Madrid daytrip: a Renaissance castle and Spanish Civil War bunker

Madrid has a lot to offer–tasty tapas, wonderful wine, and amazing art. There’s so much to do in the center of town it’s easy to spend your entire vacation there without ever seeing the outskirts. Yet several daytrips offer a different look at Spain.

One possibility just opened up last year. Near the Metro stop Alameda de Osuna on the outskirts of town, the city government has recently opened a Renaissance castle and a Spanish Civil War bunker.

The castle is called Castillo de Alameda de Osuna, and it guarded an important road between Madrid and the city of Alacalá de Henares. Alameda was a village back then; Madrid was barely a town. The castle was home to the local duke and was built in the 15th century when Spain was becoming a major empire. It was improved in the 16th century and is a good example of a small Renaissance fort. A deep stone-lined moat is the first line of defense for a thick square fort with towers at the corners. Cannons and men with matchlock rifles would have defended the walls and it would have been tough to take. Sieges at the time were deadly affairs and the attacking army preferred to try and starve the fort into submission. The defenders made sure to have plenty of food stored up and some sieges lasted for a year or more.

You can find out more information at Castillosnet, including a handy Google map showing how to get there. The website is in Spanish but if you hit the little British flag at the top it will put it through Google translator, always an amusing experience.

The bunker stands right next to the castle, on the brow of a low hill with a clear field of fire across what would then have been open countryside. Madrid was under siege for much of the Civil War and many such bunkers remain. You can see several when hiking near Madrid.

While the city of Madrid is working hard to restore the castle, it still needs a lot of work. An ugly fence surrounds the place and gets in the way of the view, plus the park next to it is filled with trash and dog shit. Reconstruction on the castle isn’t complete and parts of look like a building site. The castle and bunker are open Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays from 10am to 9pm. Admission is free. The Metro stop is about forty minutes from central Madrid at the end of Line 5. While the place isn’t ideal, it’s well worth a visit for any history buff.


For sale – one underground bunker in London

Feeling a tad paranoid? Is the downward spiral of the economy becoming too much to handle? Why not relocate to London and move into your very own underground bunker complex!

The Kingsway tunnel bunker complex was originally built as an air raid shelter and as a spare war room for the British government.

After the second world war, the tunnels were handed over to the Post Office who used it as a telephone exchange. When the phone exchange switched to automated dialing system, the bunker became obsolete again and has been on the market since 1996.

The bunker is a whopping 77,000 square feet, which is more than enough for your average bachelor pad. In its original state, it was large enough to provide shelter for 8000 people. Unfortunately you’ll need a spare 5 million pounds (almost 9 million dollars) before you can move in.

Some of the ideas being floated around for the bunker include a car showroom (HUH?), a snooker club or a firing range.

According to the current owners (British Telecom), the structure is unsuitable for conversion to a hotel or office, so that rules out that concept. Personally, I think it would make a fantastic museum.

If you are interested in buying the complex, or if you just want to learn more about the Kingsway tunnel and other underground structures, I suggest checking out the fantastic site of Subterranea Britannica who have been documenting the Kingsway tunnel for years.

Bunkers – now also a safe haven for Continental airlines

What do you do if you own an airline, and watch the devastation from hurricane Katrina on TV? You go searching for your very own bunker where you can safely house your important computer systems and 200 staff members in the event your city gets hit next.

The bunker is located in Montgomery, Texas, and was built by a wealthy Taiwanese businessman with a fear that the Russians or Soviets would attack the US with nuclear missiles. Ling-Cheih Kung made his money in the 70’s with the now defunct Westland Oil company. When oil companies went bust in the 1980’s, Mr Kung lost the title to his property (and bunker) and it sat unoccupied for almost 20 years.

The building itself is 50 feet below ground, and the area occupied by Continental is over 2000 square feet. If the Houston metro area is going to be hit by a category 3 hurricane, they move their IT operations to the bunker facility.

The bunker and surrounding buildings are owned by the Westlin corporation, who spent a small fortune renovating the facilities, and bringing Internet connectivity to companies renting space underground.

Continental Airlines moved into their spot in 2006, after just several months of construction. Some of the more notable parts of the building are jail cells, a decontamination shower (for washing off the radiation), and 2 pagoda shaped entry buildings, complete with gun turrets.

Moving into this facility shows some pretty clever thinking by Continental, and just 2 years after they moved in, Hurricane Ike hit the Texas coast. Thanks to this facility, Continental staff hope to get their operations back on schedule as early as Sunday morning.

Secret Moscow Bunker now Open to Tourists

Going underground is always a great experience no matter what city you visit.

Cold war capitals like Moscow and Berlin offer some of the very best subterranean experiences around. This is because the safest place if the Cold War ever got hot, was deep underground where the radiation can’t get you.

Now that communism is dead and the world is one big happy place, Cold War bunkers are increasingly coming off the Top Secret list and being transformed into tourist sites.

Take, for example, the newest attraction in Moscow: The Confrontation Cold War Museum. In the old days, this 75,000-square-foot facility buried 200 feed underground was known only as the Tagansky Underground Command Center. And, it was known only by the select few who would scurry there and live off rations for three months while the outside world was scorched by nuclear bombs.

Today, any foreign tourist with $39 in their pocket can now join a guided tour of these facilities. David Holley, of the Los Angeles Times, recently journeyed below the surface to check it out and reports back that the new owners have decorated it with Soviet posters and some outdated communications equipment. Tour guides dress in old Soviet Army uniforms, and visitors are served the traditional rations endured by those on duty here: buckwheat porridge, canned beef stew, and a shot of vodka–proving that some things in Russia never change. Har har har.

Click here for a virtual tour.