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Visaginas & Ignalina Nuclear Power Station/Lithuania

Introducing Visaginas & Ignalina Nuclear Power Station

Doomed Visaginas is a town without a future: built in 1975 for workers of the Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant, the unlucky lakeside frontier was designed by the USSR for energy specialists seconded from the Soviet Union to oversee the plant's construction. With its EU-forced closure (scheduled for 2009), people are now leaving in droves - before they are left in a ghost town with no job and little prospect of getting one nearby.

The Soviet toy town, packed with identical-looking blocks of flats amid a forest, is circled by a ring road, along which buses shuttle 3500 shift workers between Visaginas and the plant, 2km east of the town centre. In its heyday 5000 people worked at Ignalina. A Geiger counter records the day's radiation level and Russian remains the language spoken on the streets.

There's tourist office (52 597; www.ignalina.lt; Taikos gatvė 11; 8am-6pm Mon-Fri, 9am-2pm Sat, 10am-3pm Sun) here and staying the night is a must if you're after the ultimate Soviet experience. This is, after all, the only Soviet city in the EU where nothing is more than 30 years old! Hotel Aukštaitija (50 686; www.mimina.surgardas.lt; Veteranų gatvė 9; d 250Lt; ) is the concrete block for the full Soviet throwback, and 10-room, spa-clad Gabriella (70 171; www.gabriella.lt; Jaunystės gatvė 21; s/d from 180/240Lt; ) is the place to avoid it.

In mid-August Visaginas bizarrely rocks with a bunch of cowboys - hats, boots and all - who groove on into town from across Europe for the two-day international country music festival, Visagino Country (www.vis agino-country.lt). The tourist office knows all about it.

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