There are over 5,000 square meters of secret underground military bunkers hidden beneath the city of Karlskrona in Sweden. The city is rich with a fascinating history, especially with regard to their history of defense. The entrances to the bunkers are everywhere; you simply need to know where to look. I recently took a tour with the fine gentlemen at Culture Company AB, based out of Karlskrona, who showed me around two very different war-time underground bunkers.
Underground Military Bunkers
Culture Company AB is a tour provider that offers nearly 100 public programs year round. It is owned and operated by Michael Helgesson (pictured above). His son, Hannes Helgesson (pictured below), began operating English-speaking tours with the company in 2011. Both of these knowledgeable fellows were on-hand for my tour, and they were extremely patient with my seemingly never-ending stream of questions. I have had a fascination with underground bunkers for a very long time, and this was the first chance I’ve had to explore not just one, but two!
In the photos above, Michael indicates several bunker entrances located throughout Karlskrona. Global fear during the First World War and rising tensions until the end of the Cold War led to the continuous construction and expansion of Karlskrona’s impressive warren of bunkers. The city is part of an archipelago, and evacuation in the face of a nuclear bomb was impossible. The only other option to keep the citizens of Karlskrona safe was to go underground. The sign in the picture above that reads SKYDDSRUM marks the entrance to an underground bunker that can be used in case of extreme emergency. Many of these bunkers are still capable of housing citizens should the worst happen.
The evolution of bunker construction is a fascinating one. In the photos above, you can see one of the very first iterations. Here the walls have been blasted away with explosives, creating a simple series of glorified caves, for lack of a better term. These bunkers had air pumps, toilets, water wells, and electricity. In one of the photos, Hannes indicates the arch-like entrance to the bunker system that runs directly under the central square in Karlskrona. The idea was for multiple branches of the government to have a section of the bunker system during war-time. When the underground bunkers housed soldiers, a train was parked on the rails between the two entrances. The train served as sleeping quarters for the soldiers.
Modern Bunkers For a Modern World
In the pictures below, you can see the “new” style of bunker. The main layout was still blasted into shape with simple explosives. Yet, you can tell by the picture in the lower left of the collage that the bunker is actually constructed within the hollowed-out cavern. There is a 2 to 3 foot space between the rock wall and the exterior walls of the bunker. It’s basically a building that was constructed inside of a cave. There are all kinds of problems to consider when constructing a bunker, such as how best to dissipate the shockwave of a nuclear blast in case it gets through the front door. Frankly, I’m not sure how they figured everything out without rigorous testing. I’m glad I wasn’t there for it, to put it mildly.
This “new” bunker can hold up to 6,000 citizens for a recommended period of 48 hours. To offset the cost of maintaining this nuclear fallout shelter, it was used as a youth center for many years, up until the 1980s. At one time it boasted a discotheque and a bowling alley. Now Culture Company AB is available to offer a unique look into the history of Karlskrona by peering into the layered history of its secret underground bunkers.
Looking for more to do in Karlskrona, Sweden? Check out Sam’s speedy boat trip to a remote island in the Swedish archipelago where he snorkeled with seals!
We’d like to thank Visit Karlskrona and Culture Company AB for providing us with this wonderful tour. As always, our write-ups are an accurate representation of the experiences we had.