Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Chernobyl/ Pripyat, Ukraine Pt.1

Meeting point at Майдан Незалежності(Independent Square)- in front of the third building from the left.
It was my "New Year's resolution" in 2013- Yes, visiting Chernobyl was my "New Year's resolution". When I said this to a Swiss guy, I never thought that I would go in April this year. Actually I planned in last year already to visit Kyoto for Sakura this April. However, due to various uncertainties, I changed my mind only one month before the trip. It was a little bit rush but one good thing for HKSAR passport holders is that visa is not required!

I talked to some Ukrainian and Russian friends. They did not find it interesting to visit Chernobyl. To them, it is merely another abandonment and they were very curious why I went there. "I want to see the place."  - that was my answer. I was even suggested sneaking in illegally but I was afraid of being shot by patrols. 

I suggest joining the Chernobyl tour through some travel agencies instead of applying with the bureaucrats on your own or going in illegally. First, although the gamma radiative level is at normal level but there are some hot spots with high radiation, which only people work there are familiar with. Second, Chernobyl is really big, so a car is needed to travel around. Our tour guide said that it is safer to go in Winter since snow covers the radiation dust. It is advised that we should try to cover our body with clothes and we should not wear shorts and sandals. Although I went in April but spring came late this year so it was still around 0 degree and most of the land was covered with thick snow. I was lucky. Weather forecast said that it would be raining but the weather was really good- sunny with a clear blue sky.

We met at 9am at Independent Square. There were about 14 participants from all over the world. We chatted a little bit and then went to Chernobyl by tour bus. It took us two hours to the destination. On the way, a 2-hour documentary about the Chernobyl disaster was being shown. Time control was perfect. By the time the documentary finished, we arrived at the first check point of Chernobyl and met our tour guide there. Our tour guide could speak very fluent English. He works and lives 15 days at Chernobyl and then has 15 day off outside of the exclusion zone in order to avoid absorbing too much radiation. According to the tour guide, there is one old crazy man living in the zone but he did not tell us how and why the officials let him stay there. He just kept saying that the guy is crazy.

We were not allowed to take photos of check points, police and a construction site. Nevertheless, I took a few photos before I was told...and was not seen by others. I would not upload the photos here, though. We did not spend too much time at check point- checking procedure of passports was smooth and fast. Our tour guide told us there would be no toilets for the next four hours so almost everyone went to the toilet at the check point, which is very...old fashioned.

On the way to the central of Chernobyl, we saw one guy who worked there. Instead of letting him walk to his work place with groceries under the freezing weather, we let him take a free ride. After few minutes we saw the Chernobyl sign. We got off the bus and did some "tourist" stuff- taking photos. On the way to get closer to the reactor no.4, I kept looking out from the window. There were so many abandonments passing through me. I could not wait to visit one of them.

Before getting to the centre of the zone, we stopped at a monument. It is a memorial built for the firemen who sacrificed their lives in the disaster, totally funded by the firemen themselves. It was sad. The firemen who were the first group of people who tried to put off the fire. They did not know exactly what happened and went near the reactor without much preparation, equipment or clothes that could protect them.Thank you, firemen.

 Sign of Chernobyl.

Monument to the firemen. The words written there are "тим, хто врятував світ" (For Those Who Saved The
 World)

Chernobyl/ Pripyat, Ukraine Pt.2: Kindergarten, Kopachi

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