Let’s play a game of imagination.
Imagine a thriving village bustling with hard working men and women who have left the comforts of home to serve the motherland in a far corner of the world.
Imagine a formal dining hall with soaring murals on the wall, a beautiful gymnasium and pool, a high-tech hospital, and a grand concert hall that hosted some of the Soviet Union’s most talented starts.
Now imagine that your country collapses and finds itself on the brink of starvation. The money stops coming in. The concerts stop. Routine repairs are no longer made and the infrastructure beings to crumble.
Imagine you keep working, hoping things will get better, but you see your benefits cut and start seeing a lot more potatoes and a lot less meat in the dining hall.
Then you receive word that the mine is closing down: that the natural resources have been sufficiently plundered.
As a boat arrives to take you home, you take one last look at the statue of Lenin and say, “Прощай.”
The Harsh Reality
Working at Pyramiden was indeed both an honor and luxury in the Soviet Union. The facilities—including world’s northernmost swimming pool, grand piano and Lenin statute—were state-of-the-art at the time and life in Pyramiden was a bit like Club Med.
But there was a dark side too. One building, no different than the others on the outside, housed great listening equipment and interrogation rooms. It was the office of the KGB, the Soviet Secret Police, that even operated on an island of vetted proletariats nearly three thousand kilometers away from Moscow. Of course let’s not forget that Svalbard was in prime NATO territory with U.S. naval stations close by…
Dark winters were taxing and many were separated from friends and family members for extended periods. Deadly accidents were not routine, but also not so infrequent as to not merit mention. But like so many American mining towns that have rusted away, there was a sense of pride, community, and optimism in working on this small island of barren land to fuel an entire empire.
A standard tour of Pyramiden includes a visit to the concert hall and civic auditorium, the pool and gymnasium, the dining hall, and finally the Tulpan Hotel.
Enjoy a slideshow of 90 of my favorite pictures from Pyramiden by clicking Start.
Here are a few teasers:
So why is Pyramiden a must see? Because I’ve never seen anything like it and found it fascinating.
Next: my 2am self-guided bonus tour
Read more of my Scandinavia Trip Report:
Review: SAS A330 Business Class Los Angeles to Stockholm
Lounge Review: SAS Gold Lounge Stockholm
Review: SAS Business Class Stockholm to Oslo (Scenic Flight)
Lounge Review: SAS Gold Lounge Oslo
Review: SAS Business Class Oslo to Longyearbyen
The Advantage of AirBnB in Longyearbyen
A Boat Trip to an Abandoned Russian Mining Island
Why Pyramiden is Must-See
Review: Hotel Tulpan in Pyramiden
Walking Around Pyramiden at 2:00a
Lounge Review: SAS Café Tromso
Review: Radisson Stockholm Airport
Review: Hilton Stockholm
Interesting remnants of the past, but why must-see?
The slide show has only 18 slides, not 100 as advertised – so no pool photo!
Technical error. Standby while I try to address.
Problem now fixed. Sorry about that.
“Of course let’s not forget that Svalbard was in prime NATO territory with U.S. naval stations close by…”
There has never been US naval bases in either Svalbard or Norway itself.
Svalbard is demilitarized and is not considered part of NATO territory.