Example of a two-day Chernobyl tour. We start our Chernobyl tour in Kiev. All papers, permits, accommodation, transport have already been arranged. And so we are expected in the morning near our hotel in Kiev to meet our guide and the driver. On the way to Chernobyl we get to see a film where our memory is refreshed about what happened 30 years ago and our guide tells us a few facts. After a three hour drive we are at the entrance of the exclusion zone. The adventure can begin!
The ghost village Zalissya.
After all papers and permits have been approved, we drive into the area. When you look around you will not see anything that reveals that here a disaster took place. Radiation cannot be seen and is therefore an invisible enemy. That is why our guide has a geiger counter which he regularly checks. We make our first stop at the desolate village of Zalissya. Although we are not allowed to enter any buildings, we explore the abandoned homes. It is actually a kind of Urban Exploring which we are doing here and we immediately love it. Most houses have unfortunately been looted. Days after the evacuation, plunderers came back to the area, where, of course, all possessions were left behind, and took everything what was of value. Later, the soldiers destroyed everything so that it would not be interesting anymore for the looters. Yet you can find some old stuff scattered over the place. Outside, some old vehicles rust and buildings toss. Nature takes back what was once hers. An impressive beginning.
Strangely as it sounds, you can just visit Chernobyl, but only with an organized tour, otherwise you will not get inside. After two passport checks you enter Chernobyl city. Surrounded by forest, deserted streets and here and there an old Lada. Sad little town. Specially when you know there are still people living over there. Old people who wanted to return, but also laborers. They stay there for two weeks to return for a week. Even though the radiation is within limits, long exposure is not so healthy. A few hundred meters away is a deserted nursery, strangely enough also the place where the highest radiation is still being measured. Lugubrious place with abandoned dolls, rusted beds and sunken floors. A bit further you find the robots and teleguided vehicles with which they have cleaned up the site. After a short briefing we drove on to the exploded nuclear power plant itself. It still gives a very special feeling when you suddenly see the world-famous tower appear. Here a few "volunteers" worked madly to save the rest of Europe from an even bigger disaster. You are afraid to thingk about it, what could have happened. Next to the site you find the gigantic, new sarcophagus. Impressive structure.
Pripyat: abandoned city.
The town of Pripyat is located a few kilometers from the reactor. Once a cozy place full of young families who wanted to make good money in the nuclear power plant, but now a totally deserted city where nature once again takes the upper hand. Empty streets, broken windows, cracks in the concrete walls; it gives a particular post-apocalyptic feeling. We were allowed to enter some buildings under supervision. The hospital, a school, the sports hall, a café, the cultural center and the swimming pool. Everywhere things were left behind, broken furniture and tools. Even the bumper cars and the ferris wheel of the amusement park still collect rust. A paradise for photographers. This is how it should feel to wander around in an abandoned world. And yet it remains impressive to see. Awful, lugubrious and at the same time wonderful. The beauty of decay. But especially the silence was most impressive. You are you in a city but you do not hear anything at all. Two realities that do not fit together.
The amusement park
The most famous place of Pripyat is the amusement park. Here the bumper cars are dwindling and the Ferris wheel will never run again. From the amusement park we walk to the overgrown stadium where once football was played. When we suddenly see a tribune emerge from the woods, we realize that the field itself has become a forest. We visit a school where thousands of gas masks lie on the floor and walk to the famous swimming pool that has been dry for years now. On the roof of a flat we have a beautiful view over Pripyat and the surrounding area. In the distance we see the nuclear reactor number 4. The aparments of the building are completely plundered. On the way back we make a stop at a never used cooling tower, cool to see this inside.
Duga radar station
One of the most secret places in the exclusion zone of Chernobyl is the town of Chernobyl 2. This place was not on the map and was a forbidden zone. Local residents did not really know what was going on here. Here a gigantic Duga radar station was built. This system traced missiles with an atomic charge during the Cold War. Within two to three minutes the Soviet leadership could be informed so they could take a counter-reaction. We explore the places where the airspace was traced to suspicious objects and where the gigantic masts appear. It is weird to walk around here and realize how far the Russians were ahead of their time, especially at technological level. We explore a few buildings where we see some very interesting places where machines were used during spying. Not everything has been demolished. Here and there posters with propaganda are still visible and gigantic installations are still half intact. It is intriguing to walk along the huge Duga masts. The enormous steel structure is 460 meters long and 100 meters high. After the disaster, the antenna was deactivated and transferred to another location. Further we visit the hotel, a flat and a school.
The sarcophagus of Nuclear Reactor 4
At the time of the accident, some reactors were still under construction. These were never completed afterwards. Around the reactor number 4, where the disaster took place, a huge concrete sarcophagus was built to shield the radioactive substances. The sarcophagus that we see now has recently been placed because the old showed some leaks. The new sarcophagus is the largest movable construction that man ever made. The concrete structure is 100 meters high, 150 meters long and 200 meters wide. With this new sarcophagus, they hope everything will be safely fenced off for more than 100 years. 32 years after the disaster, the reactor still emits radioactivity. When we look from a distance to the reactors you would not say we are at a few meters from a disaster site.
The Real Chernobyl Epicenter
From where Anatoly Dyatlov commanded his colleagues and led the situation to the world's most (in)famous nuclear blast. That room, where the AZ-5 (SCRAM) button was pushed too late. THE Control Room #4. Closed for over 30 years, now safe and open to you to peek into the most epic part of the Chernobyl story. A place where time stopped the very moment of April 26 when reactor 4 (just 30 meters away) exploded and changed the history of mankind and the destiny of millions of people.
Chernobyl is it worth while?
We had high expectations from this trip and they have all been realized to the fulliest. In fact, we really liked it. The history of this place is pretty intriguing. It is hard to imagine what consequences the disaster which took place here could have had for the whole of Europe. The effects of the radiation are still present even if you do not see them. The piece of cloth the Geiger counter so rose, or the radiation at the Red Forest. The danger is still there. Secretly explore the buildings. We were completely in our element during the entire tour. When we have the chance to return, we will certainly do it. Discover even more buildings and take more pictures. We really thought it was a unique travel experience, one big experience.
Is it dangerous to visit Chernobyl?
There is no harm in visiting Chernobyl during an excursion. The amount of radioactive radiation is in fact low. The maximum amount of radiation that you can incur in the worst case is 5 microSv. During the tour you will be screened regularly. But if you listen carefully to the guide, there is nothing to worry. For example, you cannot touch things, because dolls, teddy bears and books are contaminated with radioactive radiation. Beware of mushrooms and do not step in the moss. During the excursion the guide always has a geiger counter that automatically beeps when you get close of too much radiation