Yesterday’s landing, deboarding, and departure from the Madeira airport were all pretty much the same as the many other airports I’ve been to in my life. But things were about to change in a surprising way.

Today, while driving a rental car, the expressway I was on went below what at first seemed to be a huge highway, supported by an uncountable number of columns. The sight was already impressive, but when I reached the other side and looked in the rearview mirror, I was astonished by what I had just noticed. I had driven below the airport runway.

But that’s not all.

The underpass had many public spaces, such as sports courts, a skate park, a spacious parking lot, restaurants and even a boatyard. Yes, boatyard. Of course, I had to come back at the end of the day to check it all out.

My photos are incapable of accurately depicting the size of the space. It is impressive. According to Wikipedia, there are 180 columns. And in one of Tom Scott’s videos, I learned that they are 50 meters tall, which is another crazy number when we remember that planes are landing and departing from the “roof” above.

His video also explains the reason for the airport’s location. In his words, Madeira is one huge mountain just sticking out of the Atlantic Ocean. And I can confirm that after spending the day going through dozens of the over 150 tunes on the island. It’s hard to imagine something like this, but you can’t drive for more than a few minutes before you come across a new tunnel.

In other words, this was the only place flat enough to build the first runway, which, by the way, was shorter. When the island began to attract more tourists and the planes became larger, it was extended with a platform over the columns, since a landfill was not feasible.

I had a lot of fun geeking out below the airport, and thinking about humankind’s ingenuity, which never fails to impress me. However, this is an amazing island with remarkable sights that humans will never be able to build. Some of them have already blown me away, but there’s still so much to discover.

Have a lovely week, Vlad.

Also published on Medium