The village of Szentkirályszabadja in the Veszprém District of Hungary is a former Soviet military base with an associated Soviet barracks town. This place is sometimes referred to as the Hungarian Chernobyl because of the characteristic Soviet-style buildings as well as the fact that it looks like a post-apocalyptic wasteland.
Many of the buildings in the base were built in the 1960s. However, some of the older buildings date to the 1930s when the area was used as an airbase with an associated training academy.
During the Cold War, the old airfield served as a major helicopter base. While they controlled the base, the Soviets constructed many new buildings in their distinctive style to house the soldiers and their families.
The barracks town was designed to be a self-sufficient community, and quite a luxurious one too, when compared to living standards in the surrounding area. In addition to the large residential barracks, schools, restaurants, a library, a hospital, shops, and a cinema were built.
Several Hungarian internet sources suggest that Hungarians were forbidden to enter the area and Soviet soldiers were forbidden to leave it. However, this didn’t stop the Soviets from employing Hungarians in childcare and the theater or prevent a decent trade existing between soldiers and locals.
In the late 1980s, many residents started to leave the base due to the collapse of the Soviet Union. The soldiers had a decent amount of time to withdraw, taking until 1996 to pack up and transport anything of value, such as armaments and statues.
After 1996, when the place was no longer guarded, many of the structures were looted for their materials: doors, windows, railings, wires – anything made of wood or iron was taken away.
Once the Soviets were out of the country, the Hungarian government decided to get rid of the various military infrastructures pertaining to their time there, and Szentkirályszabadja was one of them.
Although the war helicopter regiment became defunct in the summer of 2004, for some time thereafter, the airport was used as a base for commercial transport. It was still able to function because, despite the overgrown state of the barracks, the airfield and control tower were still usable.
Currently, Szentkirályszabadja is considered a ghost town, which consists of destroyed and looted former Soviet barracks. Roofs are collapsing and vegetation has crept inside many of the buildings. The streets look more like young woodland than advanced civilization.
Of particular interest are the former aircraft hangers, large buildings easily recognized by their curved roofs. Sadly, those visitors who’ve managed to get inside one of the hangars tell of how the roofs are virtually collapsed and weeds are sprouting everywhere inside.
The site is often visited by curious urban explorers, especially since the entrance to the city is wide open and accessible. Those who made the trip in the early years even managed to get pictures of the murals that remained on the walls of the school and the nursery.
However, Szentkirályszabadja can be a dangerous place to visit with its overgrown nature, broken glass and debris on the ground, and buildings on the verge of collapse. Visitors also need to be aware of airsoft and paintball players who make use of the ruins for their battles.
The photographer, CarloR, runs a blog about his travels. He likes to visit places that do not usually fit into typical travel plans. Before each trip, he carefully plans all the details and uncovers as much as he can about the history of his chosen location.
Afterward, he openly shares everything that he has learned during his planning as well as his experiences upon reaching his destination.
CarloR also takes many detailed photographs of his explorations and publishes them in an article. Visit his website and feel free to contact him with any questions about trips you might have.
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