Why I Love Derelict Buildings and Weird Places

Firstly, introduce yourself!The Bohemian Blog

My name is Darmon Richter, and I’m a British travel writer. Since 2011 I have been writing The Bohemian Blog: a site fuelled by my passion for unusual (and occasionally extreme) travel experiences. Some of the stories I’ve shared over the past few years have included first hand accounts of exploring the London sewers, travelling around North Korea, visiting vodou shrines in Haiti and climbing construction cranes above Moscow.

Tell us about The Bohemian Blog – where did the idea come from?

It just sort of… happened. I’ve always been interested in visiting unusual places, ever since I was a little kid sneaking into abandoned factories or squeezing myself down drain pipes. At some point I started writing about it – then back in 2011 I decided to begin putting all these stories online. Ever since that I’ve just kept going, writing about the weird and wonderful places I find in every country that I visit.

Dreadnought Drain
Storm drains deep under Bristol, England.

What makes your blog different to the rest?

I guess there are a few factors that make my site unusual. 

The subject matter is obviously quite different from the average travel blog – largely because I just don’t have any interest in visiting the typical sorts of travel destinations. When I arrive in a new country, I’m more interested in seeing the sewers and cemeteries than the local UNESCO sites. I travel to see things that I couldn’t find by sitting at home and using Google… the kinds of places that often not even the locals know about. I love finding little pieces of history that have just been left behind and forgotten.

Chernobyl
Exploring the remains of the Pripyat ‘Palace of Culture,’ inside the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, Ukraine.

The other thing that makes my site different though, is the format. I like to get properly immersed in every subject that I write about – combining my travel accounts with some pretty thorough research and analysis. As a result I tend to post fairly lengthy articles on my site… the longest to date weighed in at more than 12,000 words!

Where have you travelled so far?

So far I have travelled to something like 60 countries… I lost count a little while back and I actually quite enjoy not knowing the exact number. Along the way, I’ve visited nearly every country in Europe, a bunch of island nations in the Caribbean, Australia and Russia (all the way from St Petersburg to Siberia, then down into Kazakhstan); as well as China, North Korea, and a handful of countries dotted around South East Asia.

Gwrych Castle, Wales
An abandoned castle in North Wales.

In 10 words, sum up The Bohemian Blog ethos…

I think the tagline on my blog sums up my ethos quite nicely:

“Exploring the bizarre, the macabre, and other secret wonders of the world.”

Oh wait, that’s 12 words. Alright then, I’ll just go with a quote from Rocky Horror instead: 

“Don’t dream it. Be it.”

Most memorable moment from your trip so far?

Now that’s a hard one. Right off the top of my head though – Cuba. 

My time in Cuba was so jam-packed full of memorable moments. Getting stuck in Havana with no cash, and having to beg for food from local families; climbing up the reactor core of an abandoned nuclear power station, just in time to watch the sun set over the Caribbean; drinking rum and dancing late into the night… then waking up in a police cell the following morning. Those three weeks in Cuba were absolute mayhem.

Cuba Socialist-Modernist Architecture
Rusted ladders attached to a lighting tower, high above a sports stadium on the coast of Cuba.

Most spectacular spot you have discovered in Europe so far?

Honestly, I don’t think I’ve strictly ‘discovered’ anything in my life. Wherever you go, there’s always someone who’s been there first. Someone who lives there, someone who’s explored it, or someone who built it. But I do get that thrill of discovery from subverting the conventional notions of urban space – exploring forbidden areas, reimagining places or, to look at it another way, simply using cities incorrectly.

Zeljava Air Base
Exploring a former Yugoslav airbase, built deep beneath a mountain on the Croatia-Bosnia border.

The sewers in Sofia, Bulgaria, spring to mind. As far as capitals go, it isn’t a large city… and when I went exploring the network of tunnels and drains beneath its streets, the cobwebs alone were enough to tell me that not a whole lot of people ventured down here. Pushing through curtains of thick, dusty webs, wandering through a brickwork labyrinth inhabited solely by rats – for me, that felt pretty ‘spectacular.’ It was a real Indiana Jones moment.

Tastiest meal you’ve eaten en route?

As much as I want to say something really unusual and exotic here, actually the first meal that comes to mind was a barbecue I had just recently. Seriously, this meal was just incredible. I have enjoyed some good barbecues on my travels (I’m looking at you, Australia and the US) but by far the best I’ve tried was at this smokey little backstreet place in Niš, Serbia. If you ever get the chance to visit a proper Serbian grill bar, you’ve absolutely got to try it.

Your favourite road trip tune/soundtrack…

Good question! I go through phases with my musical tastes, and I’m rarely listening to the same genre from one week to the next. If I was stuck with just one album though, I think it would have to be the Pulp Fiction soundtrack. In fact, we had it on the car stereo on and off for the best part of a month, while driving around the Balkans earlier this year.

Moscow
Climbing the rooftops of an abandoned office building in Moscow.

Where will The Bohemian Blog be heading next? 

My next trip will be taking me back east, to Ukraine. I’ve got some friends I want to catch up with in Kiev, I’ll visit the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone again, and after that I’ll be crossing the border to go hunting for abandoned missile bases in rural Moldova…

Darmon Richter
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Darmon Richter is a British travel writer. Since 2011 he has been writing The Bohemian Blog: a site fuelled by my passion for unusual (and occasionally extreme) travel experiences. Some of the stories he's shared over the past few years have included first hand accounts of exploring the London sewers, travelling around North Korea, visiting voodoo shrines in Haiti and climbing construction cranes above Moscow!

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