Prologue for Amusement
When you try to imagine a post-apocalyptic world, what imagery comes to your mind? Perhaps some movies like Mad Max, Waterworld, Stalker, Twelve Monkeys or my personal favorite The Road? Maybe computer games like the Fallout?
The more creative of you could probably imagine some real-life ruins of Roman or any other given ancient Empire. My favorite example is found in Crete, notorious home of Zeus. Knossos - the Capital city of an ancient power-house Minoan Civilization. Now nothing, but a few pillars. Mysteriously came to an end as everything else at the end of Bronze Age around 1200 BC. Some blame even more mysterious Sea People, which were, perhaps, climate refugees?
Silence in the Children World
Some of you could probably imagine a more modern example like Chernobyl? What is a better way to portray the exclusion zone than the legendary devil‘s wheel in the amusement park? What was once filled by children laughter, now is completely silent. Places like these are chilling, isn‘t it? As Elektrėnai amusement park proves you don‘t have to go to the exclusion zone to find such places.
Devils Wheel in Elektrenai Amusement Park. Photo Mantas Ališauskas
Though I‘ve never been to Pripyat, from the photos, I found on the internet, both amusements parks are looking pretty similar. The only difference is that the inhabitants of Elektrėnai got their fun and those of Pripyat didn‘t. These modern Soviet boroughs had their dark secrets and, obviously, it sooner or later somebody had to pay for it. Nevertheless, those who managed to avoid the consequences, I bet, enjoyed the benefits.
Nowadays, there are plenty of modern alternatives to all the fun found in Elektrėnai and its glory days soon to be forgotten by the younger generations. New projects are built instead of the old ones. For better or worse, Elektrėnai Amusement Park is one of those places.
Elektrenai Thermal Power Plant. Photo Mantas Ališauskas
Elektrėnai Thermal Power Plant
Located between the two largest cities in Lithuania, the Capital of the country – Vilnius and its ambitious brother Kaunas, after the closure of Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant at the Eve of 2010, Elektrėnai finds itself as the home to the biggest electricity producer in Lithuania. It doesn‘t meet some environmental requirements, but currently, the thermal plant is under renovation works and soon should be up and running in its full capacity.
As the Coat of Arms of Elektrėnai suggests (two stars separated by a bolt), the construction of the thermal power plant was a big change for the local settlers. The upper star represents the newly founded modern Elektrėnai, and the lower one – all the villages this borough had consumed. Most of them together with ancient lakes were sunk under the new lagoon, which was formed near the town after damming River Strėva.
A shore of Elektrėnai Lagoon. Photo Mantas Ališauskas
The whole landscape was shifted in the building of Elektrėnai. In the words of Lithuanian politician and geographer, Ceslovas Kudaba:
Every city has its own reason for existence. Some were started as a castle, others as a harbor or a crossroad. Sanatoriums and resorts found themselves by mineral water streams. Today it is not uncommon for boroughs to be built by the strategic resource gathering or processing plants ran by big growing companies.
The Blessed Virgin Mary Martyrs Queen Church of Elektrenai. Photo Mantas Ališauskas
The location of Elektrėnai is nowhere close to being random, situated 47 km Vilnius and 55 km to Kaunas, somewhere in the middle of two most populous cities in Lithuania. Today these cities combined make up almost one-third of the country‘s total population.
Meanwhile, with a population of 13,644, Elektrėnai is the 26th largest city in Lithuania. It is no Memphis, but its population is relatively stable and community is healthy. Elektrėnai positions themselves as the city of sports, it is famous for its Ice Hockey team and other sports on the ice, water sports on Elektrėnai Lagoon and occasionally hosts rally events.
Elektrėnai Rally. Photo Mantas Ališauskas
History of Elektrėnai
The name of Elektrėnai might sound strange to foreign readers, but the meaning of it is pretty straight forward – people of electricity. I know, it sounds quite communist, but it is exactly as it should be. The town was founded in 1961, during the Soviet occupation of Lithuania. Therefore it is normal that it sounds, it looks and it feels Soviet-like.
Electricity Pole in Elektrėnai. Photo Mantas Ališauskas
As the name suggests the town was built on the sole purpose to maintain Elektrėnai thermal power plant, today it has proven to be much more than that. In fact, Elektrėnai could be called an older cousin of Visaginas, which is Pripyat equivalent in Lithuania, and was built to support Chernobyl-like Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant. Back in the days, these boroughs were well-planned modern towns designed and built to maintain any needs of the modern people.
Yacht Club in Elektrėnai. Photo Mantas Ališauskas
City of Sports
Sports, exercise and active leisure were important to the modern people of the Soviet Union. Despite Elektrėnai being next to a newly created Lagoon which was perfect for many water sports activities, it was decided to build a 50-meter long swimming pool.
Regardless water sports opportunities, Elektrėnai is most famous for its Ice Hockey. In 1977, the town became home to the first modern indoor ice skating rink in Lithuania. This made Elektrėnai the Capital of Ice Hockey in the country. The best-known players of this sport - D. Zubrus and D. Kasparaitis were born and trained in this town.
The Ice Palace in Elektrėnai. Photo Mantas Ališauskas
The Ice Palace remained the only well-equipped skating rink Lithuania for a long time. Even though I lived in the Capital, I have a scar on my face from one of the visits to the skating rink in my childhood. Those days it was a popular destination for school tours. Sadly, after my accident, I don‘t think any class from my school went there ever again.
Cash Desk in Elektrėnai Amusement Park. Photo Mantas Ališauskas
Elektrėnai Amusement Park „Children World“
Date of visit: 2019 13th July
To be destroyed: 2020
The expansion of „fun“ in Elektrėnait didn‘t end there. In 1986 an Amusement Park opened its doors to anybody, filling the needs of both young and brave. Though the last brave people had to be brought down from a 20-meter-height roller-coaster „Jet-Star“ by the fire-fighters in 2012. A year later, after almost 30 years of service, it was closed due to its inability to meet the safety requirements.
In the Soviet Union roller coasters were called „American mountains“, the term is still used in Lithuania, and I don't doubt, the same influence was done to other Post-Soviet countries. Photo Mantas Ališauskas
Some engineers used to be joking that it was called that way because only American could build something unsafe as this. Photo Mantas Ališauskas
From what I read on the forums, some Western Europeans claim that roller coasters are called „Russian Mountains“ in their native language. Probably for the same reason as above. Photo Mantas Ališauskas
The space theme was popular among the amusement parks across the Soviet Union. Photo Mantas Ališauskas
All the objects in the park got repainted several times before its closure. Photo Mantas Ališauskas
Just a couple of years after the closure, Elektrenai Amusement Park "Children World" got covered by plants. Photo Mantas Ališauskas
Some of the objects are in dire conditions. Photo Mantas Ališauskas
Some of the buildings are a popular place for local youngsters to gather. Photo Mantas Ališauskas
Getting to Elektrėnai
Vilnius and Kaunas are the most connected cities in Lithuania and Elektrėnai is a mid-stop between them. There should be no problem getting there, just check the time tables here.
Elektrėnai is in the middle of A1 Highway between Vilnius and Kaunas. The same road connects Kaunas to the third largest city in the Lithuania – Port Klaipeda. Don't forget to set your GPS right because the turn to the city might be easy to miss.
The distance is relatively small from both Vilnius and Kaunas, therefore, it possible to reach it with one of the local taxi services. Though it would be cheaper just to rent a car for a day from CityBee.
Facilities by Elektrėnai Amusement Park
The situation might change quickly, but currently, Elektrėnai Amusement Park is wide open and the local government even put a toilet and a trash container close to the entrance to the territory. Elektrėnai Amusement Park is on the edge of the city, so there should be no problem finding a place to eat or buy supplies if needed.
Frozen Amusement Park in Elektrenai, Lithuania. Photo Mantas Ališauskas
My impressions of visiting Elektrėnai Amusement Park
First things first, I hope that you noticed that from time to time I was, to say, „a bit“ sarcastic. Without mentioning that almost any Lithuanian will get itchy when it comes to these matters, I wanted to portray one of these modern artificial boroughs as it was portrayed back in the times when it was built. Elektrėnai was one of those ambitious projects by the Soviets in an attempt to build the promised future which never came.
By its age, the borough surpassed only its younger cousin – Visaginas, which as I mentioned before was built to support another thermal power plant fueled by the newly invented atomic power. I can only imagine that building these towns consumed a lot of resources and it was backed by a lot of Soviet propaganda. While fixing artificial boroughs could sometimes look like attaching a jacket to the button, from my perspective, today, Elektrėnai looks like a lovely town.
Amusement Park in Elektrenai, Lithuania. Photo Mantas Ališauskas
There are scars of course, and a lot of things still needs to be fixed based on the actual needs of the people. On one hand, Elektrėnai Amusement Park might be one of the things which need to be fixed, but on the other, it is a perfect monument to demonstrate how the Soviet Union wanted to be perceived. Though in fact, it wasn‘t fun at all.
Amusement Park in Elektrenai, Lithuania. Photo Mantas Ališauskas
Is it worth visiting Elektrėnai Amusement Park?
The problem is - I cannot guarantee that it is still there even now, just a few days after the time of my visit. By all the official plans, by the end of 2020, there should be a recreational park standing instead of this cultural-historical monument. Even I made this visit without knowing if it is actually still standing.
For those who can still make it in the next few months, do it as soon as possible. It doesn't matter if you are a fan of Chernobyl, history, spooky places, or simply abandoned buildings, it is well worth a visit. For others, hopefully, this article will serve not as a guidance, but rather as a friendly reminder that everything of interest is not eternal and that we need to appreciate it in a way so the fellow adventurers could see it later. The Children World will get destroyed sooner or later and it will remain silent until then.
Elektrėnai, Lithuania Map. Design by Mantas Ališauskas
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