The tour group met up in the morning at Independence Square. We checked in with the tour guide and boarded the tour bus. It probably even be called a tour bus. It was basically a van that could seat around 15 people. It was old and rickety, which was alright I guess. The only problem with it was that it didn’t really have a good suspension nor seatbelts.
Not to mention that the drive to Chernobyl was about two hours on a really bumpy road. On the really bad bumps, my whole body flew up and my head hit the ceiling of the car. I was still recovering from jet lag and I guess I was so tired that I slept anyway, while waking up intermittently when the bumps got too bad. The tour guide played an intro video about Chernobyl on the way there and I slept through that too.
The Abandoned Kindergarten
We toured an abandoned kindergarten. The building was made out of wood and so we were able to go inside and visit it. The tour guide mentioned that people used to be allowed to enter most of the buildings in the area, but lately some of the concrete buildings began to crumble. Because of that, it is no longer allowed for people to enter concrete buildings. The tour guide also said something along the lines of “if you get hit by a falling concrete block in the head, you’ll probably die, but if you get hit by a falling piece of wood, you’ll just get hurt”. By that logic, wooden buildings are still okay!
It makes a lot of sense that there is a lot of random junk lying around since the people did leave in a hurry during the evacuation, but some things didn’t really make sense. Like the doll in the above picture: why is it randomly missing its limbs? There was also a tricycle on the floor with no wheels. Did someone think the wheels were worth something and took only the wheels?
In this area there were also tons of tiny mosquitos and I got stung so many times by these “irradiated” mosquitos. The tour guide said that it’s better when it rains when the mosquitos are even bigger. He said that because they’re big, they’re easier to notice and to get rid of. But if you get stung…the swelling probably isn’t going away for a while.
Reactor Number 4
We went to reaction number 4 next. The disaster began at this very reactor. We were able to get as close as 300 m away from it. Beside it was the new sarcophagus structure that was being built to replace the currently existing leaky one.
I didn’t think we’d be able to get this close to the reactor. At this point the Geiger counter was reading about a few microsieverts per hour, which is over 10 times more than what normally people receive in a given day.
Before Pripyat was evacuated, the city had a population of about 50 000 people and we got to walk around the abandoned city. We were told not to touch anything or sit on any surface for fear of radiation contamination.
After so many years of neglect, trees grew out of control and blocked off entire streets. In some sections of the city, what used to be roads and intersections just became completely blocked by trees. In some of the heavily paved areas, grass and weeds grew through the cracks in the concrete. Bits of concrete were clearly missing from the surface of the buildings too and metal surfaces were all rusted. It’s a shame that we couldn’t go inside the concrete buildings here.
We also went to the amusement park, where the iconic ferris wheel is located.
It was so rusty that I questioned when the spinning part of the ferris wheel would just crumble and fall. Or maybe the seats would be the first to just drop one at a time. Maybe the entire ferris wheel would just fall over on its side. Even in the picture, the ferris wheel looks like its leaning a little bit toward one side.
Beside the ferris wheel were the bumper cars. I found that pretty creepy. I also remember that randomly on the street there was an abandoned bumper car just lying there. That made me wonder how it got there. Did someone think that was worth keeping and drag it there only to abandon it? I wonder what was going through the people’s minds when they were evacuating.
Within the Chernobyl area was a memorial for the events that happened and also for the three nuclear events that happened in Japan. In the picture below between the two cranes, there are replicas of nuclear rods.
There was also a path with signs showing names of all the cities and villages that were affected by the nuclear disaster. In such a short time span, so many lives were changed forever.
Back to Kiev
After having a giant lunch at the power plant canteen (no irradiated food I’m pretty sure), we headed back to Kiev. I don’t recall eating dinner that day.
As we passed through the Chernobyl zone checkpoint, everyone had to go through a standard radiation screen. We stood in this machine and the light would turn green to signal that we were okay. I wonder what happens when people fail that.
After passing through the checkpoint, it was another two-hour ride in a van with no suspensions where I fell asleep for pretty much the whole way.
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