Pyramiden: An Arctic Ghost Town

There used to be coal

There used to be coal

I am like WTF. Because this day has been a day where my adult words aren’t working.  I am at a ghost town in the Arctic called Pyramiden.  For decades, over a thousand Soviets worked here mining coal, raising families, playing basketball, waiting for the sun to rise after a long winter.  The USSR evaporated.  The coal was unprofitable.  The school closed in 1993.  The mine closed in 1998.  And now I am here after a 2 hour boat ride from one of the northernmost cities in the world.

I walk around the abandoned buildings like WTF.  The 5-story tall apartment buildings empty.  The cultural center empty.  But there are still posters on the walls.  The athletic center empty.  But all the swimming pool needs is water.  The cafeteria empty.  But the tray line is still there.

Ready for a swim?

Ready for a swim?

You can no longer smell the dinner rolls

You can no longer smell the dinner rolls

is like a college campus on summer vacation.  Or like a college campus after the bomb.  WTF.

Looking like empty dorms around a college campus on summer break

Looking like empty dorms around a college campus on summer break

Look, Mom! I'm a college boy now. The Pyramiden Polar Bears.

Look, Mom! I’m a college boy now. The Pyramiden Polar Bears.

And if there was laughter (the Soviets never laughed in the movies), there is none now.  I try to visualize the miners coming down from the mountain.  The summers with outdoor games in the midnight sun.  The winters trudging through the snow to school in the dark, classrooms lit with coal-powered electricity.  There were two passengers on my boat who were here before, back when Soviets worked here.  One came in the 1990s.  One came in 1975.  They described the cafeteria, the children playing around.  They described how everyone was friendly, but of another language, another culture.  I envision Elton John, passing by on his boat, binoculars in hand, looking for Nikita (google the video).

Lenin is still watching over Pyramiden

Lenin is still watching over Pyramiden

I’m not sure why we love ghost towns so much.  There is the creepy aspect (the one that makes us watch scary movies).  But I wonder if it is a deeper emotion.  I wonder if deep down inside it makes us realize that all time is fleeting.  What would our schools look like if we abandoned them?  What junk would we leave behind in our own homes?  Drawers of pens that may work and keys that don’t work?  Boxes of screws and nails (but never the right size)?  Empty beer cans?  That jar of gross marmalade you got as a gift but you can’t bear to throw away or donate to the food pantry?  Shelves of books you haven’t opened since the 1990s (or had intended to read since the 1990s)?  Do you take it all?  Or do you leave it all behind?

 

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