Kyiv Pt. II, Chernobyl & Pripyat
So next day was Peter’s birthday, and Mads and I woke up Peter with Ukrainian flags and song!
After a good breakfast at the hotel buffet we went out to see the statue of Mother Motherland. A great statue in concrete and steel, holding a sword and a shield with the hammer and seal, in its arms. Surrounding the area of the statue, were great Soviet monuments as well as tanks and artillery cannons. Some of the russian tanks were from the ongoing war in Crimea and Donetsk. Beneath the statue was a museum of culture and war regarding current and present wars of Ukraine.
Afterwards we headed to one of Kyivs main attractions the Pechersk Lavra, a big monastery with orthodox churches and a crypt with dead sacred people. For me an odd situation, tons of people in the very limited space in the crypt kissing the coffins and sacred items, and me battling a starting claustrophobia.
We had lunch at a great restaurant ‘Tsars’ke Selo’ serving local Ukrainian food, and we started out with some Salo (pork fat) and a horseradish vodka. At night we went to the Arena area, a courtyard with restaurants, discos and a strip club.
Next day, we had a late breakfast, and went for a walk and some shopping. The weather was hot 35 degrees and the afternoon was spent relaxing on the hotel terrace. Before heading out for a walk downtown for dinner at the Last Barricade, where I had the best Borscht I’ve ever had. The place was a hidden restaurant with a dwarf in in front of a metal door asking for the password – power to Ukraine.
Next day we was up early, getting ready for our daytrip to Chernobyl. Our guide Serhii picked us up at 8 am. On our two hour drive to the exclusion zone, he told us about his upbringing in the soviet union, and how things had changed. The road to the 30km exclusion zone border was in pretty bad condition, but finally we made it to the control point where busses with tourists were waiting to get checked past security. At the control point you could get all sorts of merchandise cups, magnets, gasmasks, geigercounters and glow in the dark condoms.
After 1.5 hour we finally got through, and got our dosimeter on us, to measure the amount of radiation we were exposed to during our stay. First stop was a small village where we walked through the area and saw different abandoned houses and a community hall with the text “communism is the future” in Russian.
Next stop was the city of Chernobyl where some settlers has returned. The city is still pretty empty but you see some people walking around and some monuments to the abandoned villages. Then we headed down a loooong bumpy concrete road to the secret Duga radar station. An impressive metal structure appeared as we got closer, and I really quite impressive with it’s 150m in height and 700m width, it was really quite a sight!
Heading into the 10 km exclusion zone, we headed for a city which had been buried, and where a kindergarten remained, an eerie sight, the dosimeter went off as we approached the building, reaching 3-4 ųSv, which is similar to the radiation received when flying. The kindergarten was really scary, with toys and dolls lying around the place. Outside near the road there was another hotspot, where they washed the trucks first on the site after the nuclear explosion.
Lunch was eaten close to the blown reactor no. 4 where workers and scientists were also eating, a weird feeling sitting there eating.
Afterwards we went to the ‘Instagram’ place, where people could see the monument and the new safe confinement that is protecting the outside from the still very radioactive inside of the melted down reactor. The measurement outside was around 1.5 ųSv, which is 6 times lower than before the new cover was put on.
Last stop on the tour was the ghost city of Pripyat, the city built for the workers, and located only 3 km from the power plant. The city has been completely overtaken by nature, and was is hard to picture how it was. Walking around the buildings and looking was really strange, not much was left. By the amusement park our guide showed us another hotspot on the ferris wheel where a piece of ceasium-135 was radiating, I stayed back, and also some places with dust on the ground where the choppers that helped put out the fire had landed.
When we finally headed back towards Kyiv we were all pretty exhausted, terrified and a quite special experience richer.