Excursion to the Ghost Town Skrunda-1

Would you like to see the biggest ghost town of the Baltic States once harbouring around 5000 people? But what makes it special is that is it not just a regular ghost town, but for years it had a status of a top secret closed down area that held the most novel military installations Soviet Union had to offer.

Skrunda 1 trip abandoned place

Reserve your seat now: Application form for the trip to Skrunda-1 or write: trips@hieroglifs.com

 

Photos of the abandoned kindergarten in Kopachi village after the Chernobyl disaster

The 1986 accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Pripyat, Ukraine, is the only accident in the history of commercial nuclear power to cause fatalities from radiation. There was a sudden and unexpected power surge, and when an emergency shutdown was attempted, an exponentially larger spike in power output occurred, which led to a reactor vessel rupture and a series of steam explosions, creating the worst nuclear accident in history. Continue reading: Chernobyl disaster

Chernobyl disaster kindergarden

Source: The Vintage News

Empty bottles in Soviet Union – this is the money!

As many other stores in the Soviet Union, also the store in Skrunda offered people good money for their empty glass bottles. All you had to do was to fish out of your rubbish bin at least one bottle. Preferably a beer bottle as their exchange rate was higher (20 kopecks) than the one for milk bottles (15 kopecks).

OK, so you have managed to get it and you have those 20 kopecks in your palm. What can you buy for that money? Well, back then you could get a kilo of bread or a litre of milk. Not hungry? How about 4 bus tickets for rides within city limits. Not in for sightseeing? Maybe a haircut is the way to spend that money?

If any of these options just seemed not enough, trying to find another beer bottle would increase your chances as a pair would allow you to buy a litre of petrol or see a movie at the cinema. And if you were so lucky to find 10 of them, you could afford to take out your girlfriend or boyfriend for a dinner.

If you drank a whole case of them (for Latvians its 20 bottles), you could go to a store (most likely not since you just drank 20 beers) and get a box of high-quality chocolates. However I am not sure chocolate would kill the hangover. A proper meal is always a nice option – a kilo of ham maybe? Or a tin of red caviar which unfortunately you could get only if you had the right connections.

You can’t get good deals anymore at the store in Skrunda, but you can visit it and imagine the life back then and the people who visited the place to sell and buy bottles.

Zeltiņi – the most impressive Soviet military object in Latvia

Zeltiņi – missile base is one of the most impressive Soviet military objects in Latvia, located in Northern Vidzeme. This is one of few remaining places where you can ‘’meet’’ Lenin. There you can see military buildings, missile silos and underground bunkers. Let us discover the past together. Apply: trips@hieroglifs.com

 

 

Oradour sur Glane, the martyr town

Oradour-sur-glane is a French town located in the west of the county and was completely destroyed during the Second World War by Nazi Waffen-SS. It was the biggest and most horrible massacre that has been committed by German army in France, with total of 642 victims and only 6 survivors (5 men and 1 woman).

Nowadays only a patch of ruins remain of the town; nobody lives there anymore since the massacre. The town has now been turned into a museum to remind the next generations about the horrible events that took place here in June 1944.

Early on the morning of 10 June 1944, the SS was informed that a Waffen-SS officer was being held prisoner by the French Resistance in Oradour-sur-Vayres, a small village nearby Oradour-Sur-Glane. Filled with rage and desire for revenge, the SS went to Oradour-sur-glane with orders to choose thirty people to be hostages in exchange for the officer.

However everything turned differently in the end and no orders were followed. The SS blocked the whole village without giving any explanations. Then all the people of the town was ordered to gather whether they were inhabitants or just tourists in order to check their ID. But it is clear now that this was just a ruse to kill them all. No exceptions were made this day: even the sick including a bedridden teacher had to go outside to gather with the others. A man that was just going through the town for business in another nearby village was also stopped by the soldiers. He was, of course, in no mood for a collective ID check that day and did not want to leave his bicycle unattended; the soldiers replied that he would not need the bicycle anymore. If someone was not obeying to the SS orders, this person was immediately killed in front of everyone.

The Nazis split the population in two groups: the women and children were locked in the church while the men were led to six barns and sheds, where loads of machine guns were already in place. Without saying anything, the SS began shooting the men, aiming for their legs so that they would be unable to move. The men were writhing in agony on the floor and some of them were already dead when the Nazis decided to shoot them all in the head to make sure no one would survive. Once the victims were dead, they poured fuel on them and set the barns on fire. Only five men survived this first massacre.

The SS men then went to the church and placed an incendiary device inside it. The church began to be filled with thick smoke, making the air unbreathable. Women and children were agonizing on the ground, everyone tried to escape through the doors and windows, but met the fire of the SS-men. Only one woman was able to escape from this dreadful massacre: Mme Rouffanche who inexplicably was able to reach the end window right behind the altar and squeeze through with bullets trying to catch her in her escape.

“When I looked up I saw I had been followed in my climb by a woman holding out her baby to me. She fell down next to me but the Germans, alerted by the cries of the baby, machine-gunned us. The woman and the mite were killed and I too was injured as I made it to a neighbouring garden and hid among some rows of peas and waited anxiously for someone to come to help me. That wasn’t until the following day at 5 p.m.”.

village2

The French president Charles de Gaulle decided to keep the village as it was so that it could serve as a symbol of the Nazi atrocities. The State decided to build a new village not far from Oradour-Sur-Glane, but the revival was slow because of the huge traumatism left by the massacre. In 1999 they built a museum “Centre de la mémoire d’Ouradour” near the entrance of the village where you can find items recovered from the burned-out buildings: watches stopped at the time their owners were burned alive, glasses melted from the intense heat, and various personal items. This terrible event has also been the subject of many documentaries, movies, books and songs.

However, the most eerie documentary might be the ghosts locals allege to have seen. Some accounts mention dark apparitions slowly moving through the deserted streets. Some recall having sensed the smell of burning wood coming from the town although nothing is burning. However it did burn 70 years ago when SS soldiers set the town on fire after looting the buildings.

As any ruins, also these ones will slowly perish in time, but as this is a museum, the French secretly rejuvenate the display. The Doctor’s car – a famous tourist attraction of the town has been changing throughout the years, however not for worse, but for better. If you compare the pictures taken 12 years apart (in 1998 and 2010), the automobile certainly looks better in the latter. Some parts have been replaced. Locals even argue that it is not even the same car that stood there in 1944.

References:

http://www.oradour.info/images/doccar06.htm

http://www.scrapbookpages.com/Oradour-sur-Glane/Story/Rouffanche.html

https://seeksghosts.blogspot.com/2014/03/the-haunted-village-of-oradour-sur-glane.html

Lisa Cazaux

Abandoned Soviet missile base – Zeltini

Let us pass this wonderful sunny weather in an interesting way in Zeltini – Soviet nuclear missile base. Please see the event description both in English and Latvian. Choose your best date and apply.
Fill the application from in English: application form (EN) for Latvian: application form (LV) and let us explore the history.
Those who have been, feel free to leave your feedback in Trip advisor.