A few days later Lady Nolions and I borrowed a pair of bicycles and rode tempo along the coastline to locate that building, what a rewarding quest it turned out to be. Her opinion may differ.
The way onto the property was barred by a metal gate, its intact indeed pristine appearance spoke of maintenance and possibly some security but this impression was completely at odds with the unkempt bushes cascading unchecked over the paths. Chucking our bikes over the gate we strolled along an overgrown driveway, minds fogged partly by concerns for our safety, who knows who or what we might encounter, and partly by (my) great excitement at a completely unexpected diversion on what was supposed to be nothing other than a short family break in the sun. Ironically the weather back home was better!
The tone was set at the end of the winding road by what appeared to be a covered entrance, a flat concrete roof supported by what looked at first glance to be dry stone walls leading out to a wide sweep of concrete step descending into a bowl-like collection of empty pools and changing rooms. This portal had a striking design, evidence of a concern for style elevated this way above a mere utilitarian gateway and this indulgence was apparent in almost all the architecture around the pool area.
This huge property, possibly about 300m – 400m across each of the main axis was dominated by aquatic facilities, brutal concrete buildings and some very curious but none the less pleasingly designed architectural features. As we descended through various terraced levels, nosing into doorways and stepping over putrified animal carcasses, a trove of urbex and graffiti writer’s delights was revealed.
Graffiti writers had previously discovered the spot, evidenced by tags and graffiti pieces scattered across the property.
That earlier mention about the road being uncharted was not a dramatic exaggeration, this Greek Island is on the Turkey facing Balkan frontline and along this coast road are frequent concrete gun emplacements, there are rumours that this is a road that is deliberately omitted from public maps to sow utter confusion into marauding Ottomans and visiting tourists. Not however adventurous graffiti writers, among the various international flags metaphorically stamped on this ruin were markings from Norway, Serbia, Greece, Belgium and Germany to name a few.
This particular fetish for trespassing on derelict and abandoned property is known among its die hard adherents as Urbex, urban exploration. Exploring such properties stimulates a merry-go-round of questions which come up again and again in each corner of the property and with each new vista; what was this place used for, why is it no longer in use, when was it built, when was it abandoned, is it safe?
At first glance this property appeared to be a water park, though if this was a watery amusement or therapeutical adjunct to a hotel resort surely there would have been far more residential zones than the few small rooms found in a nearby small two story building. There were however a bizarrely disproportionate number of changing rooms.
Post urbex, an internet search revealed very little information about this plot and comparatively few photos can be found online, though the urbex community is notably obsessed with secrecy and much of its information could well be hidden in password protected sites. Some sources suggest the complex was built by the Generals during the Greek Junta (1967 – 74), supposedly this was to be the aquatics centre for the Balkan Games. The complex was apparently finished in the early 1970s, dates and details are very sketchy, which would make them either very early for Greece’s 1974 edition of the Balkan Games, completely unlikely knowing Greece; or too late for the 1967 games, completely likely knowing Greece. The contradictory indications are that the site was either never opened or it was used just once, both pointing towards a similar kind of conclusion, some kind of extravagant white elephant. A wiki page about the Junta identifies a financial scandal in which low interest loans were awarded for construction of hotels, “Several such hotels were abandoned unfinished as soon as the loans were secured, and their remains still dot the Greek countryside“. Could this be one such facility? One ancient Greek I spoke to who lived locally said they were used for the games… all of which muddies any confident conclusion on date and usage. The uncertainties might be resolved by extensive research in the Greek Land Registry archives (I can hear snorts of Greek laughter right now!).
The relatively recent intrusion of graffiti into this space can be seen in the way that great swathes of virgin wall remain unpainted and there is just not too much evidence of writers “going over” eachother. This would be in complete contrast to, for example, an abandoned property in England’s home counties which once it becomes known in the graffiti community will normally get blitzed pretty constantly.
These poolside shower facilities were bizarre, the pipes look more appropriate to a gas chamber and the structures appeared to be designed to ensure that three people at a time could shower with eachother in complete privacy from other prying eyes!
Images of the main pool said to be photographed in 1999 show at that time it was completely untouched by graffiti, as do photos in another gallery uploaded in 2011 though the date of the photographs can’t be confirmed. Photos uploaded 12 years ago show the material and the vegetation in remarkably similar appearance and condition to that in 2018 but again, no graff at all and indeed images from 2013 are similarly clear of graffiti. A photo from May 2017 shows the main pool having exactly the same graffiti as that found on this visit in June 2018. Suffice to say this is not a high churn graffiti hall of fame.
The main pool was flanked by two subterranean service passages which contained far more underwater viewing windows than would normally be considered acceptable in a public swimming pool, but may just about be acceptable for filming swimming competitions.
This amazing structure suggests water slide but there was no evidence of plumbing to direct water down the chute, anyone venturing down the slide would sand a fair amount of epidermis off their derriere; also it lacked the usual flat “run off” but the drop would be too short to avoid hitting the bottom. The architecture looked stunning, the functionality abysmal and we remain none the wiser as to what this thing might have been.
In terms of graffiti, evidently a local crew RNA has been in a few times, dates on pieces indicated 2013 and 2017, google indicates impressive repping around Europe by these writers.
DSC Arminia Bielefeld is a German sports club specialising in Figure Skating, Norwich City played them at football in 2017, scraping a 3-1 win.
One curious finding was coming across writers putting up 101 which is a bit problematic as 101ers is an experienced and prolific Athens graffiti crew made up of The Krah, Fors, Spit, Eon, Dr Ren, Mint and Epic, its origins go back several decades; the 101 in Rhodes is seemingly being put up by Hus and others and the copying of the crew name is unlikely to amuse members of the original crew.
Everywhere you looked there was more graffiti yet at the same time, there were plenty of blank walls and potential canvasses.
In a number of spots there were vaguely occultish symbols though they actually looked like something teenagers might scribble in response to a dare.
The property had three distinct areas, there were the aquatic facilities, there were primarily changing facilities arranged on a slope which surrounded about 1/3 of the circumference of the pools; and set about 250m away over a rise was a set of buildings arranged around an abandoned garden, the buildings included a very small number of sleeping cabins and one quite large hall.
Exploring abandoned buildings in the UK be hazardous for many many reasons, some of relate to lack of light which means dangers such as broken floors, missing manhole covers, missing railing or loading bay platform drops can be missed with dire consequences, strolling around this property in glorious sunshine meant these dangers could be easily spotted.
And then a couple of hundred meters from the aquatic facilities were some office and accommodation facilities
Unfinished business – we never got to go to the low buildings up on the ridge in the background in the next shot, perhaps some time in the future we may return. Not sure Lady NoLions will be a willing explorer!
All photos: Dave Stuart