Monday 17 August Klaipeda (Lithuania)

We were up early this morning, at 5.45, had breakfast and headed out to our bus that was waiting to take some of us on our shore excursion today.
Klaipeda is the third largest city in Lithuania and is the only port city. Founded in 1252 by the Teutonic Knights of East Prussia, the city was annexed by Hitler in 1939 and almost destroyed towards the end of World War II.
Our guide, Vita, gave us lots of interesting information about Klaipeda and Lithuania, as well as life in Lithuania before and after independence, during the 1½ bus trip to Plokstine Nuclear Missile Base. She told us that the landscape is fairly flat with their highest mountain being 300metres and that they countryside was very good for agriculture and farming. Vita said that the country is so flat that you can see who is coming to see you tomorrow.
She told us how Lithuania peacefully gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1990. In 2004 they joined the European Union and NATO.
Plokstine Nuclear Missile Base, located in Zemaitjia National Park was an underground base of the Soviet Union. In 2012, the Cold War Museum was opened on the site. We were able to visit the underground and the missile silos labyrinth and were told stories about the Cold War period, propaganda strategies, consequences of the nuclear explosions and life in the military base.
At the time when the United States started building underground military bases, it was decided that the Soviet Union had to follow suit. For that reason in September 1960 in the village of Plokščiai ,the Soviets started rapid construction of an underground military base, one of the first in the Soviet Union. The shore of the Plateliai Lake and the Plokštinė forests were perfectly suitable for the construction of the military base. The chosen location for the base was located 160 m above sea level, the soil was easy to excavate and the local population was small. The local inhabitants were poor farmers who were paid to move their farms. Also, from this location all of Europe could be covered by the missiles, which could reach Turkey and southern European countries.
Ten thousand soldiers, mostly Estonians, constructed the base. The missile silos were dug out with shovels, which took approximately 6-8 months. Simultaneously, in the centre of the four silos they excavated a large hole for the support structures – electrical and radio stations, control rooms and recreation areas for the soldiers who would be on duty. All of these underground facilities were waterproof and covered with earth. They were constructed in the way that under normal conditions the personnel could survive in the silos for 15 days or 3 hours in extreme conditions with the silos hermetically sealed.
Four R12 nuclear missiles, 23 meters high, including the 4 meters warhead, were installed in the silos. The rockets were fuelled with a mixture of kerosene and nitric acid. They were intended to last 10-15 years; in Plokštinė they were changed once in 16 years. The rocket launching facilities were guarded by 5 security systems including barbed wire, alarms, 1700 volt electric wires, etc. The rockets were aimed at different western countries: Norway, Great Britain, Spain, West Germany and Turkey.
There were no incidents with the missiles while they were deployed in Plokštinė. They were removed from the base on June 18, 1978.
It was an interesting experience to have been inside an underground rocket launching facility and to understand a little bit more about what devastation could have taken place if the Cold War had ever escalated.
After we left the facility, we only had time for a short stop to see one of the biggest lakes, Platelui Lake, which was lovely, before heading straight back to the ship. We drove through the main street of Klaipeda for a quick look before boarding the ship at 12.15pm and the Captain then set sail immediately.
During lunch, we watched the ship leave the harbour and sail away from Klaipeda towards our next destination.
We spent the afternoon catching up with yesterday and today’s blog and photos and did some washing. After our Port Talk for tomorrow and dinner, we are hopefully going to have an early night.

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