In his compelling and insightful new book, HIDDEN CITIES: Travels to the Secret Corners of the World’s Great Metropolises; A Memoir of Urban Exploration, author Moses Gates lets readers join him on his travels and reveals the wonders—some off limits and some accessible to those willing to put in a little effort—that you won’t find in a typical guidebook, like the heights of NYC’s greatest suspension bridges and the depths of the abandoned but architecturally remarkable City Hall station; a forgotten limestone quarry under Odessa, former home to the city’s WWII Partisan fighters; and an abandoned coffee baron’s mansion in Sao Paulo and numerous rooftops where you can get free views of the sprawling city… to name a few.
For a taste of what his adventures are like, Gates takes Opie, of the Opie and Anthony Show, on a journey into the cavernous spire of the Chrysler building.
You can also check out this amazing book trailer that features much more amazing footage of Gates’ adventures.
Below is an exclusive interview with the author:
How did you initially get into urban exploring?
I’m an Urban Planner. I love cities, and I especially love big, complicated cities. I want to see what makes them tick, and I want to see that for myself. I moved to New York in the summer of 2001, and on a whim went up to the Observation Deck of the World Trade Center. I thought I’d have the rest of my life to see everything I wanted to see in the city. That September, I really learned that that time to see what you want to see is finite and unknown. Everyone in New York eventually experiences that moment of something important to them or loved by them in the city vanishing in some way or another, but my first reminder came very quick and very starkly. That’s really what drove me to start taking more risks and putting more energy into seeing and discovering New York for myself.
What do you think the appeal is of visiting off-limits places – i.e., what drives urban explorers to stretch the boundaries of travel again and again?
What I really noticed over the years is that everybody has different motivations. Some people are looking at it from an artistic or photographic perspective, other people are looking for adventure, other people just seem to have a visceral connection with some of these kinds of places. For me, it’s simple curiosity about something I love: cities. Everyone understands wanting to fulfill curiosity, even if they don’t necessarily agree about the subject of the curiosity, or lengths and risks one will go to fulfill it.
“What’s the appeal of this?” is actually never a question I’ve ever been asked in real life– the same way nobody really every asks a mountaineer, or sailor, or any other person who likes interacting with nature,e “what’s the appeal of this?” Everyone understands the appeal intuitively – people like to interact with the world around them, and they like to do it on their own terms.
What are the top three most exhilarating destinations that you’ve visited?
I’d have to say the Eagles on the Chrysler Building is one. They’re just so beautiful and iconic, and being alone with just them and the view is incredible.
I love climbing bridges, and there’s so many great ones, but I think the Firth of Forth Rail Bridge in Scotland, might be my favorite. It’s a unique structure, a triple cantilever that’s a giant beastly web of iron, 123 years old. I traversed it over the top from north to south once – great fun.
The Catacombs of Paris will always have an outsized spot in my heart. They’re the first place outside of the United States that I explored. They’re so huge – almost 200 miles of tunnels – with so much history. It’s like this complete shadow city right underneath one of the world’s most famous metropolises. I always go when I’m in Paris- I can’t imagine ever visiting not spending some time in the catas when I’m there.