Built in the 1890s on the orders of the Russian Tsar Alexander III, the fortifications built to protect the naval base just to the north of Liepāja in western Latvia were deliberately destroyed barely 10 years after they were finished.
No one knows why for sure. Some historians argue that it was a goodwill gesture towards Germany after a political agreement was signed. (Not a good move considering the two countries would be at war with each other in World War I, a few years later. Others say they were too expensive to maintain.
Whatever the reason, their ruins provide an eerie spectacle, crumbling into the Baltic Sea.
The ruins sit along a stretch of golden sand, just to the north of the old Karosta naval base. During Soviet times the base was off limits to everyone, including the residents of Liepāja. But after Latvia gained independence in 1994 it was opened to the world.
Now families picnic amongst the ruins and fossickers walk along the beach looking for amber. The mood of the ruins changes with the weather. When the clouds are dark and the sea an angry slate grey they look moody and threatening. When it’s sunny, they look almost cheerful, especially the tilting building sitting 10 metres or so off the shore. A concrete staircase remains attached to the building, leading to a doorway and a porch, perfect for watching a spectacular Baltic sunset.
It was probably one of my favourite places in western Latvia.