Many artists left Amsterdam for a more creative life in Berlin, where the many empty buildings and empty space provided the space they needed to explore and to create.
But some people go further. Elroy Thummler organizes getaway trips to festivals like Sziget and Sea Dance. He’s also creating his own getaway in a real Hungarian ghost town; in Bedepuszta he started by buying out one of the gypsy families squatting the houses, and now the whole village gets new energy from Elroy and his friends. This year the camp site will open, allowing more people to discover the spooky surroundings and artistic vibe.
And remember that mayor who offered an entire village for rent? Unlike the Netherlands, many of the Eastern European countries have dozens of ghost towns. Villages where the original inhabitants left or died. Villages that weren’t demolished, but are still waiting to be explored. And that’s exactly what Amsterdammers Erik and Willemijn are going to do. They’ll be traveling along dozens of ghost towns in Europe. Looking for great stories, great people, but also great ideas to bring them back to life. Artists in residence? Outdoor amusement parks? Festival areas? Adventurous camping grounds? Anything is possible.
The whole summer they’ll park their van in the most haunted looking spaces. In Italy and Spain they’ll combine this with a visit of some old folk festivals. Spain has hundreds of ghost villages, but also hundreds of these tiny folk festivals, where people do the craziest things. From human pyramids to goose slapping, from grape fights to wine barrel racing.
Be sure to follow (in Dutch) and support them on Twitter and Facebook, or find the itinerary and stories on their website. After the trip you’ll find the best ideas here on Overdose.am. Who knows, more Amsterdammers will make the trip to remote ghost villages for a vacation, a festival or even a longer stay. Bringing new life and fun in long forgotten villages.
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