Reminders of the Cold War

If you like to take a holiday on the edge, and add a little thrill or two to your itinerary, then why not stay, eat and drink, dance and sleep in Cold War Shelters and Rocket Bases in Lithuania?

Vilnius in Love, a tour company specializing in unique and personalized excursions across Lithuania, invites visitors to the forgotten Northern European shelters from the Soviet era.

During the Cold War, nearly 1000 elaborate bunkers and air raid shelters were built across Lithuania, officially designated for population protection up until 2009. The majority of bunker locations were unknown to the general population, a guarded secret of the special Soviet forces.

Once the Cold War ended and the nuclear power reactor was shut down in Ignalina Power Station (condition to join the EU), nuclear blast threats became minimal, prompting bunker irrelevancy.

Here are some  of the bunkers people can visit:

Stay at a boutique hotel/airbnb rental, built in a repurposed air raid shelter. It even features a SPA, game room and VIP suite.

One of the most unique bars in Vilnius - Alaus Namai - is a former bunker that has been repurposed, and now serves unique traditional Lithuanian brews. It’s one of the stops on the famous Lithuanian beer tasting tour.

Club Cuba is a dance club in the northern part of Vilnius, located in a former bunker. The club features many unique details - such as authentic doors to the secret hiding room and air filters - that have been integrated into the current decor.

 

A Soviet nuclear missile base in PlokštinÄ— (part of Samogitian National Park) offers a rare opportunity to enter the shafts where Cold War nuclear missiles used to stand ready to be launched any minute.

Once top-secret and still reachable only by a gravel road through a forest, this underground military installation was dug by soldiers using only shovels. A multi-story complex is barely visible from the outside and can be visited only together with a guide (hourly tours).

Inside the bunkers, the world's first Cold War museum has been established in 2010. It combines authentic machinery and propaganda posters with new dioramas, plans, and screens with period sights and sounds.

The most impressive part of the visit will be a 27 metres deep nuclear missile shaft, still in a remarkably good condition. Had the World history taken a grimmer path and the Cold War turned "hot", the missiles based here would have wreaked havoc in the United Kingdom. Other visitable rooms include nuclear storage, generator room, command room.

Each of the four missile shafts is covered by a massive metal/concrete lid (right image) which could have been quickly moved aside on rails. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

Fortunately, the Soviet Union collapsed and the PlokštinÄ— bunkers remained devoid of weapons of mass destruction and soldiers. In fact, these installations were abandoned much earlier because the Western intelligence learned about their existence.

Less fortunately, the post-abandonment neglect meant that thieves broke into the bunkers to steal metal. As a result of their actions the other 3 missile shafts are damaged or flooded. However, the young Lithuanian state was quick to understand the importance of PlokštinÄ— missile base and much of it was saved for future generations. It is the easiest to reach the site by car.

If mere visits to Soviet bunkers are not enough to stir your imagination, there is also a possibility to time-travel to USSR and experience KGB-style interrogation in a bunker outside of Vilnius that hosts interactive experiences, called Survival Drama. Participants will be treated as citizens of a totalitarian state - they will be met by guards with dogs, interrogated, taken through a maze - and finally, served Soviet-style dinner.

One of the most impressive bunkers, which is now a museum, is located in Kaunas.  It was built under a factory, and is now called the “KGB Bunker”. The museum offers a large collection of KGB spy technology that surprisingly still works today. You can visit it independently, or join an excursion.

Those looking to dig deeper into Cold War relicts, can visit a ballistic missile silo and rocket launch base that was equipped to destroy all Europe. The rocket base is located in the Zemaitija National Park, as a part of the Cold War Museum.

In Samogitian National Park, almost all life here circles around the Plateliai lake. It’s the deepest, largest and most awe-inspiring lake in Samogitia, together with its islands, peninsulas, bays, surrounded by stunning string of hills and dense forests. 

More details.....

Visiting bunkers in Lithuania would certainly be a unique experience, and a number of excursions can also integrate visits to other local attractions. To find out more about Soviet heritage tours in Lithuania, please visit Vilnius in Love.

 

 

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