True Lithuania Sights, cities, culture, history and more

Plokštinė Soviet Nuclear Missile Base & Samogitian NP

Soviet nuclear missile base in Plokštinė (part of Samogitian National Park) offers a rare opportunity to enter the shafts where Cold War nuclear missles 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. Multi-storey 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 m 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 4 missile shafts (left image shows the top portion) 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 Plokštinė 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 existance.

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 Plokštinė missile base and much of it was saved for future generations.

It is the easiest to reach the site by car.

Samogitian National Park

Samogitian National Park surrounds the Plokštinė base. It has numerous lakes. Central village is Plateliai (pop. 1000) where there are restaurants, bike rental and accommodation opportunities as well as a lake. It has an Užgavėnės museum dedicated to the Carnival-like Lithuanian Christian holiday which has its most fervent traditions in Samogitia. Plateliai and other National Park villages are known for old wooden churches with the one in Beržoras most famous.

Žemaičių Kalvarija (pop. 800) is the region's prime religious center with a Baroque/Classicist church and monastery (1822). The village is given its unique atmosphere by 21 mostly wooden chapels, many located on hilltops. Visiting them in a certain order may help you better imagine the final road of Jesus Christ (this is reenacted by a many pilgrims in a festival every July 2nd-12th and archaic Samogitian Christian songs known as "the hills" may then be heard).

A hilltop chapel in Žemaičių Kalvarija. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

Inspirational place to some, junkyard to some others the Orvidas farmstead combines unique stone art of Vilius Orvidas (1952-1992) with rusting Soviet machinery. Targetted by Soviet authorities for its religious overtones Orvidas farmstead gained a special meaning to many locals as well as outcasts from elswehere (addicts, inmates) who had been helped by Orvidas. Located 17 km west of Plateliai it is technically outside the Samogitian National Park but easily visited from there.

Article written by Augustinas Žemaitis

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