It was my 30th birthday coming up and I really wanted to do something special…..
I was a n00b to all this exploring malarkey and found an internet page about Chernobyl. I didn’t realise itwas possible to visit … I have a little bit of history with that place as to put it, so I made it my mission to go.
Back in 1989 my school set up a programme with kids whose families had been affected with the disaster. A 12 year old girl called Alla from Gomel became part of my family for 3 months. Her granddad was a worker at the power plant and I remember the stores she used to tell us. I was fascinated, even being 11 years old.
The trip took about 4 months to organise. I got in touch with Maxim from Pripyat.com who was to be our guide for the day in Chernobyl and Pripyat – the city a few kilometres away where the families of the workers lived.
On the morning of April 22nd, Maxim met us in the lounge of the Ukraina Hotel in Kiev, where we began the 2 hour journey to Chernobyl. There are 3 checkpoints you have to go through … 30km , 10 km and 5km away. Armed guards meet you.
The door to the mini bus opened and the word “Passports” was shouted out. The guard quickly looked at them then words were spoken with him and maxim. I remember being slightly scared, this was proper military precision!!
We got the all clear and off we went.
First stop was the memorial to the firefighters who lost their lives in the disaster.
A doggie who was quick to come and say hello!
Back in the mini bus and through another checkpoint where we were taken to Chernobyl for a quick briefing and “rules and regulations”. Basically we had to sign a document which said if anything happens, it’s our own responsibility. We were not allowed to touch anything, sit on the ground, etc
Maxim gave us a short lecture on the history of Pripyat and what happened on the day of the disaster. Then it was on to Reactor Number 4.
The Geigercounter with the Reactor in the distance.
As we were visitng the area a few days before the anniversary, the president of Ukraine was to visit. People were out cleaning the streets, putting fresh paint on things, we were forbidden to take photos! I managed a sneaky one of a van outside the power plant. “FORBIDDEN” maxim shouted.
We went into the visitor center opposite the plant where we got to see photos of the sarcorphogas and a scale model of the plant. I remember looking out the glass window to the plant and there were about 5 men dressed in white with bright orange helmets walking about and another handful having a cigarette break.Like I say, photos were totally forbidden here, I would have actually got my ass shot!!
Then it was onto our final checkpoint and into the city of Pripyat.
Sneaky photo of the guard from the mini bus window. Oh he hated me!!
As of April 1st 2008 it is forbidden to enter any of the buildings. Most are now crumbling and are unsafe and the minister of emergences does not want to promote it as a “tourist zone”. We looked through the windows of school number 1. it was torture not getting inside!! After some sweet talking Maxim he let us into the hospital. It was a case of 10 minutes pointing and clicking. Someone ventured down a corridor…. “Back back get back. RADIATION corridor. Come back” !!!!!
The town centre.
The Palace of Culture in the square.
From the hospital we walked to the funfair. It was due to open on May 1st 1986, 2 days after the disaster happened. No one got to to ride on the ferris wheel =[
The dodgems are one of the most contaminated areas of Pripyat.
Maxim said we could go into one more building, it was a toss up between school or pool. I voted pool as I just find empty swimming pools fascinating, but the others voted school, so school it was.
Back in the van and it was off to Chernobyl again for a 4 course meal which consisted of the most random food ever including meat I have never seen before and soup which tasted of McDonald’s big mac sauce!! A scrub of hands then radiation checked on a wee machine and off we went.
Back to checkpoint 1 where we were radiation scanned again, the contraption reminded me of a cattle mart, this metal structure you stood on with hands on pads at either side. If you were clear, the gate opened and you were free to go.
2 hour journey back to Kiev, we all slept the whole way.
This was most certainly a day and birthday I will never forget.. for anyone who wishes to go, I would highly recommend it and fast…. Nature is slowly taking its toll.
The full set of my pictures can be found here =]