The welcoming “pyramid” (in Russian and English) greeting visitors to the abandoned “ghost town” of Pyramiden, Spitsbergen Island, Svalbard, that was home to up to 1,500 people in the Russian coal mining town in 1989 before it was abruptly abandoned in 1998
“One of the world’s most fascinating ghost towns, according to National Geographic. At first glance it looks like an idyllic settlement with urban architecture consisting of apartment buildings made of brick or wood. But there is one thing missing: inhabitants.
“Pyramiden was founded by Sweden in 1910 and sold to the Soviet Union in 1927. In the 1980s, the mining community had a population of more than 1,000. It is named after the pyramid-shaped mountain of the same name nearby. Pyramiden is now mostly visited by seagulls, polar foxes and, not infrequently, polar bears. Tourists visit too – by boat in the summertime and by snowmobile in the wintertime – to experience this surreal place
A coal mine railroad “car” with the last load of coal mined in Pyramiden, Spitsbergen Island, Svalbard, on 31 March 1998
The pier at the harbor of Pyramiden, Spitsbergen Island, Svalbard, with a crane that helped load the locally mined coal onto transport boats for the journey back to the motherland (Russia)
“Visiting Pyramiden is like stepping into a time machine. The architecture and buildings are so well preserved that many visitors feel like they are ‘Back in the USSR’. When the mine was closed and the settlement was abandoned, it seems like everyone left in a hurry. Cups were left on the tables, newspaper clippings on the walls and skis in the corridors. The beautiful indoor swimming pool and painstakingly made cultural centre both feature Soviet era architecture and bear witness to the settlement’s golden days. Pyramiden was a good place to live with a family-friendly community and facilities such as a petrol station, greenhouse and cowshed, school, kindergarten, hotel and restaurant. Most of the buildings remain just as they were left. At the top of the main street, a statue of Lenin watches over the abandoned town and the beautiful Nordenkiöld glacier. The statue is surrounded by grass imported from Siberia.
An abandoned factory building adjacent to the harbor of Pyramiden, Spitsbergen Island, Svalbard
The structure for the future Trump International Hotel in Pyramiden, Spitsbergen Island, Svalbard
Shutes running down the mountainside from the mine (at 500 meters (1,640 feet) elevation) to protect the buckets of coal that were gravity fed to the processing plant in Pyramiden, Spitsbergen Island, Svalbard
“The ghost town at the foot of the Billefjord is now home to eight people, who work at the hotel and as tourist guides in the summer. During the dark winter months, the population is halved to four who have the task of maintaining the buildings and checking the power generators. It’s possible to stay at the very authentic Pyramiden Hotel, which has a fascinating history in the walls, delicious borsch on the table, locally brewed beer from Barentsburg on tap and smiling people to welcome you. Remember to bring cash (NOK), as they don’t take credit card payments.
This abandoned building housed the children’s school in Pyramiden, Spitsbergen Island, Svalbard; at the peak population of the coal mining town, there were approximately 300 children out of the 1,500 personnel from Russia
One of several Svalbard reindeer (smaller than their cousins in Norway) we saw freely wandering around Pyramiden, Spitsbergen Island, Svalbard
The “Champs Élyseées” – so-called by the locals — is the parade ground around the town’s central buildings with a statue of Lenin at the high end of the parade ground, in front of the town’s cultural center, Pyramiden, Spitsbergen Island, Svalbard
A statue of Lenin along with Russian insignia in front of the town’s cultural center, Pyramiden, Spitsbergen Island, Svalbard; [Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, better known by the alias Lenin, is revered in Russia as the founder of the Russian Communist Party, leader of the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, and first head of the Soviet state]
Still hanging on the pegboard on the mezzanine above the lobby of the town’s cultural center is this child’s drawing of 2 children in Pyramiden and the ghost of a child comrade, Pyramiden, Spitsbergen Island, Svalbard
“The abandoned mining settlement is ‘one of 10 ghost towns in the world you need to visit’, according to National Geographic.” — https://en.visitsvalbard.com/visitor-information/destinations/pyramiden
The cantina – where the community dined for free, 24 x 7 – has been partially restored and contains evidence that when the town’s inhabitants left suddenly in 1998 that they expected a group of coal miners and some families would return and repopulate the town, Pyramiden, Spitsbergen Island, Svalbard
The unlit right-side staircase to the upper floor of the cantina where the workers and family dined – part of a symmetrical, dual stairway – shows the elaborate workmanship and decoration that the coal mining company invested in to make Pyramiden, Spitsbergen Island, Svalbard, a Russian “worker’s paradise”
At the top of the dual staircase in the cantina is an elaborate, hand-made mosaic panorama of the Pyramiden site with the mountains and town overlooked by a female polar bear and her cub and a husky dog, Pyramiden, Spitsbergen Island, Svalbard
The abandoned kitchen of the cantina gives evidence that the departing workers expected the kitchen to be back in use a year or two after the 1998 evacuation of Pyramiden, Spitsbergen Island, Svalbard
At the end of our extensive tour (by a young Russian woman who grew up near Volgograd — formerly Stalingrad, a city in southwest Russia, on the western bank of the Volga River), we stopped at the restored Pyramiden Hotel, Bar & Restaurant for Russian pastries and tea or Pyramiden vodka (produced in Russia, as there are no distilleries in Svalbard – although there is a brewery in Longyearbyen), Pyramiden, Spitsbergen Island, Svalbard; on the sign the large lower word is “Pyramiden” in Russian
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