Lonely Planet Writer

A photographer has spent 15 years documenting these amazing Soviet-era bus stops

Photographer Christopher Herwig first discovered the unusual architecture of Soviet-era bus stops during a 2002 long-distance bike ride from London to St. Petersburg.

Poltava Airport in Ukraine.
Poltava Airport in Ukraine. Image by Christopher Herwig / FUEL Publishing

The Canadian decided to challenge himself to take one good photograph every hour, and during that project he began to notice surprisingly-designed bus stops on otherwise deserted stretches of road. Twelve years later, he had covered more than 18,000 miles in 14 countries of the former Soviet Union, travelling by car, bike, bus and taxi to hunt down and document these bus stops.

A bus stop in Pitsunda in Georgia.
A bus stop in Pitsunda in Georgia. Image by Christopher Herwig / FUEL Publishing

The local bus stop proved to be fertile ground for local artistic experimentation in the Soviet period, and was built seemingly without design restrictions or budgetary concerns. The result is an astonishing variety of styles and types across the region, from the strictest Brutalism to exuberant whimsy.

A bus stop on a road in Kootsi, Estonia.
A bus stop on a road in Kootsi, Estonia.

“Several of the most creative designs I came across were in the middle of nowhere, and Kazakhstan does middle of nowhere really well,” he tells Lonely Planet News. “It’s far from any place most of us will ever travel to, and the vast distances between settlements on rough, painfully slow roads means that when out of nowhere a bus stop appears that is colorfully-painted and shaped like a cute little mosque, it can’t help but blow the mind”.

The Karakol Bird bus stop in Kyrgyzstan.
The Karakol Bird bus stop in Kyrgyzstan. Image by Christopher Herwig / FUEL Publishing

Originally published in a quickly sold-out limited edition, Soviet Bus Stops, is a comprehensive and diverse collection of these bus stops, including examples from Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Ukraine, Moldova, Armenia, Abkhazia, Georgia, Lithuania, Latvia, Belarus and Estonia.

Taken in Gagra in Abkhazia.
Taken in Gagra in Abkhazia. Image by Christopher Herwig / FUEL Publishing

The bus stops are no longer appreciated by road planners, according to Herwig. “Most are knocked down and replaced with new standard bus stops, many just disappear slowly depending on how well they were built. Many roads have been redone or enlarged since the Soviet Union and often the bus stops are replaced with the road. Sometimes the new road shifts a bit and the bus stop remains in a farmer’s field.” For further details of the book see here. 

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