Beyond 79° latitude: Pyramiden

Pyramiden or Piramida (Пирамида in Russian) was one of the most beautiful abandoned places I’ve visited while exploring the Arctic Island of Svalbard. To get there you need to sail for a few hours from Longyearbyen, the administrative capital and the most populous town on Spitzbergen, the biggest island of the Svalbard archipelago.

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Sailing up to 79th latitude offers spectacular views, such as Arctic skyline, fiords and mountain ranges.

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Neighbouring with Pyramiden is the Nordenskiöld glacier, and its majesty can be seen from all over the town.

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Back in a day, Pyramiden was a soviet mining settlement which was inhabited by roughly 2000 people. After 1997, when the bancrupcy of the coal company led to evacuating the entire population, it became a ghost town. For many years no foot was set there, and currently there are only a few people living in Pyramiden, taking care of the remnant buildings in the town.

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There is no mobile, nor Internet connection, but yes, indeed, there are polar bears in the settlement. I have not met any, but heard from the guide that there was one approaching, so he had to walk vigilant with his riffle loaded.

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Pyramiden is very green in the Arctic summer. Even the grass greener on the Pyramiden side! Wait: grass in Arctic? Well, not naturally. In the past, Soviets tried to bring as much normality to this Artctic town, as possible. Importing food and grocery was very expensive, so they brought fertile soil from Crimea region and tried to grow veggies at the 79° latitude. As we can see years after, the experiment was not entirely absurd.

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And Lenin is still there, watching the magnificent glacier and brutalist architecture. Once hosting workers’ families and offering all sort of facilities: gym, school and kindergarten, now Pyramiden’s blocks are home to countless Arctic birds.

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Sasha, the legendary guide and one of the few long-term inhabitants of Pyramiden. And tulips, which may still remember some wild parties on the International Women’s Day…

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If you are visiting Pyramiden with Sasha or Pavel (the other guide who joined the town this year), you will be able to enter to cantine or culture house where the facilities and art was left untouched since the last inhabitants left.

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You can even play football, contemplate in the library…

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…or play balalajka and read through some important posters from the 70s & 80s.

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There is also a small museum presenting emblematic animal life of Svalbard. Unfortunately, many animals were torn apart by a polar bear who sneaked into the museum once in search of food, or companions.

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I wish I could stay longer in this magic place. After a few hours, I had to return to Longyearbyen with the MS Polargirl ship. On the way back I passed along the glacier, observing seagulls, fulmars and Pyramiden in the sunshine. Cause in early August sun never sets on Svalbard.

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4 thoughts on “Beyond 79° latitude: Pyramiden

  1. Pingback: Longyearbyen: where Santa Claus lives in the mine | Berlinering

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