Do abandoned villages intrigue you and wake up the Sherlock Holmes inside you? Then you are not going to believe this abandoned town we found in the middle of these French woods! A week into our trip through la Dordogne, we were so hooked with all the archeological sites and medieval villages that we decided to go find an adventure of our own. I tell you, once you get into prehistory you just can't get enough! It's no joke! It is not possible to view the cave paintings without feeling a strange connection with our ancestors that once stood in the same exact place thousands of years ago.
So our expectations were high, like REALLY high! Our goal was to find our own prehistoric cave with paintings and maybe have it carry our name. I know, you probably think it was a long shot but if you consider that the Dordogne region has literally hundreds of prehistoric caves and only a handful of them have been found, you quickly start to think "what if we run into an undiscovered cave while hiking deep into the forest?". We felt we had a big chance. At least that’s what we told ourselves!
We started driving up the mountains of Sarlat and the town of Les Eyzies, both places famous for their archeological sites with caves and paintings from different periods that date back to more than 25000 years ago! We drove into a small narrow passage that soon became too tight for our van so we had to leave it behind and continue on foot. Unequipped and underdressed, in we went through the vines and the poison ivy carrying only a 5D Mark III and Mariana's trusty Pentax (photos in developing process). We had a feeling we were on the right track and we had to complete our mission!
After a two hour hike into the bush and the sun going down we certainly didn’t find a cave but we found something else that blew our minds. Just when we started to give up and we were about turn around, we ran into a one street town that had been abandoned for almost 50 years!
These medieval villages can date back to the XII century and many have been left to be consumed by nature and time, turning them into mysterious sites for curious hikers and adventurous travellers to find! There is something very spooky about abandoned places. There is an overwhelming silence around you but it's as if you could almost still hear the people that used to live there. This abandoned "petite chateau" or little castle was the village mansion and it had a particularly eerie vibe to it.
When you sneak in through the broken windows you see that every tool, shoe or mug had been left in its place, revealing the sad truth that most of these villages were abandoned either because the property taxes for inherited houses was just too high to pay, or because there was no one to inherit the houses at all in the end.
There is another story to this abandoned village. We never found this undiscovered cave that we were fantasizing with but there was indeed a cave. Near the exit of the village we ran into this old sign that pointed to what once used to be an old archeological site. In 1894 Emilie Riviére discovered in his property “La Grotte de La Mouthe” or The Cave of the Mouthe. Hidden in the mountain and containing more than 200 prehistoric engravings and paintings. This discovery became the family business for many generations until the last member finally died in 1974. Today the entrance to the cave remains blocked behind a wall of stones and no one has gone inside since.
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