Karosta – Liepaja

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A former secret Soviet military town. If you are in Liepaja, you must go to Karosta. It is the northern part of the city, about 10 km (6 mi) from the center. Karosta translates as War Port (or Navy Harbor) from Latvian. It used to be a secret military town for the Russian Empire, and later also for the Soviets. Latvia became independent, and some years after that, in 1994, the Russian troops had to leave Karosta. The population dropped dramatically from 25,000 to 6,000, leaving many empty houses behind. Then Karosta experienced something like a war without guns. Many houses were turned into ruins. Everything was taken away. Brick by brick, many historic, beautiful buildings disappeared forever. Now, Karosta has a population of 7,000 and a dream of renaissance, which has already started. It is now a popular tourist destination and also home for an international artists’ center called K2. Many places in Karosta still look like war rubble. Some places are reminiscent of the abandoned towns of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster area.

 Karosta beach :  There is a beach in Karosta. There you will find some pebbles and the sand might not be that soft as in the previous beach. On the seashore of Karosta you can also see a breakwater, the longest of Liepaja`s breakwaters, stretching 1.8 km into the sea, and you can go on it by car for approximately half of its length. Just be careful of waves in windy weather. And wind is famous in Liepaja. A Latvian expression says “the city where wind was born”. And as any Latvian would tell, it’s Liepaja. On the shore you can also see two fortresses. This is a wild beach with steep coasts, unlike the central beach with dunes.

Eight fortresses :  They are all around the city, but the most scenic and interesting ones are these two on the shores of Karosta. The one closer to the breakwater (you can even see a small part of it from the breakwater), is the Nearby Forts. The other one, further to the north, is the Northern Forts.
Nearby Fort (Tuvejie Forti) (close to the breakwater). It was blasted up shortly after being built.
Northern Forts :  (Ziemelu forti), Liepaja,  The ruins of a 1908 fortress. Military heritage, tours with torches, underground labyrinths, fortifications, seashore, history of Karosta. It was not blasted up. So, it has much more underground labyrinths and tunnels to explore, but it is not as scenic and dramatic from the outside as the first one. Nearby the Northern Forts you can see nature-friendly energy being made by a huge wind power generator, which can be seen from far in the distance
 St. Nikolai Orthodox Cathedral : (Liepajas Sv. Nikolaja pareizticigo Juras katedrale) (in the centre of Karosta) . An impressive church in a depressing place. Just nearby Soviet-style apartment buildings surround the church, making it very surreal and contrasting. It was used as a cinema and a gym for soldiers during the soviet occupation years. Nowadays, the St. Nicholas maritime cathedral is a church again and the sound of its bells can be heard from afar.
Twinned town of Chernobyl. Empty Soviet style apartment buildings, left in 1994. Some are already destroyed, some 10 are still there. Many older houses are empty as well.
Karosta Prison : (Karostas cietums). A real military prison until 1997 and now for tourists. You are treated like a prisoner in a reality show and, if you are brave enough, can even stay overnight. Military heritage, show, prison cells, prison buffet, tours, lodging, museum, adventures.
Karosta Water Tower :  (Liepajas Karostas udenstornis), Generala Baloza iela 29. The water tower is part of the formerly Russian Tsar Alexander III Morskych city. The construction is assumed to have happened between 1903 and 1905.
Contemporary Art Gallery :  (gallery k.Maksla), Atmodas bulvaris 6. Modern, a bit weird, but always original and interesting exhibitions. You can also rent bicycles here. edit
Submarine Accumulator Fence and Hangar. The remains of a submarine base that was once here. There are also former dormitories, beautiful red brick buildings. All are abandoned and partially demolished.
Horse Arena :  (Maneza). A roofless building, which was once used for soldiers’ training to ride horses, as well as for official celebrations for up to 4000 people who could fit there. These days the building is not used, except for one nice event, when Liepaja symphony orchestra made an open-air concert here.  / Castle. Unfortunately in bad condition.
Other things: Karosta cemetery with Soviet style monuments, Karosta park, many forests and Beberlini Lake (a nice place to have a barbecue party in summer). There is camping, too.

Access : Coordinates: 56.55, 21.005556 / By bus : There are many bus routes, the most important for tourists being 1, 3, 4, 7 and 8 – with these you can get from the city center to Karosta and back. /

By minibus : Number 22 and 23 minibuses serve Karosta, however 23 only goes to Karosta swing bridge and you can end up waiting by a closed bridge for an hour or more. It is therefore recommended to take route 22, which will take you further into Karosta and, if the bridge is closed, will sometimes go around the channel to get there. They cost €0.57 from a shop or €0.81 from the driver. Tickets must be validated just like in trams or buses. To stop a minibus, you have to wave your hand. You can stop it only at bus stops. To stop a minibus when you are in it, you have to ask the driver.
By taxi : axis are relatively expensive compared to other types of transport, but still cheaper than in Western Europe. This is the only public transport available at night (approximately 00:30-05:00). There are some places in the city center and near the Bus/Railway station where taxis assemble, or you can call .. / By thumb
Especially getting to or from the Northern Forts can be achieved by hitch-hiking, which is about 5 km. It is probably best to walk from south (Karosta) to north (Northern Forts), to also cover the fortress north of the breakwater, and to try hitch-hiking back into the centre of Liepaja with one of the many cars that go south. There are many cars and during the day one local might just be curious enough to take you in for the ride.Attractions : The Former Naval Base / The base’s former military prison / Karosta Beach / The Northern Forts /

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