Viivikonna: Exploring an alleged Ghost Town in Estonia
Viivikonna is a ghost town in Estonia that I discovered during my research for lost places in Estonia. I had plans to visit Estonia and the capital Tallinn for quite some time. This year, I finally managed to get there. Of course I visited Viivikonna and a second abandoned place I found named Kolga Manor.
Viivikonna is a former mining town in Estonia quite close to the Russian border. So, I planned to visit this ghost town on the second day during my Estonia trip. Early morning, I picked up my pre-booked car from the Sixt office near the hotel and drove off.
Know before you go
The history of Viivikonna goes back to the 1930s, when an oil shale mine was established there. During World War II, german prisoners had to built the town which was finalized in the 1950s. Allegedly, between 2000-5000 people (depending on the sources you read) lived and worked there.
After the mine was closed around the time when the Soviet Union collapsed, people moved away and the buildings started to decay. Today, there's nothing left except for dozens of ruins. No electricity, no floating water. So if you plan to visit Viivikonna, be sure to bring enough to drink and a power bank to keep you devices charged.
How to get to Viivikonna
Generally, I prefer to use Google Maps over in-car navigational systems. On numerous occasions, Google Maps has proven to be more accurate and more reliable than built-in navigational systems.
As a side note: I use the Joby Griptight Auto Vent [Amazon Link] to attach my iPhone inside a car. This little thingie is ultra portable and perfect if you're traveling with carry on luggage. You can remove the Griptight itself and even mount it to a tripod. Useful, isn't it?
I took me a little more than two hours to get to Viivikonna, mainly because of the speed limit on Estonian Roads which is between 55 mph and 58 mph. I was warned that it can get quite expensive if I'd go faster.
For the last few miles Google Maps told me to leave the main road and go on a dirt road right through the surrounding woods. Man, that „road“ was in a really bad condition. On the other hand, would you expect to find a well paved road to a ghost town?
Arriving in Viivikonna
After 20 minutes or so I saw the first three residential houses; well, the remains of them to be exact. I parked the car and walked around through the high gras between those houses to take photos.
But before we continue, let‘s define the term „Ghost Town“ together. I believe we can agree on the following criteria:
- Most important, a ghost town is usually abandoned like no one lives there anymore.
- Buildings are usually decayed; some even collapsed. Metal structures are rusted.
- Nature has taken back the place. I‘d expect high grass everywhere and trees growing near, in or on top of old buildings and structures.
So, after I took the first set of photos, I drove further into the town. To photograph old storage units, I parked my car near something that looked like an old bus stop.
After looking closely, I saw something suspicious on this photo. Can you spot it too? Look at the lock on the first gate. That lock on the first gate looks quite new! I thought that this was a little strange but didn‘t investigate further and walked back to my car. You remember that I parked it near something that looked like a bus stop, right? It was a bus stop and an old man with a plastic bag sat there. Once he saw me, he walked up to me and I used Bing Translator to explain what I‘m doing here. He just smiled. I still wonder if he smiled because I used a translation app on an iPhone or because of the translation.
Next, I drove a little further into the city. And again, I encountered something suspicious. Look at the lawn! That‘s not something you‘d expect in a ghost town, do you?
A few seconds later, I saw a kid on his bike. Another few moments later I spotted a parked car between the houses and even more moments later, a pickup truck with four people came down the road. They didn‘t care much about me either.
Driving even further into the town, I saw more ruins but also well maintained houses. Some with gardens, some with a (modern) parked car in front. WTF? Why is this placed called a Ghost Town? There are still people living here! And not just one or two, it seemed like dozens of people still inhabit this „ghost town“.
I drove along a few more streets and encountered the same situation everywhere. Ruins, decayed buildings, but a well maintained house with a parked car now and then. The only thing I didn’t see in Viivikonna was any kind of store or shop.
In respect of the inhabitants I left the town and on my way out I spotted a ruin right near the city limits of Viivikonna. I‘ve no idea what this place was. There‘s a beaten path right near this building that takes you past it and revealed two more ruins. Be careful if you walk inside that former four-storied building. Some of the upper floors have already collapsed and the debris can be found on the ground floor.
I can‘t image how living in a half decayed city has to be and I‘m thankful I don‘t have to. So if you plan to go to Viivikonna, please show respect to the people that still live there. If a house and the surrounding area of the house looks well maintained, there‘s probably someone still living in there. The best places to see and experience the decayed buildings are those near the city limits.
Oh yes, and on my way back I passed by the bus stop I mentioned earlier. It seemed like a bus had just dropped off two dozen of citizens. It looked like they were all walking back to their homes.
During the past years I’ve been to a number of lost places in Europe. Check out my blog posts about all the lost places I’ve visited.
And, if you're staying in Tallinn, don't forget to visit Kolga Manor on your way back from Viivikonna
Finally, here's some of the gear I use and recommend to explore and photograph inside lost places.