A newly surfaced video takes viewers through winding stairways and eerie corridors of a hidden bunker tucked away in a mountain in southern Sweden. Complete with a vintage kitchenette, bedrooms, and bathrooms, the dwelling might seem innocuous at first. But Free Solo, a self-described adventurer team who discovered the secret site, claims it was once used by Swedish intelligence officers to conduct surveillance during the Cold War.
The Telegraph, which posted the team's viral video in late November, notes that they believe the site has been unoccupied since the collapse of the Soviet Union. The team has not disclosed the bunker’s exact location to discourage trespassers, “stressing its ‘historical importance’ and the ‘vital resonance’ [the bunker] still holds today.”
It’s not surprising that a Cold War-era bunker was found in Sweden. While Sweden appeared to be politically neutral during the Cold War, the country was distrustful of its geopolitical situation and prioritized maintaining a strong coastal defense in case of a Soviet Union attack. (Further shedding the veneer of neutrality, according to a top-secret treaty, the country signed a long-standing agreement in 1954 to share intelligence with Western powers.)
During the Cold War, Sweden also made efforts to protect its population from nuclear threats. That's why the country established an estimated 65,000 nuclear shelters during the Cold War era. These nuclear bunkers reflect the international panic over the possibility of nuclear war, panic which heightened after the Soviet Union began testing its own atom bomb in 1949. The United States' arms race with the Soviets led to an unprecedented military buildup, and the nuclear age pushed similar bunkers to pop up throughout the world.
Across the United States, famous examples of these bunkers include the JFK Bunker in Peanut Island, Florida, and the Greenbrier Bunker in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, writes Kristin Hunt for Thrillist. Aside from concealing intelligence operations, these Cold War-era hideouts were also created to shelter government officials from harm’s way just in case the Soviet Union decided to launch a nuclear missile.
The Greenbrier Bunker, for example, was meant to shield the entire U.S. Congress beneath the Greenbrier Resort. President Dwight D. Eisenhower himself chose Greenbrier as the site for the congressional bunker, and named the construction plan "Project Greek Island,” according to NPR. The site was largely kept a secret until the Washington Post revealed on it in 1992. Navy Seabees, as the United States Naval Construction Battalions are better known as, built the JFK Bunker to serve as President John F. Kennedy’s vacation bunker because the president was known to take family vacations in Palm Beach.
The Cold War may be over, but nuclear bunkers aren't just a relic of the past. As The Local reports, Swedish government officials are currently contemplating the creation of new shelters today to protect its population against future threats. And, around the world, ultra-wealthy individuals have also constructed their own private safe havens to shield themselves from climate change, war or other catastrophes, as Evan Osnos reported in a deep dive for The New Yorker earlier this year.
But you don’t need to be super rich or powerful to secure a safe spot from impending doom—as Robert Spallone points out for BoingBoing, travelers can book an Airbnb stay at Cold War-era safehouse for less than $150 a night.