May I introduce myself before I start talking about the experiences and impressions which were collected in the exclusion zone.
I am Saskia, 21 years old. I am German but I live in the Netherlands.
I'm interested in abandoned places since many years, but on a respectful level!
This is the where my fascination for Chernobyl derives from, even though this is a completely different topic by virtue of its history.
I wanted to visit Chernobyl since at least 5 years (so before the HBO series was launched :D) and did a lot of research on the historical, scientific and social background. I think I went there quite prepared.
Due to the fact I just mentioned I had feared to have an influencer in my group while visiting, because in many cases those don't bring the amount of respect I'm bringing for this place and do not behave appropriately.
It turned out, I was lucky though.
Chernobyl was the first journey without my parents or any other of my friends.
None of them wanted to join for different reasons or just simply because of fear.
I decided to go with the tour provider Chernobylwel.come because they seemed to be the best organised in my opinion. So, I booked a tour on the 4th and 5th of October 2019.
Actually, I didn’t dare to go there in winter or summer season due to the extreme temperatures.
If you are thinking of booking a tour, do yourself a favour and book a hotel for the day before and after!
My first impression arriving in Kiev was „What the fuck, where am I? “.
Kiev has nice and rich parts obviously, but I was in the oldest part which shocked me to the bones (I never travelled out of Europe except fo Turkey when I was 6 so never saw an eastern European “poor country”).
Everything looked damaged and old. Soviet style I would say now.
For me at some point looked as if communism was still a thing in this country. In the area I was I found a main square which was really pretty and new, surrounded by outdated buildings. As if the square was a small treat for the inhabitants to remain quiet.
Anyhow on Friday the 4th of October we were collected in the centre of Kiev around 7:30AM.
Our guide was pretty young as well as the group I was put to. None was over 30 while we were from lots of countries. 2 other Germans were there alongside me, Italians, Scottish, English Chinese and one Ukrainian girl form the tour company.
The bus was quiet up to date and comfortable to spend a two hours ride in to the 30km check point of the exclusion zone.
On the road the guide turned on a documentary about Chernobyl which I already saw. So, I had time to view the landscape getting less inhabited the closer you got the the exclusion zone.
At the first check point our passports and entrance tickets were checked, luckily pretty fast since the guide caught one policeman walking by.
It was really crowded. I think at least 20 busses were around us.
After the check we got our personal dosimeter to check on Saturday the amount of radiation we were exposed to. From that moment on my heart didn´t calm down.
Back in the bus our tour guide explained to us that we won´t be going to the big “attractions” right away because it´d be way too busy.
What means seeing a „ghost town “when you are surrounded by hundreds of people.
Next to the main street leading to Chernobyl city, there are multiple smaller side streets leading through fields and woods to nearby villages.
We took one of those smaller side roads which brought us to our first destination:
An abandoned village.
Right after the stop the guide explained that we were just allowed to spread when no one is around us. The moment we wanted to spread... a car rode around the corner with policemen inside. They just checked our permits and left again.
So, we could finally spread and discover the few left houses from the inside on our own.
We found furniture, shoes, Vodka bottles and a newspaper form 1981.
Even though radiation was the same as normal background radiation in London, the nature seemed dead to me also since fall has started.
A few minutes of car ride further we made it to an abandoned summer camp called „Fairy tale “.
Walking through the pretty simple entrance which was made of an archway with a bell in its stone structure, we could spread and explore the area on our own to a certain point.
But before we started the guide asked us all to be quiet. It was dead silence. Not even a bird was audible even though there were some. The creepy feeling left me with goose bombs. It was not comparable with the silence you experience while being in the hills or in another normal forest. It was just weird.
To get an overview I was just walking around with the other German girl and found holes in the ground all around the whole area. Later, the guide explained that, where the holes were visible, the power supply cables were ripped out of the ground after the accident, and were used to make money by selling the copper.
Finally, we made it inside one of the accommodations for the children. Wall painting was falling from the wall. Sadly, this house has become a victim of vandalism.
After leaving this building and going further I found something on the horizon which looked like a church to me.
When hiking there, the guide explained that those were just places for children to discuss things. Maybe how to make the Soviet Union collapse... who knows?
Back on the road we made it to another abandoned village which was really good preserved.
The veranda of the houses looked stunning and was typical for the Ukraine back in the days.
With the first house we entered, we immediately found something interesting: Drawings of tanks and airplanes mixed with drawings from a child, which was really creepy for me to see considering that the people living in this house before had to leave all personally important things behind.
Those drawings were still in really good condition, for being 33 years or older.
With some Christmas cards and propaganda wallpaper lying on the ground we found some toys creepily sitting around. As if they were just waiting for their kid to come back and play with them.
Apart from that we found a newspaper from one day before the accident (25th of April 1986) and one from 4 days after! (30st April 1986). So, we assumed that this village was one of those which was evacuated later.
On our way to the next house we even found a bomb. Checked out by the guide he told us that it wasn't active anymore.
Presumably this bomb was a bullet from a tank, probably a souvenir from the second world war.
After few minutes driving on the empty main street, we made it to the entrance of the town Chernobyl with its impressive town sign.
Once we arrived in the center of Chernobyl, a metal angel welcomed us.
The meaning behind it is stunning and poetic: Right after the accident most people saw the incidents as the apocalypse. According to the bible the three angels are coming down to earth while the apocalypse is occurring, which is the meaning of this statue.
Opposite of it is a concrete platform with candle holders, divided into two parts: The 30km zone and the 10km zone. On the annual Memorial Day, the 26th of April, candles are put into every holder to represent all towns or villages which were in the zone.
Right behind it, you can walk along an alley between 2 rows of signs with names of each village/ town which got evacuated after the accident.
The next destination was the harbour of Chernobyl.
While stepping out of the car two stray dogs came running towards us. They were super handsome and even up for a hug! No danger to touch them at all since the security guards and guides are taking care of them.
To get a couple of nice pictures I run on the bridge, having a strange feeling in my tummy.
I did not really dare to make it to the middle because no one really fixed this bridge for over 30 years.
Actually while I am looking at the pictures now, I have spotted even a sign saying “don’t cross!” ;)
As a few of you might have seen the HBO series, you might see something familiar in below picture. The robots which were used in the cleaning process. Also, the one which was used to tidy up the roof of reactor number 3 but did fail.
Still highly radioactive they were locked behind a fence. Why not clean them? Not possible! Metal is an element which can't be decontaminated from radioactivity.
Not far away from the robots the fire department of Chernobyl is located. In front of it, there is a huge monument in memory of all first responders.
4PM and we finally had lunch.
It was pleasant as the food reminded me of what my Grandma cooked for me even though she was German.
After lunch we made it to the hotel in Chernobyl as the guide thought it might be smart to arrive before the other groups do, in the evening. Just to save some nice rooms and extra blankets since the heating was not working.