This winter Shitty Guide has spent two weeks in Kiev to celebrate NYE and explore the city. A visit to Kiev without visiting Chernobyl is like going to India without visiting the Taj Mahal. Not entirely true but you get the point, right? Read our report about one of the shittiest places on earth.
Sasha, a grafitti artist from Kiev, told us we should hire a stalker to get to Chernobyl. Stalkers are locals who can get you in Chernobyl without the expensive permits and official guide. This would only take up to a week of walking and camping. Perhaps something you could do during your honeymoon in summer? We found a tour company and did it the easy way.
Maidan square, a year after the revolution
Our tour started at the Maidan Square in the centre of Kiev. After we paid a $100/person, half a monthly salary of the average Ukrainian, to the tour company guy, we took off to Chernobyl. Before leaving he made some jokes that he was gonna go shopping with our money and was going to stay in Kiev because he didn’t want to die of radiation. LOL.
The first thing we got when we were in the car was a little piece of paper with info about the radiation levels at Chernobyl. Apparently the highest radiation level we were going to meet was as high as in an airplane flight! No worries at all. The tour company guy was just joking after all.
A shitty punk rock Chernobyl sound
During the drive to Chernobyl the city scape was slowly changing to snow white forests and wide plains. In the meanwhile we had to watch a documentary about the Chernobyl disaster with a lot of old archive footage and people with weird haircuts. We found out one of the people we’ve met during our night train to Lviv was a liquidator. One of the 500.000 people who had to clean up the radio active dust in Chernobyl a few weeks after the disaster.
Pjetr, the liquidator we met during our train journey to Lviv
It was shocking how long the government waited before evacuating people living near the powerplant. The people living in Pryopat, the city next to the reactor, didn’t even have a clue what just happened. The government even acted like nothing happened and only after a week people got evacuated. But then it was already too late for them. Scientists estimated about +/- 4.000 people got infected by the radioactive dust and got cancers etc. But they never could prove it ‘cause they got diagnosed only years after the disaster.
After a 1h30 drive we arrived at the 30km exclusion zone checkpoint were we had to show our passports to an official. There were about 3 checkpoints: one at 30km, 10km and 2.5km. The 30 km zone is quite safe. There are even people living over here and in thirty years it might be possible this area could be radioactive free again! The ten km zone is more radioactive and in the last zone it’s allowed to stay for only a day. But still the dosages are very low.
Igor, our Ukrainian guide, has everything under control.
A Chernobyl resident
The start of the tour
After showing our passports to a grumpy official we could enter Chernobyl town. To our surprise there are living about 7.000 people in the town. Most of them are working in the powerplant and for the government. And some of the locals never even left Chernobyl after the disaster. These are mainly the elder. They survived the famine during the rule of Stalin and two world wars. Why the hell would they run from something you can not see, smell or hear? Igor told us these people are fine and still drinking water, eating the fish from the river and drink their vodka. Although people can only drink from 7 to 10pm at night in one of the two bars which Chernobyl counts. You can even get on the wifi over there.
Don’t expect any tindermatches.
Our next stop was Duga. On a map it was a kindergarten in the middle of the forest, in reality it was huge radar built by the Soviet Union in the seventies. It’s a massive structure of about 100m high, which looks like massive drying frame. It was built to detect war missiles from thousands of km away. If America would’ve sent a missile the Duga would notice it after 5 min and they would have 25 min to send a missile back. Except for detecting missiles it was also great at bird spotting. Every time a bird flew by they had to play a guessing game if it was a missile or an eagle. The radar was built a bit too powerful.
Duga, a massive radar which was best at detecting birds
Our guide told us he sometimes climbs the structure when he’s on a private tour in summer. When asking him about the view he said this: “Too many forest.”. Which made us feel much better when we only climbed two levels up and had to get back to the car.
After a 15min ride we had a quick stop near the exploded reactor. You could see they are building a big structure they are going to place on top of the exploded reactor. Till the day of today you can not come any closer than 100m or you’ll die in 24h. To clean the reactor right after the disaster 5000 soldiers had to clean it by hand and could only stay for maximum 3 minutes near the reactor. All of them who did this died in less 5 years afterwards.
The reactor of Chernobyl
Next to the exploded reactor you can see the two other reactors which were set back in use only 2 weeks after the disaster! And even till 2000 they were at work! We took some pictures of the memorial, took a selfie of our near-death experience and went off to Pryopat, the city next to Chernobyl.
When you look up Chernobyl in google images this is the shit you see. The abandoned houses, sport halls, amusement park etc. Together with our guide we walked through the ghost town of Pryopat. If you walk through the ruins you somehow feel this must’ve been a prosperous city. They had a library, good education, a cultural centre where people would go dancing on Fridays. After the explosion they all had to flee to Kiev or nearby cities and could only take their most valuable belongings. They even had to leave their pets ‘cause their furs were probably too radioactive.
The ruins looked like they were abandoned for ages but 80% of the damage made to the buildings was human harm and ten percent by nature. The government gave the order to strip the buildings from copper and everything of value and that’s why it looks so shitty. The pool was still used by scientists till 2005. Somehow the radioactive dust didn’t manage to get inside and they could just take a swim without meeting fish with three eyes.
Pripyat city, next to Chernobyl
An abondened schoolbuilding
Lenin still kickin' it over here
After the fourth abandoned building Igor was a bit cold and tired of the touring and told us we could hang around ourself in a 3 storey school building. Most of the chairs and schoolbanks were still in place and the faces of forgotten heroes were still keeping an eye on the classroom. But after a half an hour it was getting very cold and after a long day of wandering it was time to get to the cantina.
Nothing special going on there. Just a big LCD playing shitty Ukrainian video clips, a typical Ukrainian dish and wifi. And still no tinder matches…
After dinner it was time to get back to Kiev. But we had to do one final stop and get out for a radioactivity check. It was possible your shoes or clothes are still too radioactive. We had to walk through some old machine which looked like an arms detector which would beep if you were too radioactive. “What if my shoes are too dusty?”. I asked “No worries my friend" said Igor “Then we’ll just have to cut off your leg! Ha ha ha ha”. I guess that was the last radioactive joke for the day.
Pics by Bram V. & Benni B.