Together with a small group of friends, I went to the abandoned amusement park ‘Dadipark’, which closed almost 10 years ago after a series of accidents in which a 9-year-old boy lost his arm. Although more and more people find their way to this park as it is an open secret, it is still quite intact. It was freaky and fascinating. And definitely worth a visit.
Dadipark is an amusement park about an hour south of Antwerp, close to the French border. It is the oldest amusement park in Europe, dating back to the 1950s. Dadizele, at that time, was already a tourist destination as many people came there on pilgrimage. The park evolved from a playground for the children of visitors to a separate theme park. Instead of focusing on large modern attractions, it was rather accessible and affordable. My friends and I all agreed that it was a shame we never went to the park before it closed.
In an accident in 2000, a 9-year-old boy lost his arm in one of the attractions, the Nautic Jet. This accident was the latest in a series of incidents, but also the most horrific accident in the history of the park. More and more people started to complain about safety and less and less people visited the park. In 2002, it was announced that the park would be closed for one year for renovation, but the park has not reopened since.
I have always been fascinated with the terrifying beauty of a post-apocalyptic world. Mad Max, Waterworld, The Road, zombie movies; I love them! To combine this love with my love for lomography gives one easy answer: urban exploring (urbex for insiders).
As we were all new to urban exploring, Dadipark was a good place to start. While the park is officially closed and there are signs that trespassing is prohibited, at the back the fence is open and we could easily enter. As we started out a bit hesitant, we stayed quiet and away from the entrance. But the further we went into the park, the more people we would meet. People drinking, people doing photo shoots, people walking around with their children, people screaming and running over the suspension bridge. This did not ruin our buzz, fortunately, but only made us more sure of the fact that the inhabitants of Dadizele wouldn’t mind us taking pictures in Dadipark.
It was a truly amazing experience. Afterwards, I was really tired from walking, climbing, running, looking, seeing, pointing, shooting, and trying to understand the history of the place. But I was happy. We all were.
Just some tips:
- We went during the summertime. Nice weather but crowded pictures with a lot of vegetation. Autumn or winter can give you just that extra eerie look, and make your pictures a bit more clear.
- Black/white and redscale films make your pictures also look more retro creepy
- Don’t forget to bring something to drink and eat; urban exploring makes you thirsty and hungry
- Remember the urbex motto: “Leave nothing but footprints, take nothing but pictures”
(but as an exception to this rule; next time I’m taking garbage bags with me, to clean up a little of the trash that the youngsters left)