The abandoned Love Hotel London was one of the most pitiful places I have ever explored and borderline worthy to become a part of the soon to come “Worst of Japan 2014” article (scheduled for December 30th!) – but it’s one of the most famous rotting places in all of central Japan; probably because of the name…

Despite being called London, this deserted and dilapidated love hotel apparently had nothing to do with Great Britain’s capital. It looked like a cheap, fake castle and the rooms had the usual array of themed rooms from all over the world. Like most love hotels in Japan, the London was actually more of a motel. You parked your car in some kind of garage on the ground floor and then went upstairs to… well, do what people usually do at no-tell motels.
In its heyday the London, conveniently located next to the Hamamatsu Air Base in central Japan, must have been quite a site – now there is not much left to see. Some furniture pieces outside, some vandalized, rotting rooms inside. Pretty much everything was busted open, all windows smashed, everything beyond repair.
If you ever wanted to know more about the love hotel industry in Japan I recommend *this old article*… and I also wrote about *my two cents on relationships in Japan* – both articles come with photos from other abandoned love hotels in better condition…

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After presenting some really spectacular locations over the last couple of months (and thanks to the surprising success of my *Worst of Germany 2013* article), it’s about time to get some real urbex disasters out of the way – quantity rather than quality!

The first item on my list was not really a disaster, it was more of a roadside attraction not really worth its own article. I was strolling through a nice little coastal town with the usual array of canals, when out of nowhere I saw this abandoned boat right next to the street. There must be thousands of abandoned boats all over Japan, most of them made of wood and rotting away, not even worth taking a photo of, but this one intrigued me for some reason; and that reason probably was the Japan Pro Bass Tournament Association sticker on the side…

A week later I went to the mountains to have a look at the Minoh / Minoo Cable Car. While the upper station was on the back of a hotel and therefore inaccessible, the lower station was… pretty much dead, too. Even in February there was little more left to see than some concrete steps and the partly overgrown track. BOOOOORING!

Even worse was the demolished Ropeway Station I saw in Wakayama City. Or didn’t see, as it was demolished. The lower part was completely gone, the upper part had a few remains, like a slab of concrete on top of a hill and some small square foundations on a slope. What a waste of time!

In May, after a *disastrous Golden Week*, I went to Oita prefecture on Kyushu and stayed the night in Oita city – in the morning I fully realized that the JR station was in the process of being renovated, making part of it look as if it was abandoned. Nothing special, just a few snapshots.

A week later I made a stop in Onomichi on my way home from the rabbit island *Okunoshima*. Onomichi Castle has no historical relevance as it was built in 1964 as a tourist spot – and closed in 1992 due to lack of interest. (Even the official city guide recommends a castle three islands down the Shimanami Kaido, a road connecting Honshu and Shikoku with a set of bridges.) In the two decades since then the surrounding garden has been completely overgrown, but it is said that the castle was welded shut anyway – but it looks kind of cool, especially from the distance.

Just hours later I laid eyes on one of the strangest construction in all of Japan, a country with plenty strange constructions: the Uzushio Tourist Building. Little is known about it – some say it was a small hotel, others that it was a tourist restaurant; maybe it was both over time. Now it is partly burned out and a deathtrap, used by locals to collect recyclable waste. Since time is not recyclable I guess the joke was on me.

The next two flops I had to go to Germany for. First I spent rainy 30 minutes at the Munitionsdepot Dachsenhausen (Ammunitions Depot Dachsenhausen) and then a couple of days later another 5 minutes near the equally rainy Haus Hundseck, an abandoned hotel. While the ammunitions depot was mostly demolished and just in general a miserable place, the Haus Hundseck could have been an interesting exploration… if it wouldn’t have been for the hundreds of people who gathered in the middle of nowhere for some sporting event. My chance of entering the Bates Motel like construction without being seen? Absolutely zero! (BTW: Haus Hundseck has been mostly demolished now as I found out when I tried to give it another chance this summer…)

In October I revisited the *Tuberculosis Hospital for Children* with my dear friend *Michael Gakuran* – and since we had some time at the end of the day we rushed a revisit to my first abandoned hotel ever, the *One Dragon Hotel*. I only took a couple of crappy photos, but I also finally did a walking tour there – hence the video at the end of this article.

Next flop stop: an abandoned company retreat in the Rokko Mountains, the Concept Rokko Lodge – those vacation villas were quite popular during the 80s real estate bubble, now hundreds of them all over Japan are abandoned. Sadly I came a couple of months or weeks too late in this case. The Concept Rokko Lodge was gone and so was I after I took a dozen photos of the few remains.

In early November I went to Nagano prefecture for some fresh air. It was the furthest to the east I went in the past 12 years and for some reason I wasn’t really motivated to do urbex – instead I rather enjoyed the beautiful weather.

My first stop was *another abandoned North Korean school in Japan*, just half a year before *I actually went to North Korea myself*. I took some photos over and under fences, but the Chongryon School in Matsumoto was in a residential area. Dog walkers were passing by every other minute and the school looked completely vandalized – not worth risking a police operation…

A couple of hours later I was standing in front of the gigantic Shinshu Tourist Hotel on a gorgeous autumn afternoon. All staircases and roads to the hotel were either torn down or filled up with rubble – there might have been a way in, but why risking a broken leg and breathing moldy air when I could climb a mountain and breathe fresh air?

On the way to the top I came across the Joyama Miniropeway, a small ropeway station on a steep slope, abandoned in 1992 due to maintenance costs.

Right next to it I found the Japanese History Hall, probably a study center. The building complex was completely untouched and thoroughly protected from vandals as well as nature, so I didn’t even try to find a way in; would have been pointless anyway.

Three weeks later I met Michael again, this time in *Hokkaido for our epic long weekend trip*!

The first flop of the trip was the Showa-shinzan Tropical Plant Garden, a greenhouse once powered by the volcanic lava dome Showa-shinzan – now abandoned. The administration building with its fully stocked gift shop looked like it was protected by a force field, while the hothouse clearly showed signs of damage; probably by snowfalls and broken branches.

Next we saw a small sliding house near the *Sankei Hospital* that was damaged by the same events that turned the clinic into one of the spookiest places I’ve ever been to.

On the next morning we visited a place that I marked down as the Sapporo Art Village, but it looked more like an abandoned research facility. Whatever it was, it was inaccessible.

Also inaccessible was the Sapporo National Sanatorium, a huge closed hospital. Yes, closed. Closed and secured. By tight construction site fences several meters high. In the back I was able to take a few photos of tightly locked huts across the fence, but it was getting dark and not worth the risk, especially since the site looked like it was visited by people on a regular basis.

In 1987 Advantest, the famous Japanese manufacturer of semiconductor testing equipment, built a research facility near Sapporo – now the Advantest research facility is abandoned. All the ground floor windows, doors and shuttered were sealed tight, but the first floor saw some damage, so I guess mold will sooner or later take over and make this building another case for a demolition unit.

And that’s it for this week – lots of places, barely any good stories. But stay tuned, more world-class abandoned places will follow soon!

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The world famous Rhein-Main Airport in Frankfurt is more active than ever, but like most other big cities, the Hessian banking metropolis had more than one airfield available when aviation was in its early days – the now abandoned Military Airport Frankfurt-Eschborn was one of them.

Built by Nazi Germany as part of the preparations for war, the Military Airbase Frankfurt-Sossenheim (later renamed after Frankfurt’s district Eschborn, or in German: Militärflugplatz Eschborn) was constructed at some time between 1935 and 1939; information varies due to the utmost secrecy of the project. The airport originally consisted of five hangars made of bricks while the rest of the buildings, including the commandant’s office, were made of wood. The runway was a simple patch of grass, kept short by a herd of sheep (hence the code name Schafsweide, sheep pasture) –concrete areas were in front and inside of the hangars to store and maintain the aircrafts. The main purpose of the airport: training pilots and getting military gliders behind enemy lines. The first flying units were stationed at the Military Airbase Frankfurt-Eschborn in 1941, the same year further construction was stopped in favor of the Rhein-Main Airport just some 10 kilometers away. The Nazis used the airfield till August 15th 1944, when it was severely damaged by an American airstrike.
Even before the official end of World War II the Americans took over and the Military Airbase Frankfurt-Eschborn became Camp Eschborn (Y-74). They had some of the damages repaired by German prisoners of war and used the facilities as an alternate airport until the destroyed Rhein-Main Airport was rebuilt. After that the area was used by sapper units with heavy equipment. Overall the Americans were rather secretive about Camp Eschborn, and rumors have it that atomic mines were stored there in case the Cold War would turn hot and the Russian would try to break through the Fulda Gap.
Camp Eschborn was used till October 15th 1991 (when the 317th Engineer Battalion left) and finally returned to the German State in 1992. At first some of the barracks were used to house asylum seekers, then most of the buildings were demolished, so the area could be turned into a nature reserve and a commercial zone. What finally will happen to the rest of the former flying field is still up in the air, and until then the one remaining hangar and a couple of partly demolished buildings are used by several groups for regular training sessions, including the Federal Agency for Technical Relief and the German Federal Police – both training with dogs, which is one of the reasons why you should be extra careful at this only partly abandoned place. Oh, and a bunch of minors (not miners!) use the area as a hangout!

It were those minors and my friend Torsten that made exploring the rather unspectacular remains of Camp Eschborn so memorable. As you can imagine, the remains of the hangar area were fenced off and we had to find a way in. As chance would have it, we saw a bunch of those kids, teenagers… age 14 to 17, probably… and while I would have avoided them completely, my old buddy was up for a little chat and waved them over. Torsten is the fatherly friend kind of guy, always mellow, always friendly; must be the social worker in him. So he talked to those kids for a while, gained their trust, and of course they told him how they got in and described to us how we could, too, maybe a 20 minute walk from where we were on the other side of the area. We thanked them and were about to leave or even already turned to go, when Torsten addressed them again with something like: “Uhm, guys, that stuff in your hands… that isn’t beer, is it? You look way too young to be of legal drinking age! That stuff really isn’t good for you at your age…” I know I probably should have been more loyal to my friend, but he totally cracked me up with that, so I bursted into laughter: “Dude, you just interrogated those kids for five minutes on how to commit trespass – and now you give them a lecture on legal drinking age?!” while at the same time the guy on the other side was like: “I am 16 already. I know I look younger, but I swear, I am already 16!” (And 16 is the legal drinking age for beer in Germany…) It was just hilarious! Everything calmed down immediately after that, of course. But for a second or two this was one of the funniest things ever to me. After the guy left with his bottle and I convinced Torsten that it really didn’t matter if he was 15 or 16 (though I barely ever drink alcohol myself and I wouldn’t mind if they’d change the legal drinking age to 20 or 21, like in many other countries), we continued on the road we would have continued on anyway… and found a hole in the fence just around the next corner.
The rest of the exploration was less entertaining and not exactly spectacular, though of course we met our teenage friends again, who were hanging out with more of their friends – and the second group clearly wasn’t happy at all that the leader of the first group turned into some kind of self-proclaimed guide for us. Neither were Torsten and I, because first of all it destroyed the atmosphere just a tiny little bit – and then there was the risk factor. The buildings, including the hangar, were in pretty bad condition and I have no problem taking responsibility for myself. But at the same time I was a bit worried that one of those slightly drunk youngsters would hurt themselves… and then what? I don’t need stuff like that, so after a while we managed to say goodbye when the second group left us with a little speech about how they planned on climbing the roof now. At that point we had seen most of the few leftovers anyway, despite the fact that most of the hangar windows were bricked up, so we went to the maintenance concrete area, where I shot the usual walkthrough video before we finally left the former Military Airport Frankfurt-Eschborn.

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After hiking for well more than an hour through the Japanese countryside, past fields and hamlets, up and down the winding streets… roads… paths… the Abandoned Transformer Station appeared out of nowhere at the other side of a small mountain river two meters below me – and once again I had to ask myself the eternal urbex question: Do I really want to cross that bridge?

Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t; obviously depending on the bridge. It this case it didn’t look too bad. If I was riding a heavy truck I probably would have said “Nah!”, but the times that heavy trucks reached this remote area had been long gone anyway, so I hastily rushed across the rather dilapidated wood and metal construction… to explore a massive concrete facility that looked completely out of place.
It was late autumn, the perfect hiking time in Japan, just weeks before snow would reach out for heights below 1000 meters. Nature had loosened its tight grip it has on most of Japan from late May till early October and made areas accessible again that were hard to reach and sometimes even dangerous from mid-spring to mid-autumn. (And then again in winter, of course…) The transformer station laid there in perfect silence and I first had a closer look at the outdoor area with its big metal towers before entering the building itself. And that’s when I painfully missed my tripod and a flashlight. Some parts of the building were terribly dark and I had to crank up the ISO drastically to avoid blurry photos, but I guess that was the price I had to pay for travelling light. Sadly both parts of the building were stripped of all machinery and almost all furnishings, leaving empty whitewashed rooms. Not exactly a spectacular location, but a nice and welcomed diversion from the usual rundown abandoned onsen / hotels I visited so often in my first years of urban exploration.

Since this transformer station isn’t exactly popular amongst urbexers, it was close to impossible for me to find out much about its history. It most likely was built in the late 1920s and abandoned in the 1970s, but I can’t say for sure. There were a couple of documents still lying around, but none of them gave any clarity…

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The Landslide Mining Apartments have been a challenge from the beginning till the end. They were difficult to locate, they were difficult to access, they were difficult to document and they were difficult to write about!

I remember how fascinated I was when I first saw those two massive concrete yet delapidated buildings on a Japanese blog years ago… and how I assumed that they would become the next Japanese urbex sensation. Most of the modern ruins in Japan have been abandoned in the past 20 years or so, but the Landslide Mining Apartments clearly had a longer history. Much like the incredible *Matsuo Mine Apartment Buildings* the LMAs were built after World War 2 and abandoned in the late 1960s, but unlike their famous counterparts, the Landslide Mining Apartments fell into obscurity during abandonment. And that’s where they still are, which is good for them… and good for the safety of countless potential visitors that would otherwise risk their necks going there. Japanese blogs usually name their articles after the original mine’s name, despite there’s close to nothing of it left – and most likely because they visited before the buildings’ current signature feature rolled through: a huge landslide that damaged several apartments; some more, some less, some not at all.
So, is it smart to visit abandoned concrete apartment buildings from the 40s or 50s that were built on a steep slope in the middle of nowhere and abandoned in the 60s, which rather recently have been hit by a landslide? Hell no! But it’s terribly interesting, at least to me… :)

Like I said, the Landslide Mining Apartments were rather difficult to locate. Most of the time I had to wait for months to receive another part of the puzzle, for example a prefecture name or a photo of the surroundings, but after a while I was able to piece everything together. Or so I thought. Since the LMAs are located in a very countryside area rather well-known for its tea, the GoogleMaps satellite view turned out to be a massive greenish / slightly brownish blur, countless narrow streets leading up and down the mountains – one wrong turn and you are lost forever. Luckily I spent another 30 minutes to figure out details before heading over there, because it turned out that my first pin-down was a couple of hundred meters off; too much in a mountainous area for buildings that can’t be seen from regular streets.

When I first saw the Landslide Mining Apartments with my own eyes I was heading towards one of those tea fields, probably not an abandoned one – and my heart sank a bit when I realized that there was no way I could climb the slope as it was completely overgrown. And by that I mean COMPLETELY overgrown. In March. Crazy! But if there was a way to get to the lower end of the buildings… maybe there was one to get to the upper end… somehow. After trying several roads and paths, ending up too high / too low / too far north / too far south, the buildings finally came into reach. Well, the northern building (in the background of the first photo, since my safe return the wallpaper of my computer) came into reach, the southern one appeared to be protected by nature from all sides. And even Building 1 (yes, they were numbered…) was difficult to access as you know from the introduction. There were no steps leading down, but I spotted a partly overgrown path leading from where I assumed the entrance was to… pretty much nowhere. A fainting rut in the slope indicated where previous explorers made their way down there, so I followed their example, reaching another area with thick vegetation. Only a few meters away from the upper staircase (each building had two, with apartments on each of the four floors IIRC) I just pushed for it and finally made it through – realizing that I forgot my tripod in the car…

… which was one of the reasons why I had some difficulties documenting the Landslide Mining Apartments. A lot of the rooms were actually not exactly well-lit in the afternoon, since the windows faced north and south, while the sun was setting in the west, disappearing way too fast behind a mountain. Even from below at the tea plantation it was pretty obvious that the LMAs would be a rather dangerous exploration, given their age and the condition the buildings were in, but I didn’t even have to go to a second apartment to see how risky maneuvering within the building would be as it was filled up to the ceiling with earth and debris – not too long ago a landslide must have hit Building 1, damaging some of the apartments. And most of the other ones weren’t exactly in great condition either. Mold and moss made the tatami and wood floors a lot more instable as they appear to be in perfect condition… and even the concrete didn’t look like I wanted to trust it with my life. And so the exploration turned out to be breathtaking in many ways, but also because there were quite a few items of daily life left behind. Games, clothing items, a toilet brush, alcohol bottles, newspapers, and the obligatory porn stash; this time a loose-leaf collection spread over a living room floor and a kitchen.

So why did I have a difficult time writing about the Landslide Mining Apartments? Well, mainly because I tremendously enjoyed the location. With all the difficulties on the way I felt that I really earned this exploration, which turned out to be an amazing place full of little surprises. The LMAs were far from being beautiful in a way most people would agree on, but their rough charm totally appealed to me. Despite being typically Japanese inside, wooden floors and tatami mats, the buildings oozed a goozebumpy Nineteen-Eighty-Four-esque atmosphere. It’s the kind of place I could stay at for hours without taking a photo, just enjoying its vibe and letting my thoughts getting carried away. And that is great at the time, but it also adds incredibly to the pressure whenever I write about one of those outstanding places… like in this case. Even now, more than 1000 words into the article, I am not sure if I was able to do the Landslide Mining Apartments justice… but I really hope I did!

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Abandoned schools are the latest hot urbex trend in Japan – it seems like they pop up everywhere. I assume the main reason for that is the fact that endless lists of closed schools appeared on the (Japanese speaking) internet and really dedicated urban explorers check them out one by one, despite that only a few of them are really abandoned. The vast majority of those closed schools are literally just closed, not abandoned – some still have electricity and active alarm systems, others are at least maintained by the local community, which includes proper gardening. But urbex being one big grey area, new so-called “abandoned schools” appear on Japanese blogs almost on a weekly basis, despite them being locked, boarded-up or even guarded – sooner or later I will write a small special about countless disappointing trips to those outside photos only schools, but today I’ll present you one of my favorite abandoned schools. One that I haven’t seen on any Japanese *haikyo* blogs yet, so the indoor photos at the end of the article might be the first ones ever published! (After you’ve seen what happened to the *Shipyard Germersheim* I hope you understand why I use a… descriptive… name and keep the prefecture / people I went with a secret – please respect this decision by not asking me any questions about the school’s location.)

The Landslide School being a really fameless abandoned place, it was one of those rare locations nowadays that felt like a real exploration. If you go to famous sites like *Gunkanjima* or *Nara Dreamland* you know exactly what to expect as they have been photographed to death. Walking up to the Landslide School though was an adventure by itself as I didn’t even know if it would be one of those locked-up ones… or if I would find a way in. Well, obviously I did, and much like the rather popular *Shizuoka Countryside School* the obscure Landslide School was in amazing condition. It was located on a small slope and its “hallway and two rooms” upper part was connected to the lower main area by a concrete staircase as one solid wooden building. I am time and again amazed how old Japanese school became part of the original landscape, while modern Japanese schools all look the same, as if they were designed by one single architect and just adjusted for size.
The Landslide School was a stunningly beautiful wooden complex, but that wasn’t the only reason why this location stood out. There was also the name-giving landslide that severely damaged the upper part of the school, more precisely what once must have been an auditorium. While the debris was stopped by a wall, the mud flew through both rooms and the hallway – dried at the time of my visit, it gave the area a very unique look. By now I’ve seen more than my share of abandoned buildings, but I’ve never seen anything quite like that… and I doubt that I ever will again. (The landslide obviously happened after the school was closed in the late 1980s, otherwise somebody would have cleaned up the mess… though there were a few signs that the lower part was still used as a storage.) Despite the massive damage, the school was filled with countless interesting old items: overhead projectors, Kawai pianos, record players, newspapers, speakers, a butterfly collection, rock / mineral collections, old photos, globes, books, magazines, … I felt like a kid in a candy store, moving from one “exhibit” to the next. The main attraction though was the science corner in one of the lower area rooms. There I not only found a (severely damaged) taxidermy turtle filled with what appeared to be wood chips, there was also a glass tube with some preserved parasites and a smaller glass with a chicklet running low on liquid. Oh, and I almost forgot Mr. Innards, the partly dismantled and slightly faded model of the human body! Since I usually don’t move stuff around, it was pretty tough to get proper photos of everything due to lighting problems and the lack of space, but it was totally worth it. What an amazing find, so full of surprises and unique items!

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Urban exploration is dangerous, even more so if you are a hedgehog. For humans it can be frustrating in addition, especially in Germany, where vandalism is on the rise…

Three years ago, when I was visiting family and friends back home, I did my first solo exploration in Germany, the *Shipyard Germersheim*; you can read all about the location’s history and how much I enjoyed my first visit in the previous article. It was 9 years after the shipyard closed, two years after it was used as a location for a famous German TV show and about 4 months after a geocache was hidden. The back had been taken over by a car sales and repair company, the front was abandoned and in rather good condition – so much for the situation in 2011.
In the past three years since my first visit several contradictive rumors had popped up. Some said that the shipyard had been demolished to use the prime property for high-class apartment buildings, others claimed that the area had been taken over by a boat retailer and repair shop. Sadly none of it turned out to be true when I revisited the shipyard with my sister Sabine less than four weeks ago. Instead the area had been trashed by vandals…
I had a bad feeling when we approached the shipyard from the back, after I realized that the car shop was gone. During my first visit I was kind of disappointed that I wasn’t able to explore the whole area, but I guess in the end it was a blessing in disguise as the business kept the vandals away. We followed the road and turned left, to the main entrance of the shipyard. This time the big gate was open, but the access to the river in the back, where I spotted some anglers and geocachers last time, was blocked by a padlocked gate. The main building showed signs of massive amounts of vandalism. Pretty much every window was broken – and when we headed to the main entrance, we saw that not only the safety glass doors were smashed, but that somebody stole the huge metal SG emblem above the entrance. Last time I lay on the ground to take a picture of the entrance, but sadly it was impossible to recreate the photo as there were glass shards all over the place.

We decided to have a closer look at the manufacturing buildings first. Most of them were locked last time, but this time they were cracked wide open – three years ago broom-clean, this time covered by trash; bad graffiti everywhere. Not good stuff like at the *La Rainbow Hotel & Tower*, but really bad scribbling you can find all over the place in Germany at abandoned places, along train tracks, under bridges… and pretty much everywhere else where those cowards can do damage with low risk of being seen or heard. Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge fan of high-class graffiti art, but why anybody would want to deface their own surrounding is beyond me!
On the way to the back, Sabine and I saw a hedgehog in some kind of uncovered manhole. It was a very hot and humid day, so we assumed that the little fella was probably dead already. Luckily we had a second look after we came back from the waterfront with its crane, empty halls and an empty circus trailer – the hedgehog was in a different corner, so he definitely was alive. Neither of us was eager to rescue the spiny guy with bare hands, so my Sabine climbed into the waist-deep hole and I found a former speed sign lying on the ground; we were able to shove the hedgehog on the sign with a slat. I named it Gianluigi and carried him to a place in the shadow far away from the manhole, but little Gian looked pretty much dead already on this hot and humid summer day. Luckily we brought some water with us, so Sabine created a little puddle right in front of Gian’s face and we continued to the main building.
During my first visit the building was empty, but almost untouched – only the big safe on the top floor had been toppled and natural decay started to set in with an unfortunate amount of mold. This time there was scratchwork all over the place, window were broken; some idiots even started to tear down a wall. If they would put all this crazy amount of energy into positive things, the world would be a much better place! Instead the Shipyard Germersheim went from an interesting exploration to a shithole (pardon my French!) in less than three years… To see how much damage was really done, I recommend watching both videos; the one from this article and the second one from my first visit. It’s a shame how vandalism can ruin the atmosphere of a location completely!
But to end on a positive note, let me give you a final update on Gianluigi – he was gone even before we left the office building. Sabine checked on him from the second floor and found the speed sign empty. I guess he found himself an even cooler spot and something to eat…

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