I took a tour to Chernobyl today, which is the reason I extended my stay in Kiev (about 4-5 days notice is required to get on a tour due to the government approval that is required for participants). After days of fine weather, it was pouring down with rain all day for the tour! It was a bit of a nuisance trying to keep the camera dry but I think the wet helped to create some nice photos – particularly with the bumper cars.
The tour leaves at 9.00am for the two-hour drive to the exclusion zone, but they show an informative video en-route explaining the accident at reactor #4 on 26th April 1986 and what happened afterwards. The video helps to provide a background for what will be seen during the tour – but I could have done without the Christian ‘save yourself’ message that was also shown!
We visited the kindergarten in Chernobyl town, where toys and other items have remained since the evacuation a couple of days after the accident (towns people were not informed of the accident initially).
We went to see Reactor #4 and its old sarcophagus, that was only intended to last for 30 years. A new sarcophagus is being built alongside the reactor that is scheduled for completion in 2016.
We then went to the town of Pripyat that was evacuated a couple of days after the accident. Residents were told that they’d be returning in three days and were only allowed to take out their passports, money and some small things to hold them for a few days.
Our first stop in Pripyat was an elementary school. The floor of one room was littered with child-sized gas masks but these were never issued to the children in the aftermath of the nuclear accident. They were dumped in the classroom after the evacuation, but they make for a very poignant scene when you consider how many children were exposed to the effects of radiation in the two days after the incident and who would have breathed-in or ingested radioactive dust.
Next on the tour was a visit to one of Pripyat’s swimming pools – now an iconic image of the Chernobyl disaster.
Next up was the Pripyat fairground – another iconic image of Chernobyl. But this fairground was never operational. It was scheduled to open on the Labour Day holiday – 1st May 1986, six days after the explosion.
After lunch at Chernobyl town, we headed to the exit of the exclusion zone where we had to be tested for radiation before we could leave for the two hour drive back to Kiev.
We arrived back in Kiev about 5.00pm where the weather was still rainy. A good day-trip to end my stay in Kiev. Tomorrow the journey continues as I head towards Klevan to attempt to locate the ‘Tunnel of Love’.