The Soviet era was known for many things, but chic was never one of them. How, then, to explain the trendy appeal of the architecture, art and other relics of those times in today's Europe?

Soviet-era buildings, from the Fernsehturm TV tower in Berlin's Alexanderplatz to the Slovak Radio building in Bratislava, are scattered throughout former communist bloc countries and are considered landmarks, however unpretty, by visitors and locals alike.

Some, like the kitschy Tskaltubo Spa Resort in Georgia, with its natural spring baths and mini-Soviet museum, and the Hotel Neptun, a Stasi-era property in Rostock, Germany, still flourish as hotels.

Auto tours in restored East German Trabant cars, known affectionately as Trabis, are a hot ticket in Berlin, and huge, dramatic statues - originally created as Soviet propaganda - in Budapest's Memento Park and the Museum of Socialist Art in Sofia, Bulgaria, for example, draw selfie-taking crowds.

Travelers who want to take the concept a step farther can go for cocktails or dance the night away in Cold War-era air raid shelters and bunkers in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania.

According to Vilnius in Love, a tour company that specializes in customized tours across the destination, there are more than 1,000 such structures in Lithuania, some quite elaborate and all formerly unknown to the local population.

Most of the shelters, which were originally equipped with water supplies and air filtering systems to house locals in the event of a nuclear war, sit abandoned today. But some have been repurposed into entertainment venues.

Beer lovers can try one of 18 traditional brews at Alaus Namai, for example, while Club Cuba, offers dancing, eclectic cuisine and even Cuban cigars in a space that still contains secret doors and hidden rooms.

Museum-goers can learn about spy technology at KGB Bunker in Kaunas, Lithuania's second largest city, located under a factory, or check out a Cold War ballistic missile silo and rocket launch base at Zemaitija National Park

For a more interactive, if somewhat unnerving experience, you can become a temporary citizen of the USSR and be greeted by guard dogs, interrogated by the KGB, and dine on a typical Soviet-style dinner via the Survival Drama experience at the Underground Museum of Socialism, about 15 miles outside of Vilnius. 

JDS Travel News JDS Viewpoints JDS Africa/MI