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3 June 2017 / leggypeggy

Exploring a ghost town in Latvia

Skrunda-1, Latvia

We’ve had a car for almost two weeks to drive around Latvia, Lithuania ad Estonia. Everywhere we have gone, we’ve asked about places to visit—places that aren’t on the main tourist track.

The abandoned military town outside Skrunda in Latvia was recommended by many.

The last person we asked about it said, You can’t miss it. It’s about seven kilometres north of town and there are signs to it on the left.

Of course, we managed to miss it, but soon figured out that we needed to turn back to where we had seen three tiny signs (about the size of a sheet of note paper).

Skrunda-1 is the most complete example of an abandoned communist-era security city in Latvia today, and it’s possible to roam around it.

After almost 20 years of lying idle, Skrunda-1 has entered a new phase. In 2015, the Latvian government paid €12,000 to a private company to buy it back, and return half of it to military use. The rest is used for tourism and other leases.

We rolled up on a Sunday morning. The ticket office looked as abandoned as the town, but a young lass was there to take our 4 euros each (no senior price) so we could explore. She handed us a map and warned us to not to take photos of or get in the way of the military exercises (apparently they use blanks) being carried out.

We saw one military truck with three masked soldiers, but otherwise we had the town to ourselves.

I read that Skrunda-1 was one of more than 40 secret settlements built by the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Each was given a code-name—a number and the name of a local town—and together they formed the technical foundations of the Soviet armed forces.

Skrunda-1 covers 100 acres and was home to underground bunker networks, factories, cold war radars and a prison. Up to 5000 people lived there at one time, and the town also includes dilapidated apartment blocks, hotels, a supermarket, a gymnasium, a hospital, officers’ and soldiers’ messes, and even a nightclub.

The last residents moved away in 1999 but artefacts of Skrunda-1’s previous life are still evident, giving it an eerie ghost town presence. Of course, the trees growing out of the tops of many buildings add to the sense of decay. We spent about an hour checking out the weirdness before heading on to our next stop.

I haven’t added captions (although descriptive tags have been added in the background). It really doesn’t matter which building you’re looking at. It’s all ghost town.

Skrunda-1, Latvia, prison

Skrunda-1, Latvia, old roof

81 Comments

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  1. beetleypete / Jun 3 2017 10:52 pm

    An interesting legacy of the Cold War indeed, Peggy. I can see why you were attracted to visit.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Jun 3 2017 10:54 pm

      We really should have gone inside more of the buildings, but they looked so derelict that we were sensibly hesitant.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. New England Nomad / Jun 3 2017 10:55 pm

    Cool but creepy!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. ralietravels / Jun 3 2017 10:55 pm

    It is always interesting how quickly nature takes over abandoned property.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Vicki / Jun 3 2017 11:09 pm

    I think your photos tell it all 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Jun 4 2017 4:46 am

      They had posted a few photos from when it was operating. They looked depressed too.

      Like

  5. blondieaka / Jun 3 2017 11:10 pm

    Back to nature so quickly and it makes them all the more poignant. Sad but true.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Almost Iowa / Jun 3 2017 11:26 pm

    Very depressing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Jun 4 2017 5:03 am

      Yes, depressing in a way, but at least it’s not a secret outpost anymore.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. pvcann / Jun 4 2017 12:15 am

    I love ghost towns. But I also feel a sadness. Then again I also want the stories of those who were there.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Jun 4 2017 5:04 am

      I haven’t found any stories about those who lived there, but it would be weird to be among the last.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Robert Parker Teel / Jun 4 2017 12:51 am

    Interesting and a bit creepy. We have an abandoned army depot in my county, covering 1,000’s of acres, some of it looking a bit like this. It’s good to see nature take root and reduce it to rubble

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Jun 4 2017 6:26 am

      Yes, nature is good at recovering what’s hers. Interesting that you have an abandoned depot near you. Where is that—Seneca County in New York?

      Like

      • Robert Parker Teel / Jun 4 2017 8:45 am

        Yes, it was built during WWII, and reactivated for Korea, Vietnam, etc. and closed in 2000. Housing, tennis courts, lots of warehouses for ammo, etc. and concrete “igloos” for nuclear artillery shells. It was, I think the only depot where the Army had its own airstrip, big enough to land a C-130. One interesting thing: when the fence went up in 1941 to enclose it, a lot of the land continued to be fields & woods, some used to test ammo, etc. A herd of deer was trapped inside the fence and is still there —
        some of them are pure white (a recessive trait, not albino) and very beautiful to see at dusk.
        Very near was a huge naval and air force training base, which has now almost completely been erased, and is being converted into a state park and veteran’s cemetery. The brig is still standing and is used as a little museum. My sister and I learned to drive there, on all the little overgrown roads.

        Liked by 2 people

      • leggypeggy / Jun 4 2017 4:14 pm

        Thanks for all that explanation. I especially like your comments about the deer, and that you and your sister learned to drive on the old base. I’m surprised they haven’t made an escape route for the deer.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Robert Parker Teel / Jun 4 2017 11:03 pm

        The county is now leasing the land and warehouses, and the largest “renter” has promised to keep some land undeveloped, as a deer preserve, if they’re released, the hunters will make short work of any pure white deer.

        Liked by 1 person

      • leggypeggy / Jun 5 2017 5:06 am

        Yes, of course, the deer would be history in their new ‘outside world’. Best they stay where they are.

        Like

  9. jeanettev2014 / Jun 4 2017 1:25 am

    How interesting, thank you. I have never forgotten Cyprus & how it looked. I was taken into the area by the UN. A place I was not allowed.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Jun 4 2017 5:04 am

      Oh wow, I have never been to Cyprus, but I’m sure it is fascinating.

      Like

  10. Sharon Bonin-Pratt / Jun 4 2017 1:58 am

    You can’t help but wonder about the families that once lived here. Interesting that you were warned not to take pics of military. A poignant photo essay.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Jun 4 2017 5:06 am

      Oh yes, to think of the families who lived in Skrunda-1. There must have been all ages with various schools. Many countries warn against photographing the military, the police and, for some weird reason, bridges.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Sharon Bonin-Pratt / Jun 4 2017 10:58 am

        Tactical reasons? Think of what just happened in London – my heart is aching.

        Liked by 1 person

      • leggypeggy / Jun 4 2017 4:06 pm

        Probably tactical reasons from long before the digital age when GPS knows the location of almost everything. My heart aches for London too.

        Like

  11. mopana / Jun 4 2017 2:08 am

    Wow! This is fabulous, my friend. I love to explore ruins. I would have liked to be there with you.
    Mo-hugs ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Sarah @betweenthepages / Jun 4 2017 3:15 am

    Wow this is really cool! Lithuania; reminds me of Between Shades of Gray! (that might sound like a pretty lame reference if you haven’t read that book hehe)

    Liked by 1 person

  13. spearfruit / Jun 4 2017 4:21 am

    Very cool, I like it! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  14. kunstkitchen / Jun 4 2017 6:25 am

    Fascinating information on the past cold war history of the place. Spooky.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Miriam / Jun 4 2017 8:13 am

    Yes, it does look weirdly fascinating.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Dorothy / Jun 4 2017 8:49 am

    How strange to go to the expense of building all that then leaving it to go to ruin. At least if the military use it again they will probably blow up the derelict buildings as practise. Governments are quite careless what they spend taxpayers money on.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Jun 4 2017 3:45 pm

      The USSR spent a lot of money keeping tabs on people and events during the Cold War. So did other countries.

      Like

  17. The Year I Touched My Toes / Jun 4 2017 9:47 am

    Yes it looks depressing but looks and sounds like it would have been depressing with people in it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Jun 4 2017 3:47 pm

      I’m sure it was. I remember the Cold War from my childhood, when we used to have safety drills that included hiding under our school desks. I know people who built bomb shelters under their houses and businesses. We can only hope such times never return.

      Like

  18. kkessler833 / Jun 4 2017 10:32 am

    Looks like a fascinating place to visit!

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Yvonne / Jun 4 2017 1:17 pm

    Oh, boy, just the kind of place I would like to explore.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. magarisa / Jun 4 2017 1:59 pm

    Fascinating! It reminds me of a ghost town we visited in Estonia (close to the Russian border) a few years ago.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Jun 4 2017 3:49 pm

      Oh gosh, I wished we’d known about that. We could have gone there with the car.

      Liked by 1 person

  21. Green Global Trek / Jun 4 2017 6:00 pm

    Fascinating. Ghost towns are so every such a strange energy for sure.

    Peta

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Jun 5 2017 4:46 am

      Great way of putting it—a strange energy for sure.

      Like

  22. Andrew Petcher / Jun 4 2017 7:57 pm

    Fascinating – I love that chair picture!

    Liked by 1 person

  23. weggieboy / Jun 4 2017 10:44 pm

    Curious place. I remember how depressed East German towns looked when I travelled to military jobs when I was in the US Army, and these have that same “put something up and hope it doesn’t fall down too soon” look of buildings put up without concern for aesthetics. Form follows function?

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Jun 5 2017 4:52 am

      A lot of the communal housing in built in the then Soviet countries is blocky, lacklustre and utilitarian. The main plus back then was that homelessness was limited. Today the structures are still there—crumbling and referred to as Breshnev flats.

      Like

  24. lexklein / Jun 5 2017 12:13 am

    The thing I find creepiest about abandoned places is the way nature seeks to reclaim its space. These are not too bad yet … and maybe I LIKE the fact that the greenery is trying to reestablish itself, but here’s something about trees growing out of roofs, etc, that makes me feel sad and a little spooked.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Jun 5 2017 4:54 am

      Yeah, I get the sad and spooky feeling. Trees growing on rooftops are certainly nature’s way of saying ‘I’m winning’.

      Liked by 1 person

  25. jeanettev2014 / Jun 5 2017 1:58 am

    From Canada Cyprus is 17 hours by plane with a overnight in Germany. I was a VIP with the Army so was offered things that others did not get. My job was to work in the refugee camp in Lebanon. I had so many injections to go & my arms looked like a horse’s leg. So my time in Lebanon came to an end & the Army pays for me to fly to Cyprus. I take a co-worker with me Anne. She has been selling her blood for 15 US a pint. She is not looking good. I sent my parents snail mail asking for a bank transfer of $300. I rented a lovely place at a family owned. You could have eaten off the floors. Rented a boat to sail around in the day off the harbor. Then one day Ann is not well & hungry. She is crying & I sat her down at the UN fence. I went to the man in charge of that, who decides who gets in. I told him who we were, he asked for passports which I produced & he went to talk to someone. They were so nice to us, such gentlemen. The Chef would make us what ever we wanted. I was given calls home by satellite. They would allow me to use for no more then 2 minutes to call about 2.30 am because it was against the rules. So that is how I managed to see Cyprus in the area that no one but the UN is allowed. I can’t express enough how magnificent it was to see. There were mansions. 2 stories home & the gardens must have been lovely. The ivy covered everything & trees grew out of the roof. Everything was fenced off. It is sad that due to religion this has happened.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Jun 5 2017 4:57 am

      What a remarkable experience, Jeanette. Thanks so much for sharing it here. Obviously, your no-nonsense but courteous action opened those doors for you.

      Liked by 1 person

  26. Phil Huston / Jun 6 2017 1:04 am

    The chair picture is priceless. Every summer my father used to make us drive through out of the way middle of nowhere ghost towns in New Mexico and Colorado. With interstate highways it’s not as easy as it once was but the lure of something that once was is still strong. Here’s your new coffee table book. Soviet Architecture; From minarets to cinder blocks in fifty years.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Jun 6 2017 2:18 am

      Great title Phil. Now I need to go back and take more pics. P.S. I thought the chair sort of said it all.

      Like

  27. christie jones / Jun 7 2017 9:16 am

    Interesting experience.. Even though abandoned, I guess it is not hard to imagine the life in a city from the communist-era, right?.. It is pretty much all forgotten, but some still remember those horrible times..

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Jun 7 2017 6:34 pm

      I imagine that many remember those times. The Baltic States regained their independence in the early 1990s, so not that long ago.

      Liked by 1 person

  28. jeanleesworld / Jun 10 2017 12:22 pm

    This reminds of me of the town abandoned due to the nuclear fallout in Chernobyl. There’s something strange about this kind of remnant….almost like the Disney film WALL-E, which has scared my daughter because I told her that yes, our world could look like that if people don’t love their world…

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Jun 10 2017 3:45 pm

      Oh wow, I hadn’t heard of the film, WALL-E. Will need to check it out. And yes,, we need to love our world, more now than ever before.

      Liked by 1 person

      • jeanleesworld / Jun 10 2017 9:17 pm

        Please do! I don’t often recommend Disney/Pixar films, but WALL-E really struck a chord with my kids. It’s also makes for some brilliantly searing commentary of American society. 😉

        Liked by 1 person

      • leggypeggy / Jun 11 2017 5:08 am

        It’s been added to the list.

        Like

  29. leggypeggy / Jun 10 2017 3:45 pm

    Oh wow, I hadn’t heard of the film, WALL-E. Will need to check it out. And yes,, we need to love our world, more now than ever before.

    Like

  30. milliethom / Jun 11 2017 6:57 am

    What an interesting place, though it doesn’t sound like the easiest place to find, even with directions! The appearance of decay does make it seem a bit eerie. There must be so much history buried in those crumbling walls. Interesting that half the site is being returned to military use. Great photos, Peggy.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Jun 12 2017 5:19 am

      Thanks Millie. It was hard to find because the signs were so small. I guess it stands to reason it’s well off the road. Fascinating stop for us and glad to share it.

      Like

  31. eths / Jun 21 2017 12:19 pm

    For some unknown reason, I stopped getting notices of your adventures. Now I am enjoying catch-up time!

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Jun 21 2017 2:33 pm

      Thanks. WordPress has been doing some funny things lately.

      Like

  32. Forestwoodfolk / Aug 9 2017 6:01 pm

    It has a creepy desolate feeling!

    Liked by 1 person

  33. Pooja Thapliyal / Aug 10 2017 11:08 pm

    And why this town was abandoned ?

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Aug 11 2017 12:27 pm

      When the USSR broke up, the Russians left this place and went home.

      Like

  34. Ilze / Aug 16 2017 4:50 pm

    For me, such places in Latvia are disgusting. They remind me of USSR and that wasn’t a time when I can speak or sing what I want. All these military houses / rocket / bunkers/ locators etc. SAD! How one nation can take over other… amazing!

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Aug 16 2017 9:48 pm

      You have added such a great comment Ilze. It’s shocking that Skrunda was ever there, and so good to know that it is gone.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ilze / Aug 16 2017 10:22 pm

        I’m sorry for adding my emotions, but those where hard time and Skrunda isn’t the only one. Loads of bunkers and locators where all around. I had to walk near one almost every day. It was scary for me as a kid.

        Liked by 1 person

      • leggypeggy / Aug 16 2017 10:26 pm

        Oh my Ilze, don’t be sorry about adding your emotions. You are one of my followers who lived through this. Skunda is one of many bunker places, and I am so glad they are no more.

        Like

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