Monday, February 11, 2013

Exploring an Ancient Spanish Ghost Town

Ghost towns are oft the stuff of bonfires. Resurrected from late-night conversations with great aunts or well known and settled around brutal wartime stories. Some, we've seen explored on cable network series, and others we've only read about. But the truth is, those places - those ghost towns - do indeed exist, and in person, continue to eerily secrete the aftertaste of war or similar tragic events.

Few, it seems, have heard of the ghost town Belchite, a small village that took a rough blow during the Spanish Civil War. In late 1937, the town was occupied, and after several weeks of fighting by the Franco army, the city was destroyed. In honor of his gruesome victory, Spanish dictator Franco marked the city a living monument, not to be touched.

Today, Belchite remains an alleged ghost town and historical monument of the Spanish war. Although most of the territory is destroyed, you can still see the ruins of its once stunning churches and buildings, which over time have developed a different sort of pained beauty. The golden and brown colors of the stone used throughout the city architecture are mixed with dust that seems to fog the entire place. There are almost no people living in there (fitting for a ghost town, no?), and the population is assumed to be less than 2,000 people, most of which work in hotels and hostels like Belorado.

With a slightly spooky tourism vibe, the town hosts a number of tourists (think history buffs and ghost hunter types). It's also a popular place for filming: Terrence van Gilliam made his famous movie “The adventures of baron Munchausen” and Guillermo del Toro Gomez filmed “Pan’s labyrinth” in this town.

Despite the depressed history, Belchite offers an incredible atmosphere of glory and heroes who stood for their land till the last breath. The spirit of the city is truly overwhelming, and well worth the time it takes to marvel in its quiet, vacant roadways.
- by Vera Petryk

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