I was fortunate to have visited Ukraine once in my life. This was 5 years ago; I took full advantage of a stop over flight from Moscow to Tbilisi in the country of Georgia. While just a couple of days I got a feel for the city including its gorgeous cathedrals, a visit to Pechersk Lavra – a large complex of Orthodox Churches and a stop to the colorful buildings of Vozdvyzhenka.
But one of my highlights was a visit to the National Chornobyl Museum – a grim reminder of this disaster in 1986. Visitors are immediately greeted by signs lining the ceiling, each one hanging in memory of a village that had to be abandoned because of the radiation and surrounding devastation. I found most of the exhibits signed in Russian but fortunately I rented an English speaking audio guide. One of the more memorable displays was that of the radiation cloud as it dispersed across Europe and then beyond.
During my visit to Kiev, I don’t think I realized how close Chernobyl was to the city; one can easily arrange Chernobyl tours. It is only about a 2 hour drive from central Kiev, next to the Belarus border – therefore, logistically it is every easy to setup a day trip visit.
For those who do not know, in 1986 Chernobyl was on the lips of almost everyone living at the time. The reason: on April 26, 1986, the Chernobyl Power Plant reactor #4 exploded while a rushed safety test was being conducted. Immediately following the explosion, a cloud of radioactive material became airborne, primarily affecting Europe but ultimately it spread over the entire planet.
The surrounding town of Pripyat, population 49,000 people was hurriedly and completely evacuated; people fled their homes and this town, in the process leaving most of their possessions behind. Soon after, the 60,000 inhabitants of Chernobyl were also evacuated.
So the question is: is it safe to visit some 35 years post this terrible disaster? For short term visitors, the answer is yes! The topsoil in Pripyat has been removed, visitors are given a small radiation monitor, and the non radiation safety hazards like crumbling wooden buildings have been removed (although there are still plenty of abandoned buildings to visit).
Typical stops include both Chernobyl and Pripyat, an abandoned hospital and in front of the actual power plant. From first hand descriptions, surreal and eerie are two common used words by several of my friends who have been fortunate enough to have visited the site. Allow between 11 and 12 hours to make this round trip from Kiev.
Have you been to Ukraine or visited Chernobyl before? Leave comments about your experience in the comments section below.