Visiting history at Chernobyl and Pripyat
At 1:23am on 26th April 1986 a nuclear disaster took place at Chernobyl Nuclear Power Station during a systems test.
We had the opportunity, whilst on holiday in Ukraine, to visit Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant and Pripyat.
With our long trousers, coats and thick boots we were ready to go. One last thing, our Geiger counter! Firing them up we check the background radiation in Kiev. 0.15 microsieverts, roughly the same as most cities. After checking if we “beeped”, as well as making sure we pass the dress code (covered skin at all times), we jump inside the mini bus for our journey.
It would take us around two hours to reach Dytyatky checkpoint so we sit back, relax and watch a video of the disaster.
The roads are bumpy, in the typical Eastern European way. Each mile feels like ten in this mini bus. After a short nap, we reach Dytyatky Checkpoint. Passports, paperwork and radiation check. We are OK and pass through. This is the entrance to the 30km exclusion zone.
More straight roads surrounded by woodland and we reach the outskirts of Chernobyl. A quick stop for photographs beside the town sign and we were off again.
We soon reach a memorial at Chernobyl Fire Station to those who perished at the plant.
This is the moment when the group realise its not a fun day out, people died and we are all still living with the events of the day.
Not soon after leaving the town, we reach the 10km exclusion zone. Paperwork, passports and radiation check again. We are quickly processed and on we go. Next stop is Kopachi, or what is left of it. Mounds of earth topped with radioactive signs surround us. Kopachi was demolished and buried. Each sign marks the site of someones home or business.
One building which is still standing is Kopachi Kindergarten. Looking like spooky, horror film set.
Time to go, this area is “hot” and our guide wants us to move on. More straight roads and beautiful countryside, we soon see Chernobyl Nuclear Power Station in the distance. The famous chimneys.
I expect that this is the closest we will get. Im happy with this. Just being able to see the real thing is enough for me, so I’m surprised when we keep going, closer and closer.
We get this close.
Our dosemeters are beeping. Its not high, surprisingly. Hiding behind the statue reduces the reading. We stay for a short time, no one trusts the radiation.
Pripyat, Ukranian При́п’ять, Pryp’yat’; Russian: При́пять Prip’iat is our next stop. The new town was founded on 4th February 1970, to house the workers and families for the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. The population grew to 49,360 before being evacuated a few days after the 26th April 1986 Chernobyl disaster.
We stop for photographs at the city sign.
Then continue onto the city itself.
Its all a bit “Clockwork Orange” in design and defintely feels like we are film extras wandering around here.
Trees and bushes poke out of every spare piece of soil locked in the concrete.
We aren’t allowed inside the buidlings due the state they are in. It would have been good to have a look inside the hotel – any doubles? We head North towards the most iconic areas, the Amusement Park. Is there anywhere else which sums up this disaster? The innocence of the ferris wheel.
The swimming pool still stands, just. Crumbling around us, we tiptoe through the rubble, broken tiles and gas masks.
It was time to leave, but not without finding a little friend. he seemed happy to have the town to himself.
Our tour bus returned to chernobyl for a late lunch. Pretty tablecloths and plates filled with goodies covered the tables. We were assured the food was brought in from outside the exclusion zone.
Oven cooked fish topped with onions and cheese, Clear soup with meatballs and vegetables, Kovbasa – a selection of meats and Vinigret – salad of beets, carrots and sauerkraut. Washed down with Kvass (rye bread drink) and water.
This was the freshest, tastiest meal we had on our whole trip. It was made with a lot of pride and attention to good quality food. Every time we cleared a plate, another would appear.
A brief wander around the town, with mainly time to see the memorial field which contains signs for each of the villages evacuated within the exclusion zone. A moment to think if the immediate lives affected by the disaster.
We leave Pripyat and Chernobyl behind and make our way back to Kiev. Leaving the inhabitants to continue the clear up.