Adventures in an abandoned hotel

During our stay in Tenerife, my friend and I had observed a rundown hotel across the road from us. The walls were covered in graffiti and it appeared to be empty. The swimming pool was a dry basin, the windows were gaping holes, and I assumed it was unfinished.

Front view

On our last day, we decided to go for a walk. The town we were staying in was small and very soon we reached a dead-end street. We were about to turn back and go home when we noticed a door in the wire-mesh fence surrounding the hotel. Not only that, but the door was wide open as if inviting us inside. The temptation was too great to resist.

Gate

We crept through, feeling not unlike Veerle and Kris from the ‘Forbidden Spaces’ trilogy. We certainly weren’t the only ones who had visited, however: the walls were covered with graffiti. Broken mattresses and litter were strewn haphazardly across the floor and I even spotted the remnants of a barbeque, complete with grill, ketchup and abandoned burger buns.

Graffiti

We rounded a corner in the courtyard and came to the stairwell. There were no railings on the stairs and rubble was everywhere. As we ascended I was expecting every moment that something would give way beneath my feet.

Stairwell

Halfway up the stairs, we decided to take a break and explore the hallways. The fussy salmon pink of the paintwork made a strange contrast with the rubble coating the floor and the cavernous holes in the walls. We snuck into what should have been a bedroom, but its only features were a toilet, bath and precarious-looking balcony. It was absolutely devoid of anything personal that would give away the hotel’s secrets. I wanted to know why it had been abandoned, why they wouldn’t bother opening a hotel that seemed so nearly finished, but all evidence had vanished long ago, presumably with the squatters and locals who used it as a barbeque venue.

Corridor

We carried on up the stairs and, to our delight, found that we emerged on the roof, face to face with the artificial structure supporting the brash red claim of ‘Merlin Resort.’

Merlin Resort

The views were stunning. This was the tallest building for miles around, and we could see everything. On one side, the skeleton of another hotel and the dust bowl of an abandoned swimming pool looked like ruins excavated from a desert.

View

The roof itself was not without its points of interest: there was a sunlounger, a metal object which looked like the wheel of a giant cruise ship and these concrete structures. I’m still not entirely sure what they were, but as we walked among them it felt like we were in some kind of bizarre astroturfed lunar landscape.

Roof

Eventually we left, stopping only to explore a couple more rooms on our way down. As we crept out we were horrified to see a man sitting in front of the door, frightened that he would get us into trouble. However, he simply gave us an unconcerned glance and continued eating his sandwich.

The next day we flew back to England, and for a while as I swung back into the rhythm of everyday life I forgot all about the abandoned hotel. It occurred to me again in a spare moment and, on a whim, I looked it up. One of the results the internet yielded was this:

Website

So the hotel was not simply unfinished as I’d thought. It had been in use; that barren pit of a swimming pool had been filled with water, the rooms we crept through had been inhabited by laughing families on holiday. And the creepiest thing of all? You could still book a holiday there…

 

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Top 7: Wilfred Owen poems

Recently I read a collection of Wilfred Owen’s poems and loved their power and poignancy. If you’re interested in getting to know his work and aren’t sure where to start, here are my personal favourites:

1. Dulce et Decorum Est – This is probably the quintessential Owen poem. It is memorable for the sheer grotesque honesty of its imagery and it stayed with me for a long time after I first read it.

2. Disabled – I studied this poem at school but, if anything, reading it again only enhanced my appreciation of its tragic portrayal of a man physically incapacitated by the war.

3. The Send-Off – This poem is less graphic and violent than most of the other poems. It is calm and understated in an unsettling way which makes it all the more poignant.

4. S.I.W. – This poem describes the suicide of a soldier, a theme which is often neglected in war poetry and one which I was intrigued to read about.

5. The Show – A fantastically strange poem which describes the war from a birds’ eye view, featuring some grim but apt imagery.

6. The Parable of the Old Man and Young – I like Owen’s clever re-appropriation of Biblical language to carry his powerful message across.

7. Sonnet (written at Teignmouth, on a Pilgrimage to Keats’s House) – The imagery here is beautiful and, though written before the war, it mirrors the melancholy of Owen’s later poems eerily.

Poem: Chance Encounter

You are one in ten million
Workers in a forgotten city
Where the horn blasts are like
Voices in the wilderness
With Napoleon complexes
Screaming to be heard
And somewhere in the middle
In the pile of bricks and rubble
From a giant’s tantrum
Our eyes meet for the first,
Last and only time
Your cigarette is a dying glow-worm
And the smoke is lost before
It escapes the smog
That smothers the sun
But your eyes – your eyes! –
They burn like the city lights
Which deny the darkness
Of the Harbin night.

BR: ‘Metamorphoses’ by Ovid

‘Metamorphoses’ is a Roman epic poem which chronicles everything from the mythical beginnings of the world to the foundation of Rome and the deification of Julius Caesar. I was very impressed by the fact that David Raeburn had translated it into hexameter verse, the meter in which it is written in Latin, so that the narrative swings along without losing any of its original charm as a poem. It features some of the best-known classical myths such as those of Daedalus and Icarus, Jason and the Argonauts and Theseus and the Minotaur, but perhaps the most enjoyable aspect of the book for me was discovering lesser-known ones such as that of Myrrha, who is changed into a myrrh tree due to her incestuous desire for her father. I also loved the tense debate between Odysseus and Ajax, in which Ovid’s rhetorical training was clearly visible.

Something that surprised me while reading the poem was how little humanity has changed over time. I expected such an old text to be reasonably prudish, but actually there were more accounts of rape – or attempted rape – than I could count, and there was even one incident with a female perpetrator. Ovid’s attitude towards women was also more liberal than I expected – although many were presented as stereotypical virtuous maidens, Ovid was genuinely interested in female perspectives on classical mythology. For example, he gives a voice to Byblis to explain why she is tempted to incest, and seems more interested in Medea than her lover, the hero Jason. The poem was also extremely gory in parts: in the battle of the Lapiths and the centaurs, ‘as globules of blood and fragments of brain poured out of the wound,/ the centaur, vomiting wine from his mouth, fell backwards and drummed/ with his heels on the sodden sand.’ I could imagine the author relishing these details with boyish glee!

My least favourite aspect of the book was the long lists of place and character names because they didn’t mean much to me and probably lost some of their beauty in translation. However, on balance I would say that the poem was very pacy and rarely dull because it was split into small stories instead of forming one long narrative. I would certainly recommend it as an exciting and not at all intimidating introduction to classical literature.