Like a Doctorow/MacLeod Mashup



An abandoned Soviet bunker in the Lithuanian countryside becomes a theme park:

Išgyvenimo drama opened in early 2008 to some controversy. Tourists pay 120 LTL ($US 220) each to step back into 1984 as a temporary USSR citizen for 2.5 hours. On entry, all belongings, including money, cameras and phones, are handed over and under the watchful eye of guards and alsatians, tourists change into threadbare Soviet coats and are herded through the bunker.

Experiences include watching TV programs from 1984, wearing gas masks, learning the Soviet anthem under duress, eating typical Soviet food (with genuine Soviet tableware) and even undergoing a concentration-camp-style interrogation and medical check.

The Soviet Bunker is not a theme park for the faint-hearted; all of the actors involved in the project were originally in the Soviet army and some were authentic interrogators…

Someone should write a travel book covering all these communist-themed tourist attractions in the former Soviet bloc, with ratings measuring each venue's levels of irony, horror, nostalgia, and educational value. Plus an appendix on visiting North Korea.

NEXT: So Let It Be Written In, So Let It Be Done

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  1. I understand lines for the theme park are really long, or is that part of the experience?

  2. It can't be right. $220 is way too much for 2.5 hours of entertainment.

  3. Abdul set the win bar high on the first comment. Pwn.

  4. Might I recommend Vice Magazine's indispensable Travel Guide to North Korea. It's kinda like an abandoned theme park with no rides and more starvation.

  5. In Soviet Russia, park themes you!

  6. How about lynching and castration tours of the Old South? Nah, it's easier to target official enemies.

  7. OMG, Dude I would so do that! Looks like a lot of fun!


  8. for all the bitching and moaning about loss of civil rights here in the usa, we still have very fortunate circumstances. i had the option to take a 6 month-year work assignment in the UAE, and decided to avoid that part of the world. it would be like 6 months of constant fear of being arrested and harassed, for no raisins whatsoever.

    that said, there are plenty of places left in the world where you can be abused for free. i'm not sure someone could see value in this.

  9. I've also been to the KGB Museum in Vilnius, actually about a year before it opened. There were still bloodstained burlap sacks on the walls of one "interrogation" room, and the guide was a former inmate--an ethnic Russian who had been in the partisan resistance during the 1940s and remained in the woods until sometime in the 50's, when he was caught.

    He wouldn't let us take a picture of him unless he stood like a prisoner and one of us had the keys.

    Understandably, that kind of experience turns you.

  10. I would have a much better disposition towards Soviet Communism theme parks and tourists destinations if they were more relics of a bygone age consigned to the ash heap of history and not the model of our near term economic future.

  11. There is an occupation museum in downtown Riga. It was started under the communists (the architecture is as ugly as Boston City Hall), as a museum of the Nazi occupation. After the fall of the Soviet Union, they added a lot of exhibits about the Soviet occupation, including a typical Siberian prison camp hut.

    Also, North Korea might not have food, but at least they have opium. I assume they need it.

  12. that said, there are plenty of places left in the world where you can be abused for free.

    I imagine you're not paying them to abuse you so much as you're paying them to insure that they'll stop.

  13. It can't be right. $220 is way too much for 2.5 hours of entertainment

    Ya I thought it was pretty high too. So I checked and I dont know where they get their exchange rates but I got 120.00 LTL = 44.13 USD

  14. This is richer than you might have imagined. Contemporary info-commie Doctorow writing about a retro-commie theme park. What is not to love?

  15. There's also a KGB prison hotel in Lithuania you can stay in.

    And I will stick up for Boston City Hall as being the most charming Brutalist building I'm aware of. Which isn't saying much at all, and I understand it has overwhelming functional design flaws. But purely aesthetically, considered independently of its surroundings, and only judged by its exterior front facade... I say not that bad!

  16. "Plus an appendix on visiting North Korea."

    Oh, by the way. When you visit North Korea, you lose your appendix! Plus a few more negotiable body parts!

  17. I saw the hanoi hilton a few years back - lovely architecture actually: frech colonial!

  18. Actually, I guess I would give Boston City Hall a lower seed than Bangladesh's Parliament in the Brutalism Championship Rankings. But still, BCH is marginally more adequate than, say, Birmingham Central Library.

  19. Meh. This place has nothing on Jesusland...

  20. I had put the over/under at about 14, but Warren's comment is #10.

    The true "nation of whiners" are the people who think making the income tax a little more progressive is somehow equivalent to the gulag.

  21. Hogan, Birmingham Library & the Bangladesh Parliament at least have symmetry. Boston City Hall is just industrial strength ugly. It's like they tried to make the building as ugly as possible, and then the ugly fairy showed up to magically add some more.

  22. "It's just a little more heat, there's no way for the frog to even notice it."

  23. It's like they tried to make the building as ugly as possible, and then the ugly fairy showed up to magically add some more.

    ...with the "where's the goddamn door?!?" fairy following close behind.

    And then, to make sure everyone could appreciate the ugly, they put it in a big concrete plaza, itself ugly, so you can take in all the ugly at the same time.

  24. With monolithic brutalist or internationalist style buildings, I think a context-obliterating empty plaza works well. Makes the area look more like the little model the architects probably used when they made their presentation to their financiers. The Seagram building in NYC is another good example. Not from a functionalist or urbanist standpoint, but from the purely formal aesthetics that go into brutalist design. Plopping one down in a cluttered and otherwise interesting urban setting (a la Birmingham Library or the Barbican) imho is more of an artistic crime than paving away an enormous plaza for it, even if it's a windswept, forbidding expanse of concrete that feels like a North Korean military parade ground. And whatever affection I have for BCH is highly qualified and probably mostly contingent on never having needed to use it and only having been to Boston during periods of incredibly beautiful weather.

    In Google Imaging around for the Bangladeshi Parliament I couldn't find too much to do it justice, but the documentary about Louis Kahn that I believe was called My Architect had some really beautiful footage.

  25. I imagine you're not paying them to abuse you so much as you're paying them to insure that they'll stop.

    And not delegate the abusing to, say, the press.

  26. The communist statue park in Budapest is kind of a let-down (especially since you have to go so far outside of the city to see it), until you get inside the building and watch the movie about the Eastern Bloc's spy techniques, which totally redeems the whole experience. I should have found out if the movie was for sale anywhere (it was fascinating), but the portly Hungarian woman minding the whole thing didn't seem like she was in an English-speakin' mood.

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