Skrunda-1 is the site of a Soviet closed city that was attached to two Soviet ‘Dnepr’ (NATO: Hen House) Radar installations. The town housed all associated staff and their families, and was abandoned a few years after Latvian independence. Part of the 1994 deal for the Russians leaving, was that the Dnepr Radars would be destroyed and leveled. Only the town remains today.
As with almost any Soviet site in the Baltic, you end up on some interesting concrete slab roads, as soon as you get near to the base, often hidden in the forest. A sure sign something good is up ahead!
The direct way in from our approach was blocked with a huge ditch, and some people had parked cars around this entrance.
We continued along an old ring road that became very, very overgrown, it was clear no cars could enter and that people rarely walked there. We left our packed bikes and gear behind there so we could explore on foot. It’s always a bit worrying to leave an expensive bike and bags packed with gear behind, but this was as good as it would get.
The first thing we encountered was a semi-underground guard bunker, with a few old Soviet gasmasks lying around, like the ones Timmy would later try on in Lithuania. This was pretty exciting already: not a single site I’ve been to so far has had this kind of stuff lying around, actual relics and objects from back in the days. Inside the damp, dark bunker there was a whole stack of these even!
We came in from the more industrial side of town, with garages and workshops for vehicles.
Just walking around in the first section felt surreal. Crumbling white brick buildings as far as the eye could see. This place was absolutely massive. I think this is the closest I’ve seen something to an actual videogame level, made me think it would be an amazing place for airsoft or paintball.
In another building, what seemed like a bathouse and clothes workshop, we found crates with old uniforms as well as shoe soles. The uniforms had buttons with the hammer & sickle on them, very cool stuff.
In the old cafeteria building we came across the remnants of an industrial kitchen. Old Cyrillic instruction placards gave a glimpse of how it once was.
There must have been a large contingency of guards here, and they were housed in these barracks. From the second floor up we even came across the old weapon lockers. Me and Timmy agreed the coolest thing ever would be finding gun parts, but alas, those were all long gone!
The variation in buildings was pretty big too, sometimes we had a hard time telling what it was, this one was probably a sporting hall or similar.
We came across at least two buildings that both seemed hospitals. Most of them didn’t contain much anymore, though there were just enough small clues to their purpose in the past.
Eventually we came by what seemed like the main entrance, with a dozen cars parked there. Latvians apparently like making a little excursion to this place. I ran into a drunk Latvian who asked me what this place was, and I, as a foreign tourist, gave him the backstory. How nerdy of me.
Even more bizarre was the Latvian family that was tossing stones and sticks through windows. The mother was encouraging her sons all the way, cheering when a lot of glass broke. Some kind of family-trips these Latvians go on…
We’d spent a while there already and still had not gotten close to the appartment blocks yet, definitely the most imposing buildings in the whole city. Walking between these is probably the closest you can get to visiting Pripyat, Chernobyl, but then without the radiation and having to book a guided tour!
Scenes like this also kept reminding me of Pripyat, which also has an abandoned theatre.
Inside the theater we found this image of an old acquaintance. Seeing this in the flesh always gets to me; it’s the most vivid, most clear representation of the Soviet Union there is, something people my age only know from books, movies and videogames.
We then started to explore some of the flats. This really was Timmy’s favorite part; he just couldn’t get enough of the small daily life details, like the stickers some kid collected on his bedroom door, or the piece of film we found in the hallway.
Timmy said he would’ve wanted to check out every single appartment. Since there are about 60 flats per building, and about 15 buildings or more, we didn’t really have the time for that. I ran out of water in my Camelbak and felt like I’d seen this kind of Soviet appartment quite a few times already. I prefer walking between them outside, instead of digging through each one hoping for some interesting thing.
While waiting for Timmy in some hallway, I noticed these scribblings on the wall. It was funny to recognize these band names of what used to be the coolest music there was for teenagers back in the 90’s. This must’ve been scribbled down by some kid not long after the buildings were abandoned, the same year even perhaps.
It made me realize how well preserved this place is considering it’s been getting visitors for 17 years by now!