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Report (Permission Visit) - Ghost Town of Belchite - (Aragon, Spain, July 2021) | European and International Sites | 28DaysLater.co.uk

Report (Permission Visit) Ghost Town of Belchite - (Aragon, Spain, July 2021)


RustyJohn

28DL Member
28DL Member
You may have heard of this place, but I haven't seen a report here so let's go! History is a mix of what I remember from the guided tour plus Wiki for accuracy.

The Explore: Since 2013 they put a fence around the village and only guided tours are allowed, but it's quite in the middle of nowhere so not many people go there, but it's been on my checklist for so long so I took a weekend trip to this desolate part of Spain. The guide was a descendant from one of the old inhabitants that now lives in the new town (more on that later).

The History (it might get long but it's worth it!)

Belchite was taken by the fascists at the start of the Civil War (1936) and became a defensive stronghold because of its design: the town had arabic origins and the streets were very narrow, with 4 gates that led into it. In August 1937, the Republican Army decided to launch an offensive in Belchite to halt the advance of the fascists, but they encountered many problems there:
The town was well fortified, and the streets were too narrow for the Soviet T-26 tanks to go through, so the only option was to start a siege, which became a nightmare for both armies being the middle of the summer in a place with little water, so the republicans decided to storm the town. Since the beginning of the battle, civilians hid themselves in the basements of their homes and dug tunnels to connect them to be able to share food. They were trapped underground, and their homes in the surface had become shelters for the fascists and targets for the republicans. Heavy artillery and aerial bombardments turned most of the town to ashes, and after that, a door-to-door battle ensued until the last 2 fascist soldiers surrendered to the republicans. When civilans came to the surface after 2 weeks, they encountered 5.000 bodies rotting in the summer heat in a town that before the battle had 4.000 inhabitants. The civilians themselves buried the corpses in oil and water storage pits and burned them in the streets. There's still 500 hundred people in the 'new town' that remember those events, althought their memory is fading over the years.

After the war, Franco decided not to rebuild the town and turn it into a memorial/propaganda stunt: he built a new village right next to the dilapidated one to show ''how greatly he was rebuilding the country that had been destroyed by the wild communists'' (in fact the new town was built by republican POWs which were held in a camp called Little Russia).

Before the pics, I find it worth noting that most of the men fighting in Aragon were from the International Brigades, especially the Lincoln Battalion (Americans and Canadians). Ernest Hemingway was there as a journalist, and Woodie Guthrie wrote a song that talks about another battle, but it's about those men in the Lincoln Battalion going through hell in a spanish valley.


On with the pics!

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This is the main street, they put a replica cannon to show you its range, it could almost fire through the whole village.

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Advancing through the main street.

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Shrapnel and bullet wounds all over the buildings.

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One of the narrow streets, imagine fighting in a rathole like that... the buildings outside the main street haven't survived
because they were of much humble construction, but you can see how far the town stretched.

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Going to one of the many churches around

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One of the 2 main churches...let's go inside:

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Hole from an artillery shell

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This spot was so unique...300 year old frescoes, shelled by republican artillery.

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That's the rear view of the main street.

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Going to one of the other churches...this one's quite special, you'll see!

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The interior... does it ring a bell? It's been used in so many movies, more recently some scenes in Spiderman:Homecoming

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This is an unexploded shell stuck in the clock tower... I really didn't expect something like that still going on today! The guide said it's almost impossible to take it out safely.

I hoped you enjoyed the report, I got some more detailed pics of buildings/interiors/random features if anyone is interested. Cheers!
 
Last edited:

mookster

grumpy sod
Regular User
That unexploded shell in the tower is pretty alarming!
 

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