The hidden face of Europe

Text: Kadri Eisenschmidt Photos: Pixabay Published: 28 / dec /2017

Europe is known for its rich history and sublime places that all have stories to tell. Beside this, there is also Europe's hidden, forgotten side.

Euroopa varjatud pale 1
CHERNOBYL I The untouched city of Pripyat, Ukraine, near the Belarus border. In 1986, at the nuclear power plant just 3 kilometres from the city, the fourth energy block in the reactor exploded.

HARA SUBMARINE BASE

Northern Estonia and the Gulf of Finland provided an ideal connection between the Soviet army and the rest of Europe, which is why Hara Submarine Base was built (1956–1958) on the shores of Northern Estonia. The base was used to demagnetize submarines, so that their magnetic fields would not be caught by radars. The objective was to hinder the monitoring of Soviet military activity during the Cold War. Magnetic fields were Soviet submarines' weak point, because in addition to radar visibility, the fields tended to detonate magnetic mines.

Hara Submarine Base operated until 1991, when Soviet occupation ended in Estonia. Today, all that is left of the abandoned base are the grim concrete structures and graffiti-filled walls that tell the story of this isolated place.

Hara allveelaevabaas
Hara Submarine Base operated until 1991, when Soviet occupation ended in Estonia.

SPREEPARK

An amusement park on the banks of the Spree River in Berlin was opened in 1969. At that time, it was the only amusement park in Berlin, and was visited by about 1.7 million people per year. After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the park was neglected because of the confusing political situation, the complicated bureaucracy of the city of Berlin, and poor communication. Norbert Witte became the park's new owner, and tried to revive the park and bring it into line with western standards. By 1997, he had invested 40 million German marks into the park and several new attractions were bought. 

Compared to 1993 when the park had hosted 1.5 million visitors, by 2001 that figure had dropped to 400 000. Spreepark was finally closed on 4th November 2001, leaving Witte in severe debt. In 2002, Witte moved to Peru with his family and took several attractions along with him. The ones left behind however, are still intact, though time and nature have taken over. The 40-metrehigh 36-cab rusty ferris wheel still towers over the park, creaking slowly in the wind. The future fate of the park remains blurry.

Spreepark
Spreepark in Berlin

CHERNOBYL

The untouched city of Pripyat, Ukraine, near the Belarus border. In 1986, at the nuclear power plant just 3 kilometres from the city, the fourth energy block in the reactor exploded. Since the reactor was not surrounded with concrete, which would have prevented the diffusion of radioactive substances from the explosion, the contamination spread quickly. The explosion was registered as a level 7 accident on the international scale of nuclear incidents, and became known as the Chernobyl disaster, after the town of Chernobyl, 15 kilometres from the nuclear power station. As Soviet leaders feared the spread of panic, evacuations were delayed for a whole day. Resulting from that delay, roughly 4 000 people died. The next day however, essential operations began. Within a few hours nearly 50 000 inhabitants of Pripyat were evacuated. They only had time to grab a few necessities. They believed that they were leaving temporarily, but they never returned home.

Pripyat still remains untouched and, being one of the most radioactive places of the world, is unfit for life. Standing exactly as it was on 27th April 1986, when people left their homes in a hurry, the city has become a ghostly memorial, taking us back to the Soviet Union of the 80s.

Tsornobol
Pripyat still remains untouched and, being one of the most radioactive places of the world.

IM COOLING TOWER

The IM Power Plant was built in Monceau, a region of Charleroi in Belgium, in 1921. It was Belgium's largest oil shale plant at the time. The cooling tower belonging to the plant was used to cool hot water using the wind. The wind entered the tower through openings at the base, and whirled up with the excess heat from water vapour. By 1977, the power plant, with its massive tower, was the main energy source for the Charleroi region, cooling up to 15 116 tons of water per minute. Years later however, a study was carried out that found the IM Power Plant to be the source of 10% of all carbon dioxide in Belgium. As a result, Greenpeace launched large-scale protests in 2006. 

Following all the negative publicity, the plant was closed in 2007. The power plant and the cooling tower stand intact today, providing science fiction film-like images.

IM elektrijaama jahutustorn
The power plant and the cooling tower provide science fiction film-like images.

Article was published in Nordica´s in-flight magazine Time Flies  (autumn-winter 2017).