Back in 2011, Amusing Planet posted pictures of a mysterious green tunnel of trees covering a section of railway tracks in Ukraine, known as “Tunnel of Love”. At that time, the internet was not aware of its existence and there was absolutely no information of this place save for its vague location near a city called Klevan. I asked my readers if they knew about the place, and a few chipped in with bits of information. In the last few years, as these pictures became more and more popular on social media and other websites, additional information began to surface. Recently, RFE/RL’s journalist and photographer Amos Chapple visited the site and came back with a more authentic story.
The “Tunnel of Love” is located between Klevan and the village of Orzhiv on the Kovel-Rivne line, a distance of seven kilometers. Near Orzhiv, the line splits into two. One leads to Klevan and the other leads to a secret military base, from the Cold War era, hidden in the forest. Back in those days, the trees were deliberately planted alongside the track to conceal the transport of military hardware. The military base is possibly still in use because Google maps shows large numbers of military vehicles on the base.
The “Tunnel of Love” is kept neatly trimmed, not by of the movement of the military, but by industrial freight trains operated by the Odek plywood factory, in the village of Orzhiv. Birch trees from across Ukraine are trucked in to the factory where they are turned into plywood panels. Finished plywood panels are loaded onto large containers and hauled by trains to the Klevan railway junction. From Klevan they are taken along the main trunk line to markets across West Europe.
The Odek factory trains run to Klevan through the “Tunnel of Love” several times a day, depending on how much plywood there is to transport. The “tunnel” starts after a few hundred meters from the factory. Chapple doesn’t mention for how long the tunnel extends, but according to the English Wikipedia it is three kilometer long, while the Russian Wikipedia says it’s four kilometers.
Apparently, the “tunnel” is hugely popular in Ukraine. Couples and newly weds often have photo-shoots here. Sometimes the tourists are a problem for the train operators and they have to keep a sharp eye on the track. Last year, a 38-year-old Japanese woman was struck by the train, fracturing her hip, but it was an isolated incident.
The tunnel has no official protection nor any guardian, but a few years ago the factory cut down several trees to aid passage of the train and there was a huge outcry. The factory hasn’t touched a tree since then.
This feature originally appeared in Amusing Planet.