Irbene – A former Soviet secret

Day 8 – 337 km mark.

As most readers will already know, the territory which falls under the rightful jurisdiction of the Republic of Latvia, a sovereign republic which came into being on 18th November 1918, was illegally invaded and occupied by the USSR during the 1940s.  This resulted in Latvia spending five decades under the yoke of one of the most unforgivably corrupt, brutal, and repressive regimes of the 20th century.

During that time, the Soviet authorities built two large parabolic dishes at a secret location called Irbene.  It is believed these dishes were used to spy on military communications among the armed forces of NATO countries in Europe.

Irbene’s existence was a military secret.  Irbene didn’t appear on any maps, and only authorised personnel could gain access to the area.  At the site, numerous apartment buildings were constructed to house the military personnel who had been assigned to the site, along with their families.

When Latvia finally regained its rightful independence, the occupation forces eventually abandoned the site, leaving behind a ghost town.  Today, that site is used by scientists to conduct radio astronomical research.

After leaving Kolka, I rode out to take a look at Irbene before checking into a disused school in the tiny community of Rinda.

The Ventspils International Radio Astronomy Centre, Irbene.

I have to confess, I learned a little lesson while making the trek from Kolka to Rinda:  don’t assume anything.  I was only carrying 750ml of water (much less than I would normally carry) and I just assumed that there would be plenty of roadside shops along the way where I could get a drink.

There wasn’t.

I was in quite a state when I arrived in Rinda.  So much so, once I had rested a little, I cycled another 20km to and from a neighbouring township called Ance, just to buy up more requirements, lest I get caught short again at a later date.

Note to self:  ALWAYS carry plenty of water and make no assumptions about the availability of anything along the way.

On Day 9, I peddled out of Rinda to make my way to the shining city by the sea, Ventspils.

Stay tuned for further details!

Until then, take a look at the abandoned apartments at Irbene.  In real life, they’re kind of spooky.

Former Soviet military apartments at Irbene

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