It's A Blast!

Chernobyl Travel Blog

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The room was completely empty except for a table in the middle with maps and photographs lining the wall and there was complete silence as the people who had joined the same tour walked around the room, unsure of what we were meant to do, or why we had been taken to this part of the building.  This was my first introduction to Chernobyl - the site of the world’s worst nuclear accident and after having been dropped off there as part of a day trip, with no instruction I felt like I was in a strange B Grade Movie.

 

Driving through the security checks earlier that day, I had spent my time sitting with baited breathe hoping to see, well I wasn’t sure, after all I had never been to a nuclear power plant before, let alone one that had a meltdown.

This is the room that I got to wander around at the start of the tour, not knowing what I was meant to do
  What was I actually going to see?  The empty table room was not quite what I had in mind. 

 

All the maps on the walls were in Russian, and although I can make sense of the Cyrillic letters when I think really hard about it, I did not immediately turn into a superhero with superpowers with the ability to read Russian even though I was being exposed to radiation*.

*  The radiation you are exposed to here is minimal and it is on par with a trans-Atlantic flight, but there are areas that have more radiation than other areas – for example Pripyat or by Reactor Four.

 

After five or so minutes of wandering looking at maps, unsure what I was looking at, or even where in the world this map was showing, we were greeted by Yuri, our guide for the day.

View from the briefing room
  And this is when we really got to go and experience Chernobyl and the town of Pripyat – the area that burst onto the world stage on 25 - 26 April 1986, but first it was lunch.

 

The four-course meal provided was a delicious traditional Ukrainian food with produce brought in from outside the contamination zone – still all the while I was eating, I kept thinking back to the 3-Eyed Fish episode from The Simpsons.

 

First mentioned in historical records 1000 years ago, Chernobyl had always been agriculturally important and during Stalin’s reign, the area had undergone collectivisation.  But the town of Pripyat was new.  Established in February 1970, this town was set up to house the workers of the Chernobyl Power Plant.  This town did not get to last long, as residents were evacuated forty hours after the explosion.

Yes, a 'no smoking' sign here in Chernobyl because that's a killer ...
  Chernobyl township didn’t fare much better, centuries of life ended abruptly when locals were told to pack up and leave on the 5 May 1986.  Most never returned.

 

It is a strange thing to walk around a place which was clearly lived in, people were educated here, laughed, married, had children and died here and now there are just remnants to their experiences.  Perhaps this is why so many people were unwilling to leave their farms after Reactor Four exploded, they were part of this place, it was home.  Like trees the middle aged and elderly that got uprooted struggled to take hold in their new homes in Kiev – the city suited the younger generation who could adapt easier.

One of the lunch courses
  The older generation labored in the big city and longed with the familiar sounds of the country.  Some returned to this area.

 

After the explosion four towns and 93 villages were evacuated, 130,000 people had to be resettled.   Yet this is where the story gets a little strange – although locals were removed, the Power Plant continued to function until 2000 when it was finally closed by the Ukraine government.  (The Ukraine was formed after the collapse of the USSR in 1991).  Today 4000 people are still employed within the site, testing and checking on levels of radiation. 

 

Driving around Pripyat, I got to go up close up to Reactor 4, the Amusement Park, the Hotel, the High School, I saw the cranes standing idle on the Reactor 5 and 6 which were being built at the time of the explosion.

Seriously good food
  Years earlier I had seen an apocalyptic movie, Day of the Triffids, and I remember the scene of the heroes entering the hotel looking for something, anyone.  I had the same sensation when I was here – books scattered on the floor, a child’s toy left on the ground, shoes lying on the ground, newspapers, but no-one there, just echoes to the past.

 

It was while walking around the school that captured my imagination the most – in all the shambolic chaos that you can see with tables and chairs strewn around the place, there is a chair that had been put up on the desk.  It is almost like the student was packing up for the day and not forever.

 

I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to have to leave my home at a moments notice and never to return and even if I could return, what then?  Live in a zone that is acknowledged to have radiation and can cause harmful effects to one’s health.

Yuri and his giga counter which would make increased beeping sounds throughout the day depending on the levels of radiation
 You have to go through security measures if I wanted to leave the zone.  Afterwards I thought about those people buried here, how do their families cope with not being able to visit their gravesites?

 

I was lucky I got to see this for a day and think it was an interesting and surreal experience, but I think having to deal with the reality wouldn’t be such a blast.

 

Prosh-chavay from Chernobyl

 

vances says:
I grew up near Three Mile Island in the US, and my only memory of the event was that we got two days off from school because they wanted everyone indoors!

I'm sure Chernobyl was a sobering experience, which you shared gracefully. I think the scariest thing about radiation poisoning is that it kills EVERYTHING...there have been experiments conducted and all of the plant life hangs out as morbid corpses because there is no bacteria to break things down...

:^(
Posted on: Jan 07, 2011
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This is the room that I got to wan…
This is the room that I got to wa…
View from the briefing room
View from the briefing room
Yes, a no smoking sign here in C…
Yes, a 'no smoking' sign here in …
One of the lunch courses
One of the lunch courses
Seriously good food
Seriously good food
Yuri and his giga counter which wo…
Yuri and his giga counter which w…
Near the stadium
Near the stadium
Monument to the firefighters who w…
Monument to the firefighters who …
Not a particularly busy road to Pr…
Not a particularly busy road to P…
Overlooking the construction of Re…
Overlooking the construction of R…
The Cooling Tower
The Cooling Tower
This is where the explosion happen…
This is where the explosion happe…
Reactor Four
Reactor Four
Extreme Podcasting in front of Rea…
Extreme Podcasting in front of Re…
The counter keep increasing
The counter keep increasing
and increasing
and increasing
Welcome to Pripyat
Welcome to Pripyat
The Town Square
The Town Square
Postcards from the 1970s showing …
Postcards from the 1970's showing…
Left behind
Left behind
The reflection of the hotel
The reflection of the hotel
Having a strong Day Of The Triffi…
Having a strong 'Day Of The Triff…
The Amusement Park
The Amusement Park
The Bumper Cars remain silent
The Bumper Cars remain silent
The Ferris Wheel
The Ferris Wheel
Remnants to the past
Remnants to the past
Dan and I and the lovely swimming …
Dan and I and the lovely swimming…
Making our way to the high school
Making our way to the high school
I managed to find a History classr…
I managed to find a History class…
Study notes left behind
Study notes left behind
In all the haste tables and chairs…
In all the haste tables and chair…
except for one that a student has …
except for one that a student has…
Me using one of the many machines …
Me using one of the many machines…
Chernobyl
photo by: Biedjee