Preserving History – Remember The Time When People Grew Mushrooms Underground In Belgium

Preserving History – Remember The Time When People Grew Mushrooms Underground In Belgium

Preserving History – Remember The Time When People Grew

Mushrooms Underground In Belgium?

By Alan & A Good Friend | A Belgian Duo

MVRDV - Expo 2000 Hannover

© Alan Cuypers | Mine Shaft

A Good Friend

And not just a friend.

It wasn’t just by coincidence that we met in the first place! We were as a matter of fact working for one and the same company, although not at the same office and only 65 kilometers away we did got to know each other after all.

It was because of the internal magazine from ENGIE Axima that brought me to him. I mentioned my love for urban exploration and this meant that I had another friend to explore abandoned places with. Yay! 😃

He, the person in question, wrote me an email with subject: Vu dans le Blablaxi, date: 19 September 2011, and even pictures from his favourite explores.

Quote: “Salut collègue.

Désolé mais je ne parle pas un mot de flamand, mais si tu veux que je te parle en anglais, je devrais pouvoir me débrouiller.

Tout ça pour te dire que une de mes passions c’est la photo industrielle (genre site derelicta ou forbidden places) et aussi la photo nocturne en pose (de sites abandonnés ou d’industries métallurgiques).

Une autre c’est la visite de mines souterraines (avec mon appareil photo bien sûr).

Je ne faits quasi plus de varappe mais j’aime encore bien faire une belle descente en rappel ou une via ferrata et bien sûr de la randonnée à la journée.

Bien a toi et serai heureux de te rencontrer à la remise des vœux de Pissens au mois de janvier.”

He became my tutor when it came down to knowledge, he knew so much about all these derelict places. Places like military bunkers from WOI and WOII, as well as industrial plants like steel manufacturing sites.

Really! Thank you! I mean, I felt so honored that someone out there at the other side of Belgium read my short interview presenting myself in the internal magazine of the company. It was crazy and I was so psyched. And that even in another language!

My hobby wasn’t so famous as it later became and photography isn’t a practice that gets a lot of attention as well. Although it should get more rewarded and respected because to me a photo isn’t just a photo. It is a moment or object or anything really captured on camera which could potentially freeze time forever.

Photography is magical as these captured photos can be picked up again from the (dusty) shelve or from your hard drive on the PC and you can look at them for hours to come where beautiful memories can be brought back to life once again.

One can make a photo album or print a picture and hang it on the wall or even use it as your favourite background on your PC or smartphone.

To me taking photos means protecting any kind of memory in time stored forever in the palm of your hands.

MVRDV - Expo 2000 Hannover

Van Damme Quarry Ciply by Alan Cuypers


Why we want to explore beneath our surface?

It can perfectly being said that we humans have built many things on our planet, both above ground and underground. For all sorts of reasons we have considerably altered the face of our surface, be it in a good or bad way, we changed it according to our needs, experiments, unfortunate events or bad habbits. You name it, we changed it and it can’t always be undone.

Above ground it’s easy, we only need to keep in mind that gravity is a real thing.

Underground there’s also gravity, but also other things to keep in mind. The soil can be wet, cold, hot, muddy, dry, it can even shake and collapse which could leave huge sinkholes all the way to the surface.

This time I will talk more in depth about underground activities and why they can be very beneficial to us.


Mother Earth is a resource-rich planet which could serve our needs for many years to come, although sometimes these vulnerable resources are rather hard to reach or difficult to extract and process.

Today, I will bring you only a handful of meters below the surface where massive mazes of human activity carved their memories in the ground for a lifetime to come.

Belgium is rich in chalk, clay, pig iron and many more resources from the underground world. We explored just a small fraction of what once was a very big booming industry of mining.

Although I do am very satisfied with the chance of being stood there, under the surface away from the sun, for just a couple of hours. This experience was already enough to fulfil my dreams as an urban  explorer.

The Brick



Why growing mushrooms underground?

Industrialization brouth people to the cities where work was and where people could earn enough to support their hungry families in the countryside. Today isn’t any different. We have our cities and farmlands and for some it is a beautiful sanctuary somewhere in a hot place where they work an online job and can relax at the same time. Today and in the future we’re growing towards a digital online world, but for most of our products we still need agricultural and industrial factories. Aren’t we right?

Meanwhile underground everything was empty and excavated by many men. Rock formations were split open by either dynamite, immense machinery or hand-crafted tools and these tunnels formed huge underground galleries which eventually could still be used as a second purpose.

And so these quarries were also considered practical for growing mushrooms. Rows of mushroom beds were made with the help of horse poo or compost as a fertiliser and in the picture below this practice can still be found today.

MVRDV - Expo 2000 Hannover

© Alan Cuypers | 23/12/2016 @ 16:42 | Canon EOS 5D Mark III | f/8 | 25 sec. | Mushroom beds at the Van Damme Quarry, Ciply Belgium



Rediscovering Possibilities

What are we going to rediscover?

Managed quarries

To my surprise there was still active water pumping going on in some visited quarries, of course, otherwise the quarry would have been completely flooded by rainwater. If it were flooded the mine wouldn’t be still accessible to us.

Although these mines are actually forbidden to enter, I was guided by an expert who explored many mines before. Deep underground and open-pit ones alike.

We knew what we were doing and we did it carefully.

So, what did we rediscover?

The Rediscovery

Equipment was in some of them still there and ready to use at any given moment. Fresh truck tracks leading in the angled mine were a sign of recent life inside this rocky cave where water was being pumped out.

These scenes gave us beautiful pictures as a result.

Small lakes can be seen here and we remind you to not dare to take a swim in it as it can be very cold water and it isn’t the best water to swim in.

Small volcanoes under the water can be seen, which was a very cool sight, I admit.

The crystal clear water was perfect to photograph and the ground beneath it could be seen from afar.

Be sure to bring enough light in case you want to enter this exquisite underground maze of tunnels!

MVRDV - Expo 2000 Hannover
MVRDV - Expo 2000 Hannover
MVRDV - Expo 2000 Hannover
MVRDV - Expo 2000 Hannover

A Greener


A Greener Future

Nobody wants a dark future! Right?

Ecological struggle

Currently, there are only a handful of small start-ups that invest their piggy savings 🐖 into greener and more efficient life-oriented industries like farming and transportation from the farm field to the consumer.

How hard we’re all trying to conquer the ecological strugle this world comes with, we can only do even more to help protect us from our doomsday that might come sooner rather than later.

Although we’re not trying to be less optimistic here, we’re supporting businesses who try to make our lives better. And so can we!

But how?

By supporting local produce or growing your own vegetables and fruits. Yes, this is possible and completely safe to do, plus you help our beloved planet to survive even longer. It’s a win-win situation for you and us.

Take this amazing company for example, PlantLab 🌱, a startu-up business from The Netherlands is doing everything it can to go global and they’ve reached the US with one plant launched in December of 2020.

They are doing an amazing job 😊

MVRDV - Expo 2000 Hannover

© PlantLab ‘s-Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands


How are we helping?

One of us, that’s Alan, loves to read about all things with better environmental impact which could only benefit us in the right way possible.

Yes, friends, there are solutions to our global threats out there. We only need to go big on this one and we will succeed! 💪

The answer to this is BAMBOO.

We understand and know it grows like crazy, we have tested this ourselves and have proof. There is an extensive blog about this in the making!

Benefits of bamboo


One can manage without eating flesh; but one cannot manage without the bamboo.

Su Dongpo, Song Dynasty poet

Flowers of Hong Kong

© Alan Cuypers | Flowers in Hong Kong

Spreepark – Der Freizeitpark der DDR! Our squeaking adventure while exploring Berlin.

Spreepark – Der Freizeitpark der DDR! Our squeaking adventure while exploring Berlin.

Spreepark – Der Freizeitpark der DDR!

Our Squeaking Adventure While Exploring Berlin.

By Alan & Hannes | A Belgian & A Belgian

Our Explore


As we, Alan & Hannes, were invited to attend and also film the marriage of Alan’s 2nd cousin Nicky and Mateusz who is of Polish descent, we planned our trip by car to Poland through Germany with a couple of stops on the road.

First stop, Hanover, Germany, where we checked out the MVRDV building from Expo 2000, which was, off course, inaccessible due to abandonnement and closure of the site. Read the post here.

Second stop, Berlin, also Germany, we found out about the once famous Spreepark, which closed its doors in 2002 and opened in 1969.

We didn’t regret our secret explore of this exciting theme park!
Read on to find out what we came across.

Spreepark Berlin
Spreepark Berlin
Spreepark Berlin
Spreepark Berlin
Spreepark Berlin
Spreepark Berlin
Spreepark Berlin
Spreepark Berlin
Spreepark Berlin
Spreepark Berlin

Two Sad Faces

Let’s Face History

It must be said that, at the time of the event, we both were 24 years of age and we were kind of stunned by the fact that a place like this was left behind for more than a decade, just because it went bankrupt as less visitors came to the park.

We didn’t understand quite well where all those kids and parents would go to if they like to enjoy a good theme park likes this.

There’s a lot of amazing cool rides in here, yes, they are a bit old and outfashioned. But when refurbished and with a fresh layer of paint, it would be good enough for many kids out there. At least that’s what we think.

Now, 7 years later, we’re writing about this place and to our surprise the government of Berlin has plans to reopen the park step by step.

Our sad faces turned into happy ones after all.

Spreepark Berlin
Spreepark Berlin
Spreepark Berlin
Spreepark Berlin
Spreepark Berlin
Spreepark Berlin
Spreepark Berlin

Finding The Ferris Wheel

It Wasn’t That Hard

All of us know that there is a ferris wheel in every theme park in the world and every explore is about finding that first and explore the remaining later. For us, we were in unknown territories as Germany isn’t our country of birth, so we were very cautious and didn’t want to get noticed. So we stayed out of sight most of the time and we had a great amount of fun too.

We’re always psyched about our urban explorations. This “thing” is so much fun, although actually not very nor always legal to trespass a property that still belongs to an individual or city. There’s always an owner who might have guarded their property, or maybe not, but always be careful when considering intruding such big scale of properties as it isn’t always safe to hang out.

Always go with at least two people, so if one gets into trouble for any reason, then the other one can search for help or try to control the situation himself or herself. Advice for the young people out there who love exploring abandoned stuff. People do die in abandoned buildings because they are not careful enough or explore on their own.

Spreepark Berlin
Spreepark Berlin

Its Location

Treptow-Köpenick, Berlin

The Spreepark is located right next to the Spree river, hence the park’s name. Mitte Berlin, or the heart of the city of Berlin, is located just 7 kilometers away, which makes the park easily reachable for those who want to dive into Berlin’s history or enjoy a relaxing walk in the Plänterwald’s park, where the Spreepark is located.

The park has in fact a whole path around it where one can enjoy the view of the Spree river and the old park at the other side of the fence. Hiking, biking or strolling around with the kids is a very nice activity on a quiet Sunday afternoon.

Spreepark Berlin - Aerial Photo Google Maps
Spreepark Original Map
Spreepark Berlin
Spreepark Berlin
Spreepark Berlin
Spreepark Berlin
Spreepark Berlin

The Attractions


The GDR built it’s first and ever only Kulturpark in the GDR in 1969.

With the highest attraction being the Ferris Wheel standing tall at a height of 45 meters. This Wheel still spins and makes creepy noises, check out our video here.

Spreepark Berlin

A New Concept


Concept drawings were created in 2018 with the intention to open the park once again in three main stages.

From 2022, the Eierhäuschen (Egg House) will be open for the public, then, in 2024 the area around the ferris wheel will be accessible, and at last but not least, in 2026 the entire Spreepark will be completed.

All five stages are properly explained on the website of the Spreepark, which you can check out here.

Spreepark Berlin
Spreepark Berlin
Spreepark Berlin
Spreepark Berlin

The Official Website


Check out the Spreepark’s official website here.

Now you can officially visit the park with prices at € 5 for adults & € 3 for children from 6 to 14 years old.

Get your tickets here.

Spreepark Berlin
Spreepark Berlin
Spreepark Berlin
Spreepark Berlin
Spreepark Berlin
Spreepark Berlin
Spreepark Berlin

Preserving History – The American Petroleum Company – Petroleum Zuid Antwerpen

Preserving History – The American Petroleum Company – Petroleum Zuid Antwerpen

Preserving History – The American Petroleum Company – Petroleum Zuid Antwerpen

Preserving History – The American Petroleum Company – Petroleum Zuid Antwerpen

The American Petroleum Company Fueling Station



Petroleum or kerosine is used for many appliances likes cooking stoves, lamps, engine oil, chemistry, entertainment, and even mosquito control in Australia.

The destillation process from crude oil or petroleum is as old as the 9th century and is described by the Persian scholar Rāzi. The Chinese later used the kerosine for lighting lamps as early as 1500 BC.



Due to dangerous petroleum fires in the old harbour of Antwerp it was decided to move the entire petroleum business to the south and therefor had 54 hectares of soil to be expropriated from the Hobokense polders in the year 1900.

To grant access to the marine transportation the current quayside of Antwerp had to be extended 2 kilometres to the south and a new concrete pier had to be constructed near the site. The extension works lasted from 1897 until 1903.

Construction started in 1902 and in operation from 1903 by the American Petroleum Company or APC.

A huge devastating fire broke out on 26 August 1904 and destroyed most of its buildings and installations, except some warehouses and the congierge building survived the aftermath.

Entrance gate of the American Petroleum Company

Where the petroleum was still present, great smell, black stuff everywhere

The Interwar Period


Petroleum demand was still staggering high and the American Petroleum Company in Antwerp served as the most important petroleum harbour in Europe.

After the Second World War, WWII, most of the petroleum storage and production relocated to the northern side of Antwerp to the new Marshall dock, leaving behind 4 other companies in the area. They can remain until 2035, marking the end of their concession.

A roof of the American Petroleum Company

The concierge building of the American Petroleum Company

Blue Gate Antwerp


Petroleum Zuid became Blue Gate Antwerp in 2011, it’s a brand-new concept for the abandoned area once thriving with a blooming petroleum industry and which now has to completely disappear to make space for new a industry business.

The leftover warehouses, concierge building and lots of oil pipes are still present, at least up until 2013/2014 when everything but a warehouse of the American Petroleum Company was preserved and marked as cultural heritage.

Demolition of a warehouse of the American Petroleum Company

Almost demolished warehouse on the site

Concrete chimney

Petroleum storage tanks

Our first visit


We were well familiar with this peculiar site as teenagers who loved cycling in the area. Adventure and wild explores were in our blood starting at a very young age. Petroleum Zuid attracted us as we loved exploring the old and forgotten industrial zone of Antwerp South. When we first discovered the place it was already long abandoned and we could freely enter the site without any problems whatsoever.

Of course we knew the dangers of urban exploring, so we were always very careful. As there were many parts of the site spoiled with petroleum, oil, burned down roofs and almost collapsing buildings we were very alert of anything that could happen at any moment during our explores, and we never went alone.

Alan in his early 20s he knew this site as he had guitar classes in Hoboken, not far from this American Petroleum Company and he passed these abandoned cobblestone roads for at least a decade. He knew every street out of his head and also saw the area evolving into something completely different than it was when he first saw the place as a teenager.

Now at his 30s the site got demolished and replaced with new buildings in development.

The only warehouse currently left of the American Petroleum Company

Damaged roof of a building on the site

Sunrays entering a storage space

The Concrete Pier


Lot A consisted of the first construction of the jettypier in 1902, located near the river Scheldt and would allow the petroleum to flow above the ground to the facilities where it would be collected into the petroleum storage tanks. The pier was completed in 1903 and has a length of 301.6 metres, with a maximum tanker vessel capacity of 3. The very first tanker arrived on 3 August 1903.

During World War 1 there was no activity due to lack of the resource as it was all reserved for the war.

The concrete pier and petroleum pipes

Pipelines in the air


After the First World War the activity at the Petroleum-Zuid restarted again and restoration works of the jettypier could begin. In 1930 the underground petroleum pipes became out of use and above ground pipes were installed on the site as we can still see today.

To cover the growing demand of petroleum a new pier was errected on the south-west side of the existing pier. And in 1962 a third pier was errected for tanker barges. Which became the last pier constructed on the site.

Forever sealed

Where old pipe meets new pipe



A Swiss company started doing business in the year 1946 at Petroleum-Zuid in the coal industry. Although not lasting very long, they changed to fuel and lubricant oils.

In 1971 with the arrival of fuel trucks the export of fuel oil, or as we like to call it; mazout, became a fact. Their logo speaks for itself.


Cobblestone street towards Avia

The offices of Avia

The elevated Avia door

Demolition in action

Taken right before the demolition works started

Petroleum pipes everywhere you could see, surrounded by thousands of very old trees and cobblestone roads


Same picture before all the trees were cut


Slowly the scenery is about to change


Seen toward the other direction

Once you could not see all the facilities and buildings from my point of view, they were all covered by trees